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The White Issue: “Jews Are Not White”

In the context of American politics, to be “white” means to be a beneficiary of the past 500 years of European exploration and exploitation of the rest of the world — and hence to “owe” something to those who have been exploited. So when Jews are treated as white in the United States, the assessment is not a crude physical one but a judgment of Jewish culture and civilization, history and destiny.

But Jews can only be deemed “white” if there is massive amnesia on the part of non-Jews about the monumental history of anti-Semitism (which continues to play an important role in European politics today even after Europeans did their best to mur­der us all off), combined with the willful accommodation of Jews who have uncon­sciously internalized the anti-Semitic demands of the larger culture. Lecturing on campuses around the U.S. as editor of Tik­kun, a progressive Jewish journal, I’ve met thousands of young Jews who never learned or have conveniently forgotten the realities of their own history. These Jews now imag­ine a Jewish past fat with exploitation, ap­parently not realizing that Jewish socialism and the revolutionary traditions of the Jew­ish people were fostered out of poverty and oppression.

But isn’t all that “merely history” and a wallowing in the past? After all, it’s not the 1930s anymore, and though it’s true that the neo-Nazis once again roam the streets of Germany, recently dousing a man with alcohol and burning him alive because he was mistakenly identified as Jewish; true that Polish politicians recently had to con­vince the electorate they were not Jewish to satisfy the anti-Semitism-without-Jews that continues to flourish in Eastern Europe; and also true that as Russian parliamentari­ans denounce the free-market reformers as “tools of the Jews,” Russian nationalists ar­gue that all of communism was simply a Jewish plot that took over the soul of Russia — all of this ranting is in Europe, not in America, whereas the “white” that is being attacked is the white that contemporane­ously flourishes in American society. How can you deny, the argument goes, that here, in this country, Jews have assimi­lated so well into the mainstream that they have won all the benefits of whiteness, and hence must assume its historic responsibil­ities as well?

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Quite apart from the fact that this argu­ment leaves out the hundreds of thousands of Jews who have not “made it” the way their Manhattan brothers and sisters may have, it is wrong because it misunderstands the specific nature of Jewish oppression.

As feminists and gay theorists have shown, oppression operates in ways that cannot be reduced to material well-being (or lack thereof). And Jewish oppression has its own specific forms. Jews have re­peatedly been offered a devil’s deal by Eu­ropean societies: You can move out of the position of the “most oppressed” if you become the public face of oppression to the rest of the society, the middle men (and, increasingly, women) who will represent the elites of wealth and power to the powerless. In Eastern Europe that meant being the tax collectors, foremen for the large Polish landlords, tavern owners, or small business­men. (Though Jews never owned more than a small fraction of banking and commerce ventures — among the few fields Christian Europe allowed — ruling elites regularly fo­cused on supposed Jewish economic power to deflect attention from society’s deeper class divisions.) In Western Europe and now in the U.S. it means, increasingly, be­ing the doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, government employees, publish­ing and media people who run the interme­diate institutions charged with forging con­sensus and keeping people behaving within the bounds of the established system of economic and political distribution.

A good deal? Only when things are run­ning smoothly — and at such moments, Jews claw their way into these positions, and many blacks and other minorities resent the Jewish “privilege.” But when things get bad, as they did in Germany in the ’20s and early ’30s, and as they may in America as we decline in the international capitalist struggle, ruling elites quickly turn on the Jews, and as the anti-Semitic lyrics of some rap music make clear, there are always those among the most oppressed who will fall for this manipulation.

This implicit deal, this precarious inter­mediate slot, puts Jews into a position of structural instability. Most Jews intuit the instability, but they don’t have a theoretical understanding of the legitimate grounds for their fears. Instead, conservatives in the Jewish establishment play on those feelings, telling Jews that their instability is caused by blacks, Palestinians, social-change-ori­ented liberals. So legitimate Jewish fear is transformed into a paranoia that serves the interests of the very Jewish elites who most benefit from “the deal.” Manhattan liberals then denounce the paranoia and get to feel superior to their cousins in Brooklyn and Queens, never recognizing that their own association with the immoral institutions of American corporate power may help to generate the anti-Semitism that working-­class Jews have to face in their daily lives.

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Israelis bought into a similar “deal,” ser­vicing American corporate and Cold War interests, and in the process became the public face of oppression to many people in Central America and Africa. However much we may legitimately criticize Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, we must first acknowledge that the historic oppres­sion of Jews helped create in them a pain so deep that many were unable to notice that, as they leapt from the burning building of Europe, they’d unintentionally landed on the back of another people. Surrounded by a world whose hostility has produced 2000 years of homelessness and oppression, and by a Palestinian people whose pain they are unable to acknowledge because of their own, Jews may find it hard to recognize that the existence of Israel renders them beneficiaries of great privilege or power. The terrible errors being made by Israel today are a consequence of sensitivity-dull­ing genocide — compounded by decades of implacable Arab hostility when it was the Jews who were stateless and living in dis­placed-persons camps and it was the Pales­tinians who were denying the Jews the right to enter Palestine.

By failing to recognize the structure of Jewish oppression, the humanists and pro­gressives in the non-Jewish world manage to strengthen Jewish rightists’ claim that others “just don’t get it,” a claim they then use to buttress every reactionary poli­cy. Those who see Jews as “privileged” or “white” actually help strengthen Jewish right wingers’ paranoia about a world that will always remain as insensitive to Jews as it has been in the genocidal 20th century.

It is impossible to imagine that any other people that had one out of every three of its members murdered in the past 50 years would be seen as “privileged” — except by those who in some way covertly sympa­thized with the murderers. The most twist­ed accommodation lies within those Jewish multiculturalists who, never having strug­gled with Talmud or other classics of their own tradition, and having done their best to straighten their hair, bob their noses, and lower their voices, have now willingly joined in a celebration of a multicultura­lism that excludes them because they are “white.” In joining the cultural genocide of Jewish experience and history, they hope to please their nonwhite colleagues who can­not find any other group of whites quite so guilt-ridden and quite so anxious to please.

But being anxious to please is not a rea­son to condemn the assimilators. In fact, it is a sign of their oppression. The desire to escape Jewish particularity and become white has dominated Jewish experience for 100 years, as hundreds of thousands of Jews, fleeing the oppression of Europe, re­sponded enthusiastically to the possibility of losing those features of personality, phys­ical appearance, or religious identity that might continue to make them, as they had been in Europe, “the target of choice.” Finding in America that blacks were play­ing the role Jews played for 18 centuries in Europe, these Jewish immigrants were all too happy to imagine there was a melting pot into which they could submerge their distinguishable features and emerge part of some universal culture. While the more so­phisticated imagined this as an American­ism with democratic values, for many other Jews it was sufficient to be “white,” which was the functional equivalent of not being “the persecuted other.” Who could blame them for seeking such an escape?

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Only their children! For us, blame came easy. We saw that blacks were oppressed, we had little sense of our own history, and so we took the current reality of Jews in suburbia and imagined that not only were Jews privileged, but that others’ oppression was our fault. Thus the recurrent self-blam­ing of the victim, so deeply engrained in Jewish consciousness (“they hate us be­cause we are too exclusive, or too loud, or too pushy”) gets transformed into “they hate us because we created their suffering.” What a noble and convenient way for one generation to work out its Oedipal issues, to avoid complexity, to justify its lack of compassion for a people so traumatized by a history of oppression that it would jump into almost any scheme — from socialism to Zionism to mass assimilation — as long as it promised physical survival.

Yet the same might be said, to some degree, of every group that has arrived on these shores. The degree to which people buy into being “white” is the degree to which they are willing to forget their roots and their past. And who is willing to forget that past? Those whose past is massively painful and distorted. No wonder, then, that ruling elites in the U.S. have best suc­ceeded in offering the designation “white” to those whose material existence is one of deprivation and oppression. Coming with nothing, finding a society stratified by class, living lives of pain and frustration, they are offered whiteness as a compensa­tion, and urged to contrast their fate to that of the even more oppressed — Native Americans, blacks, etc.

But if the social construction of white­ness is a way of legitimating oppression, the transcendence of whiteness — by emphasiz­ing class or other supposedly universal fea­tures — doesn’t work either. What is needed is a way of reclaiming history, undoing the amnesia, so that these groups — blacks and Chicanos and Native Americans and Irish and Italians and Poles — can remember what they have in common, can forge links based on a common experience of oppres­sion and common desire to escape it.

Herein lies the liberatory potential of multiculturalism: To reject the fantasized concept of “whiteness” and instead recog­nize the complex stories of each cultural tradition, not privileging one group over another, but insisting on hearing and re­claiming everyone’s stories. But this is not how it functions today. Today it is merely the tool of an elite of minority intellectuals seeking to establish themselves inside an intellectual world that has too long exclud­ed them. And in that context, Jews must respond with an equally determined insis­tence that we are not white, and that those who claim we are and exclude our history and literature from the newly emerging multicultural canon are our oppressors. ■


Josh Ritter, Lee Ranaldo, Richard Thompson and More Pay Tribute to Leonard Cohen

“Leonard Cohen has a pill for every illness,” said Josh Ritter shortly before Tuesday night’s tribute to the Canadian songwriter—titled “Sincerely L. Cohen”—at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Less than three months after Cohen’s death, a group of more than a dozen songwriters and musicians gathered in Brooklyn for a loving, thoughtful tribute to Cohen’s life in music and poetry.

With a first-rate collection of local musicians led by Josh Kaufman, and including Walter Martin (keys), Annie Nero (bass) and Ray Rizzo (drums) serving as the house band, a parade of artists ranging from Elvis Perkins to Lee Ranaldo took the stage during the two-plus hour performance.

The backing band was modeled, roughly, after the extensive, impeccable touring outfit Cohen had gathered over the last decade of his career, right down to the three backup singers. Comprised of Cassandra Jenkins, Leslie Mendelson, and Jocie Adams, the trio added phenomenal depth and richness to many of the evening’s finest performances.

The show’s boldest decision came early, when Delicate Steve opened proceedings with an instrumental version of Cohen’s signature tune “Hallelujah,” a song with which fellow performer Lenny Kaye shares a deeply personal connection.

“When my daughter was in Junior High School, she did a dance routine to Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ the same year Jeff disappeared. That’s my favorite memory of her,” Kaye shared prior to the show, before reflecting on the legacy of Cohen’s art. “Leonard used his music and his words to plumb the depths of his soul and to try to find his place in the universe.”

After offering a moving reading of Cohen’s profane 1966 novel Beautiful Losers, a book Lou Reed had recommended to Kaye in the early 70’s, the legendary guitarist provided a mid-show highlight with his raucous rendition of 1977’s “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On,” a song Kaye describes as the most “brutally honest song Leonard ever wrote.”

Cohen, the lifelong poet, has always been appreciated for his lyricism, but Kaye’s performance, with its ecstatic Bo Diddley beat, highlighted one of the most noteworthy running themes of last night’s tribute: the primacy of Leonard Cohen’s sheer musicality. Cohen’s complex sense of melody and rhythm was evident in the disparate range of styles on display, from the robotic funk of Steve Salett’s “First We Take Manhattan,” to the reggae-folk of Osei Essed’s “Diamonds in the Mine,” to the rootsy country of Teddy Thompson’s “Tower of Song,” to the deep soul of Amy Helm’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.”

Helm based her rendition on Roberta Flack’s 1969 version of the song. “Digging into this tune I realized, wow, it’s a very simple but very difficult melody. It’s very tricky to sing,” Helm said the day before the concert.

During the second half of the twenty-song show, however, a more familiar model of solo-acoustic showmanship provided the biggest highlights. Josh Ritter’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” was the evening’s most impassioned performance, while Richard Thompson, the only performer on the bill who could claim to be a bona fide folk contemporary of Cohen’s, offered note-perfect performances of “Bird on the Wire” and “Story of Isaac,” two songs from Cohen’s 1969 masterpiece Songs From a Room.

“Leonard is a great lyricist,” Thompson told The Voice. “He keeps it simple and direct, but uses the poet’s full palette of language. At a time when the pop and folk lyric were beginning to express a lot more, this was pioneering.”

With their laundry lists of rapidly rotating performers, tribute shows can fall victim to a lack of a unifying theme, but Tuesday night’s show was a carefully constructed, expertly structured production, complete with tasteful snippets of poignant Cohen interviews interspersed throughout.

“What is the proper behavior in a catastrophe?” Cohen asked over the P.A. during one such moment, in an interview from 1992. “You say, I’m conservative? I’m liberal? I’m pro-abortion? I’m against it? It seems to be completely inappropriate to the gravity of the situation.” Immediately following the interview, Adam Weiner launched into an irreverent rendition of the prescient apocalyptic tale “Everybody Knows.”

“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking,” he sang. “Everybody knows that the captain lied.”

That Cohen’s music has never felt more timely, or more necessary, was not lost on many of the night’s performers. “What I will forever have from Leonard is a comrade in the loving, peaceful resistance,” explained Holly Miranda, who performed “I’m Your Man,” before Sincerely L. Cohen, which also served as a benefit for the Preemptive Love Coalition, an organization that aids Syrian and Iraqi refugees. “He’s taught me to be vigilantly thoughtful and ferociously kind. To let the light shine through the cracks. To care more, and forgive more.”

“Leonard’s taught me that a perfect mixture of cynicism and optimism is at the heart of great things,” Ritter added. Cohen’s sense of bitter optimism was on full display during the joyful encore ensemble performance of “So Long Marianne,” complete with a full crowd sing-along led by Will Sheff.

Speaking for every single performer and fan in attendance, Sheff ended the special evening with a simple display of gratitude: “Thanks for the songs, Mr. Cohen.”


The Ten Best Appetizing Counters in NYC

When seeking a taste of this city’s culinary heritage, look for smoke and salt. Both have been used as methods of preserving foods far longer than Manhattan has had a grid plan, but the ways in which these techniques were utilized by turn-of-the-century Eastern European immigrants established a subsection of local cuisine — appetizing — that was dominant for much of the twentieth century.

Used as a noun, the term “appetizing” describes the many pickled, smoked, cured, and cultured edibles served alongside bagels and bialys. And more often than not, the places that sell these goods are preserving traditions along with their fish. Some feature table service; others aren’t much more than salty bodegas; all will give you a pungent taste of New York history.

Here are the ten best appetizing counters in NYC, perfect for noshing on some nostalgia.

Sesame bagels are coated entirely in the nutty seeds.
Sesame bagels are coated entirely in the nutty seeds.

10. Avenue P Appetizer (466 Avenue P, Brooklyn; 718-339-7202)

This kosher Gravesend store has been operating for over sixty years (and in its current incarnation, for the past nine). In addition to freshly baked bagels, the narrow space — with glass counters that run the length of the shop — is brimming with smoked and cured fish, juicy pickled herring, and an array of prepared salads, chopped liver, and other spreads. Rugelach and other baked goods are also available, but if you’re looking to entertain guests, Avenue P’s old-school platters can’t be beat for their products and artistic design.

Baz's bagels
Baz’s bagels

9. Baz Bagel (181 Grand Street, 212-335-0609)

Of the various new-wave appetizing operations around town, this downtown café from Bari Musacchio is one of the most stylish, with its breezy, Floridian décor and Barbra Streisand obsession adding some tongue-in-cheek panache. There are latkes, blintzes, and matzoh brei to share, plus a selection of signature sandwiches, including the Pretty in Pink, a colorful combination of Nova salmon, dill, and beet-horseradish cream cheese on a pumpernickel bagel. Breakfast is served all day, and milkshakes come malted. Musacchio’s doughy rounds also make for an excellent (if pricey, at $12) pizza bagel.

Sadelle's house-cured salmon
Sadelle’s house-cured salmon

8. Sadelle’s (463 West Broadway, 212-776-4926)

At the Major Food Group’s ritzy Soho noshery, it’s all about Melissa Weller’s doughy rounds, which staff parade through the dining room while chanting, “Hot bagels!” on their way to the bakery and appetizing counter up front. Dense and chewy, they’re perfect on their own or spread with cream cheese and layered with folds of outrageously supple house-cured salmon. Weller’s baked goods — particularly her sticky buns and chocolate babka — shouldn’t be missed, either.

7. Frankel’s (631 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-389-2302)

This bright, whitewashed throwback shop from brothers Zach and Alex Frankel counts indie hip-hop personalities El-P, of Run the Jewels fame, and solo artist Despot as investors (Alex is also a musician who plays as one half of Brooklyn synthpop duo Holy Ghost!). The bagels come from Baz, the smoked seafood from Kings County’s ubiquitous and reliable Acme Smoked Fish nearby. Ashley Berman, a former Food Network kitchen chef, helms the burners, delivering a menu of contemporary appetizing and deli fare — from matzoh ball soup to latkes, hot dogs, and even a brisket recipe that pays homage to a recipe from the brothers’ grandmother Anita.

Showing off slicing skills
Showing off slicing skills

6. Zabar’s (2245 Broadway, 212-787-2000)

One of New York City’s most famous grocery stores, Zabar’s started as an appetizing counter within another market in 1934 and quickly expanded, eventually becoming the half-block complex it is today. Its renowned appetizing section features numerous deli salads, five kinds of caviar, olives and cheeses from all over the world, and several varieties of in-house smoked fish. Zabar’s also has the benefit of a great bakery section, carrying babkas, rugelach, bagels, and bialys.

The goods at Sable's
The goods at Sable’s

5. Sable’s (1489 Second Avenue, 212-249-6177)

Danny and Kenny Sze ran the appetizing counter at Zabar’s before opening this Upper East Side joint in 1992, where it’s remained a neighborhood staple even as the area has experienced an influx of younger renters and homeowners. Smoked salmons fold with softness and fluffy whitefish salad gets scooped onto bagels, but it’s the namesake sable, supple and moist, that’s most impressive. Provided they’re not too busy, the counter staff will offer up tastes of the shop’s proprietary lobster salad, which isn’t too mayo-forward and makes for great lobster rolls either at home or in the shop.

Shelsky's back counter
Shelsky’s back counter

4. Shelsky’s Smoked Fish (141 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-855-8817)

Peter Shelsky beat the current appetizing craze by a few years when he opened his eponymous appetizing shop in 2011, merging traditions new and old while succeeding in bringing a cultural pastime back to his home borough of Brooklyn. Now in a new Cobble Hill location, Shelsky and his team continue to offer their charming take on nibbles and noshes, including a pastrami salmon that uses Sichuan peppercorns and fermented bean paste. Check out the specialty sandwiches; boutique versions of rugelach and babka are available for dessert.

Murray's owner Ira Goller
Murray’s owner Ira Goller

3. Murray’s Sturgeon Shop (2429 Broadway, 212-724-2650)

Murray Bernstein opened this Upper West Side storefront in 1946, and it’s remained a beloved resource for the display case’s most luxurious tenant, which is firmer and paler than Greengrass’s blushing version thanks to a heavier smoke. Narrow and staid under a fluorescent glow, the counter — and its trays of pickled salmon, creamed salads, and bronze-and-silver-skinned fish — is the domain of Ira Goller, who took over the shop in 1990. At any given time, you’re likely to find the friendly owner attending to customers, making small talk while deboning whitefish fillets or weighing slices of eastern smoked salmon.

Lox, eggs, and onions
Lox, eggs, and onions

2. Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-724-4707)

New York’s oldest surviving appetizing restaurant, this Upper West Side institution opened in 1908. You can sit in the timeworn, beige dining room eating lox and eggs while the waitstaff barks orders, or take your pick from the cold case. Greengrass labels itself the sturgeon king, and the flaky, thick slices of pink-hued fish are subtly smoky with remarkable unctuousness. Third-generation owner Gary Greengrass oversees the action these days, which includes pastries, cheeses, matzoh ball soup, blintzes, and other Jewish comfort dishes.

Salmon sliced thin
Salmon sliced thin

1. Russ & Daughters (179 East Houston Street, 212-475-4880)

In the same location since 1920, and with roots going back a hundred years, this family-owned shop has long been the downtown champion of old-school appetizing. You’ll find eight different kinds of caviar, thirteen kinds of salmon, and an assortment of sturgeon, sable, various herrings, chubs, and trout. Not to mention the display fridges along the western wall, which are filled with soups and prepared foods. Josh Russ Tupper and Nikki Russ Federman, great-grandchildren of founder Joel Russ, recently expanded the empire to include a café where diners can enjoy the family’s bounty, as well as updated riffs like babka french toast and halva ice cream.


Sorry, Forward, You’re Wrong About Bernie

I seem to have upset J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large of the Forward, with my Village Voice essay “The Heresy and Evangelism of Bernie Sanders.” According to Mr. Goldberg, the piece represents a “milestone victory” for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a “wholehearted embrace” of his “doctrine that Zionism and American liberalism are inherent enemies.”

It’s obvious I have made myself shamefully unclear. Far from arguing that position, I believe its opposite: Zionism and American liberalism are peas in a pod. Each ideology clings desperately to an ideal: Zionism that Jewish nationalism might yield peace and justice in the Holy Land, American liberalism that capitalism might yield democracy and prosperity here. But history has long since obliterated both dreams, leaving behind systems that inflict violence and misery upon the powerless, albeit sometimes to the sounds of fretting from their very enablers.

Mr. Goldberg adheres to both ideologies, which puts him in good company among American Jews. Believing more than one thing is common human practice, but critics of my piece, like Mr. Goldberg, have pointed out that plenty of Zionists have also been socialists, as if that somehow invalidates my argument. Perhaps I should have given that group more space, but my contention is not that Zionists and socialists are distinct sorts of Jews locked in eternal struggle. Instead, I am accounting for how the dominant ideology of American Jewry shifted from socialism (Zionist and non-Zionist alike) to increasingly reactionary Zionism and trying to locate Bernie Sanders — from his upbringing to his campaign — in this new configuration. (Regarding his upbringing, Goldberg claims that “there’s no evidence that [Sanders] was aware of, much less influenced by, the world of New York Yiddish socialism.” He would do well to inform the good people at his own publication, which ran an essay in February describing Yiddish socialism as the “dominant political and cultural current among the working-class Jews of Brooklyn where Sanders was born at the end of the Great Depression.” Go know.)

My account highlights three developments: the ascent of American Jews from the working to the middle class, the Red Scare’s marginalization and criminalization of the Marxist left, and the energetic expansion of Israeli colonialism in Palestine. One could disagree about the explanatory power of these developments, or the truth of the ideological shift I’m pointing to, but the historical existence of socialist Zionists is not a tidy “gotcha.”

Jews are a diverse people, with many doctrines, attitudes, and ideologies — two Jews, three opinions, as the joke goes. Zionist and socialist ideologies once intersected in a great many Jews, but the twentieth century erased this possibility for any reasonable person. We cannot necessarily fault the Yiddish socialists of the early twentieth century for believing that Jewish nationalism could avoid the darker outcomes of other nationalisms. And although made much harder by the Nakba (Palestinians’ 1948 expulsion), it is even possible to see why the Jews of 1960s America supported the Israeli project, or at least saw in constant war the necessity of marshaling U.S. military strength for its protection. (For Sanders’s part, he was evidently advocating “no guns for Israel” in 1971.) But in the cold light of 2016, we can plainly see what our predecessors couldn’t: that Jewish ethnocentric nationalism is no different from other forms of ethnocentric nationalism, and that ethno-nationalist endeavors inevitably favor right-wing politics. To Sanders’s credit, his long career gives no indication he has embraced ethno-nationalism, which is why I described him — controversially, as it turns out — as a non-Zionist.

Mr. Goldberg repeatedly accused me of being ahistorical, but it is his yearning for Labor Zionism that fits this bill. Imagining that the Zionism of Yitzhak Rabin, the last Labor Israeli leader who tried for even a two-state solution, much less that of Rabbi Heschel or the pre-war Yiddish socialists, is an option for young Jews like me betrays a terrible delusion. The last two Labor prime ministers have left the party outright — Shimon Peres for Ariel Sharon’s more conservative Kadima Party, and Ehud Barak for the Independence Party, the better to be in coalition with Netanyahu. Goldberg ought to direct his inquisitive gaze at the very Labor Zionism he venerates, rather than an article in the Voice, if he is looking for the source of “milestone victories” handed to Netanyahu — whom he calls “Bibi,” as though he were a country club acquaintance rather than a brutal tyrant to an oppressed people.

However confused Goldberg may be about what decade it is, it has to be said he’s more or less got me pegged: My insistence on “linking… anti-Zionism with the prophetic tradition of social justice” implies that I think “Zionism is… somehow opposed to the best in Judaism.” Bingo! He is also correct to associate me with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which I support. BDS is “gaining adherents at an alarming rate,” Goldberg hyperventilates, “turning well-meaning young Jews into enemies of the Jewish state.” The alarm this causes Goldberg is complemented by the apprehension he feels about the “worrisome rifts between Israel and American Jews” that are opening up.

He should have seen it coming. These rifts were prophesied as early as 1948 by the sage Hannah Arendt, when she predicted that the “Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people.” Already, she could see that “a Jewish state [could] only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland.” Goldberg’s sweaty, frenzied tone suggests that, as he watches Arendt’s forecast unfold, he is losing faith in the liberal Zionist project. That speaks well of him.


Can Bialys Make a Comeback? Newly Revamped Kossar’s Is Banking On It

On a cold winter morning, just before sunrise, the snow is falling gently onto the sidewalk outside of Kossar’s (367 Grand Street, 212-473-4810). Inside, the talk is all about bialys.

“I can’t tell you how much I missed this,” says one man, taking a bite.

“Butter. Yes, please, lots of butter,” a woman says as she places her order.

“Oh, wow, I didn’t realize there were so many kinds,” another man muses.

Following a five-month renovation, the revered Jewish bakery recently reopened with a gleaming new look. The entire infrastructure was replaced, and suddenly the store (originally opened on Clinton Street in 1936 before moving to its current location in 1960) leapt ahead to modern times. Still, while stalwart patrons — the kind who will show up at 6 a.m. to get a taste they remember from childhood — might see a place for Kossar’s on the much-changed Lower East Side of 2016, others might be more skeptical. Can bialys support a small business in this city anymore?

Co-owner Evan Giniger remembers childhood trips to the shop with his father, who grew up on Rivington Street.

“The first thing was to redesign and reposition the store into a business that could sustain itself, because the existing business was not sustainable,” says Evan Giniger, who has co-owned Kossar’s with business partner Dave Zablocki since 2013. “As much as people hate to see change in any way, the fact is if we didn’t change, we would not exist in another year or two. All we sold were dry bagels and bialys.”

Part of the updated Kossar’s m.o., Giniger explains, involves ensuring a more consistently high-quality product. That means bialys and bagels are baked throughout the day so that those sitting in bins are as hot and fresh as possible — a system that, in its first few days after reopening, the place was still trying to get right. Another aspect of the revised regime means maintaining a healthy balance of new menu items. In addition to a bialy with butter, you can now order a pizza bagel, babka french toast, or a bialy sandwich with hummus and avocado (you can also take home the store’s trademarked “Schmears” cream cheese).

The sense of history plays a big part for longtime customers. “There is a love for this store. We get people who have been coming in here for forty years. We get people bringing their kids, their grandkids,” Giniger says. “You stand in the store for half an hour, somebody will come in and tell you how their grandfather used to bring him here.”

Customers arrived before dawn the first morning Kossar's was open following a five-month renovation.

Giniger says the key to creating harmony between the old and the new is staying true to the same recipes that Kossar’s has been using since day one. Even the mixer used on the dough is the same one they’ve always had.

“A lot of the newer stores that come out talk about how they do things the ‘old-fashioned way’ or they’re doing things the ‘artisan way,’ ” says Giniger, who himself once made childhood trips from Long Island to Kossar’s with his father. “We’re better than artisan — we’re authentic. People replicate what we’ve been doing all along.”

To keep pace with the demands of operating a business in this century, the owners are counting on a new sandwich menu, along with a decision made last year that was somewhat controversial: to open on Saturdays. Though they’ve lost a few of their Orthodox Jewish customers who don’t support the move to operate on the Sabbath, the Saturday business has apparently more than made up for that. Says Giniger, “Unfortunately, as much as you want to hold to tradition for tradition’s sake, I’m paying 2016 rent, and I have to be able to be open seven days a week because I’m paying rent seven days a week. It really was an economic decision more than anything else.”

In addition to traditional onion and garlic bialys, Kossar's has added flavors like sun-dried tomato.

While tour buses make regular weekend stops at the bakery, it remains a challenge to convince the world outside of the L.E.S. that bialys deserve to be in the spotlight alongside bagels. The bialy, a traditional Polish peasant bread featuring an indentation instead of a hole in its middle, is more efficient to make and, owing to its shape, more naturally conducive to sandwiches — but as eaters nationwide have grown accustomed to gobbling up oversize bagels, bialys have waned in popularity. Giniger hopes a marketing campaign, along with sales on Kossar’s updated website, will boost the foodstuff’s lagging profile.

It deserves that chance, even if it’s understandable how, in New York — where excellent bagels can be found in just about every neighborhood — the bialy has taken a backseat. Eating one fresh from the oven at Kossar’s, and discovering that it remains the flavorful little bread it’s been for eighty years, makes you wonder how that ever happened.

For now, though, in a neighborhood where rapid development continues to butt up against longstanding tradition, Kossar’s is poised to bring bialys back into the city’s culinary conversation — which, according to Giniger, means keeping the focus as local as possible.

“We know first and foremost we’re a neighborhood store, so that’s who we have to cater to before anything else. We spent a lot of time thinking about what the neighborhood loved about us, what they were asking us for, and what we needed, and I think we have a great combination of all three.”


Left-Wing Jewish Groups Claim Responsibility for Fake ‘New York Times’

Activists from left-wing Jewish groups scattered across the city on February 2 to distribute some 10,000 copies of a bogus New York Times edition espousing a “new editorial policy” regarding coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This morning, Jews Say No! (JSN) and Jewish Voice for Peace New York (JVP-NY), two organizations “devoted to justice in Palestine and Israel,” took responsibility for the prank, which they call a “parody.” Donna Nevel, a member of JSN and founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, says the paper was partially inspired by the Yes Men, an activist group initially among the leading suspects.

The paper was created to highlight the current biases in Israel-Palestine reporting, says JSN member Alan Levine, “and to show what a paper that was fair and accurate should look like.”

JVP-NY member Candace Graff says the faux paper looks like what these groups wish the Times and other media outlets would report. “It includes the context and facts too often missing,” she says. Occupation, settler violence, and discriminatory laws are subjects that deserve more media attention, adds Graff, who believes the increased coverage would affect U.S. policy on Israel.

“Both our groups are interested in reaching new people and new communities to stand up for justice in Palestine and Israel,” says Nevel. “We want to make our voices heard with integrity.”

The Twitter account associated with the prank, as well as an accompanying website resembling the New York Times‘, have been suspended. The Times said it shut down the fake paper’s online version, which copied the news institution’s design and deliberately misled users. However, both the site and the Twitter account have been archived.

In just 24 hours, the groups have managed to spark some controversy, particularly within the Jewish community. “The political agenda behind this action undermines hopes for a just peace and is harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike,” says Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Israel advocacy and education group StandWithUs. “Those who support a better future for both peoples should put the propaganda aside and realize that tearing down Israel is not the answer.”

Yesterday’s fake newspaper isn’t the first time JSN and JVP-NY have joined forces. During Hanukkah, the two groups co-organized another campaign around the country, protesting against police brutality, racism, Islamophobia, and refugee xenophobia. The faux Times was already in the works at that juncture.

Well-known left-wing Jewish activists from the New York area helped with the production of the “parody” paper, including Nevel, Rosalind Petchesky (a professor at Hunter College), and Elly Bulkin (an author and member of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition). Overall, more than twenty people organized over the past several months to write, fact-check, edit, and design the paper.


This Brooklyn-Based Artist Got Her Start as an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schoolgirl From Borough Park

Sara Erenthal was 17 when she tried on jeans for the first time. “I remember looking in the mirror thinking, ‘Oh my God, my butt!’ ” she recalls. “I’d never really seen myself in pants.”

Tonight, the now 34-year-old artist is wearing a pair of gray skinny jeans and a striped top, her black bra peeking through the flaps of her open-back shirt. Her hair is chin-length, roots growing in black, the rest bleached; black polish is chipping off her nails; and gold rings adorn her septum and left nostril.

Erenthal’s running back and forth halfway up Saint Johns Place in Crown Heights, between an exhibit at FiveMyles Art Gallery and her outdoor installation of nearly forty drawings plastered upon the green wooden planks of a construction site a few doors down. “We wanted to lessen the negative impact of having a construction site on the street for us and for the neighbors,” says Marine Cornuet of FiveMyles. “So we thought to make it a public art location.” Erenthal’s portraits and everyday scenes can really speak to everyone, Cornuet adds.

An Indian baba seated cross-legged, a bearded Orthodox Jewish man in a black hat, a bicycle, a German shepherd, a self-portrait of a girl wearing a long dress with her hair in two long braids — all are somewhat cartoony, drawn with simple lines, a limited color palette, stoic expressions, and, in the right corner of each, “Sara” spelled phonetically in Hindi.

“My work is generally really self-healing and just a way to let go of certain things,” says Erenthal. “Mostly it’s based on the reality of my life, and the past is a big part.”

Erenthal's installation outside the construction site by FiveMyles Gallery
Erenthal’s installation outside the construction site by FiveMyles Gallery
Erenthal speaks quickly, her accent colored by a faint Brooklyn twang and a touch of Yiddish, her native tongue. She grew up between Israel and New York, her family having settled upstate in Monsey and Kiryas Joel before heading down to Borough Park and eventually moving back to Mea Shearim, one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Erenthal as a teenager
Erenthal as a teenager

“I was always questioning, but I kept it to myself and would follow the rules outwardly,” Erenthal says. Her parents belonged to Neturei Karta, a fringe sect of Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Judaism, best known for its dedication to the Jewish Bible and opposition to Zionism, believing that a Jewish state is forbidden until the coming of the Messiah. For reasons of modesty, Erenthal couldn’t ride a bike, couldn’t wear pants, couldn’t wear short sleeves, couldn’t wear her hair down. “My hair was always braided,” she says. “I hated that the most.”

She remembers struggling with the pain and discomfort of knowing there were alternatives to the insular world in which she grew up but thinking that those alternatives could never become a reality.

Not until after high school — when her family moved back to Israel from Brooklyn and her parents and the matchmaker arranged her marriage — did Erenthal run away from home. She left a note at a complicit relative’s house nearby: “Sorry, I can’t take it anymore. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Erenthal made her way to the Israeli army recruiting office, looking for a home away from the home she had escaped. “I was dressed really religious, and this young guy there looks at me and says, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I said I wanted to join the military,” she says, explaining that the ultra-Orthodox are often exempt from Israel’s otherwise mandatory military service.

“But you’re religious,” said the boy. Erenthal denied it. “So how come you’re dressed like this?” he asked. She replied that she had no other place to go. Eager to help, the boy took her home and gave her a pair of his roommate’s jeans. Over the next two years, the army and the kibbutz, or Israeli commune, where Erenthal then lived, became her “secular education.”

<i>Mea Shearim, The Father, The Mother, The Girl, The Boy</i>
Mea Shearim, The Father, The Mother, The Girl, The Boy

Today it’s Friday morning and Erenthal is rolling a cigarette as she hurries from Grand Central to her first stop, a high-rise apartment building in Murray Hill, to pick up Chloe, the first of several dogs she’s scheduled to walk.

“I find it funny that as a child I used to be terrified of dogs and now I love them,” she says. Haredi Jews mostly don’t have pets because they’re considered dirty, she explains. And it becomes complicated whether you can walk a dog on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which instructs those who observe not to carry anything or perform any kind of “work,” physical or otherwise.

A nine-month trip to India in 2010, ten years after she had returned to New York following her army service, became the foundation for Erenthal’s art career. She began painting murals in restaurants and designing repurposed clothes for money. “The first time I finally accepted that I’m an artist, a traveler asked to buy a drawing. That gave me a push to take it more seriously,” she says.

Sara Erenthal dog-walking in Murray Hill
Sara Erenthal dog-walking in Murray Hill

Art is her calling, but these days dog-walking brings in consistent cash.

“My story is the story of discomfort to liberation,” says Erenthal. “Dog-walking, bike riding — it’s not a rebellion per se. It’s a consequence of growing into a different world, of evolving.”

This summer she learned to ride a bike. “Bicycles give you freedom,” she says. “There have been times when I didn’t have money to take the subway and couldn’t leave my house. Now there’s no such thing.”

In a way, her art — paintings of bicycles and dogs, portraits of her Orthodox mother and father — chips away at the past while simultaneously processing it.

“I think the most important part in life is just to be a good person. I don’t mind people being religious as long as they’re not extreme or hurting other people. It’s just not for me,” Erenthal says, rolling another cigarette on her way to the next stop.

She’s near Madison Square Park now, passing an old bakery. Its cozy aroma wafts through the crisp winter air. “I’ll tell you one thing, there’s something about my childhood I still enjoy: traditional Jewish food,” she says. “I can change my life completely, but food is something we have this crazy mental connection to. Still probably one of my favorite foods is to have a piece of kugel and chulent.” But still, Erenthal jokes, she doesn’t eat bacon — not because it’s not kosher, but because she doesn’t like it.

“You can’t really get a childhood out of a person,” she says. “But I don’t need to be associated with any specific group to feel like I belong.”

Erenthal’s exhibit is currently on display at FiveMyles Gallery, located at 558 Saint Johns Place, Brooklyn 11238. 


At Sadelle’s, an Engineer Makes the Bagels

When a major player in the bagel world gets into the game, New Yorkers take notice. And when Major Food Group — the guys behind Carbone, Parm, and Dirty French — open Sadelle’s, a bakery-turned-brasserie featuring egg sandwiches, caviar, and house-made bagels on the menu, you’d better believe the head of their pastry and bread program works with the precision of a chemical engineer.

Which is where pastry chef Melissa Weller comes in.

As a kid, the world of cooking wasn’t particularly compelling to Weller. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and while she craved food with a cultural backstory, her future seemed to be focused on a place far from the kitchen.

“I was a very good student in school, and particularly good at chemistry,” Weller tells the Voice, “so I think my parents just expected me to do something like medicine or engineering.” She got her degree in chemical engineering and started work as an engineer in her twenties, but she hit a wall early on: “I struggled because I wanted to find meaning in what I did. In the mid-Nineties there was a revival of this book — What Color Is Your Parachute? — that got me to thinking I should be doing something I enjoy.”

The idea of feeding people offered the cultural connection she craved, she realized, and that spark begged exploration.

After getting a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York, Weller found work at Babbo under the late Gina DePalma, working largely with classic Italian pastry: “I poured myself into everything I did. It felt so rewarding to work that hard.” Yes, the long weekends and strings of no days off were hard — “I sometimes regret it, but it’s all worth it,” Weller says today. And that dedication led to her moving up rather quickly. As the head baker at Per Se, her days were filled with the high demands of devising modern-American desserts, and so to break up some tension she started to play with bagel making at home for fun.

“I’m a very methodical person,” she says, “and you need to be very methodical both when you’re an engineer and when you’re making pastries and bread. You need to understand science to understand fermentation.”

She enjoyed making bagels so much that she began doing so for staff meals at Per Se, using sourdough starter to lend a little more chew and tang. Then she started making them at Roberta’s on weekends while the head bread baker there. Finally, in 2013, Weller started East River Bread and began selling bagels and homemade cultured cream cheese at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.

A bagel cornucopia at Sadelle's
A bagel cornucopia at Sadelle’s

She knew it was only a stepping-stone to get her back in a larger kitchen, but she relished the hands-on time. “I had to say, ‘OK, I’m by myself now.’ It was fun, because anyone in a managerial position always wants to be on the line in the first place — it’s why you’re in the profession. Everywhere else I’d been behind the scenes, so it was a nice time because I sold the bagels and directly got the feedback. Well, it was both good and bad, because it was really intense: Someone would liken them to bagels I don’t like, or tell me the crust was too dark and it made the bagels too chewy. It made me really conscientious about being too sensitive, but it’s probably also where the obsession to get the right texture of the bagels came from.”

Weller continued to put those chemical engineering skills to work, varying ingredients, fermentation, ovens, time, and temperature until her relatively small, slightly sour plain bagels, a somewhat radical take on the everything (the onions are cooked and folded inside, then topped with sesame, caraway, poppy, fennel seeds, and salt), got eaters to take serious notice.

Which is where the Major Food guys found her.

Now dubbed “the bagel whisperer,” Weller is a managing partner in Sadelle’s, known not only for her bagels but for chocolate babkas, her cheesy blintzes, oatmeal cookies (that take four days to make), and a rotating variety of old-school Jewish pastries like bear claws and danishes. She went from making a few hundred bagels a week by herself to now making 2,000 of them on a weekend day alone, along with 200 sticky buns and 25 loaves of babka.

And that, of course, presented a few new challenges. “When it’s just me making something, I can make it perfectly and it’s gorgeous,” she says. “But when you have a staff, you have to constantly work on training them and having them make it in the way you want it to be made. That’s very hard to do.” When they first opened Sadelle’s, they baked mostly with an overnight team, and it was “very challenging from a quality control point of view.” They switched to baking most things fresh every morning in their Brooklyn commissary kitchen — but kept those bagels baking out every twenty minutes on site at Sadelle’s. “It’s an ongoing challenge…it’s hard. You find what works best for you, to continually train and hire your staff,” she says.

For now, Weller will focus on expanding her bagel production to supply Major Food Group restaurants on a wholesale basis and, of course, perfecting new recipes with the same precision as her bagels. She’s particularly excited about laminated yeasted dough: “It’s challenging to work with and it’s the most fun to eat. You have to ferment the dough properly and get the butter and dough at the right temperature at the right time. That’s always a challenge.”

The challenges may not have stakes as high as those in medicine or engineering, per se. Yet while Weller jokes that her parents “didn’t understand, and still don’t understand, me going into pastry,” it’s a challenge she’s still satisfied to accept.


New York Medical Marijuana Company Has Its Weed Certified Kosher

Kosher kush is not just the name of an award-winning Cannabis indica strain. Starting this month, as dispensaries open their doors for business across New York, it’s also a caliber of medical marijuana that will be available from one of the state’s five licensed growers.

Vireo Health of New York, one of the five organizations licensed to grow, manufacture, and dispense medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act, is now the first cannabis company to be certified as kosher from the Orthodox Union (OU), the largest and most widely recognized kosher certification agency in the world. The OU’s trademarked symbol (a U encircled by an O) will appear on medical cannabis products, including Vireo’s oils, capsules, and vaporization cartridges, sold throughout the company’s four dispensaries in Queens, White Plains, Binghamton, and Albany.

New York is home to the largest Jewish community in the United States. According to a Pew research study, 89 percent of American ultra-Orthodox and 61 percent of modern Orthodox Jews live in the Northeast, including New York and New Jersey. For the subset of the Jewish population that keeps strictly kosher, this certification will be important to them, says Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health of New York.

“It’s our hope that [being certified kosher] will also help combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis and that it will send a message to people of all faiths that using medical cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering does not represent an embrace of ‘pot’ culture,” he says. “Patients should never feel guilty or ashamed for using a product recommended by their physicians.” Hoffnung says that prospective patients have been asking him about kosher cannabis in New York.

New York’s strict and heavily regulated medical marijuana program bans smoking medical cannabis products. Treatments can only be ingested in the form of vaporizable oils, tinctures, capsules,and under-the-tongue strips, or applied through medicated patches. “I keep kosher. If [medical marijuana] had a kosher symbol, I would feel more comfortable with that,” says Yitzy, a Brooklyn resident who says he hopes to get a doctor recommendation for medical cannabis to help treat his Chron’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome, one of the ten conditions covered as part of the state’s program. “If it has any other ingredients besides the cannabis, I know I’m not getting pig fat, gelatin, or something grossly non-kosher.”

Yitzy, who spoke on the condition that he not reveal his last name, has already talked to his physician about getting a recommendation and says that interest in medical cannabis is becoming more prevalent in the Orthodox community, thanks in part to coverage of the medical marijuana program in Jewish-audience publications like Vos Iz Neias and Yeshiva World.  When an Orthodox Jew uses a substance for medicinal purposes, especially in a life or death situation, it doesn’t require a kosher certification — such is the case with antibiotics, for instance. But in Yitzy’s case, he says he would use medical marijuana to help ease discomfort, which would not qualify as life or death. “It’s another tool in the toolbox,” he says. Needing a kosher certification for cannabis is comparable to needing one for cough drops or vitamins.

“Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain, says Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. “Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

Rabbi Moshe Elefant OU’s chief operating officer says the agency is only certifying cannabis for medical use, he adds, not for recreational purposes.

“The OU is very sensitive to certifying products that we feel are appropriate,” he says. For example, though many kosher-keeping Jews smoke tobacco, the OU does not actively certify cigarettes as kosher. “If you buy a pack of cigarettes, there’s a general warning about health. Putting our stamp endorses and approves [a product’s] use,” he says.

Achieving a kosher certification, however, is no simple task. All of the individual ingredients in a manufactured cannabis product must qualify as kosher for it to receive a certification. For instance, alcohols or additives used in extraction processes may or may not be kosher, Elefant says. Meanwhile, the equipment used in manufacturing must be used only for kosher ingredients, or thoroughly cleaned between uses. And just because a product is certified kosher doesn’t mean it has been blessed. “That’s a common misconception,” he says, adding that the cannabis products will not have received a blessing.

The OU has also certified other products, such as kosher vitamins and cough syrups, and the agency is now in conversation with other cannabis companies in New York and around the country, seeking kosher certification.

“I think New York’s medical cannabis program is going to be unique,” says Hoffnung. “We are transforming the patient’s experience and professionalizing the industry. In other states, patients might be offered products with street names like AK-47, here they’ll be offered THC capsules. In other states, patients are greeted by bud tenders, in New York they’ll be greeted by licensed pharmacists. Today’s [kosher] certification is another step in professionalizing the industry.”


Jewish Comfort Food Is the Creative Canvas for the Annual Latke Festival

Christmas pageantry may be flooding the streets and storefronts this month, but Jewish comfort food is a part of the city’s lifeblood year-round. From Katz’s pastrami sandwiches to Russ and Daughters’ fine herring, to be a New Yorker is to be at least a little Jewish.

One of the most iconic and comforting of these dishes is the potato pancake, or latke. “The simplicity of the latke itself leaves so much room for creative interpretation,” explains Liz Neumark, creator of the Latke Festival, which will celebrate its seventh year at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 West 18th Street) on Monday night.

Hosted by her catering company, Great Performances, chefs from the restaurants Bustan, Taboon, Veselka, and sixteen others will put their spin on the classic dish. Attendees should expect a lot more than the usual sour cream and applesauce accompaniments for these starchy treats, which will be served in the pavilion’s expansive space.

Saul Bolton, the godfather of the Smith Street restaurant boom, is making a cassava latke with chana masala, coconut yogurt, and cilantro that he describes as “inspired by Brooklyn’s Trinidadian community and cuisine with ingredients that are vibrant with spice, earthiness, tang, and herbal notes. It sings of Afro- and Indo-Caribbean influences and flavor.” The dish will represent his flagship namesake restaurant, Saul. His gastropub, the Vanderbilt, will also be represented with a yet-to-be-announced creation by its chef Mike Calderon.

Efraim Nahon of upscale “middleterranean” Taboon is using spaghetti squash in his latkes, topped with deviled egg yolk, dill pollen, and maitake mushroom. “The latke is such a traditional dish, but I am a lover of thinking outside the box,” Nahon enthuses.

A slightly less outside-the-box creation comes from Jacob Hadjigeorgis of Jacob’s Pickles, the Southern comfort food spot on the Upper West Side. He’s using sweet potato for the starchy base and topping it with Cajun and scallion crème frâiche, which he says is inspired by “Southern ingredients and the Hanukkah spirit.” He says the sweetness from the potato is balanced by the savory creamy topping, with a hit of salmon roe to add a “delicious burst of savoriness.” It’ll be garnished with pickled mustard seeds “because we’re Jacob’s Pickles.”

Jimmy Carbone, who organizes some of the city’s most festive food and drink celebrations — like Pig Island and Battle of the Belgians — (which celebrates its sixth anniversary at Jimmy’s No. 43 today), calls the festival “the ultimate in NYC holiday celebration.” He’ll be on hand to serve up his own take on the classic.

For Neumark, a self-described “Hanukkah girl,” the event is a meaningful gathering for those who can’t make it home for the holidays. “Instead of having Mom making them latkes, they have nineteen New York City chefs doing the job.”

Tickets cost $65 for general admission and $100 for V.I.P., which includes an open bar. Drinks will be provided by Schmaltz Brewing Company, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Sovereign Cider, and City Winery. Get details and tickets here.

All proceeds benefit the Sylvia Center, a nonprofit founded by Neumark with the mission to inspire children to eat well.