Friday, January 16, 2015

A Prophet And A Professor

Monday, January 12, 2015
Two Mississippi state legislators are filing a bill to make the Bible the state book, sitting alongside the largemouth bass (the state fish), the magnolia (the state flower) and the Teddy bear (the state toy).  I am all for it if it increases the demand for Hebrew teachers.
My appreciation for rugelach (no question about the spelling, but sometimes pronunciation shifts from short u to long u) has come late in life.  I have had a lifelong devotion to chocolate chip cookies, which may never be supplanted.  There was a time that I was obsessed with fig newtons, eating a whole package of Nabisco fig newtons at one sitting.  Nowadays, I am willing to go out of my way for superior rugelach.  It's very obvious why this has taken hold at this time.  For the past several years, I have become increasingly active in the affairs of West End Synagogue.  As a result, I have attended far more Jewish events than I ever did in the past.  While a Jewish religious service is easily distinguished from other gatherings, a non-ritualistic Jewish event is almost always characterized by three things – Diet Coke, decaffeinated coffee and rugelach.

Allow me to reflect on the first two elements, Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee.  Jews are a hardy people, surviving thousands of years, facing oppression and genocide from many quarters, dispersed over foreign lands, yet we seem to retreat from full strength beverages.  We outlasted the Romans, the Tsars, the Nazis, all before the advent of Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee, but we seem reluctant to face the future with sugar in our soda and caffeine in our coffee.  I can think of only one sensible reason for this.  Sugar and caffeine are stimulants, of a sort, providing extra energy.  Maybe Jews don't need that additional boost; maybe we are sufficiently aroused by the normal course of events; maybe we have developed highly-tuned defense mechanisms to deal with the threats that manage to find us.  The result is a fine biochemical balance, evolved over centuries, that may be thrown out of whack by those mid-XX Century inventions, Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee.

Returning to rugelach: Right now, I recommend Zabar's Fresh Baked Rugelach ($10.95 a pound) as best in show, available at their bakery counter, not be confused with their Homestyle Rugelach, sold in a 14 oz. package for $9.98.  Zabar's is located at 2245 Broadway (at 80th Street).  While they have an extensive mail order operation, I don't think that fresh baked goods will remain at their peak after several days in transit.  For a look at the local rugelach scene, with reviews of many alternatives, see

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
The Boyz Club ate at Pho/Thanh Hoai 1, 73 Mulberry Street, on the theme of let bygones be bygones.  None of us served in Vietnam, which was not an outcome that we left to chance.  For lunch we shared cha gio (spring rolls with meat), cha gio chay (vegetarian spring rolls), goi ga (shredded chicken salad), com ga nuong (grilled chicken with rice) and com bo ba mon (three flavors of grilled beef with rice).  I thought that only the chicken was sub-par, better to have gotten the curry chicken that I had on my last visit.  In any case, it cost $15 per person total.

The questions for today included whether the state of relations between City Hall and the New York Police Department present a threat to the fundamental basis of civil society, and what would you do if you were a French Jew.  Faced with those problems, we skipped dessert.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Did you hear about the Jewish newspaper and the photograph of the world leaders?
This editorial action was deemed necessary when 11 yeshiva students were found pleasuring themselves over a picture of Angela Merkel.  The poor chaps are so isolated from everyday affairs, they thought that they were peeking at Angelina Jolie.

I have been going to Tasty Dumpling, 29 Mulberry Street, frequently because of its good and hot dumpling soup ($4.25 a quart with noodles, $4.50 without noodles leaving room for more dumplings).  Also, I recommend its bargain-priced scallion pancake ($1.50).  Today, I had the pancake with beef ($2), which is a sandwich, not at all a pancake.  The bread is half inch thick, dusted with sesame seeds, cut in a wedge close to a 6 inch equilateral triangle.  It is sliced through and contains slices of dried beef and shredded marinated carrots.  Very tasty.  With a small container of soup ($1.50 - $2) you have a very satisfying lunch.  Reminder – Tasty is not a place for a business lunch or a romantic tryst.

Thursday, January 15, 2015
I loved Walter Berns, who taught American constitutional law in the government department of Cornell University during the 1960s.  Although we disagreed about almost every political issue, we respected each other’s search for justice.  Berns was definitely not short for Bernstein, in spite of or because of which he was thoroughly philo-Semitic.  He was proud that his wife was Jewish and he studied with and associated with a group of scholars who were almost exclusively Jewish, although none of whom were likely to head a UJA fundraising drive.  When I returned from holiday visits to New York, he often asked me if I had any new Jewish jokes.  In the photograph of Berns printed today, Lincoln appropriately appears over one shoulder and Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, behind the other. 
Friday, January 16, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Diet Coke has more caffeine than a cup of coffee and decaf coffee taken " regular" ,as defined in NYC as having both sugar and cream, probably has more sugar than a regular Coke. It is not a rejection of sugar and caffeine. It is most likely just a choice between delivery methods.