My (More Than Usually) Jewish New York Visit

My (More Than Usually) Jewish New York Visit

Thanks to the general awareness of my Jewish heritage that blogging here has brought me — along with specific research for Freud’s Butcher the book — a good part of my visit to New York City this past week has been spent getting in touch with my roots: Seeing old friends, eating at old favorite restaurants, and…

Doing Jewish Stuff

  • I went to the Roman Vishniac Rediscovered exhibit at the International Center of Photography.  As the website puts it, “Vishniac (1897–1990) created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars.” It was excellent.
  • I went to the Leo Baeck Institute, a “research library devoted to the study of the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry.” There’ll be a lot more on this.
  • I saw the play Old Jews Telling Jokes, the title of which is self explanatory (except that there are also two young Jews telling jokes on stage). And that I can report first-hand that it’s very funny.

Old Jews Telling Jokes

  • I ate at the 2nd Avenue Deli, which is no longer on 2nd Avenue but has branches on 1st Avenue  — the one I went to — and 3rd Avenue. (Maybe they’re averaging out their location, until they can find another place on 2nd Avenue?)  I’m happy to tell you that the geographical anomaly is not reflected in the food, which is as Platonic Ideal of Deli as ever.
  • This afternoon I am going to the Tenement Museum to experience the new Shop Life tour, which includes the story of turn-of-the-century kosher butchers Israel and Goldie Lustgarten. A visit to Jonah Schimmel Knish Bakery will be involved.

Shop LIfe tour Tenement Museum

That’s not to say I have found religion or have been completely insular in my activities.

The Non-Jewish Portion of My Visit

Several of my old friends are not Jewish or only half Jewish, and I also met with non-Jewish new friends and ate Thai food and Chinese food (okay, that’s kind of Jewish). Having drinks at the Carlyle Hotel strikes me as decidedly — and gloriously–  goyish. The close encounter I had with the sidewalk that forced me to cancel dinner plans with one of my newfound cousins as well as a visit to the Zagat offices to meet the nice people I’ve worked with long distance for years was nondenominational, unless you consider a lack of the innate athleticism that allows one to avoid bicycles that are in places where they shouldn’t be Jewish, which I don’t.

Some of my clutziest friends are not Jewish.



5 Responses to My (More Than Usually) Jewish New York Visit

  1. Thanks for letting me know about those exhibits – Roman Vishniac actually taught a class one semester at RISD when I was there majoring in photography in 1975 – and he was great – and very old!
    He talked about everything BUT photography- which was really instructive – he would come up to Providence with his wife – he showed photos he took with polarized light of the microscopic life in pond water, and how he returned the water to the pond after he was done with it – he showed us an ancient Buddhist tapestry – he was of the Old World and just being in his presence was something.
    I was under the thumb of abstract expressionism with Aaron Siskind and had been doing a series of black and white Rothko-like photos of the ocean at dusk and dawn – sky, sea, sand, in various proportions – Vishniac said it might be more interesting if there was a bird in the picture — heresy to that school of ‘Art’ !! but today I look back and say, Yes! A true humanist for whom Life was the capital value.
    Diane J. Schmidt recently posted..‘The rest is commentary’My Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      What a wonderful story about Roman Vishniac! Thanks for sharing it. I got the sense from the exhibit that he was a good, gentle man as well as a great photographer. How nice to have that impression confirmed. I love the idea of him as a kind of Zen master, suggesting you might put a bird in the picture.

  2. Jill says:

    Look forward to visiting all of the great places that you mentioned…but there is nothing that can replace the original Second Avenue deli. The waiters were a unique brand of characters and part of the fun. Next time you are on the Lower East Side you have to be a kid in a candy shop—Economy Candy is still there and a neighborhood fixture since 1937. Enjoy the better weather and savor the great memories of your trip.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      I agree with you about the original Second Avenue deli; it had more character than the newer one (though we had a server who could have fit right in). But the food is as good as I remembered it! The thing I remember most about the Lower East Side when I lived in Manhattan was buying luggage there! There are lots of trendy boutiques but the luggage stalls are there too.

Leave a reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.