Only in New York
My name is Everyday Ray, and I've got a story to tell you about kosher food ...
At UJA, we believe we're all connected — all part of the vibrant energy of Jewish New York. Your story is our story. So share yours today!
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.
This weekend, I celebrated my parent's anniversary at Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse. From the schmaltz to the Yiddish tunes to the festive atmosphere, the whole meal was like a bar mitzvah! Only in New York....
At the end of the 10 days, after the gates close on Yom Kippur, after singing and praying and pounding my chest, after atoning, and fasting for 27 hours — after the lights go up after havdalah and we sing Eliahu Hanavi, my husband and I dash to the exit to find a taxi to whisk us to my parents’ apartment where we burst in, still immersed in the prayers and delirium of the day, filled with love for everyone in the room, and eager to enjoy what I’m certain is the best meal of the year — bagels, lox, whitefish, carp, koogle, ruggelach, and champagne! Feeling at one with God and the universe, cleansed and ready to begin again, I’m relieved to have reached this moment, with all of us sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. This is my most favorite High Holiday memory.
Growing up on the Upper West Side in the 1960s, Rosh Hashanah was for me about being with my family, eating delicious meals, and going to Stephen Wise Free Synagogue where I thought the rabbi sounded like God. When I grew up, I found Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, where the music touched my soul and I learned how to pray from the bottom of my heart. Today, on Rosh Hashanah, you’ll find me celebrating with my husband and family, eating delicious meals, and feeling connected to the rich Jewish tradition — across time and space — and to the diversity that is Jewish New York.
I fondly recall eating my grandmother’s delicious food with her large silver spoons and forks, her table set with her majestic silver candlesticks, and her beautiful havdalah spice box that she brought with her from the old country and handed down to me.
My grandmother, Rose, came to New York on a boat with one of her five sisters when she was 15 years old. Arriving on the Lower East Side, she went to a hat factory and told them she knew how to sew, while, in fact, a tailor had come to her house in Poland every year to make clothes for all the children in preparation for the High Holidays. Perhaps that’s why my memory of Rosh Hashanah as a child is of buying a new coat and dress for the New Year, because it symbolized a fresh start.
My first NY Rosh Hashanah I was a freshman at Douglass College, far from home with the holidays coming. That first time away leaves a powerful impression (even decades later). How lucky I was to be in Little Neck, Queens, hosted by my close friend's family which embraced me like one of their own. It was there that I first experienced the intensity of an entire community walking to shul. Back then, such an experience happened, primarily, only in New York.
My favorite thing about Rosh Hashanah is that I love all the Persian ceremonial foods that my mom spends so much time making that I fill up before her actual feast begins!
For Federation, [father] was bothered by the fact that there were so many hospitals and homes and charities, and each one separately spending their time, their money, and his time and his money by each one coming to the community for money. … Tt was time-consuming and it was wasteful. So he was one of the very first ones who really pressed and pushed to get them together. He worked very closely with Felix Warburg, ... When this started I was nine-and-a-half years old, 1916 I think. *Comments taken from Oral History, recorded on April 13, 1983
When I first started attending High Holiday services, like most toddlers, I had to be dragged to synagogue kicking and screaming. My parents would dress me up, slap a yarmulke on my head, and I’d sit through the hours-long service thinking about where and when we were going to break the fast. As I got older, something changed – I started to listen. I realized that the songs had become familiar, the ritual had become comfortable. This was one of the first times I realized what it means to be part of the Jewish community. The prayers we say and the songs we sing aren’t just part of my personal history – they’re part of all of our history, and the history of the Jewish people. For me, attending services reminds me of my place in our community, and contextualizes my life as part of a greater story. It reminds me that, even in a synagogue full of people I’ve never talked to, there’s something we all share.
I grew up in Santa Monica, attending a reform synagogue from a young age. Every year on Yom Kippur, our congregation held services on the beach – there were songs, prayers, and towards the end of the service, we would toss crumbs of bread into the ocean to represent casting aside the past year’s regrets and resentments. The physical act of throwing away pent-up feelings always struck a chord for me, and helped me begin the new year fresh. After 10 days of reflection and atonement, it felt good to let go.
My grandfather, who grew up in Israel, was born on Rosh Hashanah. He always liked to say he has two birthdays: one for the solar calendar, and one for the Hebrew. I grew up hundreds of miles away from my extended family, but during my grandfather’s “birthday,” we always came to visit. He wasn’t very observant, but always made a fuss about this holiday in particular – even if it was just an excuse to get everybody together. Every year during this period of reflection, I think of him. His journey, his values, and how he used this time to bring together the people he loves.
My mother was born in Brooklyn, my father was born in Romania, my older brother, I and my younger brother were born in Brooklyn.
"Jewish Songs for All" - that's my startup project. I'm translating the top Jewish songs from Yiddish and Hebrew to English and Russian. www.jSongs.org
For Simchat Torah every year, tons of Jews here “shul hop” and I see people from all stages of my life – from youth group, grade school, camp, college, that random guy I met at a party, etc. People are dancing in the street and it’s such a joyful celebration (and interesting reunion)! There's nothing more special than witnessing a huge group of Jewish people, friends and strangers alike, singing, laughing, and celebrating, specifically on Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of/with the Torah).
New York has a strong future for Jews because New York, in its best aspects, is attractive to the vitality that characterizes Jews; to the ambition, to the striving, to the intelligence. All the good things that I see in our people are exemplified in a city rather than a bucolic life; and so, I think that there will be Jews in New York for some time to come. It will be a magnet for bright people, Jews as well as others. They all don’t have to be engineers, doctors, lawyers, and nuclear physicists; but for that reason, New York will be attractive to them, and there will be a strong Jewish community, and we’ve got to support that Jewish community. *Comments taken from Oral History, recorded on November 3, 1981