New York City is a vital part of Jewish culture. How many New Yorkers spit out the words schlep, oy vey or nosh, without ever having stepped into a temple? From the Lower East Side immigrant Jewish experience to Hasidic Williamsburg, the city teems with Jewish life. If you’re looking to be schooled on Jewish culture in this ethnically rich city, here are some spots to visit on your self-guided tour of Jewish New York.
Be sure to take this tour on an empty stomach to make room for the bialys, pickles and knishes you’ll be feasting on. But I promise, it’s not just about the food. And everything is just a subway ride away.
Lower East Side
At the turn of the 20th century, the Lower East Side was home to many Eastern European immigrant Jews living in tenements and shopping from pushcarts. Take a peek into an original tenement on a Tenement Museum tour. For a look at synagogue life in the same era, walk to the Museum at Eldridge Street to see the picturesque interior of this restored 19th century synagogue. The pushcart culture might be gone, but you can still buy a kosher pickle from The Pickle Guys. And don’t forget to pick up some fresh bialys at the legendary Kossars Bialys.
In Crown Heights, kids can climb through a large plastic challah at an exhibit at the Jewish Children’s Museum, which offers families an interactive look at Jewish life and culture.
Further into Brooklyn, take a stroll down Avenue J, filled with kosher bakeries, and Judaica shops. Enjoy a burger at the popular fast food restaurant, Kosher Delight or head to the high-end supermarket Pomegranate, which is comparable to a Jewish Whole Foods.
Upper East Side
On Museum Mile, you can take in an exhibit or visit the permanent collection at The Jewish Museum. Peruse the museum at the historic Temple Emanuel. Then end the day with a production in Yiddish or English from The National Yiddish Theater; this historic theatrical company stages their shows at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.
Upper West Side
Pretend you’re George and Jerry on Seinfeld and have soup or an overstuffed sandwich at Mendy’s. For a dose of culture that goes beyond TV, the JCC offers a slew of Jewish cultural programs from arts to cooking.