The sun setting over the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor on Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2020)
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The sun setting over the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor on Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2020)
Dec. 31, 2019: I looked in my files to see what I was doing 10 years ago. I was traveling widely, for one thing, and writing about my travels, but sometimes I wrote about things closer to home. There was this article, for instance, about an exhibition at the South Street Seaport Museum. I called it "The SS Normandie Sails into Manhattan." The article was published in February 2010. This is what I wrote:
The 19th-century piers that once lined the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan are gone except for one. The trans-Atlantic ocean liners they serviced are also gone except for Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which now docks in Red Hook, Brooklyn, when she visits New York City. But the SS Normandie, considered by some people to be the most beautiful ocean liner ever built, has returned.
This past week, an exhibit called "DecoDence: Legendary Interiors and Illustrious Travelers Aboard the SS Normandie" opened at the South Street Seaport Museum on Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan. Photographs record the splendor of the Normandie but the array of objects in this exhibit come closer than any picture could to suggesting the magnificence of this ship.
Amid cases of bibelots and fragments of the ship's luxurious appurtenances, chairs and tables are skillfully arranged in front of wall-sized photographs depicting the rooms for which they were designed.
It's easy to imagine those grand rooms decorated with Aubusson carpets, Lalique chandeliers and glass panels painted on the reverse side with gold and silver (a technique called verre églomisé) casting a flattering glow over the ship's elegant passengers. Add the detail mentioned by one passenger that the ship smelled of French cigarettes and expensive perfume, and it's possible to be back there again. Almost. If only.
The keel for the SS Normandie was laid on a cold January day in 1931 at Saint-Nazaire on the Loire. Though the world was going through an economic Depression worse than any since, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT) subsidized by the French government was determined to construct the most beautiful and most technologically advanced ocean liner ever built. The ship was to be a showcase of French design and the epitome of luxury.
The Normandie's completion was delayed by several years because of the Depression, but finally, on May 29, 1935, she left Le Havre on her maiden voyage. She arrived in New York City on June 3, accompanied by tugboats, excursion vessels, yachts, ferries and fireboats. Around 30,000 people lined the seawall at Battery Park to see her come in.
The Normandie's seagoing career proved to be brief. In August 1939, she nosed into Pier 88 in midtown Manhattan for the last time. On Sept. 1, Germany invaded Poland and it was deemed better for the Normandie to remain in New York. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. government took over the ship, renaming her the USS Lafayette. She was stripped of all her finery, in preparation for becoming a troop ship. On Feb. 9, 1942, sparks from a welder's torch set some kapok-filled life jackets on fire. The fire raged out of control. On Feb. 10, she capsized, lying on her side at Pier 88 like a dying animal. Finally, she sank.
It's possible in the South Street Seaport Museum's exhibition to still feel the weight of that loss. The sadness is mitigated, however, because so much of what was in the Normandie was preserved. Almost all of the items in the exhibition come from the collection of New Yorker Mario Pulice, whose passion for the Normandie is only matched by his generosity in lending his collection to the museum for almost a year. The exhibition will be at the South Street Seaport Museum through January 2011, giving ample time to visit again and again. — Terese Loeb Kreuzer
(Photos of the Normandie, © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2010)
On a stage of modest size at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is currently performing a Yiddish operetta called "The Sorceress" that is so inventive that it looks like it was created by witchcraft. A high-spirited party that opens the show is the least of it. Over the next 80 minutes, among other things, an open-air market appears, a boat laden with people sails across the sea, the captive heroine of the story ends up in a Turkish opium den with a juggler, dancers and prostituted women and a building burns down.
The title character of the musical is a wicked sorceress, so of course the props include a large crystal ball and a cauldron emitting steam. The cook pot is under the supervision of three apprentice witches who dance wildly as they shriek and cackle. Their work in life is to torment anyone who crosses their path.
"The Sorceress" by Avrom Goldfaden dates from 1878 and was the first Yiddish musical to be produced in the United States. In August 1882, 14-year-old Boris Thomashefsky, later to be known as a renowned actor, produced "The Sorceress" at Turn Hall on East 4th Street, where the LaMama Theatre stands today. The Eastern European Jewish community of the Lower East Side lapped it up, laying the foundation for what came to be known a few decades later as the Yiddish Rialto. Night after night, theaters along Second Avenue were filled to capacity with audiences eager to see the great Yiddish actors in the best loved, and also the newest, Yiddish plays.
The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, now in its 105th season and the longest continually producing Yiddish theater company in the world, has launched what it calls its Global Restoration Initiative to identify and present the Yiddish theater's essential operettas, musicals and plays. For the last several years, members of NYTF have been scouring archives and libraries around the world, searching for librettos, scores and orchestrations. The musical material has been digitized, note by note, and the librettos transliterated and translated for use by contemporary artists and scholars. The work is then being adapted for today's audiences.
"The Sorceress" is the first fully restored work of this initiative. It is a story of deliberate evil and human-devised suffering cloaked as a fairy tale with many of the usual stock characters: an innocent, young woman whose beloved mother suddenly dies; a wicked witch and an equally wicked stepmother who connive to kidnap the maiden; a loving but naive and docile father; a prince, here depicted as the young woman's fiancé, who travels the world looking for his beloved, and so on.
But behind the fairy tale is gut-wrenching reality. The operetta, written during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, depicts family separation, libelous accusations, false imprisonment, human trafficking and forced servitude as tools of oppression. And for post-Holocaust audiences, the story presages much of what happened during World War II when Hitler and other Nazis persecuted Jews and attempted to wipe them from the face of the earth.
The NYTF's production of "The Sorceress" is a brilliantly executed tour de force. In the 19-member cast, Jazmin Gorsline as the maiden Mirele distinguishes herself with her crystalline singing. Mikhl Yashinsky is fearsome as the hulking witch, Bobe Yakhne, and Rachel Botchan as Basye is the conniving stepmother from hell. Steve Sterner provides comic relief as the unscrupulous peddler Hotsmakh. But top honors have to go to director Motl Didner, music director Zalmen Mlotek, choreographer Merete Muenter, scenic designer Dara Wishingrad, costume designer Izzy Fields and a host of other behind-the-scenes talents who turned "The Sorceress" from an old chestnut into a luminous gem of color, action and ultimately of the message that in the long run, evil doesn't triumph or as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
— Terese Loeb Kreuzer
"The Sorceress," in Yiddish with English and Russian super-titles, will be playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Dec. 29, 2019. For more information and to buy tickets, go to https://mjhnyc.org/events/the-sorceress-2/
(Photos: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)
A mast-high Christmas tree has been set up on Fulton Street in the South Street Seaport and the historic buildings of Schermerhorn Row have been decorated with slide projections of snowflakes. The ice-skating rink on top of Pier 17 is open. If it's gifts and cards you want, be sure to check out the South Street Seaport Museum's printing shop and charming, old-fashioned store at 209-211 Water St. (Photos: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)
A scene from THE SORCERESS, written in 1878 and the first Yiddish musical to be performed in the United States. The current production comes from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and will be at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City through Dec. 29, 2019. For more information, read Downtown Post NYC. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)
It's not too late to take a cruise from Manhattan up the Hudson River, maybe as far as the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly known as the Tappan Zee Bridge), to see the fall foliage. Through November 17, Classic Harbor Line has four boats still assigned to fall foliage outings. Circle Line's last trip of the season to Bear Mountain will be on November 10.
The latest issue of the Downtown Post NYC newsletter, emailed free to subscribers on November 5, had a detailed article about this. You can read that issue via a link on the Downtown Post NYC website (www.DowntownPostNYC.com) where you can also sign up for a subscription to the newsletter so that you will be able to read it when it comes out and not have to wait.
It's Nov. 5! Election day. The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. For more information about your polling place, go to https://www.vote.nyc.ny.us/html/home/home.shtml
(Photo: People lined up to vote in Tribeca during the presidential election, November 2016. © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Public Notice - Additional Hearings Relating to Objections to the 1st Municipal Court District in the Borough of Staten Island
If you haven't voted early — (today, Nov. 3, is the last day to do that) — or voted by absentee ballot, be sure to vote on Nov. 5, election day. The polls will be open on Nov. 5 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This year, you will find three candidates for Public Advocate on the ballot: Jumaane D. Williams (Democrat); Joseph Borelli (Republican, Conservative); and Devin Balkind (Libertarian).
You will also find five proposals for revising the New York City Charter. The proposals are somewhat complicated and unless you've been following the discussions about them — and I'm guessing you haven't — you might not know how to vote even though each of these proposals will have wide-ranging and long-term effects on life in New York City.
Several propositions have been lumped together under each category. The categories are as follows:
Question 1: Elections
Question 2: Civilian Complaint Review Board
Question 3: Ethics and Government
Question 4: City Budget
Question 5: Land Use
You might like to know that the New York City Bar Association's New York City Charter Revision Task Force recommends voting "yes" on each of these proposals. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also recommends a "yes" vote on all of them. The New York Times demurs, recommending "yes" on the first four and "no" on the last one.
For more information about the proposals, read the Downtown Post NYC newsletter (emailed free to subscribers) or go to voting.nyc.
Tomorrow, Oct. 26, the 18th Annual Battery Park City Dogs Halloween Puppy Parade will be held starting at noon.
As usual, the parade will start on the BPC esplanade at the South Cove wooden arbor and will proceed north on the Esplanade to the plaza area near the North Cove Marina where dogs (and their humans) will be judged on their costumes.
You don't have to own a dog to enjoy this event. You can stand around and gawk at the exuberance and creativity on display and the sheer silliness. You can also contemplate how good-natured most dogs are, willing to do almost anything to please the people they live with.
Prizes will be awarded for Best Costume – Large Breed; Best Costume – Small Breed; Best Owner & Dog Combo; Best Dog Team Costume. A Tail-Wagging Contest for Small & Large Dogs will be held again this year. There will be a raffle for "exciting prizes."
If you and your pup plan to participate, please note that all dog owners and their dogs (in costume) should meet promptly at 11:50 a.m. on the Esplanade at the South Cove Arbor.
(For more about what's going on in Lower Manhattan, read the Downtown Post NYC newsletter, emailed free to subscribers, and check out the Downtown Post NYC website, which is updated daily.)
(Some photos from previous Halloween Puppy Parades. © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
In some ways, New York City is a good place to grow old and in other ways, it could use improvement. For instance, The New York Times carried an item this morning (Oct. 23) stating that of the city's 472 subway stations, only about 25 percent are accessible to riders in wheelchairs. The Times goes on to note that some stations are so deep beneath the city that riders must walk up 100 steps to get to the street.
Public transportation and other issues will be discussed on Sunday, Oct. 27, when Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer hosts "Age-Friendly Manhattan,” a free event to launch the "Make Manhattan Mine: Aging with Ease in Manhattan" initiative to transform the borough into a better place to grow older.
The event will feature presentations, panels, exhibits, and hands-on activities on topics like transportation, technology, healthy living, advance-care planning, and the arts. There will also be a listening session with many leaders in the field of age inclusiveness, including NYC Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine A. Cortés-Vázquez.
There will also be a screening of short films including 'Exceeding Expectations Storytelling Project' by Dorian Block and Ruth Finkelstein, which documents the lives of 20 New Yorkers as they navigate their 80's.
Brewer's office will also be releasing a new age-friendly guide to Manhattan supermarkets and the Aging Artfully guide to the borough's free and low-cost cultural programs.
Place: John Jay College, 524 W. 59th St. Time: 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Free. To register, go to the Downtown Post NYC website (www.DowntownPostNYC.com)
(Photos: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Seniors! Today, Oct. 22, is your last chance this season to participate in the Senior Fresh Food Program. It lets seniors order a mixed bag of fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables from local farmers for only $8. The program is pay-as-you-go, cash only. Order on Oct. 22 for the final 2019 delivery date of Tuesday, Nov. 5. Bring $8 to the Battery Park City Authority community room at 200 Rector Place, time: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pick up your bag of fresh produce on Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Other participating sites in Lower Manhattan are St. Margaret's House, 49 Fulton St., from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the Southbridge Towers Community Room, 90 Beekman St.
(Photo: Cora Fung from City Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office, Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, and Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, helping to bag fresh produce in Battery Park City to mark the expansion of the Fresh Food for Seniors program to Lower Manhattan. The program enables older New Yorkers to buy regionally grown fruits and vegetables for $8 a bag. Oct. 8, 2019. © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
On Sept. 23, a few days before the start of Rosh Hashanah, a solemn unveiling took place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. Preceded by prayers and followed by speeches, Prof. Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz and Luis Ferreiro, director of the exhibition currently at the museum entitled "Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away" reverently pulled back a black cloth covering a display case. It held a shofar — the ram's horn that is sounded on Rosh Hashanah to mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year and again on Yom Kippur to mark the end of the Day of Atonement.
This particular shofar was freighted with meaning and memories. Although possession of a religious artifact would have been punishable by death, one of the Jewish prisoners transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp had brought it with him.
"At great danger, inmates at Auschwitz sounded this shofar," said Bruce Ratner, chairman of the museum's board of trustees.
Prof. Baumel-Schwartz's father, Chaskel Tydor, himself an Auschwitz inmate, enabled that to happen. He was one of the prisoners responsible for organizing the camp's work details. Seventy-five years ago, during Rosh Hashanah, he arranged for many of his comrades to be sent to a work detail far from the center of the camp, where the shofar could be sounded without attracting attention.
Tydor saw the shofar again four months later. In late January 1945, he and thousands of other prisoners were forced to leave Auschwitz on what has become known as the Death March. An emaciated prisoner approached him, handed him an object wrapped in a rag and said, "Take it...I'm too sick to survive. Maybe you will make it. Take the shofar. Show them that we had a shofar at Auschwitz."
Tydor did survive. He hid the shofar in the small bag in which he carried his cup and spoon. He had it when he was liberated on April 11, 1945 by the U.S. Army.
The shofar remained with his family. Until his death in 1993, Tydor blew the shofar during the High Holy Days and told and retold the story. But it had never been displayed nor had the story been publicly recounted until now.
In that crowded room at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Rabbi Eli Babich sounded the Auschwitz shofar. It filled the room.
"What happened today was extremely, extremely moving," said Prof. Baumel-Schwartz. "When Rabbi Babich was blowing the shofar, I closed my eyes and I could imagine my father blowing it, as he did year after year. I could see him standing there and that's when I had tears in my eyes." She said that she could feel his presence.
"The shofar is not only for Jews," she added. "It's for everybody, once a year to hear that cry and say, 'This is where we stop and take stock of our year and what we have done.'"
"The task of the shofar is to pierce the heavens," said Dr. Michael Berenbaum, curator of "Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away." "For religious Jews, the blowing of the shofar was a sacred act even in the most anti-sacred place in the history of the world. But even for the most secular and unbelieving of Jews, this was an act of pure and absolute defiance."
— Terese Loeb Kreuzer
(The shofar is now part of the Auschwitz exhibition, which will be on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Jan. 3, 2020. For more articles and photographs, read the Downtown Post NYC newsletter. It is emailed free to subscribers. To sign up, go to the Downtown Post NYC website — www.DowntownPostNYC.com).
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