An Exhibit on the Jewish Delicatessen Seeks to Avoid Kitsch and Nostalgia

Aug. 12 2022

At Los Angeles’s Skirball Cultural Center until September 18, and slated to come to the New-York Historical Society on November 11, a new exhibit seeks to tell the history of the American Jewish kosher deli—and to recreate the sights and experiences, if not the tastes. Adam Nagourney writes in his review:

The exhibition is an exploration of the food and culture that thrived in New York and later Los Angeles, with their large Jewish and show-business communities, along with cities like Chicago, Houston, Miami, and Indianapolis. As such, it surveys the story of immigration as a force behind changing American tastes: the pushcarts, as the curators note, foreshadowed the food trucks now operated by a new generation of immigrants. A grainy film clip near the start of the exhibit shows police officers fanning out to clear carts from a New York street in the early 1900s, a scene reminiscent of the 2020 crackdowns in Los Angeles on unlicensed food vendors.

But there is also something elegiac about the exhibit, a reminder that delis and the food they served are no longer as prevalent as they were 50 years ago, even in Jewish life. The show is an exercise not only in history, but in nostalgia. There were an estimated 3,000 Jewish delis in New York City in the 1930s; now there are just a few dozen, according to the New-York Historical Society.

But Lara Rabinovitch, a food writer and historian who helped curate the exhibition, said this was not intended as a sentimental journey. “When I came on board I had two caveats: One is we had to treat the Jewish deli as part of the American landscape,” she said. “And two, we could not succumb to kitsch and nostalgia. When it comes to Jewish food, deli or Jewish foo can evoke a lot of conversations and a lot of kitsch and nostalgia.”

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Read more at New York Times

More about: American Jewish History, Jewish food, Museums

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam