Bagel Lover’s Lament

JTA reports:

H&H bagel store to close
June 22, 2011
NEW YORK (JTA) — H&H Bagels, the no-frills bagel shop that for decades was a beloved fixture of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is reportedly closing its doors.

The store, located at 80th and Broadway, is famous for its no-nonsense food service; customers who want a bagel with a schmear have to buy the cream cheese separately and put it on themselves.

The store reportedly will close in the next few days. Employees said H&H’s factory store on West 46th Street would remain open.

Founded in 1972, the story recently fell into fiscal troubles, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptc

y in February. That came on the heels of guilty plea in May 2010 by its owner and co-founder Helmer Toro to grand larceny charges. Toro had failed to fork over some $330,000 in payroll taxes he had withheld from employees, according to The New York Times.

City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said the loss of the store would be a crushing blow to the neighborhood.

“It’s an institution, almost like a museum,” Brewer told the Times. “Everybody dreams of their store being a destination, but this one really is a destination. You can literally get a hot bagel at 3 o’clock in the morning, and it literally comes out of the oven in front of you.”

Matisyahu Brings Message Of “One Day” To Auschwitz

From Matisyahu “This show was so amazing. It was a journey. Mystical.”

What is the world’s most famous Jewish musician doing in Poland this weekend? He is bringing the message of “One Day” to Auschwitz:

“One day this all will change
treat people the same
stop with the violence
down with the hate
one day we’ll all be free
and proud to be
under the same sun
singing songs of freedom”

“One Day,” a world-wide anthem of peace, was NBC’s official song of the Winter Olympics, and played at the World Cup concluding ceremonies.

Matisyahu’s performance in Oświęcim, the Polish city renamed Auschwitz in 1939 by the Nazis, is the brainchild of Darek Maciborek, a radio DJ for Poland’s most popular station for young adults. Maciborek has built a three-day music and camping festival to promote tolerance called Life Festival, which attracted 15,000 young Poles last summer. The Festival is dedicated to battling anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of xenophobia and to send a message of peace and tolerance from Auschwitz/Oświęcim.

This mega-music Festival is the latest incarnation of efforts to offset the immense evil perpetrated there. Oświęcim is home to a German educational center. Young Germans who choose to perform their national service at the Auschwitz State Museum reside and study there. The Auschwitz Jewish Center is also located there. This precious museum, built by American Jews, the Polish Government, and the city of Oświęcim, resides in the ancestral home of the Kornreich family to commemorate hundreds of years of Jewish life in Oświęcim before the war.

There are some who feel that Auschwitz should be condemned forever as a place of evil, and that efforts to bring a festival, a tolerance center, or visitors’ center are misplaced, if not sacrilegious.

Others believe that the way to prevent another Auschwitz is to draw the world’s attention to what happened here, and use this as a means of teaching tolerance.

One thing is certain: Saturday night’s concert will be one of the most emotional performances of this young musician’s life. Last year during his performance in Krakow, Matisyahu was overwhelmed by his audience. “During my show in Krakow last year, I kind of lost it,” said Matisyahu, “I got very emotional, and had to leave and the come back. There were a lot of Survivors at the concert and it was very emotional.”

This Saturday night, just a few miles from where a million Jews were murdered, Matisyahu will sing his anthem of a peaceful future for tens of thousands of young Poles. “All my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for,” sings Matisyahu in “One Day”, “for the people to say, that we don’t wanna fight no more, they’ll be no more wars, and our children will play.”

And while we will not know how the message of “One Day” will influence these young people right away, we can appreciate what it represents. Matisyahu is writing a new chapter in Polish-Jewish relations with his music.

Shabbat Shalom
Originally appeared on and

Yonah Bookstein, a leading voice of the Next Generation of American Jewry, is an internationally recognized expert in Jewish innovation, founder of Jewlicious Festival and Executive Rabbi at JConnectLA. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiYonah.

Ninel’s Samovar

I first met Ninel in 1991 when I was introduced to Ninel by her son Mati. Mati was a young, charismatic student leader at the forefront of the resurgence of Jewish life in post-Communist Poland. Ninel’s renowned, book-lined apartment, which graced the pages of a 1986 National Geographic, had made her famous five years before I got to Poland. I felt that I knew her already. “Remnants” they had called them, “The Last Jews Of Poland.” Ninel was no remnant.

Ninel was a printer for the Solidarity movement and risked arrest under martial law for distributing hand-printed newsletters and books whose goal was to bring down the Communist regime that her parents helped establish. Her name Ninel, is Lenin spelled backwards.

During the anti-Semitic purges of 1968, when thousands of Jews fled, Ninel remained in Poland to tend to her sick parents. Ninel worked for 25 years at the Jewish Historical Institute, cataloging minute by minute more than 1,000 movies depicting Nazi atrocities during theHolocaust. Each film was like a dagger through her heart, but she felt “she owed it to them because she survived.”

Ninel’s tiny, pre-WWI apartment on Jagiellonska — my refuge in Poland during my first two summers there, and during my first year living in Poland — was a rendezvous point for artists, writers, revolutionaries, musicians, and actors who crowded around her wooden table and its shiny samovar, for strong tea and shots of peppered vodka.

Ninel became an accomplished Jewish writer. She authored Święta i tradycje żydowskie, Jewish Holidays and Traditions, still one of the best selling Jewish books in post-war Poland. Ninel’s respect for Jewish tradition rubbed off on her younger son, who had the first post-war public Bar Mitzvah in 1985. Currently, Rabbi Mati Kos, one of only a handful of post-Communist ordained Polish Rabbis, serves as a Jewish chaplain in Durham, UK.

Ninel’s kind eyes looked upon with compassion on all those who had suffered. In the meantime, she herself endured her own private exile in her own land, surrounded by a civilization that had been obliterated, and determined to keep their memory at the forefront of the world’s conscience. Her epitaph should read, “Died of a broken heart for the victims of the Holocaust and Communism.”

I will always cherish those days around Ninel’s samovar, translating for my mother and Ninel as they carried on great discussions about art and life, laughing till we cried. Ninel was a painter too, and her art hung from every corner of her home in solemn witness to her work.

Ninel passed away on June 4th, after loosing a long battle with illness, on the anniversary of the fall of Communism in Poland that she successfully fought. She is survived by her two sons and five grandchildren, and her samovar.

Rekindling Polish Jewish Life: A Video Compilation

Rarely seen footage from the rebirth of Polish Jewish life compiled into video in 2003.

Compilation of footage from programs created by Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein during work in rebuilding the Jewish community 1998-2001, as Directors of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. Yonah, began work in Poland with the Jewish community starting in June 1991. He was sent back to Poland in 1992 by Rabbi Chaskel Besser to be song leader at the summer camp run by Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the new country director of the Foundation. After continuing to travel to Poland for community programming and holidays on behalf of the Foundation, Yonah travelled to Krakow for a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in post-war Polish-Jewish relations. In Krakow, with the help of local young Jews and the Lauder Foundation, he started the Jewish Youth Club in Krakow, and other youth activities in 1993.

Yonah commuted back and forth from Oxford, England in the ensuing years to help with community renewal, and then with his wife Rachel, starting in 1996 from Israel. In 1998 Yonah and Rachel moved to Warsaw to take over community building efforts that had been led by Rabbi Schudrich who was Directing the Lauder Foundation. There they established several key community institutions, and rebuilt or renewed others including: Warsaw Mikvah, Jewish Book Festival, Jewish Culture Festival of Warsaw, Moses Shore Centrer, Lauder Ulpan, Bak Buk, Tourist Information Center and others. They left Poland in September 2011. Many of their students today are leaders of the Jewish community of Poland.

Some places mentioned in the video:

Camp Lauder / Srodborow – summer and winter retreats run for families, teens, students, and child survivors of the Holocaust.

Warsaw – scenes from community programs

Final scene is from Lodz – Jewish youth club and kindergarten