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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 […]

The Holy Cart

by 06/08/2009
Neighborhood: Upper East Side

My primary focus in grammar school was scheming ways to get out of class. At the start of seventh grade, I weighed my options. The parish claimed it needed money all the time. It ran fifty/fifty clubs, cake sales, bingo, casino nights, you name it. The low earner on the ledger was the religious article […]

Back in the Pew

by 06/07/2009
Neighborhood: East Village

“I like being pastor of a church that is being disciplined for its positions,” Reverend Dr. Jacqueline Lewis recently announced from the pulpit of Middle Collegiate Church. The minister was referring to the fact her congregation was under fire from members of its parent denomination, the Reformed Church of America, because it came out publicly […]

Barred from Proselytizing in China, Mormons Try a Chinatown

by 04/08/2009
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Sunset Park

Mormon Church in Sunset Park (Photo by Patty Lee) As people rush in and out of butcher shops and bakeries on Brooklyn’s Eighth Avenue, He Zhanglao tries to get their attention. He speaks in clear Mandarin, and listens carefully to their replies. But he’s tall and blond, and sticks out in this part of Sunset […]

An Evening With the Nichiren Shoshu of America, 1980

by Mary O'Connell 12/07/2008
Neighborhood: Across the River, Brooklyn

I remember now that we took the R train from Court Street to 75th Street in Bay Ridge. I thought how ironic it was to be returning to Bay Ridge, from which I had fled for my life, to seek enlightenment. But my sponsor, Ellen, assured me that I could chant for anything, ANYTHING, fulfill […]


by 05/12/2008
Neighborhood: Across the River, Queens

It’s March 22nd again, Dawn Alfano’s birthday. I can’t figure out why every year for the past half-century I remember that, but somehow it’s always stuck in my mind. It’s not that Dawn and I were close or anything in third grade, but somehow the little we shared must have made an impression on me. […]

The Tombstone Read L.E.S.

by 05/11/2008
Neighborhood: Lower East Side

Recently, driving with my grandmother to meet family for dinner at a French restaurant on Lafayette, mouth watering in anticipation of filet mignon, I bemoaned the fate of the once urban wasteland, now over developed, over exposed Lower East Side we had both grown up in. As I ranted she nodded, indifferent to the hipsters […]

Not That Christ is Funny

by 04/11/2008
Neighborhood: Washington Heights

My friend John promised a world away from the gray of Boston, but the Cloisters seemed equally cold and dim when we paid our admission fee (ahem, suggested $20 donation). The cold from the stone floor seeped upward through my shoes as we began to wander around, approaching the tapestry in which the unicorn sits […]

Magic City: Not In Our Town

by 12/22/2007
Neighborhood: Across the River, Bronx

One of the great, underrated things about living in New York is meeting all those people who come from everywhere else. Not that Gotham natives aren’t a barrel of monkeys, but it’s cool that someone always seems to have a different frame-of-reference, a different slice of life about where they came from, which is my […]

The Diamond Cutter’s Daughter

by 07/12/2007
Neighborhood: Midtown

The mysteries of 47th Street—men in oily black suits and beards the color of tar, swollen red noses and black eyes lined in soot, wiry eyebrows, faces half-hidden by coarse pepper-black hair, tallit dragging from the sweaty hems of their coats. Men with secrets. In their pockets, translucent wax paper folded and folded again like […]

All of a Piece: Saint Anthony’s Statue and New Guinea Mourning Rituals

by 06/18/2007
Neighborhood: Letter From Abroad

Every Tuesday when I was a small boy my mother would take me to visit a statue of Saint Anthony in Saint Francis Church on 31st Street in Manhattan. Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of the poor. Curiously, he is invoked by those looking for lost things. Along with Saint Jude he […]

Who Wants To Be An Extremist?

by 12/31/2006
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

I buy my morning paper from a little shop on the corner of West 83rd Street called the Columbus Avenue Food Corp. & Convenience Store. When you walk in, standing behind the counter on your left is Shahid, a very sunny and trim Pakistani man in his 50s with a thinning salt-and-pepper comb-over and a […]