Over the weekend, The New York Times reported on a “Lox Sherpa” and his life and work at Manhattan’s Russ and Daughters appetizing store on East Houston Street. Mr. Chhapte Sherpa Pinasha grew up in a Sherpa family and worked with Mount Everest climbers as a teen in the Eastern Himalayas. There was no salmon there, and the closest grocery was more than a half a day’s trek away. A family from California subsidized his English studies in Katmandu, and later sponsored his immigration to the U.S. (conveniently to work for their vineyard). Ending up in NYC, he learned some Yiddish words from his Dominican co-workers, and he is presently an Assistant Manager for the famed fourth-generation purveyor of smoked fish and fish salads.
Fishy…. Last week, Roger Cohen in The New York Times wrote an Op-Ed column about the “Jews of Cuyahogo County” (a.k.a. Cleveland Ohio). He wrote that things were getting ugly among many of the 80,000 Jews of Cleveland, and divisions were acute due to the Senate race between a conservative Jewish Republican, Josh Mandel and the liberal incumbent. Mandel, 35, is an ex Marine who spent an estimated $20 million on the campaign. Another $60 million is believed to have been spent by other groups in support of his candidacy, including spending by a group called “Jews for Israel 2012” which asked voters whether they were “willing to bet the life of the Jewish people on this president?” Although 80% of Cleveland’s Jews are believed to have voted for Obama in 2008, Robert Goldberg, former chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, said that he thinks 40% will vote for Romney in 2012, the candidate he is supporting.
Cleveland… I once ate at a Turkish restaurant there. It reminds me that Turkey began prosecuting four Israeli former senior commander this week, in absentia. The case stems from the May 2010 incident between the Israeli Navy and the Mavi Marmara, a vessel that was trying to illegally dock in Gaza. The Israeli embassy in Ankara has called the trial a “unilateral political act with no judicial credibility”. I won’t be eating Turkish for a while.
Instead I will focus on chicken soup, like the broths being made this week in Los Angeles by six renowned Jewish chefs. The Los Angeles Times reports that the first Project Chicken Soup awards will be at Temple Beth Am this Sunday. Project Chicken Soup delivers free kosher meals to people living with cancer, AIDS, and other illnesses. The menu will includes Alex Reznick’s pickled herring and smoked whitefish, Evan Kleiman’s parsley frittata with breadcrumbs, Susan Feniger’s chilled Asian noodles with deviled egg and sriracha sauce, Akasha Richmond’s kale Caesar salad with olive oil croutons and Parmesan, Eric Greenspan’s potato and apple kugel with garlic horseradish crust and Suzanne Tracht’s roasted autumn vegetables.
Again on the topic of Jew v. Jew v. Jew: Playwright, author, and Torah scholar David Mamet wrote a A Note to a Stiff-necked People in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal in which he tells readers why Mitt Romney is best for the Jews and America. Jay Michaelson replied with an essay titled, A response to a stiff-necked playwright” Barbra Streisand also chimed in, but that is just too much reading.
Senses of sadness, guilt, frustration, and hope washed over the East Coast of the USA in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. There were pictures of blackouts, drying torahs, ruined homes, and even fights over gasoline in Hasidic Williamsburg. Included in the destruction, pain and devastation were several Jewish communities, including the five towns areas of Long Island, Teaneck, NJ, Far Rockaway, Monsey, Brighton Beach, and NJ shore towns such as Deal. I attended a Friday evening Sabbath service in a darkened sanctuary, lit only by candles. But among the worst events were the deaths of two young people in Brooklyn’s Park Slope/Ditmas Park/Kensington areas. Over 300 people attended the funeral, last Friday, at Congregation Beth Elohim for Jake Vogelman. He was killed by a falling tree, along with his friend, Jessie Streich-Kest on Monday evening as the storm approached. Her funeral was also at Beth Elohim. Jessie had asked Jake to accompany her as she checked on her gravely ill father before the storm. He was known as a first responder among his friends. Jessie was an activist and a new special education teacher at Bushwick Social Justice High School. Her father was a well known mentor and leader of New York ACORN, and her mother was an organizer of low wage workers. Jacob was the son of Marcia Sikowitz, a NYC Housing Court Judge who is devoted to social justice, and Lawrence Vogelman, who, with Barry Scheck, was one of the founders of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School.
Among the groups that are accepting donations for Hurricane Sandy relief are the UJA-Federation of New York’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund – it has already committed $10 Million; the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)’s Hurricane Relief Fund; the Union for Reform Judaism; the Emergency Sandy Chesed Fund (managed by Chevra Hatzalah Brooklyn); Brooklyn College’s Hillel Storm Sandy Distress Fund; and the NY Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.