Sunday, December 03, 2006

Yiddish Walkabout of the Palate

I recently walked the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in a kind of a walkabout of the palate - visiting the last vestiges of Jewish immigrant culture and especially the kosher food spots. Amidst the sleek new condos and overrun illicit street scenes there are pockets of Yiddish America still vivid with flavor and a connection to The Tribe even as the throngs have left the tenements for the Burbs and (for the great grand kids) to head back to Brooklyn.

Still I can't help but feel that something has been or is nearly lost - not merely relocated to more auspicious surroundings. The depth of Jewish humanism, intellectual rigor and creative genius is growing dangerously thin. Where three generations ago minds fresh off the schtetl were blazing the imaginations of a nation now what is there? What does it mean for a people who were once Delmore Schwartz but now, David Brooks?

It so happens that I am currently writing a piece on the phenomena: the descent of the Jewish American mind (its an insider account). While I work my way through it (and I have some very nice video, photo and written material - thanks) we can watch this video by Bret Sigler on Houston Street and especially the food there. Enjoy.

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