Browsing the archives for the Events category.

A Strange Day: The Sun Rose and the Passover Seders Arrived and Matzah Brei Fills the Land

Events, Lily's notes

The strange day,  Wednesday April 8, 2009: Many groups of people joined together for the once every 28 year Blessing of the Sun. The weather in New york cooperated, and sun was seen rising over some clouds which were on the horizon, into a mostly clear sky. Very lovely. There were many morning services, blessings and study sessions held. Lots of singing and dancing too throughout the city. Friends agreed that this was worth getting out at 6:30 am for. Here is the April 8, 2009, sunrise over Mount Sinai…Mt Sinai Hospital in NYC, that is.

Sunrise April 8, 2009 Blessing of the Sun

Sunrise April 8, 2009 Blessing of the Sun

Then came the snow. Yes, the SNOW, an unpredicted snow squall which whited out the city if you were on a high floor. Just as suddenly, the weather cleared up and it was quite nice again in plenty of time for guests to arrive at the Passover Seders.

Passover is a full moon holiday- that is-  there is always a full moon at the first Seder. Here is a photo of the Passover Full Moon in New York City that evening:

Full Moon Passover 2009

Full Moon Passover 2009

As I write this on April 10, the work and pleasure of the Seders is over. Leftovers are lurking in the fridge. We  read this morning, that for the very first time,  there was a Passover Seder held at the White House! Nice surprise. And now people have moved on to seriously discussing Matzah Brei. Here is a recipe for Banana Matzah Brei from ProfeJeff:

ProfeJeff’s Recipe for Banana Matza Brei:
1) Take about 4-5 sheets of matza and break them along the natural fault lines.

Each piece should be about three or four fault lines wide and be about 1/3 to 1/2 the length of a matza.

2) Break them into a large bowl filled about 1/3 of the way with lukewarm water.

3) Soak them for at least a minute. Be sure they’re completely soaked and soft. Then holding the matza with one hand, pour the water out.  Press the matza gently to squeeze out the excess water.

4) Into the matza pour 4-6 eggs that you have already completely mixed so that the yolks and whites are thoroughly mixed. (For a lower cholesterol version, use 4 eggs and 2/3 cup of liquid egg whites; this serves 4).  With a fork, pick up the slices of matza so that both sides of every piece are infused with the eggs!

5) To this mixture add two thoroughly mashed bananas. Stir the mixture together. Pour this mixture into a hot, well-oiled pan. Let it sit and fry for less than a minute. Then Flip. Cook 2 minutes. If using a smaller diameter pan, flip once more, let sit, and flip yet one more time.  Serve with cinnamon. If you want it even sweeter, add maple syrup to your portion.  Best by test!

Editors note: This is delicious and ProfeJeff can speak about 9 languages in addition making Matzah Brei!

And before you need to ask, here is the answer: Passover is 8 days when observed outside of Israel and 7 days within Israel. It is the custom not to eat bread etc, for the legnth of the holiday.  IN NYC, Pizza , Asian food, bread etc again after dark on April 16, 2009.


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Preparing for Passover 2009 and the Blessing of the Sun in New York

Events, Lily's notes

The Blessing of the Sun, Birchat haChama, is celebrated only once every 28 years, which means that it is an event that is experienced only a few times in anyone’s lifetime! This year it will be marked on the morning of April 8, 2009The sun will rise at 6:28 DST in New York City.

It is an opportunity for expressing appreciation at the beauty and wonder of the world. It is also an opportunity to think back 28 years (if you can) and forward 28 years (may you have many more), and try for some special perspective.

Also, if you give this a little thought and planning, you may be able to have a quick breakfast with friends before the start of Passover that evening.  The service can start anytime within 3 hours after sunrise but many are planning to meet at sunrise, which is much more dramatic than starting at say, 9 am.

In New York City,  people have arranged to meet and have the Birchat HaChama service in many places including: at the observation deck of the Empire State Building, the roof of the  Manhattan JCC, and on the rooftop of many congregations of all and every type, other buildings and in the Central Park Band Shell.

This desire to get hundreds of feet closer to the sun expresses the New Yorkers love of tall buildings, unique events, as well as loving an opportunity to step outside of their daily routine. The weather prediction is for a chilly and mostly sunny morning. Ok, the weather forecast said partly cloudy, but I am an optimist. Bring your hot coffee or tea. If you need any more details, write  to me.

Some notes about Passover: I have heard 2 complaints about preparing for Passover on the Upper West Side: the high price of foods that are always Kosher for Passover being jacked up higher for the holiday shopping for no understandable reason other than to perhaps feed the ugly monster of greed. The other complaint is how crowded their favorite stores become at this time, especially Fairway -which is always very crowded before any holiday of any type- even before Groundhogs Day. These are the same complaints we all hear each year.

Remember to give donations to the local food pantries, and fulfil the mitzvah of feeding the hungry. The pantries are very low on supplies this year- there are more people in need. They welcome cash, but food is appreciated too.

Instead of burning your Chametz, why not scatter the crumbs for the birds returning on their Spring migration. They may eat chametz any time.

Chag Pesach Sameach= Have a Happy Passover

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Free Fine Concerts at the Mannes School of Music

Art, Concert, Events

We walked by the Mannes School of Music on West 85th Street, as the sky was darkening and glowing that beautiful electric blue, and were drawn right inside by the sound of lovely music. We skipped our dinner plans and instead enjoyed a concert by the students of Susan Woodruff Versage who were performing an Evening  of Opera Excerpts. Ms Versage accompanied them on piano.

These students have splendid voices, great talent and were lively performers with the beautiful grace of youth. Exerpts from 13 operas were performed. This was a true pleasure.

There is so much excellent free music available in New York, it would be  smart to check out all of the music schools performance schedules and select some free concerts in these difficult financial times.

Don’t let the financial downturn limit the pleasures of music and art. It is probably just what you need to better cope with the present times.

Here are some schools and others ideas to check out:
The Julliard School of Music, The Mannes School, The NY Philharmonic Open Rehearsals, The Manhattan School of Music. Remember, the Metropolitan Museum of Art still has a pay-what-you-wish entrance policy.

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Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women’s Orchestra of Birkenau

Concert, Events, Lily's notes

From  Ars Choralis:

In the darkest times, music provides solace and illustrates what is best in the human spirit.

During the depths of World War II, Jewish women musicians incarcerated at the Auschwitz/Birchenau concentration camp were required to play for their Nazi captors. This is a story about how music saved the lives of those women. It is also the story of a small-town chorus that has brought back the music, hope, grief and resilience of these women.

Over one million people, mostly Jewish, were murdered in Birkenau gas chambers.  In exchange for their survival, a women’s orchestra was formed by the S.S. at Birchenau.  During the year and a half it existed, 54 women participated in the orchestra.  All but the conductor survived.

Two years ago, Barbara Pickhardt, conductor of the Woodstock, NY chorus, Ars Choralis, researched survivor’s memoirs and created Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women’s Orchestra of Birkenau.  The concert interwove orchestral music of Schumann, Chopin, Puccini, Mendelssohn and others, with spoken memoirs and songs of hope, peace and resistance sung by the chorus.

Wearing the simple lavender scarves and white blouses worn by the Birchenau musicians, the members of the reconstructed orchestra felt a shiver of connection to the original orchestra as they played arrangements of the same music played in the camps.

Ars Choralis performed Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women’s Orchestra of Birchenau to great acclaim in Hudson Valley churches, colleges and synagogues. The audience response was so powerful that repeat performances were demanded. Now Ars Choralis has been invited to perform this concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan and in Germany.

• The performance of Music in Desperate Times at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine will be on Saturday March 28, 2009 at 8 PM.  This landmark church is the largest Anglican Cathedral in North America.

If you have never visited this cathedral, or perhaps any other cathedral, it is quite a place to see and I would recommend setting aside some time to look through this vast and fascinating space.

• Survivors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Furstenberg, Germany have invited Ars Choralis to perform at their annual Liberation Day ceremonies on April 18 and 19, 2009 on the grounds of the camp.

• Heilig Kreuz Passion Church in Berlin has invited Ars Choralis to perform Music in Desperate Times on Friday, April 17, 2009.

The cost of producing the concerts and traveling to Germany is unprecedented for Ars Choralis.  We hope to gain support for this magnificent endeavor through ticket sales and donations.  

Tickets to the March 28th performance at the Cathedral are:

• $45.00 front section, reserved seats
• $35.00 front section, unreserved
• $25.00 general seating

Many  thanks to Rochelle Saidel of the Remember the Women Institute for bringing this concert to our attention.

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The Valmadonna Trust Library at Sotheby’s

Art, Events, Lily's notes, Literary event

The Valmadonna Trust Library is on display at Sotheby’s (72nd Street and York Ave, NYC) until Thursday February 19th at 5pm. Rush over and see this extraordinary collection while you can. This exhibit is for lovers of old books, manuscripts, Jewish learning, world and Jewish history and beautiful hand made book bindings.

If you cannot go, take the time to read this exhibit catalog.

The shelves are lined floor to ceiling with unique books, many open to particularly fascinating pages for viewing. The collection includes examples of nearly half of all of the earliest Hebrew printing, books from the Ottoman Empire, all of Europe, India and the Far East and Africa.

Open Haggadda

Open Haggadda

Each book is a story; it is awesome to see the complete Bomberg Babylonian Talmud, originally acquired by Henry VIII (hoping to find something in support of divorce), which arrived too late to help him out of his dilemma. These volumes of Talmud sat unused for 400 years in Westminster Abbey until acquired by the trust in exchange for a copy of the original charter for the Abbey. They are in perfect condition. It is wonderful to see them in great condition, especially after considering the  history of Talmud burning and censorship in Europe by Christian authorities.

On display are many volumes from various cities in Italy from the golden age of printing, also a small volume which was first book ever published in Africa, there are ”broadsides”, that is, calendars and public notices and a charming Alef-Bet chart with illustrations of animals for teaching young children to read, all meant for temporary use which have somehow survived for so many centuries, and there are books from every community that had a Jewish population.

Samaritan Torah

Samaritan Torah

Also, a room of fine manuscripts which includes a  Samaritan Torah Scroll in the original ancient Hebrew alef-bet. The Samaritan Torah contains an eleventh commandament: to meet at Mount Seir for the annual sacrifice of a lamb for Pesach (Passover). There are other much less dramatic differences as well.

The books are secular as well as religious.

This is the largest collection of Jewish books in private ownership. The Trust intends to sell this as one collection to an institution. This photo was taken with the permmission of Mr. Lunzer and his daughter, when we went back for a second visit.

Jack Lunzer and Daughter

Jack Lunzer and Daughter

A steady stream of visitors fill the galleries of the exhibit and the curator gives a tour full of explanations and colorful stories about this wonderful collection. You can feel the viewer’s pleasure with these volumes. It feels like a pilgrimage of love of the book, a love of learning and Jewish history. We are going back again today and take our time looking over favorite parts of the exhibit.

Why is it called the Valmadonna Trust? The Trust’s custodian, Jack Lunzer of Britain,  considered buying land near Valmadonna, Italy before WWII, he didn’t buy but he liked the name and used it for the Trust.*** Before you all ask: He made his money in industrial diamonds.

Let’s hope that this library is acquired by a great institution, a university or museum and available in the future. Perhaps it belongs at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

*** Caroline corrected this and says that Mr Lunzer did buy the land near Valmadonna Italy after WWII.  Please see her full comment below the photos.

Since the exhibit is now closed, I have added these photos, all by Jeff French Segall, for those of you who were not able to see this exhibit at Sotheby´s.

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Another Film Festival! The 13th NY Sephardic Film Festival

Events, Film

The 13th New York Sephardic Film Festival will run for one week screening 15 films from 14 countries.

These will be shown at three venues: The Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, The JCC of NY on Amsterdam Avenue at 76th st and in Miami,  Sunrise Cinema at the Intercoastal Mall.  Please click on their site above for ticket and event details.

February 5 through February 12.

GothamGirl hopes to have at least 3 reviewers attend the various screenings and events.

Each year we love this festival!

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LimmudNY 09, an Avoidable Disaster

Events, Lily's notes

The Limmud conference was a disaster. No heat in the bedrooms, freezing cold conference rooms..water pouring from a lobby ceiling into a garbage cans, fire alarms going off on Saturday morning..people had to attend sessions in their coats, hats , gloves and scarves. The steering committee knew that there was a heating problem and assured attendees on Friday that the problem was fixed and that the conference would not be cancelled.

Many people were quite smart and didn’t bother to go up to the Nevele Grande. Those that arrived on Thursday were sent to a nearby resort but friends told us that the place where they were sent had no heat either, so they made their own private arrangements and stayed 20 minutes away from the conference.

We spend a completely sleepless frozen Friday night and along with about 1/3 of the attendees, at 12:30 am Friday someone using a master key, opened our door without even knocking (!) and asked if we had any room for more people, up to 5 people were sharing rooms.

We fled back home to New York City on Saturday. The conference had to supply a bus (maybe buses?) to bring home some of the attendees that wanted to flee the awful conditions at the Nevele.

When we returned to NYC Sat evening by car and we took home a friend that swore he would have nothing to do with Limmud again.**[please see follow up note below]

He said that the organisers did not consider the safety and health of the participants. We felt very responsible for encouraging him and others to attend.

I ended up quite sick with fever, cough and chills, I am writing this today because it is the first day that I feel a bit better and can sit up and write.

Limmud knew that there was a heating problem, they almost cancelled the conference and then sent out emails and a website notice that all was well and the conference was on after all. This was a terrible (perhaps cynical) action. There were hundreds of cold people.

An elderly woman sat with us at Saturday lunch and  said that she would have nothing more to do with Limmud and hoped to go home as soon as possible. So sad after all of the planning and hopes for a good conference.
They should have cancelled the conference for safety and health reasons. There were infants, the elderly, and many who could not take these unexpected severe conditions.

The LimmudNY website has a lovely thank you letter for a great conference from a presenter, and nice photos of smiling people, many bundled up in their outdoor clothing although they are indoors.

The Steering Committee worked hard to cope with the problems but it was all beyond their most decent efforts. We understand that when they had a lot less people attending and they could consolidate rooms and presentations spaces, that the conditions improved somewhat.

This was all such a  deep disappointment.

We asked if there would be any refunds of the fees but have not yet received the courtesy of a response.

Please click the comments button below and read these insightful comments from readers and join the conversation…and a follow up note: just learned that two more friends became sick after returning from the weekend.

Sad News -Follow up note: The friend mentioned above, who begged us to take him home in our car after suffering the severe cold for an entire evening, died suddenly 4 months after the LimmudNY 09 conference.

I have no idea if this experience had any effect on my friend’s health but it does underline the fact that leadership must take the health and welfare of participants very, very seriously because it is impossible to know  the health status of all involved.

This must take precedence over financial considerations.


Limmud NY 2009 at the Nevele Grande in Ellenville

Art, Events, Film

We will be heading off to the extremely frozen Catskills for a warm, long MLK, JR weekend to attend LimmudNy 09. I hope to tell you about it as it occurs.

There is so much scheduled for the convention ….a constantly running Film festival, theatre, classes, workshops, musicians and a cafe to sit around with friends, catch up and compare notes and choose what to do next.

About 1000 people will be at the Nevele Grande for this four-day convention.

We will drive 2 hours north and west from NYC, park the car, and let Limmud and the resort absorb and take care of us for the next few days.

No work. Just art, Shabbat and learning, a true pleasure.

My 7 year-old neighbor, Hannah,  informed me during an elevator ride yesterday, that the Nevele Grande will shut down after this coming summer season.

This was shocking. First because this savvy 7 year-old was in the know. Her friends summer there each year and they are very sad that this will be their last summer, and the Nevele is among the very last of the old time Catskill resorts.

It is so remarkable to learn that such young New Yorkers care so much about this and that we all share such affection for “the mountains” and for this not-new resort.

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Barack Obama’s Inauguration on the Upper West Side! And DC Remembered

Events, Lily's notes

OK, OK, it is really happening in Washington, DC but considering that our 44th President received about 95% of the Upper West Side vote, we can have a special party for him and feel it is ours too. 

Symphony Space  will open it’s doors for free on January 20 and the Inauguration will be shown on their big screen. (Peter Jay Sharp Theatre). They have invited everyone to come, bring or buy lunch, or in true West Side style you may order in, and enjoy this stunning, historic, happy event. Starts at 10 am. 95th Street and Broadway.

In addition to the many private Inauguration parties that evening, many community places are have community viewing parties of the inaugural events. Our building has a party room which will have a special big-screen gathering of neighbors so that they can celebrate this inauguration together.

There has never been an inauguration like this one.


The first time I travelled from NYC to DCwas on an old schoolbus full of demonstrators with banners tied to the sides of the bus that read “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom“.  We entered DC through the poorest neighborhood I had ever seen.  It was intensely, painfully shocking to realize that this was our national capital.

The  neighborhood residents in the street read our banners, saw our faces and greeted us with waves and lovely , big smiles. We had arrived a few days early for the great March on Washington. We took part in passive resistance training sessions at our host church (meant for future demonstrations), and slept on cots or sleeping bags in a basement of the church whose members welcomed us and treated us like we were their own (but slightly strange) children. I will always have their wonderful, personal hospitality in my heart.

The demonstration and Martin Luther King Jr’s speech were thrilling.

After these few days in DC I badly needed a shower, so I was told to go to the YMCA, deny that I am a demonstrator if asked, and I could pay $2  to use the “Y”s gym shower facilities. Would they really ask if I am a demonstrator?? They sure did! Two women drawled that question through very suspicious blue eyes at me. I denied that I was a demonstrator in my most excellent NY accent back at them and smiled. I showered. I learned that DC was quite southern and that I was categorized as “white” in the South.

It made me remember the Chelm story about the goat which was female in one town, exchanged along the road by pranksters and is male when it arrives in the next town, and back and forth again.  So, Jewish in NYC, white in the south. I got it. But I had not been “exchanged”, I just learned how people choose to see so differently.

We all dreamed with MLK Jr, and now we thankfully have a very changed world from those times, MLK, JR National holiday, and amazingly, President Barack Obama.

Bless him to be able to do the work we need to be done to repair our country and to make a great future.




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Bard Graduate Center: English Embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art, Events

The Bard Graduate Center Museum will have on exhibit English Embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twixt Art and Nature through April 12, 2009. The exhibit features extraordinary examples of embroidery from 1580 through 1700. Many materials are used: tiny pearls, hand made spangles, gold wire wrapped cord, silk and other threads etc. It is a mixed media of it’s time. The skill level is amazing, it is as if the sewers thought that they could hold together the very order of society with their tiny stitches.

There is a stunningly embroidered woman’s jacket that seems to be so tiny, perhaps today it might be girl’s size 10.  A video of sewers re-creating this jacket plays in the next gallery, and there is copy of a painting of a woman wearing this style jacket, plus the thoughtful information cards makes this exhibit satisfying and special. The exhibit explanation cards are excellent, locating the objects in time and in culture.

The embroiderers created 3-D figures, and faces of cherubs which reminded me of the type of needle work seen on old Torah Mantles which  often have lions and arks but not human figures. There are portraits of British nobility whose heads are surrounded by gold reminiscent of halos in Byzantine mosaics of saints. There personal items such as gloves and purses and household decoration some with biblical scenes.

Adam and Eve were popular motifs as was the story of Queen Esther.  It is remarkable to think that the English of that time period thought of the story of Queen Esther as glorifying obedience to one’s husband (the King), since in Esther’s story the King Ahashverosh is clearly described as a distracted king easily manipulated by his aide, Haman. Actually, the story of Queen Esther has quite a different meaning.

Bard Museum

Bard Museum

The Center also offers an exhibition-related education program of workshops and lectures and there will be an all-day Symposium on January 23 held at the MAD Museum on Columbus Circle relating to this exhibit.

This small museum is located in a town house at 18 West 86th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Admission is only $3 and less for seniors.

The Bard Graduate Center and this museum are treasures of New York.

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Saigon Grill Owners Arrested

Events, Lily's notes, Uncategorized

The story of Saigon Grill seems to have an ending which may include jail time for the owners for charges stemming from their treatment of their employees and for submitting falsified information to authorities. Today The NY Times reports on the arrest of the owners of Saigon Grill for a variety of criminal acts and explains this in detail.

A GothamGirl correspondent has spoken with Richard Nget, brother of the owners Simon and Michelle Nget, and manager of Saigon Grill on 90th Street and Amsterdam Avenue,  over years and again this past week days before the arrests.

He asked Mr. Nget years ago, before the action and dispute with their employees, “How have you kept your prices so low for years? ” and he replied: “I am afraid to change prices, because I am afraid that if I do it will bring bad luck”. Bad luck? Bad business, as in treating employees like dirt,  rightfully should  make severe consequences.

Well it is very clear that their many actions have brought them much more  than bad luck. They face fines of over $4 million dollars, and criminal charges, and perhaps jail time.

Months ago, Mr. Nget insisted that “everything is lie” and that his ex-workers were “evil” and when asked if he would rehire them, he said  ”never”. Wait staff standing near by nodded in agreement, perhaps afraid of losing their jobs.

Sunday, just a few days before the arrests, our correspondent asked him what are your plans now? He said: “maybe close everything”.

Maybe go to jail, too.

Now, I would like to know if any authorities are investigating the treatment of employees in nail salons. It seems to me that these places are ripe for exploitation of their immigrant women workers and they seem to  ”smell” of abuse.  Any thoughts?


NOTE: Received a reply from labor attorney Christopher Marlborough,  on these issues, please be sure read his note below! Especially you lovers of nail salons!

I am a labor attorney in NYC. I was not involved in the Saigon Grill case, but I am glad to see some employers being held accountable for their egregious crimes. Hopefully, a few criminal convictions can serve as a wake up call to employers everywhere. You had better start paying your workers what they deserve, or at least what you are required to pay them by law.

Regarding your questions about nail salons, a few years ago, the Brennan Center published a report about overtime violations in NYC and noted that nail salons are some of the worst offenders. The report, Unregulated Work In The Global City, is available online at this location:

There has been help for these exploited workers. The organizations Justice Will Be Served! (a coalition composed of the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, and 318 Restaurant Workers Union have worked with nail salon employees in NYC to fight for their rights. In addition, The Asian American Legal Defense Fund has taken on several nail salons and gotten significant recoveries for exploited salon workers. See

I just finished reading a fantastic new book on the subject of employment exploitation called titled Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid and What You Can Do About It by Kim Bobo. Kim is the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, Inc. a non-profit organization that works to improve working conditions in America on all levels. Her testimony before the U.S. Senate can be found here:

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Christmas/Winter/Hanukkah Decorations 2008

Events, Lily's notes

The winter lights and holiday decorations are up and lit around the city. It is a spectacle! Here is a list of personal favorites.  

The Museum of Natural History has two large, graceful, long-necked dinosaurs covered with pine and little lights. Honestly charming.

The Lions, Patience and Fortitude, who guard the main New York Public Library are wearing their Christmas wreaths, looking like snug beloved pets.  

Bryant Park, behind the Library,  has a large fat tree, which will be lit tonight and an ice-skating rink. This park is always a welcoming public space.

Lincoln Center is still a maze of construction and renovation but they will have their tree up in spite of the mess. This is usually my favorite tree, and the usual plaza light are wonderful. Also, while you are there have a look at the new facade of The Julliard School, it is a dramatic design.

The Upper West Side Broadway Malls have lit Hanukkah menorahs at many cross streets, Christmas trees too, and lots of white lights brightening up the dark evenings.

There is the big tree in Rockefeller Center, to be lit tonight. I realize that people love that huge tree, it seems to be a celebrity in it’s own right, but I think it is over sized and not at all tree-like, but if you are a visitor, I think that it may be a requirement that  you go to see it.

The UNICEF Giant Snowflake is hanging overhead on 5th Avenue and 59th Street. Nice sparkle at night. 

And right there on 5th and 59th Street is the giant Hanukkah Menorah designed by the world-famous Israeli sculptor Yaakov Agam.  It is called the largest Menorah in the World. It is lit each night wih real fire, not bulbs. Honorees ride to the top of the menorah in a “cherry picker” and light the next light each evening. I am not sure at all if size is a recommendation of any sort regarding all of these holiday decorations, but in this case,  it is fun to see this lit at sunset each evening.

Right there are the real horses and Hansom cabs decorated for the holidays too.

The many Midtown stores and lobbies of large buildings are all done up, just stroll along the avenues, there is plenty to see including giant-sized everything, entire buildings wrapped like gifts, giant green candy canes wrapped in giant red ribbons and lit with tiny lights precariously hanging off of the sides of buildings, and mechanized displays of miniature villages. Each store tries to outdo the next, so it is quite a sight.

Suburbanites try to drive by to see all of this and the decorations by peering out of their huge (usually black) SUV’s but what can they possibly really see from their cars while crawling through traffic? Park in a garage. Take the kids by the hand and stroll. Eat hot snacks in the street. Have fun. Experience it.

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Update: Construction of 535 West End Avenue

Events, Lily's notes, Photos

Construction of 535 West End Avenue, that is the condo with an asking price of $14 Million for an apartment with seven bedrooms, is progressing. Even thought the real estate market, stock market US and world economies have tanked,  at least for the moment, I have not heard of any change in their offering price.

535 West End Avenue Under Construction by Jeff French Segall

535 West End Avenue Under Construction by Jeff French Segall

The Upper West Side Campaign Against Hunger food pantry is located across the street from the condo. This is a city of contrasts.

This afternoon, a GothamGirl correspondent went to the Church of St Paul and St Andrew in order to help out in the West Side Food Pantry located there. He reported that The Collegiate School donated 200 cases of frozen hams to be distributed to needy neighborhood families for the holidays, and that another school, The Heschel High, arrived with many students to help stock the pantry’s grocery shelves, and to help out with other tasks.

GothamGirl understands that the developer of 535 West End has donated to the pantry in the past and we hope that this generosity continues.

Stocking the Shelves of the West Dide Food Pantry by Jeff French Segall

Stocking the Shelves of the West Side Food Pantry by Jeff French Segall

The pantry operates on a budget of about $2 million per year and serves 300-350 families per day with food for their homes. The pantry depends on the generosity of donors.

So much is needed in difficult times, and the pantry has had problems keeping up with needs. Remember them when thinking of donating and volunteering.

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Balloon Night 2008 on the Upper West Side


From 3pm until 10 this evening, the public can come and watch the yellow-jump-suited crews inflating the the huge balloons that will fly tomorrow for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

We walked by at 3pm and here are a few photos: Horton who will fly tomorrow for the first time, and a long line of small balloons waiting for parents to buy them for their children.

Horton Balloon Waiting to Fly

Horton Balloon Waiting to Fly

The streets are filled with excited parents and children, both visitors and locals, making their way to 77th Street and 81st street and Columbus Avenue to enjoy the fun. The restaurants in the surrounding area are pleasantly full, but you can get in. There is a great air of holiday celebration. People are strolling down the streets SMILING and wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving. Come in good spirit with a good dose of patience for the crowds that come later on.

Balloon Sellers by Jeff French Segall

Balloon Sellers by Jeff French Segall

Bundle up for the wind- it’s getting cold.

IMPORTANT: You can not drive by in your car and expect to see the balloons - you will see nothing! Columbus Avenue traffic is crawling and the balloons can not be seen from the avenue. You must walk down the streets on the 3 sides of the Museum of Natural History to enjoy the balloons.

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Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation

Events, Lily's notes, Uncategorized

The evening before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,  the giant balloons which fly during the parade the next day, are inflated on West 81st Street and West 77th Street which are streets surrounding the Museum of Natural History, this happens  between  Central Park West and Columbus Avenues from about 4 to about 8 pm.

The balloons are held down by sand bags as crews of workers fill the balloons. This becomes a family street party. Vendors sell small balloons and food, there is absolutely no parking nearby unless you come very very very early in the day, and ¨driving by¨to see this is absolutely not an option.

Try to come early, at about 4 or 5 pm because it does become very crowded, but it is fun. Bundle up it will be cold.

Attention Suburbanites. Vehicle traffic crawls along Columbus Avenue and you will see nothing from your car, plan to come into town early, visit the museum, and stay for the balloons and you will not be frustrated but have a good time instead and please do not try to drive down Columbus Avenue between 4 and 9 pm.

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Election Day in Manhattan – A Day Like No Other

Events, Lily's notes

9 AM: New Yorkers are full of excitement about finally coming to the polls and voting. Long lines snake around many UWS blocks, a sight I have never seen before in any election. Spirits are very high and happy in spite of the wait.

My polling place on the Upper West Side is a local elementary school, and statistics say that my  Election District votes 92% Democratic in an ordinary election. We will see how these numbers look for this election. The few Republicans I personally know, who are what passes for Republicans in New york, that is moderate, are all voting for Obama.

On the way to vote, I passed many neighbors coming from the polls, all in high spirits, “I voted!! Have You???”" they said,  and I walked along with others on their way to vote. The polls opened at 6 am and when I arrives at 8:15, there was a long line to vote which moved along very quickly, the school PTA has an excellent bake sale with fresh coffee.

I chatted with my fellow West-Siders while on line waiting to vote. We all discussed the New England town of 21 who voted at midnight, return watching parties planned for this evening, the past stolen election, and what type of social rehab we all may need to re-adjust after focusing for so long and so intently on the election.

The Republican poll watcher at my ED said to me just before I voted,  “how wonderful this amazing turn-out is and how historical the election will be”. Ok, Ok, this is an African American woman of a certain age, the closest to a “Republican” that can be found up here. The election board must find someone called “a Republican” to be at each poll along with a Democrat to work at the polls for the day.

Notes from NYGUY: He sent me photo of the lines in the street which I hope to have time to post later. “This was taken before 7:30AM. From getting on line to getting a cup of coffee after voting (the elementary school where I vote, PS 166,  [ 89th St between Amsterdam and Columbus], always has a bake sale) was about 45 minutes. When I walked by, it was still around the block. Also, the line to vote at the Church of St Paul and St Andrew [86th St and West End] was wrapped completely around the block and up Broadway.”

NYer living in Milwaukee: ” I voted!! Have you???” . There was a very long line but it moved quickly and it took longer to get a coffee at Starbucks than to vote- I’ll call in tonight during the party!!!” One of my colleagues is ordering an OBAMA pizza for tonight:
Onions or olives
Bacon or broccoli
I was ballot number 43 in Shorewood. The guy behind me said they should just give the district to Obama cos it votes that way all the time and not even stand in line. Interesting. I managed to replicate the UWS in Milwaukee.

From Teen NYer at school in England: Niece writes to her cousin: Subject: yo momma knows a website that has poll results and a map with shtuffs on it. can you ask her what it is because i don’t have her email address. fankya. oh p.s., VOTE. NOW. B TO THE A TO THE R-A-C-K O-B-A-M-A for the good of your unborn child.

There is hilarious excitement and new hope today!

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Notes for Halloween

Events, Lily's notes

The New York Public Library will have a great program on Thursday night called: An Evening with Dracula.

There are two Upper West Side streets that invite children to come and enjoy Halloween.

West 90th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. The West 90th Stree Park West Block Assosciation sponsors decorations and lights, neighbors are on the street with trick or treat candy and some lobbies on the street welcome chiildren as well. Calm, spooky decorations, and fun. Children are invited to Trick or Treat from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Also, West 67th Street between Columbus and Central Park West has lights and decorations. Child friendly.

These happen in the late afternoon.

There is the big Village Halloween Parade as well, of course. This year, they have suffered from some sponsor ’s tight purse strings but I am sure that they will make up for that with homemade, personal creativity. See their site for details and photos.

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The Jewish Women’s Film Festival

Events, Film

This is a fine, focused and unique film festival.

The National Council of Jewish Women New York Section has an open film competition which is held every two years. The focus is films on the “experiences, aspirations, accomplishments of Jewish women”,  and the selected films are screened in a one-day film festival.  These films have never before been shown commercially in the New York area. This year it will be held on Sunday, October 26, at the JCC in Manhattan (76th and Amsterdam.)

This year’s selected films are:

Making Trouble, director: Rachel Talbot. Four Jewish comedians reminisce about the careers of the women who paved the way for them with lots of great archival footage. See my previous review of this film on this blog on January 25, 2008. Click on calender or enter title in search.

Family Picture, director Itzhak Haluzi (31 minutes) A dinner invitation transports them to their past during the Holocaust and provides an opportunity for revenge. 

Not Old Yet, directors: Miri Shnera and Moshe Timor, (27 Minutes) Anna goes from being a successful opera singer in Ukraine to becoming a cleaning woman in Israel. A touching story of her determination, good humor and faith in pursuing her lost career.

Passages, director: Gabriela Bohm (66 minutes) When the film maker learns that she is pregnant, she searches for her family history of myths, mysteries and secrets on a journey that takes her to Israel, Argentina, Hungary, and the US.

Westerbork Girl, Director Steffie Van Den Ord (48 minutes) The story of Hannalore Cahn, who was freed from Westbork Transit Camp during WWII. A film about survival, memory and love. And about an impossible decision that still haunts.

My Nose, director Gayle Kirschenbaum (13 minutes) A mother’s preoccupation with her daughter’s nose. Will she or won’t she?

Here’s the link to their festival information.

An organizer wrote this note to me: “Some film makers will be attending the sessions and the reception… we will be honoring Jane Rosenthal (of the Tribeca Film Festival, etc) and the winner of the best film award at our festival (only the award maker and one or two of the staff knows who that is… even the committee does not know). The festival is a competition and the judging was done by an independent panel.”

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A Few Notes on the New Season

Art, Concert, Events, Lily's notes

Vacation is over and we are getting ready for the new season of arts in New York City; art exhibits, concerts, films, theatre, readings and other events. Shortly, I will be updating interesting and/or unique listings that might be easily overlooked among all of the events happening in New York City. Please send me information about an event you would like me to list.

The New York Philharmonic has it’s opening night concert tomorrow and tickets are still available. Also, there is a FREE open dress rehearsal in the morning.

Andy StatmanTrio (Andy on clarinet and mandolin, Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on drums and percussion) are back at the Charles Street Shul (Congregation Derech Amuno)  on Charles St at West 4th most Mondays and Thursdays at 8:30 PM. They play klezmer, of course, and very wicked bluegrass.

The MoMA will have a new exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh titled: Van Gogh and the Colors of Night opening September 21. Hmmmmmm. Paintings of in New York at night need  that soft red sky of summer…or the deep blue sky of October.

Museum of American DesignThe new Museum of Art and Design will September 27 to the public.  Att NYERS: This is the new museum in the former “lollipop” building on Columbus Circle that has had the very beautiful extreme makeover.  I can’t wait to go inside and see this museum and the new interior. Their old museum on 53rd is closed, and they will soon open with 3 new exhibits: Remixing the Old, a Jewelry exhibit and their permanent collection.

An indescribable friend sent me this note: “Hope you’re feeling and doing as close to optimally well (according to your self-definitions) as humanly possible. I expect that this event will be particularly enjoyable if you’re into this type of thing; and even if you’re not. I hope to see you there. ” Havdalah Kirtan this Saturday: Themes of Forgiveness and the High Holy Days with Rabbis Andrew Hahn and David Ingber combines yoga, chanting and Havdalah, which is the Jewish end of Shabbat.
Actually, it is not my cup of tea but I think that I will go once.  Sounds like fun.

High Holidays check list: make appologies, pay up debts, study something worthwhile, decide on which shul you will attend, get tickets, invite friends and family, reply to invitations, give some Tzedakah (Charity)….. try to think about something in addition to the presidential race and the financial markets.

That’s all for now.



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A Visit to the Martin Guitar Factory

Events, Lily's notes, Uncategorized

We drove 90 miles west from Manahattan to Nazareth, Pa in to visit the CF Martin Guitar Factory. Our mission was to pick up the custom made guitar which was made for one in our group, meet the people who used their considerable skills to create the guitar, and to take the tour of the factory. If you are a musician, especially a guitarist, you know why this is a type of pilgrimage and  you would appreciate how this is an extremely exciting event. We had waited eight months for the guitar to created. Over 60 skilled craftspeople worked on it. Only about 30 custom made guitars are produced by Martin each year, and about 200 regular instruments each week.

We were greeted by Dan, the wirey and warm and charming head of the custom department and he took us through the large building which is divided into sections and cubby work stations, into the section of the factory devoted to custom production. 

Dan put the case on the table and our guitarist opened and saw his new instrument for the first time. Love, love at first sight and love, love at first play. A new instrument actually improves with time which is amazing to consider since this guitar has such a rich tone and is so responsive. The guitarist’s signature and date of birth are in-laid on the head and neck of his new guitar.

Then we took the tour of the factory. We started at the beginning, we passed the many different woods which are used in guitar making, ready to be cut , shaped and glued, and finished into an instrument. We passed through all of the different stages of the process.

On tour at Martin Factory

The most moving aspect were the workers. The majority seemed to be women, although there were plenty of men as well. All focused on the particular skill. Making bridges, shaving interior braces, bending the pieces for the sides, assembling and gluing pieces, gluing in the carefully cut slivers of Mother-of-Pearl for decoration, sanding, finishing, etc.  Some looked up for a moment as we passed and smiled. The last people in the process test the guitars by playing them. This is their job…to play guitars all day…it is considered the best of all of the jobs. The factory is one of the two largest employers in Nazareth and some families have worked for generation at this factory.

Worker in Martin FactoryPhotos of famous guitarists holding their Martin’s line the factory walls, and the tour ends at a display of guitars that visitors may play and try out.

The factory building has a museum on the history of guitar making and the history of Martin guitars. There is also a shop selling lots of Martin paraphanalia but no guitars which are only sold through dealers and not directly from the factory. 

It is wonderful to see that skill and craft still exist, and that such a wonderful pleasure-giving instrument is made of a precious natural material, wood. The Martin factory believes that many woods used in guitar making will not be available in just a few years and they are developing instruments made of composite materials…

The Martin Guitar and the Martin Guitar Factory are an American treasure.


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Rabbis for Human Right at Columbus Circle


On May 8, many Rabbis, perhaps 75 in all, gathered at  the Merchants Gate of Central Park, at Columbus Circle, to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary with Rabbis For Human Rights.   This is a busy spot in New York, it is an entrance to Cental Park, with people going to and from work, pedi-cabs waiting for fares, tourists reading maps and sitting on the steps of the monument to the Maine, teens leaving school, lots of foot and vehicle traffic etc.

It was very moving to be there with singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman and Rabbi Simkha Weintraub of the National Center for Jewish Healing  as they lead a traditional Mincha (Afternoon) Service, right there in street with the blessed chaos of New York swirling near-by. Passers-by stopped to listen and watch. The rain came and went. Two trees for peace were symbolically planted.

Rabbi Gordon Tucker presented an excellent teaching based on a  a commentary on Israel’s Declaration of Independence developed by the RHR Human Rights Yeshiva in Jerusalem. His teaching and the RHR mission is clearly posted on their website.

It stregnthens hope to share this possitive and moving experience with friends, especially during these times which are so full of suffering and violence around the world.

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The Horace Mann School Scandal of Values and Morality

Events, Lily's notes

The elite New York private school, Horace Mann, is the focus of an excellent expose in New York Magazine. The most shocking aspect is the amount of outright pure racist and anti-woman  hate the article exposes as seemingly tolerated, and even defended (!) by some on the Board of Directors, administration and students.

The school’s website states the school’s purpose and focus:

Horace Mann has changed in many ways but remains steadfastly dedicated to five core values: The Life of the Mind, Mature Behavior, Mutual Respect, A Secure and Healthful Environment, and A Balance between Individual Achievement and a Caring Community.

If there is any truth in the article it would mean that the Horace Mann School has utterly failed in achieving it’s own stated goals.

This brings up some important issues that go far beyond the shockingly bad behavior of a privileged elite that sees itself as entitled to be served and catered to no matter what it does or says.

First: How and why did the City of New York help fund a wealthy private school by issuing a bond when the public schools suffer? How dare they? How many other private schools have been helped this way? Why exactly, was this school helped by the city government?

Second: Look at how this group considers everyone, even professionals such as educators, to be their servants and “hired help”. And this is what they have modeled for their children.

Third: Isn’t there a relationship between the attitude and values taught by this elite and those who feed the extreme disrespect for women which we see in the media in this current presidential campaign? And they have DEFENDED racism as well?

Fourth: Why would anyone send a daughter to this school?

Fifth: How many other private schools behave this way?

New York City is full of wonderful, talented, smart and really goods kids who deserve a good education and preparation for the future. We must support public education as the cornerstone to a healthy, creative, productive society and a continuing good future. Public School should not be treated as an “entitlement program” to be disrespected and underfunded.

Parents should teach children the core value of respect for teachers by their very own behavior.

Money never buys class.


Comment by NYCGUY:

A few years ago, while crossing Broadway on the Upper West Side, I overhead the conversation of a young boy and his father.

The child expressed a desire to copy the career of his favorite teacher and his parent replied that that would be an inappropriate pursuit.

To hear something like that and in such a neighborhood was utterly shocking. So maybe the esteem I had learned for Horace Mann was equally ill-placed. This is, after all, an epoch of an all voluntary armed forces subject to stop loss, which is nothing other than involuntary servitude, serfdom if one wishes to give it a polite name.

What really got me was the story inside the story about this prestigious private, tax exempt school getting a substantial tax free loan from the city’s so-called Economic Development Corporation, facilitated by the city’s corporation counsel under its preceding mayor for whom this chap remains a loyal business partner.

This perfectly legal transaction whereby EDC makes like the NYS Dormitory Authority for very high tuition K-12 private schools – parochial schools included – is a hallmark of the current mayoralty that just happens to have saddled Horace Mann with considerable debt.

Ostensibly the beneficiaries provide an undefined high level of scholarships and public service. Apparently, the private schools are better integrated than the city’s own public schools – which have no boards with any effective parental input – because, obviously, they’re creaming from the body of perspective students.

Lost in this is that public schools are intended to create an educated citizenry and that the city is using its federally capped industrial revenue bond authority to benefit elite institutions not subject to endless teach-to-testing while its own system has cut back capital expenditures for school renovations  and new construction. Is something amiss?

Maybe the Horace Mann students understand the “respect” they’re given does not accrue to their teachers or perhaps even the gifted scholarship classmates.


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Ellis Island “Visas For Life” Exhibit Opening Event

Events, Lily's notes

Ellis Island

We ferried out to Ellis Island. What a pleasure it is to be out on the water of the harbor on a cool, clear day. Although Harbor Seals have been spotted as far north as the 79th Street Boat Basin  this season, we did not spot any in the water that Sunday but enjoyed seeing the city, The Statue  of Liberty, and the soaring gulls and many Brandts.

Miss Liberty

Ellis Island opened a new, temporary exhibit on March 30, 2008, called “Visas for Life” which documents in photos, the extraordinary efforts of many diplomats during the Holocaust to use the power of their offices to issue visas for Jews fleeing Nazi control. They did this against the orders of their superiors and risked a high personal price for their actions. They saved many hundreds of thousands people from being murdered by their moral and courageous action. It is a very worthwhile exhibit. 

I attended as a representative of Remember the Women Institute and serve on the Advisory Board.

Visas for Life, Bill BingamBill Bingham Visas For Life

There is a wonderful portrait of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Consul to Lithuania and his wife, who saved more than 10000 Jews.

Many current diplomats and the families of rescuers, and a few survivors attended the opening event and their stories where told, and awards of thanks and recognition were made.

The Italian diplomat spoke so well when he said that “diplomats are not generally known for being courageous or brave but of hoping for a comfortable assignment”. Several family members of a Papal Nuncio who helped rescue many Jews travelled from Italy to accept an award in his honor and spoke with great warmth and emotion.  The niece of Raoul Wallenberg attended. The Swiss diplomat spoke so refreshingly frankly about what Switzerland had done wrong as well as right during the Nazi period. Seated next to us where diplomats from Germany. We spoke personally with Bill Bingham, pictured above, Hiram Bingham IV’s son, about the role of his father in issuing American visas and saving many people, and how this limited his father’s diplomatic career.

It was an event filled with good feeling, and extremely moving stories of how people can make an extraordinary difference by acting in good conscience. An event which truly affirmed the power of good in people.

Afterwards, the honorees, families, attendees and diplomats, waited on line with the general  public and ordered their lunch at the fast food cafeteria in the museum.

Welcome to modern America.

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A Silversmith Restores Beloved Antique Candlesticks


Bubbe's candlesticks restored 

These gleaming, graceful candlesticks are absolutely not for sale.

They have no price.

They were made and purchased in Europe and my beloved Grandmother z”l brought them with her when she and her family traveled by ship across the Atlantic, as they came to start their new life of freedom in New York City.

The candlesticks were made between about 1880 and 1900 in Poland which was under under Czarist rule at that time. The family (and the candlesticks) were very lucky to get here.

On holidays, such as Passover, my grandmother used these tall candlesticks, which she placed on the long white lace tablecloth and they gleamed! She also had a shorter pair she used for each Shabbat, which my cousin now owns.

Over time, the silver had become so worn with use and many polishings that they needed the skill of a silversmith to restore the silver for more generations of enjoyment.

After a good deal of research, I found a silversmith that I could trust with this job. His shop is a narrow, grimy, old building, squeezed between larger old buildings just off of Times Square. Since New York is constantly renewing itself, you know as you step into the teeny space that functions as a “lobby” that within just a few years this will be torn down and a gleaming tower will stand on this spot.

His shop is a pleasant mess of work waiting to be done, being done, waiting to be picked up. They were ready to be taken home, as promised, in just a week. He did a splendid job.

Soon enough, the candlesticks will regain the more subtle, burnished look of use.

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Purim and Good Friday Coincide


On March 18, 2008, Purim and Good Friday coincided, something that has not occurred since 1910 and will not happen again for about 75 years. On the happy, boisterous Jewish holiday of Purim, we celebrate how the courage of Queen Esther saved the Jewish people, complete with story-telling, masks, noisemakers and costumes.

On the Upper West West, we had both happy Purim celebrators, and solemn street processions, originating from local churches were in the streets carrying effigies, crucifixes and even a mock coffin.

We spend Purim eve in the wonderful, pleasant, unpretentious, chaos of Congregation Ansche Chesed. The service for young children was packed with families and many young Queen Esthers, Mordachais, kings and others like 5 year old Batman (who loved his costume and paraded back and forth in front of the young Esthers). The adult service had stranger costumes, and the “scotch club”  circulated offering shots. Fun!

The next day, Purim and Good Friday, I went with a friend to the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagoguebut we learned that we had missed the morning service. The cantor, Rabbi Rohde, gave us the most generous Purim gift: he read the entire megillah (story of Esther) for us in a beautiful, historic side chapel. A friend of his and her young daughter joined us there. He did this for the four of us. What a generous and kind man! This congregation is always welcoming but this was extaordinary.

So, on this day, both traditions mixed easily and comfortably. In the difficult history of the past in Europe, Good Friday was often a day for attacks on Jews. My mother who was born in Poland, told us that on Good Friday they were not allowed outdoors by their parents in order to keep them safe. Thankfully, we live in quite a different world.

Queen Esther and Easter, names from an even older religious past of the ancient Earth Goddess of the mid-east, met and got along just fine on today’s the Upper West Side.

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