Being Jewish in New York City

Growing up in Southern California, outside of the L.A. area, it seemed to me that New York was where the “Real” Jews lived–at least in the United States. It almost seemed like the non-Jews that I met who were from New York were kind of Jewish too. I have always been enamored of New York, travelled there as often as possible and imagined myself a “City girl” in my younger days. It is somewhat ironic that I chose to settle in Wai’anae on the leeward coast of Oahu. So not the city life and not a lot of Jews!

It turned out to be a bit fortuitous that I married a nice Jewish guy who has a slight New York accent when he makes the occasional pidgin comment and who loves living in Hawaii as much as I do. I get the best of all worlds right in my own home in Kapolei. But we like to step off the island and visit the Continent when we get the chance.

My husband grew up near the City in New York. Several of his family members still live there and we recently embraced the opportunity to visit with them and Manhattan for a few days.

We did not plan our itinerary much in advance. We set out each day with a destination in mind and discovered the area by foot and by mouth. We knew that wherever we went, whatever we did and whatever we saw would be interesting. We were in New York for goodnness’ sake.

Some people travel to the Big Apple for the culture-we went to a museum. Other people go for the theater- we went to a play. A lot of tourists want to see the historic sites–we did that too. But none of those were our main objectives as we walked the streets of Lower Manhattan, SoHo, Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and Times Square. Our priorities-besides spending time with family-were about food.

When I mention these food prioritites we are not talking about fine dining experiences in exclusive restaraunts with celebrity chefs. Our list is derived from the memories of my husband’s youth. We lean more towards the food cart variety, diners or meals that you walk up to a counter and order and hope to find a place to sit down while you eat.

The stars in this food search production of ours were: pizza, hot dogs and a corned beef sandwich. Minor roles included a chocolate egg cream, a falafel (for me) and anything else we could manage to add in on the side.

From my perspective, we were very successful.
Our first night we had pizza in Hoboken. It was good, but my husband was looking for the pizza we had our second day in the Village.



We ordered buffalo wings at a bar on Bleeker Street and washed them down with a few beers while we listened to Bruce Springsteen in the background.


One of the main events was our trip to Katz’s deli on the Lower East Side. We indulged ourselves in the best corned beef sandwich I have ever had, a potato knish and my husband had the requisite Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda.




I haven’t had good cappuccino in Hawaii so I ordered it on this trip as much as possible. One afternoon I indulged in an iced cappuccino with a scoop of ice cream at Le Petit Cafe in Greenwich Village. I wish I could go back right now for another one. And of course I ordered it when we had breakfast in Little Italy which is not as big as it used to be!



And of course we made it to a diner, or two or three. At the Brooklyn diner in Times Square I ordered a tuna salad sandwich- not for the tuna, but because it came on grilled challah. The only time I get to eat challah in Hawaii is when we go to Erev Shabbat services at Temple. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere where it was featured on a restaurant menu. Dare I say that it was heavenly. My husband had a Reuben sandwich-featuring a stack of corned beef that rivaled any of the delis I love–Katz’s or Canter’s.



And here’s the other Reuben that we adore. We did not eat him, but I had to share his photo because he is so cute.