On Saturdays, I often wake up in a grumpy mood. I know it is Shabbat, a day for synagogue and siestas, for refraining from the frenzy of the workaday world, for building what Abraham Joshua Heschel famously called “a palace in time.” But in my apartment, the only castles under construction are the kind we tend to trip over, those erected from blocks by my 5-year-old son and my 7-year-old daughter. In my home, Saturday has long been simply the day before Sunday. And that makes me grouchy.
In New York, it was mid-August on a Sunday morning. In Tel Aviv, it was afternoon. I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialed 14 numbers.
“Shalom?” said an elderly woman.
“Shalom,” I replied. “And hello. I am looking for Eva H___. Are you Eva?”
“Yes.” Her voice sounded guarded and cautious: “Who are you?”
Climbing up the stairs of the Victoria Luise Platz subway station, I had the anxious feeling that I was going to a place that was filled with quiet importance. I expected myself to feel connected to this place, this West Berlin neighborhood surrounding a tree-lined park with benches scattered about, a fountain at its edge. While I can’t say that I felt a sense of belonging in my grandmother’s pre-Holocaust neighborhood or one of entitlement to her former building, to the sidewalk in front of it, I felt a sense of urgency of needing to understand this place.
Then it comes to ZIP codes, 90210 (Beverly Hills) and 02138 (Cambridge, Mass.) have nothing on New York’s 10013, otherwise known as Tribeca. The Triangle Below Canal Street, where luxurious lofts line the charming cobblestone streets, has become a residential boomtown, running from the Hudson River to Broadway, and bordered on the north by Canal Street and on the south by Vesey Street.
Today, the once-struggling Y is in excellent financial shape.
Today, the Y is at the center of the post-9/11 revival of Jewish life in Lower Manhattan, the home to scores of activities and to the Downtown Kehillah, the umbrella group for a dozen local Jewish institutions.
The most memorable incident in the life of 16-year-old Oopsie took place last year in a stranger’s hospital room in Israel.
Oopsie is the non-de-plume of Zachy Adler, a yeshiva high school student from Woodmere, L.I., who, as a clown outfitted with makeup, red foam-rubber nose and floppy ears, entertains kids in hospitals and senior citizens in nursing homes in both Israel and the United States. Visiting Tel Aviv’s Tel HaShomer Hospital with a group of fellow young clowns from the New York area, he noticed a sad-looking girl sitting alone in an open room.
One of these days, probably in the dark of winter’s early evening, Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips, a “fast approaching 50” native of Manhattan, with a large knit kipa atop her closely cut gray hair, will walk up the front stairs of a Jewish funeral home on the edge of Borough Park.
At this time last year, Dr. Asher Lipner had no idea he was on a course to become a grass-roots community organizer, particularly around such a delicate issue: child sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. But having successfully organized a conference attended by close to 50 survivors of abuse, clinicians, advocates and rabbis in Brooklyn in September, that, as well as a compassionate and outspoken advocate for victims of abuse throughout the Orthodox world, is exactly what he has become.