I had a four-day visit to Manhattan last week (and since my return to Jerusalem last Friday afternoon, I had to cope with so many tasks that had awaited me that I had no time to update this blog until one week after this visit). This was one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever made. I also thought that nothing could surprise me in Manhattan any more, but I experienced a couple of unexpected surprises in this visit.
The "official" reason for this visit was to take part in the annual conference of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew, held this time at Stern College in Manhattan, and give a talk here. When I participated in this three-day conference in 1996, we had only a few sessions on the language. Since then the conference as well as the association itself seems to have expanded greatly. The present conference far exceeded my expectation. I also met a number of Israeli researchers of Hebrew I would not see even in Israel. Although I enjoyed this academic gathering conducted almost entirely in Hebrew in the United States and received many positive feedbacks to a talk I gave there, I also felt frustrated as usual because I was forced to realize that the audience saw only my Hebraist part withought knowing that I am also a Yiddishist and Esperantist. This has given me another impetus to start thinking about writing a book that will incorporate all these three aspects of mine.
The main reason why 14 years have passed since I last participated in this conference is that I have waited for it to take place in Manhattan, my most favorite place in the world outside Israel. Seemingly I was not the only participant who thought this way. We had the largest number of participants in this annual conference in the history of the association.
I fully enjoyed this opportunity of being in Manhattan. The most pleasant surprise I had outside the venue of the conference was that a good old friend of mine living in Manhattan took the trouble of taking me to have dinner with him together with his wife and his daughter at a kosher Ashkenazic deli called 2nd Avenue Deli. When he asked me before my trip if the place would be alright with me, I simply did not know what to expect. But frankly speaking, I literally fell in love with the place. While still in Manhattan, I also started looking for other kosher Ashkenazic delis there, and found at least two. I visited one of them, but it was far less good than 2nd Avenue Deli not only in terms of the foods per se but also in terms of the cozy atmosphere, though it seems to have a more stringent kashrut certificate. This was a pleasant surprise because we have no such restaurants in Jerusalem and I found that Ashkenazic foods can also be turned into culinary pleasure at restaurants. Thank you, GJ, CJ, and EJ!
I also visited kosher Japanese and Indian restaurants, but they were quite disappointing, at least compared to their counterparts in Jerusalem. One thing that has surprised me about kashrut business in Manhattan is that quite a few kosher restaurants there are open on Sabbath, too. In Israel no kashrut certificate would be issued to any restaurant open on Sabbath.
I was also surprised to find how polite New Yorkers are. I seem to have encountered more expressions of apology and gratitude in four days in Manhattan that I would hear in a whole year in Jerusalem. Since then I have been wondering what distinguishes Manhattan from Jerusalem. Both cities have many immigrants from the four corners of the world, so people in Jerusalem or in Israel in general could behave themselves a little less rudely. Does this difference derive from the history, hence maturity, of the two countries?
Anyway, this visit to Manhattan has intensified my appetite to visit there again next summer. Then I would also like to visit other kosher Ashkenazic delis I could not visit this time.