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11 Things Only A New York Jew Will Understand

Jew York: A clever name for the state or city of New York due to its exceptionally large Jewish population... Oy Vey!

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Temple Preschool

Where all the Jewish Geography begins! Every New York Jew knows that this is where it all starts. Whether you went to Emanu-El, Central Synagogue, Park Avenue Synagogue, Temple Israel, or one of the countless other exclusive Upper East Side shuls, you probably still go to school with some of those kids with whom you attended synagogue. And you definitely will never forget having to sing the blessings before snack, performing Jewish holiday themed plays, and getting to go to Tot-Shabbat every Friday nigh; if you were lucky, one of your classmates’ moms came in once a month to make challah for the class!

Hebrew School

Hebrew School- affectionately nicknamed by all adolescent jewish children, “where fun goes to die”. We’re kidding of course, well sort of. Hebrew school wasn’t so bad when you were little and for 45 minutes each week you got to sing catchy hebrew tunes and talk about the story of Purim, but once bat mitzvah age rolled around things took a turn. Now you were expected to actually-- get this... practice your hebrew reading and learn prayers such as the V'ahavta and the Aliyahs (absurd right?!). If you were lucky, your parents weren’t all that serious about Hebrew School and let you skip every now and then, after all, the life of a 5th grader is pretty stressful and demanding. No matter how many tears of boredom you cried or times you pleaded with your parents to avoid going, you still have many fond memories of the many Moras who first taught you how to sing the hebrew alphabet and getting to see your temple friends during the school week.

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Ahh the Bar/Bat Mitzvah season. The most important time of every young Jew’s life. One might call it, “the best night of their lives”. Each year these parties celebrating the entering of adulthood become more and more extravagant. Parents shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure their child has the best dress, best venue, and a montage that has been professionally produced-- but most importantly, so they can brag to their friendss. Forget Keeping Up With The Kardashians, it’s Keeping Up With The Goldsteins! Growing up in the city, you had a bar or bat mitzvah practically every weekend; school friends, temple friends, camp friends, distant cousins you’ve never met whose parties your parents forced you to attend! The airbrushed T-shirts with your middle school nickname and wax figures of your hand probably still sit at the bottom of your closet somewhere; and every Jew has seen a drunk uncle dancing wildly on the center stage, trying his hardest to get all your young friends to join him.

Local Deli

The Pastrami Sandwich is a staple in every New York Jew’s diet, and the Delicatessen, an honorary shul. While the number one deli in New York is a still a widely debated topic, everyone knows a few that come pretty close. Katz’s Deli is the obvious choice for any New Yorker- it’s not the cheapest, but their pastrami on rye sure is worth it. Who could forget 2nd Avenue Deli? With their Hebrew-esque font on the awning, it’s a classic post Temple lunch spot filled with rich jewish history, starting all the way back in 1954 on East 10th street. But forget about corned beef on rye, the best bagel award has got to go to Barney Greengrass-- good luck trying to get a seat for Sunday brunch, this place is always packed and for good reason. Make sure to try their bialis next time you take a trip to the Upper West Side!

Passover Seder

Passover in New York City, possibly the only time you will find more Jews per square inch than in the Lower East Side circa the early 1900s. 1st Cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, and relatives you’re not entirely sure you’re related to, all squeezed into one tiny apartment while your aunt slaves away in the kitchen making her infamous Matzoh Ball Soup (better than any deli could ever make). You felt as though you had amnesia, answering the same questions repeated over and over again by your prying family members, “why are you still single?”, “when are you going to get a job?”, “I can set you up with my friend Ethel’s son, he’s a real mensch!”. If you were lucky you had a relative somewhere in spacious suburbia where Passover seders were held, if you weren’t so lucky, you spent the seder searching for the afikomen somewhere in your distant cousin’s 1200 square foot apartment. Every seder has some relative who will butcher the hebrew prayers despite having the transliteration on the page and grandparent who will make their annual neverending speech on the importance of tradition. No matter where you seders were held, one thing's certain for any Jew: You know the feeling of being stuck at the kids table well into your 20s all too well.

Jewish Day Schools

If Temple Preschool wasn’t enough, there were numerous Jewish elementary and high schools where you could continue your Jewish education. Many of them were small, tight knit communities such as Rodeph Sholom, where your graduating class of 30 in 8th grade all went their separate ways, but in reality you all ended up going to the same high school. Heschel, where the dual Hebrew/English curriculum resulted in classes going until 5:30 pm, practically dinner time! If you were more conservative then maybe you went to Ramaz, where the kids were ultra Jewish and wore an extremely conservative uniform of long skirts and slacks. In fact, you were more likely to hear Hebrew than English through the crowded halls. No matter where you went, your Jewish culture followed you throughout high school, and regular history classes couldn’t hold a candle to Jewish Studies and Honors Hebrew.

The Hamptons

One might call the Hamptons, the Lower East Side of Long Island, or more appropriately, the 5th Avenue of Long Island. Whatever you call it, you probably know these backroads and beaches like the back of your hand. Every weekend in the summer -that is, before and after sleep away camp- was spent out here with family and friends going to the beach, riding your bikes into town, and of course shopping. Every time you made your way into town, the Jewish geography strikes again! You couldn’t go one block without running into someone you knew, or even more awkward, someone who knew you but in truth you had never seen before in your life. Each hampton was a separate nation, East, South, Bridge, Sag Harbor, etc. and came with its own singular charm. Although everyone knows that Southampton has its fair share of WASPs (white anglo saxon protestants) and comes close to Nantucket in its level of preppiness.

Jewish Mothers

We all know the stereotype of the overprotective, overbearing, pro guilt-tripping Jewish Mother-- and we’re here to tell you it’s true! Well... sometimes. Somehow they all knew each other too, it felt as though there was some secret Jewish Mom club where they would all get together and gossip-- who knows, they probably did! You never left the house without a jacket, and don’t even think about skipping meals, feeding children is the Jewish Mother’s favorite hobby. And whenever you came home from college your mom was the first one to point out that you gained a few pounds, but hey, she’s just looking out for you. Good luck ever trying to get out of a family function, after all, would you really do that to your “poor mother, who has sacrificed so much to make you happy and asks for almost nothing”? Sound familiar? The only people who enjoy cooking and making their children feel guilty more than jewish mothers, are jewish grandmothers! But you always left your Bubbe & Zayde’s house filled with home cooked cuggle and brisket and lots of love. If you think your jewish mother is bad, check out Kate Siegel’s instagram @mycrazyjewishmom and submit your own experiences to @yourcrazyjewishmom.

Lower East Side

If you didn’t take a field trip to the Tenement Museum in elementary school, you at least went with your temple and looked on in amazement and disgust at the filthy conditions your not so distant ancestors had to endure. The Lower East Side was, and still is, a mecca for the Jewish New Yorker. With the famous Eldridge Street Synagogue and plentiful Essex Street Market, you couldn’t go wrong with a trip back to the “homeland”. The highlight of the visit was always getting to explore Economy Candy, which made you feel as though you had stepped inside a scene from Willy Wonka. Candy lined the walls from the floorboards to the ceiling, and the best part of all was how cheap everything was!

Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway camp, the greatest seven weeks of any young girl or boy's life. The two long months spent out in the fresh air was heaven for a city kid like yourself, whose only interaction with nature was a finding a rogue weed sprouting in the crevices of the sidewalk. Your home in the pines was where you made all your lifelong friends who knew your deepest, darkest secrets and the names of all the boys you liked. While there was guaranteed to be drama, these girls were your sisters and will always have a special place in your heart. You maybe had one or two non-jewish kids in your division, which meant you got to have plenty of mini reunions during bat mitzvah season, and plenty of drama over who was and was not invited. Some of the camps were more religious than others, and held services on Friday nights, but admit it, you only went for the free challah and grape juice that was better than the food served in the dining hall. Whether you went to Greylock, Crane Lake, Point O’ Pines, Romaca, Laurel, Vega, or one of the countless other sleepaway camps in the Northeast, your greatest memories are all of the special moments spent at your summer haven.

Ellis Island

You most definitely visited Ellis Island during your immigration unit in elementary school, and probably found your relatives on the seemingly endless list of Jewish names you couldn’t help but mispronounce. Between the Silversteins, Goldfarbs, Lifshitzs, Margolises, and Weinbergs, you were bound to spot the name of someone you knew, probably someone you went to temple with. To your non-Jewish classmates, the trip to Ellis Island was probably boring and meaningless, but finding your great-great-grandmother and grandfather on the bronzed list of names made you feel pretty cool.

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