The 2nd Avenue Deli is back. But is it a harbinger of a Jewish renaissance or just the last fading pang of New York’s Jewish twilight? The question is raised in today’s issue of The Jewish Week, and it’s a good one. Despite the return of Chez Lebewohl, the world of Jewish food is already little more than a memory: Take away a few landmarks like Russ and Daughters, Katz’s, Yonah Schimmel, and Sammy’s Roumanian, and the entire world of Jewish food would be as forgotten as the Punic Wars. All the dairy restaurants, Romanian steakhouses, cafeterias, candy stores, bakeries, appetizing stores — they’re already forgotten, even in distant Brooklyn and Queens. The Week asked Arthur Schwartz, probably the city’s foremost authority on old-time New York food, and he gives a dismal picture: “Schwartz maintains that Jewish food has suffered greatly in quality over the last few decades, since Jews tend to eat their own food only on holidays — ‘and then we make everything we know, and then everyone gets sick.’” Add to that contemporary Jews’ horror of the fatty meats that were the Jewish kitchen’s stock in trade, and you have a recipe for cultural oblivion. Can a revived 2nd Avenue Deli, or the brisket revival staged by a few barbejews, stem the tide? Stranger things have happened.
‘Not Just A Deli Like Any Other’ [Jewish Week]
Related: It’s Time to Get Excited About the Second Avenue Deli