When I tell people I live on the Upper West Side, I get a very typical response: “Ahh…the heart of the Jewish world.” But with all due respect to Supersol, Estihana, Gan Asia, etc., we aint got nothin’ on Brooklyn.
I woke up on Sunday morning to my roommate asking me if I wanted to go out to Brooklyn and pay a visit to Burgers Bar (when you are 22, you can wake up late enough for it to be time for lunch).
Because it took over an hour to get out there, we decided, after eating our luscious burgers, to explore the Jewish wonders of Coney Island Ave.Â I’ve honestly never seen anything like this.Â It felt as though every single restaurant was kosher, and it wasn’t just your stereotypical schwarma and pizza joints.
There was actually a kosher Mexican restaurant!Â Carlos and Gabby’s has ventured into territory no kosher businessman has ever entered. Most Mexican cuisine is either dairy, meat or dairy and meat.Â I didn’t go into the restaurant to check how they accomplish the almost impossible task of kosher Mexican, but it impressed me nonetheless.
Then, we saw the Holy Grail of kosher supermarkets, Pomegranate (I’d give you a link but I can’t find a website for it).Â If you have ever been in a kosher market, the first question that pops in your head is whether or not this place would pass a health inspection.Â This is not the case with Pomegranate.
Pomegranate looks like a normal supermarket, feels like a normal supermarket, smells like a normal supermarket, has the prices of a normal supermarket, but everything is kosher.Â It literally has every single mainstream product that happens to have a hechsher (kosher certification) along with your typical Israeli/Jewish products.
If this were Newsies, I would be Jack Kelly and Coney Island Ave. would be Spot Conlon.
This article talks about Steven Chasin, a D.C. firefighter whose take on his Jewish identity is unusual — but, from the tenor of the article, solid enough to risk his job on. “The beard is my way of celebrating and practicing,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “The beard is making up for some of the stuff I don’t do.”
Tattoos, a Jewish taboo, cover his burly body, while his shaved head goes bare. He doesn’t go to synagogue every Shabbat or keep all the laws of kashrut. He doesn’t even hold what he calls a “Jewish type of job,” like being a doctor or a lawyer.
The article goes on to discuss how the Washington Fire Department is afraid to take responsibility for beards getting in the way of oxygen masks being sealed, and how, along with Chasin, six Muslims and Nazarene Christians are filing suit. But the real value of the article, I think, is how strongly Chasin feels about his beard, and how for him, this beard is the sum representation of his Jewish identity.
I just wish I could find his JDate profile to link to.
Jeremiah Lockwood is the frontsman, singer, and lead guitarist The Sway Machinery, a band that belts out roots, rock, blues, and cantorial tunes. (Don’t believe me? Check out their downloads and prepare to be blown away.) The band is, at times, composed of members of the Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a testament to the band’s diversity, and its not-just-Jews appeal. Lockwood himself is an occasional member of dance-music outfit Balkan Beat Box, singing and playing guitar when appropriate.
Last Rosh Hashana, the Sway Machinery played its Rosh Hashanah show, “Hidden Melodies Revealed,” to a sell-out crowd at the decked-out gothic Angel Orensanz Foundation. This year, they’re doing a repeat performance at Le Poisson Rouge. This time around, you have to buy tickets (they’re finally becoming like a synagogue) — but the band is gearing up for a new and heightened concert/prayer experience, adding a short film and new nusah to their existing canon. We spoke to Jeremiah about his band, his family, and what he has in store for this Day of Atonement.
Do you live in the New York metropolitan area? Have you ever thought about wearing tzitzit? Try it out here — somebody’s giving away a bunch of “gently worn” prayer shawls on Craigslist. It’s a great opportunity to jump risk-free into that wacky world of religious fashion…and, more to the point, you get to meet whatever kind of wacky and randomly generous person would post up their old tzitzit on a website.
Earlier this afternoon, I attended the rally protesting the attendance of President Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly.Â While there, I wrote a running diary.Â Here it is:
10:55- A bunch of my friends from Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto have come to New York to join the protest.Â I meet them at the offices of the American Jewish Committee.
11:02- I overhear/participate in the first Palin debate of the day.Â “She should be here!” “No she shouldn’t!” Oh, the excitement.
11:03- While the Palin argument carries on, 3 kids starting arguing over how much the Toronto Maple Leafs suck.Â Glad to hear that they are in the spirit of protest.
11:11- 2nd Palin argument.Â Supposedly, there are people who are protesting the rally because Palin was disinvited.Â I’m not sure where to start with this.Â Do you really hate Hillary more than Ahmadinejad?
11:12- I see a sign, “Israel is here to stay.” That’ll shut those protesters up.
11:14- I’m offered a free t-shirt.Â I consider for a moment being that I haven’t done laundry in a while, but then decline.Â On the back, the shirts say “Stop promoting genocide.”Â But the girl in front of me’s hair is so long that is only says “promoting genocide.”
11:19- I can’t get that SNL song, “I Ran So Far Away” out of my head…”like a very hairy Jake Gyllenhall to me…”
11:22- For security reasons, no signs are allowed to be held up by wood, so a lot of signs are using paper towel rolls.Â How many ribs and chicken wings did these people have to eat in order to use an entire roll of paper towels?Â I would not want to be a toilet on the Upper West Side tonight.
11:24-A bunch of cars are honking.Â I can’t confirm this, but there might be a “Honk if you’re horny” sign.
11:25- First inappropriate joke of the day.Â My friend asks, “Would you rather- Palin or Wiesel?”Â I have no response (Palin).
I like to consider myself MJL’s resident Jim Henson expert (though Matthue frequently tries to steal my title). Loyal blog readers may remember my aspirations to earn a Ph.D. in Muppetology.
So imagine my joy when I saw our latest episode of The Adventures of Todd and God and, after a bit of research, found an extended ode to Sesame Street.
The scene mimics a classic Sesame Street short where an orange prepares herself to sing an operatic rendition of Carmen.
It’s truly beautiful.
Because everybody loves a Saturday night….
The night before last, all over the world, Jews began saying Selichot, the confessional prayers that ask God to forgive us for everything we’ve done wrong in the past year.
All this week, we’ll be getting up extra early (or showing up late to work) (uh, sorry, Daniel) in order to spend those extra few minutes with God. But for the first Selichot service, we want to get it in as early as possible, so we stay up late on Saturday night. Most synagogues hold services at midnight or 1:00 A.M. (a few do it at 11, so make sure you find out first). Hands-down, my favorite part is seeing the rabbi in his pajamas.
This year, I was in Philadelphia for the main event. I was out with my friend Odin, who used to play in a death-metal band with me in high school and has since (of course) started writing instrumental hip-hop music. He’s not Jewish at all (though we did meet because he dated this girl I knew from Hebrew school), but he’s always been curious about the culture. The 1:00 a.m. service, I’m pretty sure, earned another check-mark in his “weird-but-cool things about Jews I’ll never completely understand” notebook (a notebook that has, btw, been getting considerably stuffed of late).
We usually go out to the local diner, get tea, and linger for most of the night. Tonight, because I realized that drinking out of ceramic coffee cups probably isn’t so kosher, we hit up the late-night Philadelphia Israeli restaurant, named (as these places so often are) Cafe Espresso & Sushi. And the night crept on, and then he checked his watch — “Hey Matt, don’t you have to do the pajama praying thing?”
And so I did. As luck would have it, the synagogue was a block away.
It was a motley assemblage of people — many old, a few young, this one couple, very clean-cut and Middle American-looking, who were just at the restaurant, it appeared, on a late-night date. And the 80-year-old identical twins who always dressed alike.
This, I think, is the heart of what I love about Judaism. About God. Praying transcends cultures, but it also transcends age, sex, race, musical demographic, and just about any other way you can divide people. Pause everyone, smack in the middle of a Saturday night, and remind them all that they have a duty to their Creator. You’ll get people coming from everywhere — study hall, date, dance club and bed — into that room, with only one goal in common: say hi to God, and ask for some forgiveness.
We closed our eyes. We recited those lines out of the prayerbook that everyone always did, those same prayers that people prayed about a thousand years ago. The clothes and the vernacular might be new, but the message was the same as it’s always been: We messed up. We are sorry.
If you are like me, I’m sure you have been losing sleep in anticipation for the Anti-Iran Rally at the UN on Monday.
Well, I’ll be there on Monday afternoon and I’m going to be writing a running diary.Â So make sure to check it out on Monday afternoon.
I’m not sure if I love what Israel is doing to dogs, particularly in Petah Tikvah. To curb the amount of dog feces left in public parks and streets, the city is asking that dog owners get their poochesÂ DNA tested.
Someone, with the worst job ever, will then test any samples left on the street against the city’s data base. Those found to be breaking the new rule will be fined.
People seems to be pleased with the new rules:
Owners who scoop up their dogs’ droppings and place them in specially marked bins on Petah Tikva’s streets will be eligible for rewards of pet food coupons and dog toys.
Funny, when I was a toddler, I too received toys and treats for pooping in the specially marked bin in my parents’ house.
Do you remember that fake SNL commercial a couple years back (during the Will Ferrell era) for the anti-depressant, Homocil, meant for parents coping with having gay children?
Well, last night, I couldn’t help but think that there should be a similar pill for children with intermarried parents.Â The idea came after watching Jon Stewart, of the Daily Show, interview former Prime Minister of England, Tony Blair.
Tony was discussing how he has recently converted to Catholicism because his wife and children are Catholic. Stewart responded with the hilarious line, “I’m Jewish and my wife is Catholic.Â We’re actually raising our children to be sad.” Here is the video:
As Mrs. Lovejoy would say, “Won’t someone please think of the children!”
While watching, I couldn’t help but think that this was an amazing opportunity to plug MyJewishLearning.com.Â If you check out the homepage this week, our feature is “Intermarriage & Continuity.”Â There are three featured articles about the 1990 NJPS survey on intermarriage; a snapshot of the American Jewish community; and different attitudes towards intermarriage.Â But check them out soon, because a new homepage is coming up on Monday.