Gloria Katz’s family immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe, moving up from the Lower East Side to the Bronx on Park Avenue. She describes her many relatives coming to New York and making lives for themselves, including her parents meeting on a singles cruise around Manhattan for young immigrants and getting married. Her older brother was born in 1934, and was a rebellious and hyperactive child, getting kicked out of yeshiva and sent to public school. Katz was born in September 1944. She explains that because her father did not have stable employment in the fur industry during the Great Depression, like many parents, they waited to have another child until things were better during the war. She grew up surrounded by relatives all older than her. She lived on 180th street, in an apartment building full of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, those that got out before, and non-Jews. She thought it was a very Jewish environment, but she realizes now it was not exclusively, with Italian neighbors and darker skinned classmates in her elementary school class photos.
They lived near the Bronx River, and remember seeing it deteriorate in the time she was there, and her building faced Bronx Park. Most of her family lived in the Bronx, including in a house in Pelham Parkway, but one of her aunts did not make it over in time and died in the Holocaust, which the family never forgot. Her family now is very diverse, because of intermarriages. She attended PS 6 on Tremont Avenue, and a supplementary Yiddish Yeshiva at the Sholem Aleichem Folk Shul. Though she speaks Yiddish from home and Spanish from school, she used the Spanish more as a school psychologist later in life. She attended Herman Ritter, then, at Bronx High School of Science, she wore all black and had few friends, but did get an Irish boyfriend. Katz liked school, and she would read encyclopedias her parents bought. She felt little difference in her classmates of different races or religious backgrounds until she attend Bronx Science, where she felt the socioeconomic differences, and so was relieved to be at City College. Her father was in a communist union, though he never joined the party, but they did try to send his brother to communist summer camp with their neighbors.
After college, Katz was a teacher in the Bronx, and would go on to become a school psychologist and get her doctorate in school administration and supervision from Fordham University. As a kindergarten teacher, her class was mostly Hispanic and Black with some white, primarily Irish, students, with huge class sizes. She remembers participating in the 1967/1968 Teachers Strikes and protesting Vietnam. She grew up celebrating all the Jewish holidays and eating Jewish foods with family, and has a strong Jewish identity while considering herself an atheist. Being surrounded by family is remembered most, and Katz believes her Bronx upbringing prepared her for anything.
Lower East Side, World War One, World War Two, immigration, the Great Depression, 180th Street, race, 1967/1968 Teachers Strike, Vietnam War, Bronx High School of Science, Yiddish, education
Maier Garcia, Sophia, "Katz, Gloria" (2023). Bronx Jewish History Project. 12.