Personal, political, fight against oppression
Michele Clark (Psychology Program faculty) has started a story-based blog about being Jewish on the Lower East Side 1945 to 1960. It is called Rivington at Essex.
Michele vulnerably and eloquently shares her experience as a New York Jew and historian of family, community, and meat. She writes:
“Our grandfather, Zayde Schmulka Bernstein, was famous long ago in the small world of observant Jews for the purity of his kosher meat products and the generosity of his purse…They called him the ‘Angel of Rivington Street,’ Aunt Lillian had said. He brought people home so he could feed them.
“We could not then imagine that we would someday find ourselves in the present world where friends state with an air of superior knowledge, ‘Oh we never eat red meat.’ Minute steak, chuck roast, shoulder or brisket, Delmonico, flanken steak cubed or rib, lamb chops baby or shoulder. We loved them all and dined on the best cuts – two, three, four times a week. Red meat was essential, like the human need for earth, air and fire. God Himself loved the savory fragrance of roasting beef or goat or sheep. When, in Genesis, He ‘smelled the soothing aroma’ of Noah’s burnt offerings, He was convinced to spare the world.”
Michele’s poetic period-piece is a slice of life that explores family, religion, ritual, and Kosher eating. Through her stories, she captures a time that is rich and sacred; her portraits are lined with sweet and intimate moments descriptively reflective of family values and community life.
Her blog posts bring alive the dynamic of a neighborhood from the past that illustrates how remembrance communicated through personal story can feel timeless. Michele connects the past with the present and weaves her memories into a vivid narrative. In doing so, she also presents her life as one going forward into the future, carrying with it the blessings of the lessons and beauty gleaned from history.
Note: an abridgment of this story appears in the article, “Is Activism Dead?” in the Clockworks Fall/Winter 2015 issue on page 8.