From the opening of Ellis Island 125 years ago to the welcoming beacon of the Statue of Liberty, New York has always had a rich and strong history of immigration. Today, 60% of New Yorkers are immigrants or children of immigrants, including Educational Alliance Board of Trustee member Richard Cantor, whose father, Manny Cantor is our namesake.
Manny Cantor immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1921, at the age of 16. When his father passed away, Manny began to work as a stock boy in a small retail store, while also studying English and completing his education. Eventually, he started a wholesale drygoods business which grew successful enough to support his wife, Adeline, and their two children, as well as his extended family when they needed his help.
Manny Cantor was of the generation of immigrants who regarded this country as the land of opportunity. Upon achieving personal success, Manny turned his attentions and dedicated himself to giving back to his community.
Manny Cantor passed away in 1952 at the age of 47, but his legacy and values lived on in his two sons – both of whom achieved graduate-level education and had successful professional careers – as well as seven grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren.
“In a way it’s how unremarkable his story is that makes it so worthy,” his son Richard said of Manny. “It is not a story of great academic or professional accomplishment, but rather a lesson of how much can be achieved in a short period by setting a clear example of how life is to be lived, and passing it on from generation to generation.”
Immigrants and immigrant values are and always will be a part of New York City. We are proud to be named for a man of such tenacity and who shared our universal values of community and generosity.