How Many More Anti-Jewish Crimes Will be Committed Before Something is Done?

Antisemitism is a very real thing. Nearly a century after the Holocaust, the same lies and hatred that killed 6 million Jews have once more found new life.

On August 20th, Eyal Haddad, a French Jew of Tunisian descent, was murdered with an axe by a Muslim neighbor. His body was burned and mutilated. Just like Sarah Halimi in 2017, the only reason why he was killed was that he was a member of the Jewish faith.

Yesterday, an Orthodox Jewish man in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn was hit over a parking spot. The young man who hit him threatened to find his victim again and repeat his actions.

I find both events to be extremely frustrating. In regards to the murder of Mr. Haddad, the authorities are already stating that he was not killed because of his faith. It does not take a brainiac to figure out why Mr. Haddad is no longer alive. When it came to the assault in Brooklyn today, no one stood up to this punk kid. They just stood around and let it happen. The person who was behind the camera I find especially culpable. They decided that it was more important to keep filming.

What I am bothered by is the double standard. When Israel (and the Jews by extension) defends herself against verbal and physical attacks from her neighbors, the accusations are fast and brutal. But when we try to call out the antisemitic lies, no one listens.

Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life Book Review

Where an author lives often plays a role in their perspective and their work.

Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life, by Evan Hughes, was published in 2011. It tells the story of the history of Brooklyn via her writers from the late 19th century until the modern era.

He delves into the writing, the lives, and the neighborhoods of noted authors such as Walt Whitman, Arthur Miller, Truman Capote, Jennifer Egan, and Richard Wright. Each author, in their own way, use Brooklyn and their experience in the borough as a backdrop for their work and their character’s point of view.

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I enjoyed this book. Though it could be seen as a little niche, it could also be seen as both a history book and a series of vignettes about respected writers. As a native Brooklynite, I enjoyed learning about the subjects and how their non-writing life influenced the works they would become known for.

My only complaint was that I wish that Hughes would have included more female writers.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life is available wherever books are sold.

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir Book Review

There are two ways to look at life. The first is a series of potholes that we stepped in and learned from. The second is to always be the optimist. My view is a combination of them both. Life is a combination of good experiences and bad experiences. What matters is how we deal with the outcomes of those events.

Harvey Fierstein‘s new autobiography/memoir, I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir was published in March. Born in 1952 to a Jewish family in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, he knew from an early age that he was a born performer. He also knew that he was not like other boys.

His life and career is nothing short of a roller coaster. As an LGBTQ activist, Fierstein has paved the way for this generation of queer young people to be out and proud of who they are. As a writer and actor, he has become well known and respected for his body of work: Independence Day, Newsies, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hairspray, etc.

Fierstein’s story is one of acceptance, change, and dealing with both the highs and lows that come with living a colorful life on your own terms.

I loved this book. In his trademark voice, Fierstein is funny, sarcastic, open, heartbreaking, and real. This is a man who has been to Hades and back and still finds joy in the little things. He is more than an icon in this book. He is a human being who has inspired us, made us laugh, made us cry, and most of all proved that we can be ourselves and thrive.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

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Best Restaurants in New York City, Part II

We all need to eat, that is a fact. But that does not mean our choices have to be limited. In New York City, the possibilities of where to eat are endless.

Burger/Fast Food Restaurants

Schnipper’s

With two locations in Manhattan (Times Square and Midtown East), this restaurant does not disappoint. Though it is fast food, it does not leave you with the cheap, empty calories feeling. The menu is much more than burgers and fries, allowing almost anyone to find something to eat.

Roll n Roaster

Located in the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Roll n Roaster has been around for fifty years. Famous for its roast beef sandwiches, the menu is fast food in the best sense of the word. There is an old-school feeling to the building that makes you feel like you have gone back in time. It’s a bit of a hike from the city, but the trip is definitely worth it.

Dessert

Lady M

Lady M is a semi-national chain with three different locations in Manhattan. The variety of crepe cakes is enough to make one’s mouth water and force a difficult decision to be made. Regardless of whether you purchase a slice as a special treat or a whole cake for a special occasion, it is worth every bite.

Ample Hills Creamery

Ice cream is one of those types of foods that can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be. Ample Hills Creamery is one of the most respected ice cream stores in the city. It has 10 scoop shops in three different boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens) and sells their products to take home in a handful of retail stores. The variation in flavors is ridiculous in the best way possible.

Gluten-Free

Friedman’s Restaurant

Friedman’s Restaurant with its six locations across Manhattan is a diner, but the food and the experience are a notch above the average diner. There is a level of creativity to the dishes that make this restaurant stand out. What I personally love about Friedman’s Restaurant is that they offer gluten-free options. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but a good friend of mine is. She was more than pleased with her meal. It’s a perfect place to go for brunch, a pre-theater meal, or just a good cup of coffee.

Tea Time

Alice’s Tea Cup

There is no better break from a busy day (at least in my mind) than a cup of tea and a delicious scone. Alice’s Tea Cup has two restaurants and one to-go location in upper Manhattan. With an Alice in Wonderland theme, the atmosphere is cozy and the food is yummy. Though they can be a bit busy at times, the experience is worth waiting for. Whether you go in for a full meal or just tea and a piece of cake, you will walk out satisfied

Kosher/Kosher Style Deli

2nd Ave Deli

The New York City restaurant scene used to be dotted with kosher/kosher-style delis. While many have gone the way of the dodo, a few remain. Among these is 2nd Ave Deli. There are two locations: Midtown East and Upper East Side. Whichever one you choose, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. The sandwiches alone are a meal unto themselves. They also cater for large events and for Passover. Anyone who has prepared for a Passover Seder knows how much it helps to have some of the food made by a professional.

Ben’s Kosher Deli, Restaurant, and Caterers

This restaurant and its six locations (most of which are either in or close to NYC) is one of my family’s favorite places to eat. I have yet to walk out as an unhappy customer. Both the sandwiches and the potato pancakes are huge. Depending on when you go, there is a line out of the door and very few tables available. Trust me when I say that it is not uncommon to walk out with leftovers or takeout.

Traditional Ukrainian Food

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant

There is something about traditional food of every kind that makes you feel happy. When it’s made right, it feels like it is straight coming out of a mother or grandmother’s kitchen. I came here for dinner with friends a few months ago and was a happy camper. My favorite part of the meal was the pierogies. They offer several kinds and each is delicious. Given what is happening in the world, I felt like I was in a small way, contributing to helping the people who make this food be seen and heard for more than the headlines.

Veselka

Located in the Ukrainian heart of the East Village, Veselka’s two restaurants are a favorite of locals. For me, it is a reminder that this country and the city have been built and maintained by immigrants. It is those unique flavors and meals that have kept the seats filled for years. I cannot think of a time that I have gone to Veselka that I have not walked out feeling satisfied.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have a favorite among them?

Throwback Thursday: King of the Egg Cream (2014)

Ambition is a wonderful thing. It propels us forward like few things can. That being said, there is a downside to being ambitious. In our drive to succeed, we may ignore a few moral or legal boundaries, which can stop us in our tracks.

The 2014 Tablet magazine helmed album King of the Egg Cream is based on an old-fashioned radio show. Harry Dolowich (Justin Bartha) is a lawyer who wants more than life offers in his largely immigrant Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville offers. This leads him to become the ringleader of a syrup racket in Brooklyn in the 1920s.

This is obviously a niche type of album. That being said, I have truly enjoyed it. Harry is an interesting protagonist. His intentions are good, but in the end, his ego and his drive get him in trouble. What makes it more than a standard period narrative is the details of the era, allowing the listener to be swept into the narrative.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Best Places to Eat in New York City

It has been said that New York City is foodie heaven. Whatever you are craving, there is always a restaurant to satiate the appetite. When you’re coming from out of town, the obvious places to eat are the national chains that everyone knows. There is nothing wrong with that, but when you are in the greatest city in the world, why not try something new?

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Located in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Dumbo, this old-school Italian restaurant is a local favorite. Every dish is delicious and the portions are huge. I have rarely left this place without a doggie bag and a full stomach. If you’re not going to stay for a traditional entree, at least try the pizza. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Max Brenner

If you’re a chocoholic, you’re going to love this place. Walking into the Union Square restaurant is akin to walking into chocolate heaven. Whether you are there for a meal, dessert, or just a sweet treat, it is the perfect break from a busy day. There are also two other locations: a retail store in Times Square and a sister restaurant in Philadelphia.

Coney’s Cones

Summer is nothing without ice cream. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney’s Cones sells the most delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth gelato. Selling half a dozen flavors, the choices are as simple as a scoop in a cone or a cup or as complicated as a full-on dessert. This is one of my personal go-to places on the boardwalk.

Buddha Bodai

NYC is if nothing else, a city of immigrants. This often leads to a melding of dishes that otherwise, would not exist. Located in Chinatown, Buddha Bodai’s dishes are based on traditional Chinese food that is also kosher and vegetarian. I have never been in there when it is not packed or at least partially full. The food is mouthwatering, filling, and has a wide appeal.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Every culture and every city has certain fare that it is known for. One of the dishes that New York City is known for is cheesecake. There is one restaurant that makes the best cheesecake in the city, Junior’s Cheesecake. It has both retail and restaurant locations. All but one is in the city. It is perfect for a meal, a post-theater snack, or just because.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other recommendations to add to this list?

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Things to do in NYC That are Not on the First Page of the Tourist Guide Book

Imagine the following, if you can: your coming to NYC for a vacation. You’ve consulted the various tourist guide books, but you want to see a little more of the city. You may or may not have taken the obligatory pictures at Times Square or gotten tickets to a Broadway show. As a local, trust me when I say there is much more to see and do.

  • One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go to a Brooklyn Cyclones game in Coney Island. MCU Park is an easy walking distance from the train station. Tickets prices range anywhere from $10 to $20 a seat. Unlike the larger stadiums, every seat is a good seat. And if one is to get there early enough, there is a free goodie that corresponds with the night’s theme.
  • The Museum at Eldridge Street is both a museum and a working synagogue. Built in 1887, this absolutely beautiful building is a reminder that America is a land of immigrants. Though the original worshippers are long gone, the soul of that generation and the belief in one’s faith are part and parcel of the structure.
  • The Brooklyn Promenade is one of the most picturesque parts of the borough. On a clear day, you can see across the river to lower Manhattan and all the way to the Statue of Liberty.
  • If you’re looking for a good meal and then a walk to burn it off, head to Chelsea Piers and the Highline. Anyone who loves to eat will have a hard time choosing where to dine.
  • After spending all day inside, a day at Prospect Park and the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn is the perfect antidote. The park is perfect for picnicking, taking a walk, getting some exercise, and learning about the wild world around us.
  • If you are willing to try something new, take the Q train to Emmons Avenue. Foodies will be in heaven.
  • The Morgan Library is one of my favorite museums. Originally the home of J.P. Morgan, it hosts a variety of exhibits. My favorite room is his personal library. It is a bookworm‘s wet dream.
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MCU Park

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

How to Save Money in NYC

We all know that NYC is an expensive place to live. As much as I love this city, I am fully aware that the cost of everything is higher. But, if you know where the look, there are ways of saving a few dollars.

  1. Take public transportation. Like anyone who lives there, I am fully aware of the downsides of using the MTA to get around. But even with those problems, there is no beating that for one fare, you can go from one end of the city to another, 24/7/365.
  2. The dollar store is your best friend. Not everything is cheaper than the big box stores, but the deals may be surprising.
  3. Not everyone can afford to live alone. Though the roommate experience is sometimes hit or miss (as I painfully remember), it is the most economical way to reside here if you cannot afford an apartment on your own.
  4. If you need furniture, there are multiple options: local stores, Craigslist, various apps, etc. If you must buy new and prefer to go to a name brand store, hit up Target or Ikea. They are a pain in the ass to put together (even if you have to pay someone), but overall, it is worth it. The pieces I bought from Ikea more than a decade ago are still in good condition.
  5. When it comes time to get a haircut, find a local salon. Their work is just as good as the expensive salons and many will throw in a free blowout. In my experience, the ones owned by AAPI owners provide a pretty good service at a price that will not break the bank.
  6. Buy in bulk, large sizes, and store brands. If you do have access to a car, stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are worth the drive and the membership fee.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities to be outdoors. Most, if not all of the parks and beaches are free to enter.
  8. If you are a bookworm like me, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the public library. If you must buy a book, hit up a local bookstore or 2nd hand store/thrift shop. This is also good if you are looking for a gift for someone. Now granted, you might not find exactly what you are looking for. But you never know what you may find. My favorite bookstores are the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan (great for browsing), Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, and of course, Housing Works.
  9. If you have a New York State driver’s license, you can get into some museums for nothing or almost nothing.
  10. Use Yelp and Time Out. Yelp is great because the reviews come from customers. Time Out has listings for things to do that will please almost anyone.
  11. If you can, purchase your produce from a street vendor. The quality is just as good as a traditional retailer and the price is just a tad cheaper.
  12. Finally, if you want to see a Broadway show, there are ways to have this experience that will not empty your wallet. If you are willing and/or able to climb stairs, seats on the upper levels of the theaters are always cheaper. For me, it’s about the experience. I don’t mind going up a few flights. Organizations like TKTS sell tickets at discounted prices. However, not every show is listed (especially the popular shows) and the desired seats are not always available. There is also the option of going to one of the booths. The primary one is located in Times Square. Just prepared to be waiting in a very long line.
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Cyrano de Bergerac Review

Cyrano de Bergerac is the tale of unrequited love and finding the courage to tell the one you love how you feel.

The newest adaptation is playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn. Told in a spoken word/hip-hop/Hamilton style, James McAvoy plays the title character. Evelyn Miller is Roxanne, the woman he loves, but is unable to reveal his feelings due to his unusually long nose. Eben Figueiredo is Christian, the young soldier who Cyrano uses to express his love.

My main reason for wanting to see this show is McAvoy. He is one of those actors who cannot be pegged as a certain character type. That being said, this version is not for the purists. It’s a creative take on the story that we all know. Beyond the unorthodox re-telling is that McAvoy is not wearing a prosthetic nose. This makes sense because even the most conventionally attractive of people are likely to harbor insecurities of some sort.

My problem with the play is that the first half is just a little too long and despite the excellent performances, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. There is something missing that I cannot put my finger on that would have made the show that much better

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Cyrano de Bergerac is playing at BAM until May 22, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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The Shooting in Brooklyn This Morning Scares The Shit Out of Me

We never know what will happen when we open our eyes in the morning. The day could be as ordinary as ordinary can be. Or, it can shake you to your core.

At about 8:30 this morning, during the rush hour, a man walked onto a northbound N train at the 36th Street and 4th Ave stop in Brooklyn. He detonated a smoke bomb and started shooting. As of earlier today, 10 people were shot and multiple others were injured. A good portion of the NYC MTA subway system was either shut down or dramatically altered for most of the day.

I know the station where this attack happened. Events like these are always scary. But they are even scarier when they are close to home. Today was one of those days when I was more than grateful that my company still allows us to work from home. The truth is that 99.9% of the time, the biggest inconvenience when getting on the train is a delay or track work that forces a change in travel plans. Those are normal in my world.

What happened today scared the shit out of me. I know that come tomorrow, I will shake the dust off (as will anyone who calls this city home) and go about my business as usual.

But that does not mean that what happened will not leave a scar.

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