Friday, January 19, 2007

Last Fling on the Lower East Side

I'm leaving New York tomorrow, heading back home to Budapest... which I guess is what I call home these decades... I had to have one last walkabout on the Lower East Side of Manhatten. I needed to pay my respects to the ruins of the First Roumanian-American Congregation, Shaarey Shamoyim, one of America's most history laden shuls... Cantor Yosele Rosenblatt used to hold sabbath services here.Earlier this year the city inspectors decided that the building was dangerously beyond repair and called the demolition experts. All that remains is this doorway.The population of the Lower East Side is mainly Hispanic and Chinese these days, but there are still a lot of reminders of the time when it was the center of New York's immigrant Jewish community. Shapiro's Incredibly Horrid Sweet Kosher wine has now moved its undrinkable product to a stall inside the nearby Essex St. Market, but their old sign is still outside.Just around the corner is the Kehila Kedoshe Janina Synagogue, the last bastion on earth of the Romaniote Greek language, which is down to maybe four or five elderly speakers. Romaniotes are Greek Jews, which is to say they pre-date Sephardic or Ashkenazic identity, having arrived in Greece after the destruction of the second Temple. According to tradition, the Roman emperor Titus, after capturing Jerusalem in A.D. 70, was transporting Jews to Rome as slaves when his ship was driven by a storm onto the Albanian coast. He allowed the Jews to disembark and thus began a long history that was almost entiurely terminated by the Holocaust. One of the largest Romaniote communities was in Ioanina in Macedonian Greece. Today, this is probably the largest Romaniote institution still in use.Of course, if you still have any questions at all, the answers are still out here...The Lower East Side is still one of the neighborhoods with the most character in Manhatten, which is rapidly becoming one huge island of homogenous glass and granite. This is where we used to come on Sundays (yes, Sundays... it was the Jewish shopping day) to get clothes and draperies when I was a kid.Anybody need any shirts from Mr. Cauliflower and Sons? Just up Ludlow St. I had to say my farewell to my beloved Katz's Deli. Corned beef, juicy, on Rye. With pickles and a Root Beer. I am going to miss this place. But I'll be back...Then up second Avenue to have a pint at McSorley's Ale House, the oldest continuing bar in New York. They've cleaned it up a bit - which is saying a lot since they used to have a tradition of never cleaning it up, and the dust hung down in stalactites from the ceiling dating from Boss Tweed's times. It was also the last bar in NY to admit women. Still one of the great bars of New York.A few hours of last minute shopping - Nyquil is very big in Hungary - to work off the corned beef, and I traipsed back to Chinatown for dinner. Transcendant "special beef pho" (with two different cuts of beef and tripe) from Bo Ky Vietnamese Reesaturant on Mulberry Street. $5.00.And just as I was getting out, I noticed the sign on another eatery, and being forever a fourteen-year-old at heart... I started giggling incontrollably. This is when I really should not be near a blog, but heck...Needless to say, once I get my maturity level down far enough, anything will set me off...


Pink Granite said...

Enjoyed your tour of the Lower East Side. We hope you have a safe journey back to Budapest. We look forward to reading your posts from there!

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