Only in New York
My name is Everyday Ray, and I've got a story to tell you about kosher food ...
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I took a Via to work and there were two other passengers in the car. Immediately, they started chatting -- in Hebrew! During our cross-town trip, I stayed quiet and the two exchanged their entire family histories: I learned where they grew up, what they do, and all about their families in Israel. And eventually they exchanged numbers! Right as I left the car, I turned to them and in Hebrew said, "Who knew Via could be a matchmaker?!" Only in New York!
My Aunt Margot Eisner is a wonderful storyteller. When I was visiting her, she told me the story about my grandmother, Paula Kalman, returning from vacation in Europe to NYC on a big ship (the Holland Line) in 1959. She had a big bundle of dill from Cologne, Germany, which is the best in the world. The inspector didn't want her to bring the "illegal" substance into the country because he thought it could be "pot." She explained she needed the dill to make pickles for her family! Then he sees my brother, my cousin, and me (ages 4, 5, and 3, respectively) at the waiting dock with our family, all crying, "We want pickles!" It worked, and we were no longer sourpusses.
There's nothing like a New York bagel. Since moving to the city, I've found a beloved bagel place whose veggie cream cheese is enough to make my mouth water at the thought. But there's nothing like my hometown bagel store on Long Island, the one we'd order platters from for break fast after Yom Kippur, with the perfectly doughy egg bagels and the fluffy cream cheese that I'd pile with lox. It's not just any bagel and schmear - it's my New York bagel.
They were conversing loudly in Yiddish. The scene was confusing because they did not look Jewish to me, let alone Hasidic. We ordered slices and sodas and while we waited, we overheard a familiar name amidst their Yiddish gossip. Chaya, the braver of the two of us, inserted her opinion into their conversation. It's the way the Jewish world goes round- if you don't know each other or a cousin in some way you haven't spoken for long enough. She knew his brother and his friend. We ate our fill and exited the shop into the cold winter air. The bus seemed like it was never going to show and then he showed up, "It doesn't seem like the bus is coming today. Need a ride?" The offer was too good and we accepted. He lent me a cassette which I promised to return. I kept my promise. Twenty one years later, happily married and raising three amazing children, we never forget where we started out, in that Brooklyn pizza shop on a cold winter day.
I was driving home in Manhattan, and saw a guy in a raincoat and hat walking across the street with a younger woman. At first I thought it was a man with his aide, but no - it was Woody Allen and Soon Yi. Glad I didn't run them over. Only in New York.
Having grown up down South, I remember having a serious case of FOMO when I had to miss school for the High Holidays. Now, despite being in New York for nearly 20 years, I'm still amused when I get emails like this about Rosh Hashanah Tennis Clinic. (no FOMO for MY kids!) Only in New York...
The Birthright trip I took 5 years ago forever changed the course of my life. The falafel was pretty great, but the real highlight of my trip was meeting another participant, someone who I quickly connected with. I never expected the Birthright cliché of meeting the love of your life on the trip to happen to queer, trans me - but I also never would have envisioned being a part of one of the first LGBTQ Birthright trips. Everyone on the trip was queer, including the soldiers and trip leaders, and we got the chance to see queer organizing, nightlife, and families. 8 months after we returned home, they uprooted their life and moved to New York City so we could live together, and 3 years to the day after we first met at JFK airport, we committed our lives to each other. We've had many adventures since then, but we'll never forget the magical experience of falling in love with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as our backdrop. :-)
I looked up UJA in the telephone book and they had an office in Mt. Vernon. I called them and introduced myself. I said, "Nobody has called me for my UJA contribution and I'd like to give $125," which was a lot of money then. There was sort of a dead silence, and I said, "By the way, is there any work I can do?" About 15 minutes later, there were two professionals in my living room and I was the chairman of everything in sight -- not what I had planned. *Comments taken from Oral History, recorded on August 19, 1985
My (non-Jewish) boyfriend got a unique taste of Jewish New York this past weekend when we visited Katz's Deli. I had forewarned him to expect a large sandwich -- but he wanted pickles and knishes anyway! Safe to say this classic Jewish lunch left us with tons of leftovers!
My sister and I found ourselves being “bageled” (when one Jewish person subtly lets another Jewish person know that they too are Jewish) in a ride-share by the young woman who was already in the car. We decided to embrace the “bagel” and began playing Jewish geography. My sister asked where the woman was from, and they realized they knew a number of people in common from the young woman’s native Minnesota. The car driver was shocked, and could not believe that two strangers in his car found people in common so easily. I next asked what this woman did for a living, and we realized that we were both Jewish communal professionals. We realized that we were currently working on projects together, and had been in regular email contact, but had never put a face to a name. The driver was absolutely astounded. “How is it possible that there are two co-workers who have never met in my car??” he exclaimed. By the end of the ride, we were making plans for Shabbat dinner. Only in New York.
My UJA story started during the High Holidays, many years ago — October 1973 to be exact. The Yom Kippur War had just broken out and my father was the president of our synagogue in Queens. I vividly recall him standing at the bimah and asking the congregation to give as generously as possible for Israel. I watched in amazement, as person after person stood up and called out their pledges, without exception. Only years later did I learn that my father was asking the congregation to support UJA’s efforts. Nor could I have imagined back then that I would one day become UJA’s CEO. In all these years, UJA-Federation’s role hasn’t changed. We’re still galvanizing the community around major events – locally and globally, in times of crisis and every day. As we launch our second century, I hope I’m able to model for my children, as my father did for me, the importance of community that comes together when and where it matters most.
In January 2011, I moved into an apartment on the Upper West Side with two good friends that I'd met through my college's Hillel - I stayed there for 6 years. During these 6 years, my roommates and I, along with our other Jewish friends in the area, truly embraced the NYC Jewish community by hosting dinners and celebrating Shabbat, making hamentaschen for Purim, attending events at the JCC, throwing Hanukkah parties, and so much more. That being said, one of my favorite Jewish New York traditions is attending NYC's annual "Pickle Day" each fall with these friends I've made. Pickles are almost always a staple at our Shabbat dinners, so when we heard about Pickle Day, it was a no-brainer. My Jewish friends and I attend every year that we can so that we can try all of the delicious kosher pickles NYC has to offer - and we usually pick up a jar or two to serve at our next dinner!
If you had told me when I was younger my path would lead me here I would have laughed. I chose not to attend Hebrew school; I chose not to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah and outside of going to Central Queens Y after school and camp and getting dragged to synagogue on the high holidays, being Jewish, for me, was living in a Zionist household and eating good food. And then I got married and had a baby and that need to connect to my Jewish roots became a force I could not deny. Passing Jewish values onto my son became so important and the driving force to making major life decisions. I refocused my almost 20 year career in corporate marketing so I could devote my expertise on giving back to the people of Sid Jacobson JCC and so my son could be raised within the very community our family has become a part of.
On 9/11 our lives were transformed, never to be the same again. Clearly, we were suffering from the depressive effects of what happened. Then the call came in from UJA-Federation, asking if my people could use some help. My immediate response was not only could they use help — I could use help as well. Teams of specialists came from different agencies supported by UJA to help us work through this experience. For the first time in my life, I was on the receiving end of UJA-Federation as opposed to the giving side. It was a truly different experience.
I was at a diner in Queens and flipped through the menu. There were a ton of ways to order your eggs but only one way to get French toast -- challah French toast! Love that this piece of Jewish NY is such a natural part of the NYC brunch experience.
Standing in the waters of a beach in Belize, I hear a woman speaking a foreign language while approaching me. I was wearing my Chai, which can be seen on a cloudy day form half a mile away. I thought she was speaking Farsi. She came nearer as she spoke louder and louder. I thought I was in for it and going to get a tough time from her. As she faced me she started to talk English and asked why didn't I answer her? It turned out she was speaking modern Hebrew which I never learned nor spoke. She was an Israeli Brit which made her spoken Hebrew, to my Ashkenazi ear, even harder to understand. She asked me why I wasn't afraid to wear my Chai. My simple response: I'm a New Yorker.
UJA-Federation of New York and its network of not for profit organizations have supported me and my family in the times of utmost need. HIAS brought us to America where we found refuge and an opportunity for a better life. The Marks JCH, or the J, embraced us as a community and provided a safe and nurturing environment where I could thrive. The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) fought with us to bring my sister to the United States when she was stranded in an orphanage in Ukraine. The Hebrew Free Loan Society helped me pay for my college and graduate education to achieve the American dream. All of this was made possible by many passionate and caring professionals and donors who never asked for anything in return. Every year UJA helps hundreds of thousands of people, like my family, in New York and around the world.
What I love about Jewish New York is the plethora of Jewish resources available; cultural, religious, social and community services are all here. One of my favorite Jewish New York memories was when several of our guest participants in Shabbat Or, a project of Town and Village Synagogue in conjunction with Project Or and the 14th Street Y, were moved to become adult B’nai Mitzvah. As a volunteer in this program for homeless clients of Project Or, I was so moved by their stories from the Bima that morning, there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole congregation.