After two hours of research, I set out for Katz deli. Pretty much the first deli in NY and founded in 1859, its first years were right around the civil war. It doesn’t feel like a civil war era place though, but more like a 1920’s restaurant. Single story (one of the few in New York) with large signs and lots of neon and located next to an Italian pizza place, Indian food, some graffiti-ed bars and a new and modern high rise apartment building. I’ve been to Katz’s before and it isn’t much different during the day. Most important thing about is that it’s kosher, equally packed by New Yorkers and tourists from all walks of life and there are pictures of the owner and his son and the various celebrities that have come through covering the huge walls. I sat down with their home brew and a Matzo Brie (like Rye but with a b) which is like a pancake with matzo.
Most of the workers seemed to be Puerto Rican except for one who was obviously Jewish and looked like he was somewhat in charge. I came up to him and asked for an interview, he was happy to and brought his dad over as well. We sat down and we talked about where they came from, how they felt about living in NY and what they were doing with the deli.
Now that I was nice and full, I headed out for the Bialystock Synogogue. Only about a mile from Katz’s, it is in the lower east side where Jews settled nicely with activity centers, businesses and this Synogogue that has been there since the 20’s. The building is much older, it’s been around since before civil war, when it was used for Underground railroad. An old gentleman told me that inside, there are paintings of the twelve tribes of Israel. The area on a Monday was lots of kids in groups belonging to camps, some Chinese shops as they are near China town and many elderly people walking the quiet and shaded streets. There’s a nursing home next to the Synogogue that had a sign on it: “Previously, Home of the Sages”. The times have changed, and the elderly are no longer the sages.
We leave Chabad and he introduces me to a few more people. He gives me a book by the Rebe and has me buy a yarmelke and takes off. I walk the streets, watching boys in blue button-up shirts race down the street on razor bikes with their tzi tzi flaring in the wind. I stop off to have a mixed grill pita from Mendy’s at the Children’s museum. I watch a well dressed woman come in with six kids. She is no more than 32 and has her hands full. I watch the dark Sephardic boy point a ketchup bottle at his little brother, he squeezes harder and harder and it shoots in an arc all over his little man suit and his little boy face. He sits wide-eyed in disbelief but does not cry.