Category Archives: New York City

Thoughts on Eric Adams' Telling Non-Native New Yorkers to Go Back to Ohio and Iowa

If you know nothing about New York City, you know that it is an expensive place to live. For the same price of renting or buying a home in New York City, one can buy a home with a large piece of land in another part of the country.

Last Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stated the following during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech.

“Go back to Iowa, you go back to Ohio,” he said during a speech in Harlem.

“New York City belongs to the people that was here and made New York City what it is.”

To be fair, the point he is making is not exactly a lie. Living in New York City is not cheap. In many neighborhoods that were once considered to be untouchable, gentrification is causing rent and home prices to rise. An unfortunate side effect of this is that long time residents of these neighborhoods (many of whom who are people of color), cannot afford to stay in their homes.

However, the blame does not lie on the feet of those who come from states like Iowa and Ohio. I have many friends who are not native New Yorkers. Their contribution to this city is just as important as those of us who were born here. The blame lies on the building owners and the developers who charge prices for homes that is unreasonable for most of America. The blame also lies with the city and the state who do not step in to make sure that the homeless population is not increasing because of rising rent and home buying prices.

New York City has always welcome newcomers. It is what makes this city so vibrant and so beautiful. If this city is to thrive in the future, we must continue to welcome newcomers. We must also ensure that those who live here can continue to live here. But that does not mean we blame those newcomers for being able to afford to live here.

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The Daughter's Tale: A Novel Book Review

As parents, we will do almost anything to ensure that our children will grow up to be happy, healthy and productive members of society. But during wartime, a parent’s main concern is that they, their children and their family survives the war.

Armando Lucas Correa’s latest book, The Daughter’s Tale: A Novel starts in modern-day New York City. Elise Duval is in her golden years. Born in France and raised as a Catholic, her formative years were during World War II. After the war, Elise moved to the United States, where she was raised by her uncle. Then a stranger brings Elise a box that opens the door to her past.

In 1939 in Berlin, Amanda Sternberg and her husband live a comfortable life with their two young daughters. But Amanda and her family are Jewish and the noose around Europe’s Jews is tightening. Making the ultimate parental sacrifice, Amanda puts her older daughter on a boat to the Americas before fleeing to France with her younger daughter.

Amanda hopes that living in France will provide the respite that she and daughter desperately need. But the Nazis are not too far behind. When Amanda is forced into a labor camp, she knows that the only way to save her daughter is to send her away.

This book is fantastic. What drew me in was the force of Amanda’s love for her children and how she knew instinctively that in order to save her children’s lives, she had to send them away. Regardless of faith, family background or cultural history, it is a message that I believe speak to all of us, especially those of us who have children.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts on MLK Day and the Spike in Antisemitism

For many Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. is an icon. More than fifty years after his death, he is the image of the Civil Rights Movement.

These days, the news is unfortunately full of stories of attacks against Jewish residents in the New York City area by African-Americans.

When asked about the Jews and antisemitism, Dr. King said the following:

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

What many forget is that American Jews were on the forefront of the Civil Rights moment.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was not only a good friend of Dr. King, he was an ally. He was on the front lines with Dr. King, fighting for the rights of African-Americans.

In 1964, three young men were murdered because they believed that all Americans, regardless of race, were equal. James Chaney was the son of a African-American family from Mississippi. Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were raised Jewish in the New York City area. They came together and were murdered together because of what they believed and what they were fighting for.

When I think about Martin Luther King Jr., I think of a man of courage, honor and conviction. He knew that the journey and others were about embark upon was dangerous. But he also knew that it was right. I take that as a lesson not just in my personal life, but in every aspect of my life. What is right is not always easy. But in that lack of ease comes the knowledge that though the journey is difficult, it is the only way forward.

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Thoughts On the Impeachment & You Know Who's Sea Wall Comment

Regardless of where you land on the political spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that this current President has, if nothing else, rocked the political boat.

You know who’s recent comment about the proposal to build a seawall to protect New York City from another Hurricane Sandy is both arrogant and ignorant. I don’t know where he was during the hurricane, but I know where I was. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life and a kick in the pants that climate change is real and destructive.

The ironic thing is that while he mocks the effort to protect the residents of New York City from another massive hurricane, he continues to believe that building a wall is the solution to resolve the issue of immigration reform. Building the wall and maintaining on the Southern border is a waste of money, time and the human resources. If he truly wanted to reform our immigration issues, he would be doing everything in his power to work with Congress. Instead he makes up lies and spouts false promises that will never become reality.

Speaking of, last week, he became the third President in American history to be impeached.

To be fair, this does not mean (at least at this point in time), that he will be even found guilty or removed from office. Only time can tell us that. But, the message is clear. No one, not even the President of the United States is above the law. He or she is as bound to follow the rules as any of us are.

As Senator Nancy Pelosi (D-California) stated on Real Time with Bill Maher,

“If I knew that the president is listening, I would want him to know that he is impeached forever, and he is impeached forever because he used the office of the president to try to influence a foreign country for his personal and political benefit. In doing so, he undermined our national security, he was disloyal to his oath of office to protect the Constitution and he placed in jeopardy the integrity of our election,” she added later. “He gave us no choice.”

As of now, we don’t know how this will all turn out. Regardless of what happens, it is a stark reminder of how important it is to what has to be done to keep our democracy alive. If we don’t, I am seriously afraid of what the consequences will be.

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Filed under History, National News, New York City, Politics, Television

The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel Book Review

It’s hard to be the younger sibling. Especially when your older sibling(s) are beloved.

The late Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was quite the wild child back in the day.

Her story is told in the new novel, The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel, by Georgie Blalock. Through the eyes of Vera Strathmore, the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family, the viewer is swept into the world of Princess Margaret. At the beginning of the novel, Margaret is young, spoiled, passionate and tempestuous. Vera, still hurting from the death of fiance during World War II, is a writer who dreams of moving to New York.

A chance encounter with Margaret changes Vera’s life and her priorities. Drawn into Margaret’s inner circle, Vera watches as she falls madly in love with Peter Townsend. Peter works for the royal household, is older and married. Despite the criticism, Margaret is determined to have her man.

While Margaret is cordoned into royal responsibilities, Vera begins to wish to be untied from a life tied to the Princess. Soon another scandal envelopes Margaret and Vera must choose how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

This book is brilliant. There is a perception when it comes to royalty, that living that life is akin to a fairy tale. But the reality of that is life far from the fairy tale that it is perceived to be. In telling Princess Margaret’s story through the eyes of Vera, the viewer is taken to a world that is essentially a golden cage. It is a cage that when perceived from within, can be unappealing.

I recommend it.

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An Unorthodox Match: A Novel Book Review

It has been said that sometimes when things go bad, they are actually blessings in disguise.

Naomi Ragen’s new novel, An Unorthodox Match: A Novel, was published last fall.

Leah (previously known as Lola) Howard and Yaakov Lehman are both going through tough times. Leah was raised by a Jewish mother who was Jewish by history, but consciously rejected the standard middle class life that she was raised in in Brooklyn. Growing up in California, Leah was raised as a neo-hippie. Yaakov is a recent widower with five kids who life has fallen apart since his wife’s death. He is falling behind on his bills, his oldest daughter has taken on her mother’s role and his life is an overall wreck.

They meet in the Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park. Leah is a baal teshuva, needing a new direction in her life after the death of her fiance. Yaakov needs someone to watch his younger children during the day. In the world of Orthodox Jews, a potential marriage is not ideal between Leah and Yaakov. But Leah and Yaakov are a perfect fit. Will this couple meet each other at the chuppah or will gossip and judgement tear them apart?

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Ragen and her books for quite a few years now. What I love about her books is that though they are set in the world of Orthodox Jewry, her characters are thoroughly human. One does not need to be Jewish or even an Orthodox Jew to get sucked into her writing.

As a reader, I felt for her main characters. Both Leah and Yaakov are lost and looking for something or someone to anchor themselves to. I also felt frustrated because this couple was potentially going to be torn apart not by circumstance, but by outsiders who believed that they knew better. In calling out the bullshit within this community, Ms. Ragen is challenging both her characters and her readers to not be so quick to judge others because they are different.

I absolutely recommend it.

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I Attended the Jewish Solidarity March

One of the beautiful things about a real democracy is the ability to protest against injustice.

Today I marched with thousands of others at the Jewish Solidarity March.

It was cold, windy and crowded. I was surrounded by thousands of people who I am sure had other things to do today. But they knew that in their heart of hearts, that they had to be there today. They had to stand up and say that antisemitism and racism is wrong. No one deserves to be physically or verbally abused simply because they are different.

It was one of the thrills of my life. It’s easy to get on one’s soapbox when you’re behind a computer screen. It’s harder to leave your home and be there in person to stand up for what you believe in.

To the thousands who marched today, todah rabah (thank you). It is my hope that our presence was noticed and our voices were heard. We will not allow any of our fellow Americans to be ostracized and attacked for who they are. We will stand up for them and for all of us. It will take all of us to move this country forward.

Happy Sunday.

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Thanks to the New Bail Reform Law, the Antisemitic Perpetrators are Free

It’s obvious to anyone who has read a newspaper that criminal justice reform and bail reform is necessary.

But there has to be limits to this reform.

As of January 1st, 2020, there will be changes to the bail system in New York.

In the last couple of weeks, the news has been filled with numerous acts of antisemitism against the Jewish community of New York City. According to news reports, the accused have been set free because of bail reform.

I’m fully cognizant that I am far from an expert on this subject. However, logic (at least my from my perspective) states that there has to be some boundaries. If the accused is not a danger to themselves or their community, then they should not be bogged down by bail and be trusted to return to court on their own.

But, if the accused will be a danger to themselves and their community, they should have that bail hanging around their necks. In the case of the woman who verbally and physically attacked three Jewish women, the message that she and others who think like her receive is that what they did was harmless. They will receive a slap on the wrist at best and will be back on the street before they know it.

I wish that there was an easy answer to this problem. But there is no easy answer. I can only hope that each case is judged individually and each defendant when it comes to bail, is given the appropriate amount.

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When Did it Become Open Season on the Jews of New York City?

As a student of history and Jewish history, I’ve learned one thing: the treatment of the Jewish community is akin to the canary in the coalmine. When the Jewish community is treated well by their neighbors, the canary is silent. But when the Jewish community is not treated well, the canary symbolically dies, warning of the coming danger.

Over the past two weeks, there have been nearly a dozen incidents of antisemitic attacks in New York City. On Thursday night a woman was verbally abused and attacked as she walked out of Brooklyn Dunkin Donuts with her son. This morning, police announced that they were investigating another attack, bringing the total to 9.

When my family came to America and settled in New York more than a century ago, they hoped that their new land would provide the freedom and security that Europe lacked. They knew that antisemitism existed in the US, but they hoped that they would be protected from such heinous words and deeds. I don’t think (at least I hope) they expected that their descendants would not be experiencing the same vicious antisemitism that they knew all too well.

Something needs to be done, now. Those who have been accused of such crimes should absolutely be given their day in court and if found guilty, should be given the maximum punishment possible. No one, regardless of faith, ethnicity or family background deserves to be treated as such.

There have been comparisons over the last few years to Germany in 1933. I keep hoping and praying that America does not devolve into the past. But given what has happened over the past couple of weeks, I fear that my hopes and prayers are meaningless.

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Uncut Gems Movie Review

Life is a gamble. Every choice we make is a gamble. But at a certain point, most people know what is a good gamble and what is a bad gamble. The question is, can we recognize what is a good gamble and what is a bad gamble?

In the new movie, Uncut Gems, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a business owner in New York City’s Diamond District. He sells jewelry to the rich and famous. Howard’s life is akin to walking a tightrope. He is a compulsive gambler who loves basketball and makes bets on games worth six figures. His gambling is getting him in trouble as his losses pile up and those who he owes money to are looking to get their money back.

Howard’s personal life is just as much of a tightrope as his professional life. Though he is married to Dinah (Idina Menzel) and they have three children, Howard has a girlfriend on the side, Julia (Julia Fox).

The bets he is making are becoming more precarious and more dangerous. Will his gamble pay off?

This is an interesting film. If the audience goes into the film expecting the man-child character Sandler played in the mid-90’s, they would be surprised. Howard is a complicated character, driven by the need to gamble, but also playing the role of husband and father.

I don’t know about this film. Howard is not an unlikeable character, but he is highly flawed and makes questionable decisions. Though it is obvious that Sandler is stretching himself as an actor, I still kind of prefer the man-child of the past.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Uncut Gems is presently in theaters.

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