Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Block Party

June 11, 2006

This section of the Lower East Side, Eldridge Street between Canal and Division, was once the home of a thriving community of Eastern European Jews. In 1887, they constructed the jewel of their block – the Eldridge Street Synagogue, an imposing Moorish-style building with a vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, ornate brass fixtures, hand-painted murals and a velvet-lined ark.

Over time, the center of New York Jewish life moved elsewhere and the area began to fill with immigrants from other areas, primarily China. The Synagogue’s congregation dwindled, the operating budget became smaller and the building fell into disrepair. As a tiny group of worshippers hung on, the roof caved in, the walls crumbled and the entire structure neared collapse. Then, in the late 1980s, historians and community activitists “discovered” the building and formed the Eldridge Street Project, Inc., determined to restore and preserve this landmark.

Today, with the restoration project well underway, the Eldridge Street Project is sponsoring the 4th Annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Block Party. This unique event celebrates the evolving culture and traditions of this densely-packed community with nods to both its Jewish heritage and its Chinese present.

The block party features the language, arts, music, dance and foods of both cultures, including mah jong lessons, a Chinese calligrapher and a Jewish scribe, arts and crafts, performances in Yiddish and Chinese, and, of course, delicious home made kosher egg rolls (a fried variation of the classic Chinese spring roll which contains no egg) and egg creams (a traditional New York soda fountain drink which contains no egg).

How to Make an Egg Cream according to Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

1. Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8 oz. glass.
2. Spoon 1 inch of U-Bet Chocolate Syrup into glass.
3. Add 1 inch whole milk.
4. Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon to make a big chocolate head.
5. Stir, drink, enjoy.

Making egg creams for an eager crowd Posted by Picasa

Master egg cream maker Posted by Picasa

Mah jong on the sidewalk Posted by Picasa

Calligrapher, scribe and the tools of their trades Posted by Picasa

Restoration in progress Posted by Picasa

Selling kosher eggrolls Posted by Picasa

The yarmulke is a present for Daddy Posted by Picasa

Her first yarmulke; she made it herself Posted by Picasa

  • Eldridge Street Project
  • Eldridge Street synagogue Tour
  • New York Architecture: Eldridge Street Synagogue
  • Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

  • Mysteries of Manhattan: Romance and Anti-romance

    June 10, 2006

    Two mysterious, brief encounters near the main branch of the New York Public Library today left me wondering about romance in this city.

    First, on the 42nd Street side of the library was a scene that should have been in a movie – an old Checker cab was parked in the right lane, blocking traffic, while a photographer hurriedly shot images of a gloriously gorgeous newlywed couple. At first glance they appeared to be models posing for (perhaps) a bridal magazine, but the scene lacked all the accoutrements of a professional photo shoot; there were no stylists, no makeup artists, no assistants – just a perfectly beautiful pair in a perfectly dramatic setting on a perfectly beautiful day.

    Secondly, a sign pasted inside a phone booth on the 5th Avenue side of the library. As I passed the booth, I caught a glimpse, took a few more steps and stopped. Had I really seen that? I went back for a photo of what is possibly the most anti-romantic image ever.

    So … is New York one of the most romantic cities in the world or the one of the least? How do this sign and this couple exist on the same block? In the same city? In the same universe?

    Stopping traffic on 42nd Street Posted by Picasa

    A big clinch Posted by Picasa

    Sign pasted inside phone booth (WARNING: not for the queasy).

  • New York Public Library
  • Checker Taxi Stand

  • A Trip to Lake Woebegone

    June 5, 2006

    For years, friends earnestly urged me to listen to public radio and for years, I ignored their suggestions. I suspected that the programs on something called “public radio” would be either educational (translation: dull and dry) or political (translation: dull and irritating).

    Then, one night, someone turned the radio dial and I heard a deep voice intone, “Welcome to Lake Woebegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” I was enthralled by the quirky variety show that followed and the exotic Midwestern culture it portrayed. Fascinated by the program, A Prairie Home Companion, and its tales of Norwegian bachelors, lutefisk suppers, deer hunting and ice-fishing, I’ve kept the radio tuned to that station ever since.

    Tonight, the man behind that voice and show, Garrison Keillor, appeared at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Union Square. He described his experiences making the new feature film based on his radio broadcasts, fielded questions, offered advice and autographed books and CDs for the wistful New Yorkers who hope to spend their summer vacations on the shores of beautiful Lake Woebegone.

    Garrison Keillor speaking Posted by Picasa

    Signing a book for a fan Posted by Picasa

  • Barnes & Noble
  • A Prairie Home Companion: radio program
  • A Prairie Home Companion: 25th Anniversary Collection
  • A Prairie Home Companion Movie
  • Minnesota Public Radio: ‘Prairie Home’ Movie
  • The Writer’s Almanac

  • Erev Shabbos in Borough Park

    June 2, 2006

    This is a sunny day in one of the world’s largest cities. It isn’t a legal holiday; there isn’t an emergency; the authorities haven’t evacuated the neighborhood. Yet the shops are shuttered, the businesses are closed and the streets are empty of traffic.

    Question: What is going on and where is everybody?

    Answer: It’s just another Friday afternoon in Borough Park.

    Borough Park (also spelled Boro Park), a somewhat run-down, working-class area of Brooklyn, is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in the world. Many of the residents here follow the teachings of Yisrael Ben Eliezer, known as The Baal Shem Tov (The Master of the Good Name).

    The Baal Shem Tov, who died in the Ukraine in 1760, was the founder of the Hassidic Jewish movement. He taught that God is best served and worshipped through singing and dancing, and instructed his followers to meditate, so they could connect with the “holy sparks of the Glory of God” that dwell in “all that is in the world.”

    The male followers of The Baal Shem Tov are easily recognized by their distinctive appearance. Bearded, they wear garments modeled after those of their spiritual leader, including a beskeshe (a suit with long tailored jacket), a fringed prayer shawl called a tallit or talles, a skullcap known as a kippah or yarmulke and, on Shabbos and other holidays, a circular fur hat called a shtreimel. Hasidic women can dress in mainstream styles but are limited to suitably modest items. They are free to wear makeup, jewelry and other fashionable adornments, but once married, the women cover their hair with wigs, scarves or hats.

    While they have always considered children a blessing, many modern Hasidim are committed to having as many children as possible, believing that they must replace the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Consequently, the neighborhood has the highest birth rate in the city.

    On Friday afternoon, around 2:00 p.m., the entire neighborhood shuts down, allowing the Hasidim to go home and prepare for Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath. It is Erev Shabbos (the evening the Sabbath begins), when, dressed in their finest garb, large families hurry through the streets to the services where they welcome their day of rest. Come Sunday morning, the normal workweek will resume; the restaurants and stores will open again, the sidewalks will overflow with bustling shoppers and the streets will be filled with roaring, honking traffic.

    Posters on a lamppost Posted by Picasa

    Sign on a construction site. Posted by Picasa

    Holding his shtreimel and tallit (talles) Posted by Picasa

    Retrieving a curious (and fast-moving) toddler Posted by Picasa

    A chubby little scholar Posted by Picasa

    Taking a break Posted by Picasa

    Mazel Tov Bubbies & Mommies – ad on a 13th Avenue bus shelter Posted by Picasa

    Kosher Submarine, locked until Sunday Posted by Picasa

    A yeshiva school bus stands empty Posted by Picasa

    A family of seven (one inside Mom) Posted by Picasa

    No place to spend a dime Posted by Picasa

    A row of shuttered stores Posted by Picasa

    Sisters in matching dresses Posted by Picasa

    The main street of Borough Park, 13th Avenue, at 2:30 p.m. Posted by Picasa

    Not a soul in sight on New Utrecht AvenuePosted by Picasa

    Nothing in this direction, either Posted by Picasa

  • Wikipedia: Borough Park
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Borough Park
  • Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground
  • Etude: At Work in the Fields of the Lord
  • Baal Shem Tov Foundation

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