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Exhaustion, Faith, or Madness

by 12/12/2014
Neighborhood: Jackson Heights, Queens, Uncategorized

A group of Asian teenage boys with shaved heads slows down in front of me. It is around 7 pm, not yet dusk, not really day, and we're passing by a series of low brick row houses with bar-covered windows on 73rd Street in Jackson Heights. The boys look kind of tough, but they are polite as […]

Colin Powell, Elvis Presley, and Mario Cuomo

by 06/12/2014
Neighborhood: Kew Gardens Hills, Queens

Often the Jewish dumpster is stuffed with bread: not tonight; but walking home a man in a hat says, “Excuse me. Are you Jewish?” I say “No” because last time I was asked that question I said “Yes,” and three Jews wrapped me in ribbons and made me repeat a lot of strange words. So […]

An Education on Avenue B

by 03/23/2014
Neighborhood: East Village, Featured

In 1971, when I was 11 years old, my world was turned upside down when my parents decided to send me to a Jewish Day School on the Lower East Side. From grades 1 to 5, I’d gone to the Downtown Community School, or DCS as it was called, on East 11th Street. It was […]

It’s Not A Cult

by 10/10/2012
Neighborhood: All Over, Featured, JFK/LGA, Letter From Abroad

"I have to get to New York" says the woman in front of me at the Portland, Oregon airport. "You don't understand, I have to get there." She repeats this urgently, in a slightly hysterical voice to a man in uniform behind a counter. I smile at her sympathetically. The flight to JFK has been […]

Facing The Day

by 06/25/2012
Neighborhood: All Over, Chelsea, Gramercy Park, West Village

On the first Wednesday of every month for the past year, my walk east from Fourteenth Street and Seventh Avenue where I teach, to the corner of Eighteenth Street and First Avenue took about twenty minutes. There are intriguing neighborhood changes along the way but I was usually lost in thought. I would arrive at […]

Can’t Say No

by 01/24/2012
Neighborhood: Cobble Hill

You didn't say no. You never said no. You wouldn't even think of saying no. So, when he arrived at the door of my tenement apartment at 1AM, unexpected, unannounced, I didn't say no. I let him in, against all my instincts. "Hi. I was at the community center. We just finished working. We were […]

We Had Never Heard of Pearl Harbor

by 12/09/2011
Neighborhood: Featured, Uncategorized, Upper West Side

I hated Saturdays. We had been moderately observant Jews in the small German town where we had lived before we fled to the US. The trauma and anxiety of starting over in a new land with two young children and the horror stories that were filtering out of Europe pushed my mother towards the security […]

Chola’s Habit

by 11/16/2011
Neighborhood: Featured, Williamsburg

My younger sister, Chola, a second grader at Our Lady of Good Counsel, is chosen for a special part in the school play. My sister is real cute and the Sisters adore her. Chola loves Sister Romona and gave her a candy necklace for Christmas. She helps Sister Romona erase the blackboard every day and […]

The Day the World Did Not End

by 07/08/2011
Neighborhood: Harlem, Uncategorized

The world was supposed to end on May 21, 2011. One man I spoke to at a bar was a little disappointed when Earth was still turning at 12:01 AM on the 22nd. I guess that’s what you would expect from someone who is sitting by himself. His face was ruddy with alcohol and he was […]

The Honda Healing

by 07/31/2010
Neighborhood: Bronx

It was midnight and Jay and I were walking out of Brook Park in the South Bronx. We had been in the Puerto Rican version of a sweat lodge. Years ago I had attended a Lakota Indian version of the same purification ritual in upstate New York. But this experience was far more spiritual and […]

The Last Day

by 06/03/2010
Neighborhood: Windsor Terrace

I always woke up early the last day of school. My eyes would jump open and I’d sit up and look toward the windows in my parents’ bedroom to see if morning slid through the thick wooden blinds and thin white curtains. I’d jab the bottom of the bunk bed above where my older brother […]

Covered Heads

by 06/03/2010
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

I have been to exactly one rabbinical student graduation party: Jewish Theological Seminary, class of 1998. The party was held outdoors on the rooftop of a pub on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and the balmy May night helped create the illusion that the bar was somewhere outside the city—a mountaintop perch under an oddly starless […]