(*What, you thought his name was really ‘Dangerfield?)
Rise up, South Florida’s Jewish community – a traveling exhibition celebrating Jewish delicatessens is landing in Houston and Chicago…but not here!
Many years ago, when I first started writing Around the Block, I introduced my stories with a line I shamelessly lifted from Chris Hayes of MSNBC. Chris had a segment on his weekend show called, “Tell me what you know now that you didn’t know last week,” which I turned into the opening of many of my posts this way, “I learned today…”
With that lede…
I learned today that in a display of history and nostalgia, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles is memorializing a fading cuisine: the Jewish delicatessen. The exhibit is called, “I’ll Have What She’s Having.” (If you don’t understand why the show is called “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” you might think about not reading any further.)
After leaving the Skirball, the exhibition will travel the “country” memorializing the Jewish delicatessen, looking back at that vibrant institution that was fueled by immigration and irresistible food.
One note before I continue. I’m writing this story on Saturday, July 23, 2022. As many readers know, for Jews, Saturday is Shabbat (the Sabbath), our day of rest. So you might ask, how can I be writing on the day I should be resting? I’ll address that in two ways: 1) In my mind, writing this story is like resting; it provides an escape from opining about the truly horrific news of the ever escalating deterioration of our democracy and our country; and 2) Similar to some of the delis showcased in the exhibit, Around the Block is a non-kosher blog, not a kosher one, and is open on Saturday.
Now, you might also ask, why did I write travel the “country”?
Because, given the nature of this exhibition, I’m not sure which “country” they’re talking about.
After leaving Los Angeles, “I’ll Have What She’s Having” moves to New York City (New York Historical Society), then to Houston (Holocaust Museum Houston), finishing the tour in Skokie, IL (Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center).
Notice anything wrong with this schedule? Anyone? Anyone? Not only does this exhibition have nothing to do with the Holocaust, if the tour is traveling the “country” and more specifically, the “Jewish country,” how can it not travel to South Florida? Didn’t anyone look at the numbers?
I did. And although I knew it already, I’d bet most people didn’t: South Florida has the third-largest Jewish population in the United States (535,500), after New York (2,109,300) and Los Angeles (622,480). And, based on its Jewish % of total population of 8.3%, it is #2 after New York (11.00%) and far ahead of Los Angeles (4.7%), Chicago (3.1%) or Houston (0.7%).
And, not only that, based on a completely unscientific study done by Around the Block in pre-COVID 2020 (margin of error +/- 30 points), 67.3% of that South Florida Jewish population is from New York, the place where 85.4% of the delis in the exhibition are from. Yet, this exhibit is going to Houston with less than 52,000 Jews, representing 0.7% of the total population?
This is a shanda!* It needs to be rectified before it’s too late. Jews of South Florida unite! Take a few minutes out of your campaign to rid the Sunshine State of the gonifs* Ron DeSantis and Marco Rubio. to join another, possibly more important campaign: the campaign to BRING “I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING TO SOUTH FLORIDA!” Write to the Skirball, write to Around the Block, write to our local museums, write to your Congressman (Lois Frankel, are you listening?)…request, nay, DEMAND, that “I’ll Have What She’s Having” comes to South Florida. And then go to 3Gs and indulge on their hand-carved pastrami on hand-sliced rye. Take that, Katz’s!
(*For those of you who knew the “I’ll Have What She’s Having” reference but can’t go further into Jewish knowledge, “shanda” is the Yiddish term for “a shame; a scandal” while “gonif” is a “scoundrel.)
Finally, as a courtesy to readers who do not subscribe to the New York Times where the article about “I’ll Have What She’s Having” originally ran, here’s a PDF version of it. Enjoy…and remember…it’s pastrami, rye, deli mustard, hold the mayonnaise…and a full, not half-sour pickle!