Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur in New York
The alarm goes off and I wake up with some concern because the weather forecasts for today, made during the last days are not flattering. During the breakfast, in the news they confirm the fact that today it is not going to rain enough in New York, fact that finally we check ourselves when we go out to the street.
To make it even worse, the umbrella that we had brought had been lost somewhere. It is not a good start. We had planned a visit to Brooklyn, specifically to Williamsburg which is the area where it is filled with Jewish Orthodox and then finish in Coney Island, but it seems that it will not be possible. At the reception of the hotel we asked the receptionist for advice about the possible purchase of an umbrella and recommended a supermarket located on the 3rd with 44th Street.
Indeed we found what we are looking for and we headed towards Grand Central Terminal perfectly equipped, reaching our destination few minutes later. We make a new tour of the market of the station. Finally we decided to go to the Herald Square area to do some errands and some more for us.
Armed with patience, we moved on foot along 32nd Street towards 5th Avenue when I was struck by a small comic book store. I decide to stop and take a look, since little else can be done with this time. The shop, very narrow is quite similar to what we could find in these parts. They have old editions and I decide to buy an old book. Unfortunately I start loading the backpack too soon.
We continue until the 5th avenue and we move to the corner with the 34, moment in which another member of our group decides to change the umbrella, for another bigger one. On the way we passed the Central Synagogue. The Rosh Hashana is celebrated today. Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important because it begins the Jewish new year. We spend some time in the synagogue.
The main part of the observance of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar. The exclamation of the shofar is also a call for remorse! Rosh Hashana serves as the first of the ten days culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. We hear 100 shades of music in the course of the Rosh Hashanah service.
They give us to eat a piece of apple dipped in honey to express our desire for a sweet year and taste a few more special foods. All have a special meaning and symbolize sweetness, blessings and abundance. And as on every Jewish holiday, women also light the candles on each New Years Eve and say the appropriate prayer.
The wait is enlivened by the excellent view of the Empire State Building and the passage of traffic in the rain. The truth is that the rain does not feel bad in this city, resulting in a very poetic landscape.
We continue and stop at American Eagle Outfitters, on 34th Street, and we continue to the GAP that is on the corner of Broadway. There we decided to move again until Century 21. We move by subway directly from the subway station of the 34th Street and Herald Square to the station of Cortland Street, very close to our destination.
Unfortunately the Century 21 is closed, with a sign on the door that that today it is closed on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This I did not anticipate.
So, what can we do now? Well we take a walk around the South Street Seaport that is nearby. The now old port of the city is quite deserted, due to the weather. If it were not for that, the view it offers of the Brooklyn Bridge would be really impressive. It is currently a commercial and leisure area with a maritime museum that includes a couple of boats that can be visited.
It seems that all this land has been won to the sea, or rather in this case, to the East River.
There is a mark on the ground of the original waterfront on Water Street. Right on this street is the Titanic Memorial, a lighthouse arranged in honor of the victims of the fatal shipwreck. And after going around all morning from here to there, and with great appetite, we go around to find a place to eat. Finally we stay in a salad room full of vegetables, cereals and meat, whose name I am unable to remember.
Upon leaving, a great surprise awaits us, as it has stopped raining and the thick layer of clouds reveals the sky at some point. With great happiness we advance towards the City Hall Park, to be able to cross again the Brooklyn Bridge. We arrived at the Brooklyn Bridge, again, and we crossed it again, turning out to be as wonderful as the first one.
The sky is clearing by leaps and bounds, and the atmosphere is clear, without fog, so the view is excellent. As always, the skyline is amazing.
Upon arriving in Brooklyn, we visit the Brooklyn Heights area by day, accessing Middagh Street. Strolling we access the impressive view offered by Columbia Height, parallel to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, but on a higher plane. We keep wandering and we go down Willow Street to the south. The atmosphere is relaxed and relaxed, so nice that I would stay and live here without thinking.
We arrive at Pierrepont Street and at the corner with Henry Street there is a great brick mansion, the Herman Behr Mansion, with curious dragons eroded on the stone balustrade of the entrance. We went down to Montague Street and there we stopped for a snack at Le Pain Quotidien, a chain present in different places.
Here we had a delicious cappuccino and shared portions of the famous New York Cheesecake. It was very tasty and the place is fantastic but the bill is a steal. Shortly after 5:00 pm and as the sun is shining and the beautiful afternoon we decided to go to Coney Island for the sunset.
We went up Henry Street to Clarke Street station. There we take the subway, red line and we change at Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center. Here we take the line to Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue, taking about 45 minutes.
The Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station presents a beautiful retro look. Elevated on the street on metallic piles, it forms wonderful arcades on Stillwell Avenue. In front of it is a famous graffiti of twin Brazilian brothers known precisely as Os Gemeos.
We move down Stillwell Avenue to the south. We arrive at the famous Nathan's, the most famous hot dog place in the world, which every July 4 organizes a contest to see who is able to eat more. On the side of the block, a huge electronic sign shows the countdown to the next contest, as well as the male and female records.
And so we come to the promenade and beach of Coney Island, famous for being the summer area of the rich New Yorkers. The walk is beautiful, especially with this magnificent sunset light. The last scene of the cult movie The Warriors, shot in this place, comes to mind.
Unfortunately the park is closed, even though the calendar saw it as a day of normal operation, probably due to the rain. So all the lights, color, music and hullabaloo are not present, but it is still a beautiful place. It's worth every minute that has involved the displacement.
It has darkened enough and the only light present is the one coming from the neighbor baseball stadium of the Cyclones. We are surprised by the lighting of the Parachute Jump, which changes the lighting every so often. One last walk along the pier and we decided to return to Manhattan, having a tour of approximately one hour.
We took metro line and since this is our last night in the city we decided to go back to Lincoln Center to see it at night. We alighted at Columbus Circle and proceeded down Broadway to the north by turning 63 west to arrive. Wonderfully lit the whole set is more impressive at night.
It is Saturday night and there is operatic performance. So they have opened the curtains on the first floor allowing us to see two huge canvases that we could not see a week ago. In the entrance hall there are monitors that allow us to follow the representation. We were interested in seeing a performance here but it has been impossible to plan for lack of time.
After a while, we leave and go back down Broadway stopping at a Duane Reade to get a sandwich and eat it on the way. The metro line in combination with the shuttle leaves us at Grand Central Terminal very fast, and in the blink of an eye we arrived very tired at the hotel.
After freshening up a bit we decided that since we are leaving tomorrow, today we are going to give everything. We go to the Lower East Side to locate the Arlene's Grocery, a place famous for its small concert hall. There we had a beer and we saw a concert by a strange group, who played quite well, with a strange and caring soloist. At the end, now yes, tired, we go back to the hotel to spend our last night. Tomorrow everything will be over.
The plan for this day was to make the excursion of contrasts. In it we would visit three districts a little further away from Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The route lasted about 4 hours, and could end either on the Brooklyn Bridge or in Chinatown. We chose the latter, to take advantage and see that area, along with Little Italy and Soho, since we wanted to cross the bridge at dusk.
We got up early, and walking we went to the meeting point with the contrasts, as I have indicated. Saturday is the best day, especially to visit the Jewish quarter, because it is when there is more movement, as it is a holiday for them and they do not work. There was almost nobody on the street (and I say almost, because there is practically impossible that there is nobody at some point)!
Specifically, we met a small group of people at the door of the hotel, but we could not do the tour in van as we would have liked, since they brought a small bus. The guide was a pleasant Uruguayan, who explained many interesting things about the places we were going through.
First we went to the Bronx, to the Yankee Stadium but before, we stopped at a famous graffiti nearby. It is dedicated to great baseball figures like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Thurman Munson. After passing under the subway tracks, which in that area are high and certainly are in a bad state, we could already see the stadium at the end. It is home to the New York Yankees and has a capacity for some 50,000 spectators.
Just in front of it, what appear to be training camps, are probably the grounds where the old stadium was located. We went back to the bus, from which we could see the building of the courts of the Bronx as well as the old palace of justice of the county of the Bronx. At the moment it is in a state of enough abandonment.
Our next stop was at a famous police station, the 42nd district, better known as Fort Apache because of the Paul Newman movie of the same name. One of the promotional slogans was in New York there is a neighborhood where even the policemen are afraid.
There, parked, we could see up close, the typical police cars that appear in all American movies. After the photos, we headed to our next stop, the well-known Bronx graffiti. Most of them are dedicated to members of gangs disappeared in fights with rival gangs or shot by the police. We got off the bus to see the graffiti "I love Bronx" on Simpson Street and Westchester Avenue. In each letter that forms the name of this neighborhood, scenes are drawn with typical images of it.
Then they took us to see another graffiti, the one they call TIO SAM. This mural, made by 14 graffiti artists, is a criticism of politicians and wars involving the United States, for economic interests. It includes figures such as Saddam Hussein, Ronald Reagan, Osama Bin Laden, Condoleezza Rice, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Rumsfeld and Putin. The mural is presided over by Uncle Sam, who is a figure that in the US represents as the Public Treasury, and which is also used for the recruitment of soldiers.
But most disturbing, is that at the top, we can see traces of bullets left by a band that fired at him. Already in passing and from the windows of the bus, we also saw the Jonathan. In the mural he is represented with his play and Scooby doo.
And with this we finalize our visit to this dreaded neighborhood. The Bronx, in addition to graffiti, is the birthplace of rap and hip hop. Great artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Allen Woody, Lauren Bacall, Stanley Kubrick or Cuba Gooding Jr. have been born in it. Then we go to Queens, to the residential area of Malba. It is an area with large and exclusive mansions, luxury cars, and well-tended gardens.
We saw houses under construction, and they explained that they do not use brick there. The basic elements of construction are wood and plasterboard and then they are covered with ornamental stone outside! Although we could not see much more, in this neighborhood we can also visit the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a park of 5 square kilometers.
Here the universal exhibition of 1964 was held and the symbol of this Exhibition, the Unisphere is preserved. There is a 42-meter-high steel globe, famous for appearing in the movie Men in Black. The Arthur Ashe Stadium is also there, where the US open tennis is held. There are also several museums such as the contemporary art center.
In this district are also the two airports of New York, JFK and LaGuardia. As a curiosity, it was also the epicenter of jazz in the 40s and there is the house of Louis Armstrong. After passing through Malba, I stop to recover strength, and we did it in the Latin Quarter. We go to a cafeteria on Roosevelt Avenue but the place was very full. We prefer to get away a little and look for a quieter place to have a drink.
While we were walking, we could observe the train tracks that ran parallel in height to the main street. At the end we stopped at a Mexican bar, where we could have a generous portion of nachos with some soft drinks, which we needed, because it was quite hot. Back on the bus, we could see through the windows the new calvary cemetery, numerous rows of white tombs, with the big Manhattan skyscrapers in the background.
We head to another of the emblematic neighborhoods of New York in Brooklyn to Williamsburg. In this neighborhood live 75,000 Jews of the so-called ultra-Orthodox, of the Chassidic branch. This community is composed mostly of descendants of Hungarian Jews and Romanians survivors of the holocaust. Our visit was on Saturday, coinciding with his holy day, the Shabbat, in which work is forbidden. In the neighborhood there is silence, costumes and black hats, religiosity, but there is a lot of people (especially men) who enter or come out of the synagogues.
When we got there,what most attracts my attention is their appearance. Men always have their heads covered (either by a wide-brimmed hat, or another covered with fox fur, which only the married ones wear, and which I think they will only wear for the holidays).
They sport a beard and two ringlets on both sides of the head. One of the things that the guide pointed out to us, is that many of them wear glasses. It is, because they only get mixed up marrying each other, and they inherit a genetic defect of vision. Their costumes are like the last century, apart from the hat, long frock coats and black pants.
They must keep their head covered, with a hat or turban, although most of them wear wigs. They should not show their hair to anyone other than their husband, since they consider it very sensual. Some women of the Hungarian Jainistic fraction scrape the hair when they get married. So they must wear a wig to have a normal appearance and not stand out, always covering them as much as possible, and wearing stockings even in summer.
On Saturday not only cannot work, but practically any activity is prohibited. One cannot press the button of any electrical device (including lifts or light switches). The windows or balconies of the houses are protected by grills and signs are in Hebrew, even on school buses.
When we finished the ride and at the agreed time, we got on the bus, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge we went down in Chinatown to follow our afternoon route through that area.When I prepared the trip, I made some maps divided by zones with the most important points to visit in each one.
After the tour, I had to visit the area of Chinatown. This one has grown a lot in recent years, so it has swallowed a large part of Little Italy. The neighborhood is full of restaurants, and shops of all kinds, some of imitations of large brands, not entirely legal. Its main shopping street is Canal Street.
The coach left us at Confucius Plaza, where we can see a brown brick complex, built in 1976. It was the first important public housing project built for Chinese Americans and immigrants.
With its 44 stories high, it is the tallest building in the neighborhood.
We headed for Bloody Angle, located on Doyers Street, an old road with a 90-degree curve. It owes its name to Henrik Doyer, an 18th-century Dutch immigrant who ran a distillery there. This poetic name is due to the fact that in the depression era, in this place there were numerous shootings among Chinese mafias, with a high number of victims. Nowadays it is a commercial street, full of shops and hairdressers.
We arrived at Columbus Park. In the nineteenth century this area was one of the most dangerous in New York. Then this neighborhood was called Five Points, which comes from the intersection of 5 streets that joined in this park. Currently it is a haven, where the members of this large community meet, to spend their leisure time, either singing or playing Mahjong or playing cards.
What is surprising is that they go completely to their own, and ignore the tourist as if he were a ghost. Although they see you are taking pictures, they do not look at you. They speak their own language and it seems as if they live in China itself. It is a neighborhood true to its roots and culture.
And no longer in Chinatown, but very close, there is a place that I was eager to visit, it is the Eldridge Street Synagogue. It was built in 1887, and it was the first synagogue erected by Jews in the USA. The Ark is traditionally built on the wall which faces Jerusalem.
Little Italy is practically a street, and the strong point of this neighborhood are the restaurants. Although Italian restaurants are all over New York, here they have authentic character. That's why we decided to make a stop here for lunch, and we did it the first pizzeria in the city, with more than a century of history.
The restaurant was quite full and they put us on an upper floor that did not have as much charm as the living room below with its brick walls. The important thing is that the pizza was very good and was huge. Once on a full stomach, we followed our little routine, heading for Broome Street to Soho.
This neighborhood was forged during the 60s, when the buildings dedicated to industrial use were being left empty and were occupied by artists. Nowadays it has become a shopping place with exclusive stores. But beyond its commercial facade, this is a historic neighborhood. It is known as the district of wrought iron, for the material with which many of the buildings that are still preserved are built.
One of the first buildings we saw was the Roosevelt Building, at Broadway Street in Art Nouveau style. Its architect was Richard Morris Hunt, who was also responsible for the design of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In the building lived the uncle grandfather of President Roosevelt. After his death the family donated it to the hospital of the same name, which to earn income, turned it into a commercial building.
The building has 5 floors. The floor is austere, and from it there are two large columns that divide the facade into three sections. Each has three large windows, separated in turn by thin columns, except in the attic that there are 9 windows smaller. In the upper arch we can see delicate ornamental iron filigrees.
One of the buildings that personally seemed to me more beautiful, is not exactly the best known. The Silk Exchange Building designed by John T. Williams and erected in 1896, with its 12 floors. It is one of the tallest buildings in Soho. For a time, this building was the center of the silk trade and headquarters of the merchants association of this product. Its three last floors are richly decorated with motifs of leaves, scrolls and shells.
Another of the well-known buildings of Soho, is the Haughwout building built in 1857 by the architect John Gaynor. Another of its characteristics is that he was the pioneer in installing the first passenger elevator in the world, with a hydraulic system designed by Otis. It was powered by a steam engine that was in the basement.
We decided to go down Greene Street, since we had read that it was one of the most representative buildings of this style, as well as numerous art galleries and it did not disappoint us. More representative buildings would be, the Little Singer Building built in 1904 by Ernest Flagg. The construction, has twelve floors and the architect used red brick, steel, reddish terracotta and glass to frame the elegant facade.
The balconies have delicate wrought iron grills of sophisticated design and vary from one floor to another. It was designed as a showroom for the company Singer, hence its name. The Gunther Building was designed by Thomas Griffith and was completed in 1871. In addition to the common cast iron in the area, it is distinguished from its neighbors by its white facade, its decoration with columns Corinthians, and its corner of curved glass. Its name owes it to an important 19th century furrier who stored textiles and furs there.
After this pleasant walk, we still had day to take advantage, and we decided to visit Ground Zero, and the 9/11 Memorial. We went to the subway stop of canal street. There we had the first contact with the suburban New York, which is old and dirty, but it is effective. We got off at the World Trade Center subway station, which leaves us right next to the memorial. We passed the garden of St Paul's Chapel and went to the entrance at the corner of Albany Street and Greenwich Street.
As the area was still under construction (the Freedom tower was not yet finished and the museum still had enough), we entered through a corridor still limited by metal fences and scaffolding on one side. On the other is the FDNY Memorial Wall, a large mural of bronze erected in memory of the 342 firefighters who lost their lives in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
This mural is placed on the facade of Fire Station No. 10, the closest to the World Trade Center complex. At the end of the corridor, we reach the security arch. We have to leave bags and backpacks to be scanned and pass through the arch, just like at the airport. Then, we go directly to the memorial park and there is silence.
It's amazing like in the heart of Manhattan, which must be one of the noisiest places in the world. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a haven of peace, an oasis between the hustle and bustle of the big city. Respect is maximum, as well as security. Without looking too closely, we can see numerous surveillance cameras, as well as police attentive to any suspicious little movement or that they consider irreverent.
Among all the trees in the park, which are white oaks of California, one stands out especially, not only for not being of this species. It is a pear tree. This tree was found very damaged among the rubble after the attack. It was transplanted in a park until it recovered and it was returned to its original location in the WTC, becoming a symbol of survival and hope for New Yorkers.
We passed in front of what would be the future museum and sticking our noses to the glass, we could glimpse the two rusty steel tridents that were part of the structure of the facade of the Tower North, and that will be part of the exhibition. Surrounding the second pool we reached the base of Tower 1, known as Freedom, Tower, which was practically finished at that time. This tower has become the tallest building in the United States.
The building also has its symbolism, since its height in feet is 1776, the year of American independence, and the roof is located at 417 mtrs, just the height of the old twin towers. Anyway, apart from the buildings of the World Trade Center, there are many others around that are worthy of being admired. The architectural singularity of each of them is slightly eclipsed by the whole. The look goes from one to another, almost unable to set a specific goal between so much beautiful image.
After enjoying a little peace of the park sitting on a bench, we prepared to leave. The memorial was already closing, the afternoon was falling and we were already quite tired from an intense day. But before going to rest we still saw some interesting things in the vicinity, such as the Red Cube sculpture by the artist Isamu Noguchi. The steel painted bright red, contrasts with the dark backgrounds of the surrounding buildings.
A few steps away we find Zuccotti Park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park. Here is another red sculpture with French name, Joie de Vivre, by sculptor Mark di Suvero, with 70m of height. Just behind is a remarkable building, the Equitable Building. When it was completed in 1915, it was the largest office building in the world. It can be said that it was the precursor of the great skyscrapers. It has 38 floors and is shaped like an H.
We saw that the square had stone tables and stools and it occurred to us that we could have dinner right there. So we bought food in a place next to the Burger King, who sold pizza and other food to take away. There we sat quietly to eat, and then almost dragging back again took the subway and head to the hotel. We went with the feeling that the day had spread a lot and we had earned a well deserved rest.