Look for ‘neighborhood preservation,’ which focuses on people and culture along with buildings, to become an even bigger trend in American cities — with Jewish activists taking the lead.
Recent news of an eccentric man with 1,280 pieces of Nazi-looted art in his Munich apartment brings to mind ‘Monsieur Klein,’ a classic of cinema from 1976.
Herman Broder is a gangly loser who’s won the biggest prize of all: his life. After surviving the Nazi onslaught in Poland by hiding in a haystack, he emigrates to America — specifically, Coney Island — with the gentile Polish woman who hid him, and who is now his wife. This is the setting of “Enemies: A Love Story,” a play performed for four nights last week by the Gesher Theater Company at the Frederick P. Rose Theater in New York.
On a recent late-winter afternoon, the workers’ center on the second floor of a nondescript office building in New York City’s Chinatown was full and busy. Everyone had just eaten lunch; warm soup was welcome after picketing in the cold outside an offending restaurant, Saigon Grill on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In the rear of the small office suite, with worn blue industrial carpet underfoot and inspirational posters bearing Mandarin Chinese writing on the walls, a circle of Saigon Grill’s delivery men discussed how to deal with what they called their employer’s latest affronts.
Along the broad boulevards and dignified streets of the largely liberal, Jewish Upper West Side, sweatshops don’t seem to be sprouting. From Riverside Park to Lincoln Center, from Harry’s Shoes to Zabar’s, the neighborhood appears to be a civilized place where the days of residents, working folk and visitors unspool in familiar, reassuring rhythms.
Garment industry sweatshops are hardly a thing of the past in New York City: They are a feature of commerce today. The New York State Department of Labor has found it necessary to maintain particular vigilance for several decades, founding the Apparel Industry Task Force in 1987 to monitor the city’s largest manufacturing sector. Today, that task force has a staff of 30, including multilingual investigators, who also comprise the Fair Wages Task Force. The chief of both units, Lorelei Salas, director of strategic enforcement, said that their missions overlap because “the same conditions you find in the garment industry, you can find in other low-wage industries.”
Gal Beckerman?s comprehensive history of the popular movement to save Soviet Jews in the latter half of the 20th century is the winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award, the Jewish Book Council announced January 11. ?When They Come for Us, We?ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle To Save Soviet Jewry,? written by Forward staff writer Beckerman and published in September by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, tracks a quarter-century of efforts from the grassroots to the geopolitical in the United States and the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate from the land where they were neither allowed to practice Judaism nor permitted to leave.
Will the law allow return, Korrie Xavier wonders, for gay former military service members like her, who left the service only because they had to? Just five years after her bat mitzvah, Xavier joined the Navy as a seaman recruit. She was trained to maintain and fire weapons systems on the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship based in San Diego. She liked the structure, the camaraderie, and sailing to ports from southeast Asia to Abu Dhabi. Barely in her 20s, the Michigan native became the nerve center of Jewish shipboard life — all while hiding her sexuality under her Navy uniform blues.
After more than a year of fine-tuning, the criteria for earning a Magen Tzedek, the “seal of justice” to be awarded to kosher food producers that meet a detailed set of ethical standards, are about to be tested by American food companies. The seal would be added to products that already merit a hekhsher, or symbol certifying that a food item is kosher, to show that the product not only meets Jewish dietary laws, but comports with Jewish moral values, as well.