Born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which he called “the right place for a New York politician of my generation,” Javits came from the intersection of Orchard and Stanton Streets, a particularly bustling Jewish market area, with small shops, clothing stalls, pushcarts, and crow'ded tenement buildings. His father, like many other Jewish immigrants, began working in the garment industry on the Lower East Side until he became the janitor of several tenement buildings.
Born in one of these buildings, Javits was to spend the first and most influential thirteen years of his life in this corner of the immigrant ghetto. It was here that he discovered his talent for persuasion as he helped his mother hawk used kitchenware. Critical of his father, who passed favors for the Democratic Tammany Hall, Javits developed a distaste for petty corruption and this aversion was to be at the core of his commitment to public service. Even as a young child, he was acutely aware of the diverse ethnic groups surrounding his Jewish part of the ghetto: Italians, Irish, Germans lived to the west, and Jews from Russia, Austria-Hungary, Poland, and the Baltic countries to the east, all struggling to become American.