Nella Shapiro’s waiting room feels more like a living room than an antiseptic medical office. European vintage posters, lush plants and colorful sofas fill the room, and the breast surgeon is often up front, greeting patients by name. One day last week, a woman who had surgery about six years ago insisted on coming in with a friend who is now a patient, just to say hello to the doctor.
"You saved my life," she reminds the doctor, who then asks about the woman’s grandson.
Separated by a thousand years, Queen Esther and Scheherazade were both the second wives of betrayed and humiliated kings. Both were selected by these kings from a harem, after a thousand women came before them. And both women’s lives were hanging by a thread, yet they chose to stand up for themselves and others and save lives.
Peter Melnick remembers being taken to see “The Sound of Music” on Broadway when he was a few years old. Growing up, he thought everyone’s grandfathers was like his — Richard Rodgers — and wrote wonderful musicals.
By age 6, Melnick knew that he too wanted to write musicals. At 12, he went with his grandmother to Boston to see his grandfather in rehearsals for “Two by Two,” and he found it “incredibly exciting to hang out in the back of the theater and listen.”
Nobody shops for shirtwaists anymore. Even those who favor women’s tailored blouses are unlikely to know their traditional name. The word shirtwaist still recalls the worst factory fire in the history of New York City, on March 11, 1911, at the Triangle Waist Factory, also known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That day, at least 146 workers died, most of them immigrant Jewish women, many jumping through the blazing windows to their deaths. The building, at the corner of Washington and Greene Streets in Greenwich Village, still stands.
The hairpin turns along the Blue Ridge Parkway reveal astonishing vistas, with deepening shades of blue and green, mountains and their shadows, around each bend. So too, a last-minute vacation to visit friends in Greensboro, N.C., attend a bluegrass festival, and travel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned into a detour into Southern Jewish history. We bumped into family stories in unexpected places, and later picked up subsequent chapters.
‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made,” Robert Browning wrote in “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” The Victorian poet had interests in Judaica and was inspired by the 12th-century Spanish scholar and poet, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. In Browning’s optimistic poem, youth and age are not flip sides of life’s journey; generations are interconnected, always.
As we near the end of the first decade of the new century, I wonder which books we’ll later look back on as best capturing our present time.
This season, several new books are fine period pieces, conjuring other eras. Non-fiction narratives depict a particular time and place through research and documentation; novels do so through invention, embellishing actual events.
Young Families, Singles Flocking to Upper East Side; ‘The Memory Is In Their Taste Buds’: The Lure of Sephardic Food; Safra Synagogue Rabbi’s Growing Empire; Sephardic And Egalitarian at B’nai Jeshurun; Giving Voice to Sephardic Music.