Save the Deli

New York’s New York Jews

courtesy of

I’ve arrived in Brooklyn, and am still in the midst of settling down, though Friday’s stellar, gut busting dinner at the 2nd Ave Deli certainly helped. Oh man I’m going to love it here.

Anyway, my good friend Chris Farber pointed me to an excellent article on New York Jews in New York Magazine, written last week by David Samuels. “How Success Ruined the New York Jew” is a prophetic look of the rise of the Jewish outsider in this city to an insider whose very power has cost him his character. This is a theme I touch upon in the book, assimilation and what not, and Samuels illustrates this beautifully:

Anyone who wishes to gauge the true strength of Jewish communal feeling in Manhattan can also try to count the number of authentic old-fashioned Jewish delis left in New York City. When I go out with my Uncle Myron—an old gangster from Newark whose father grew up with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel—I am reminded of the fact that the Jews were once a working-class ethnic people who danced the mambo and the meringue and the cha-cha, and mixed easily with their Greek and Italian neighbors. Uncle Myron takes me out to kosher Bukharan restaurants in Queens. We eat chicken soup and lamb fat on skewers. The delis are gone, as are the Jewish gangsters, Jewish tailors, and Jewish union organizers, the German Jewish bakeries of the Upper West Side, the Yiddish-language newspapers, and other humble markers of the Jewish ethnic presence in New York. The fact that the best bagels in the city are made by H&H, the bakery founded by Helmer Toro, a Puerto Rican businessman who grew up cutting sugarcane on his father’s farm, is a tribute to the genius of the Puerto Ricans—not the Jews.

4 Responses to “New York’s New York Jews”

  1. Michael Says:

    Kosher Japanese food, Kosher Thai food, Kosher blah blah food is all you see in the Jewish areas of Brooklyn. In the musical Toronto Toronto (era 1980s) written by the late Chuck Weir et al the great line was …”what have they done to Spadina? (Toronto’s original Jewish immigrant neighbourhood ) When your looking for a bagel you get a cookie with a message inside…”
    That is understandable when different cultures follow the stream of migration from one part of a city to another but it is harder to understand/ accept when the changes happen within the same culture or ethnic group. On the other hand everyone wants to taste the ethnic food of the other cultures i.e., Jews eating Chinese food and Chinese/Americans/Canadians eating Deli (even though you can’t believe that) so why shouldn’t residents of the Jewish areas also have ethnic restaurants that will meet their dietary requirements. But please support the occasional deli and other Yiddish food in your neighbourhood as well.
    I echo David’s comments about 2nd Avenue Deli. It was a fantastic meal and I am dreaming about the next time I am in NY visiting you so we can make it a weekend “Delithon”.
    Keep up the great work, keep fressing and keep exercising.

  2. Christian Rodriguez Says:

    i loved this song wen i first herd iy. now i love it more

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