Picture

I saw this the other day. The sign on this bus reads:

“This ‘air condition’ on this bus was sponsored by the ‘Ladies Auxiliary’ of our congregation.”

I had to stop and take a picture, because I’ve never seen a part of a bus donated! And because I needed an air condition too, and I thought maybe this may be my answer.

But on a serious note, I thought the plaque was worth commenting. It is written entirely in Yiddish, unlike most donation signs that are written in at least some Hebrew. Where I’d expect to see the Hebrew word nadev for donate, we have sponsored transliterated in Yiddish. I’d venture to theorize that the reason it is a mix of Yiddish and English and not Hebrew is because it was sponsored by women. This reflects the very gendered language in the Hasidic community, where men read Hebrew fluently but little English, and women only speak Yiddish and English.

 

Where did the streets of Williamsburg get their names from? Many of the streets are named after the signers of the declaration of independence, especially from Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. Take Rutledge, Taylor, Clymer, Wilson, etc. The signature page below almost looks like a map!
Picture
Keap Street is named after Thomas McKean. I marked the signature in red. The signature is a scribble that could easily be misread. Whoever named the streets misread it and named it “Keap.” 

In 2009 there was talk of changing Keap St. to McKean St. but nothing came of that.
Picture
“Williamsburg, NY – Talk about patriotic penmanship.
Turnes out Williamsburg’s Keap Street, which was named after a Declaration of Independence signatory, has been badly misspelled for the past 154 years. “Keap” should really be “McKean” – the street’s actually named after signer Thomas McKean.
It took one attentive Williamsburg resident to spot the mistake. “People say, ‘it’s been there so long, let it keap’ – but I don’t want to let it keap,” quipped John Slagg, 87, who tipped Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office to the 19th-century foulup.“The man should not be denied the dignity and honor entitled to him,” said Slagg, who wore 309 Keap St. on his dogtags during World War II. To make amends, Markowitz called the sign a :historical error,” and proclaimed July 4 to be Thomas McKean Day in Brooklyn, in honor of McKean, whose sloppy handwriting lead to the mishap in the first place.

But is it enough of an “error” to have the sign changed? That remains to be seen, said a Department of Transportation spokesman, adding that no request for a street name change has been made. And anyway the City Council would have to approve it first.”
As for pronunciations – it seems the pronunciation for George Wythe is ‘with‘, not ‘white’ as the street is pronounced by natives.

Picture

Leonard Lopate, the host of WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, one of my favorite radio shows, grew up in Williamsburg. His family moved from Queens to Brooklyn/Williamsburg in about 1945, when he was five years old. That is, he must have lived in Williamsburg during very transformative yeras.

He told me in an email exchange that he used to live on 151 Ross, between Lee and Bedford Avenues!

Picture
Picture
Whenever he discusses his childhood in Williamsburg he talks about the seven years he lived on 352 Broadway, between Rodney and Keap, right by the train. In an interview with Edible Brooklyn he said:

“We grew up in what can only be called a rat’s nest of a building at 352 Broadway between Rodney and Keap. And it really is one of those places if you’re in an elevated train and the train stops between stations-we were between Marcy and Hewes – if the train stops and you look and you think, who the heck would live there: We did, for seven years. When the trains didn’t run in the middle of the night because there was a snowstorm I’d wake up in the middle of the night, because subconsciously it was so much a part of the normal process of the night.”
Picture
Picture
Lopate’s younger brother, writer Phillip Lopate, was a guest lecturer at my college, Sarah Lawrence College. He describes the Williamsburg of his childhood as the “ghetto.”

Since I wrote about the church in Kiryas Joel yesterday, a number of people shared with me their memories of the time when the peaceful, insular world of Kiryas Joel was overwhelmed by the mass influx of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the church on Mountain Road. It was an unforgettable sight when the buses poured in and the Hasidim went about their way.

One particular anecdote I heard was so ironic, I had to share it (with permission, of course.) A Hasid and Kiryas Joel resident who was on the Hatzalah/EMS force, responded to a 911 call. A woman had collapsed at the Jehovah’s Witnesses church. The first responder and two other Hasidic EMS members, in the full Hasidic regalia down to the tsitsit, had to find their way through throngs of worshippers inside the building to get to the patient. When the three Hasidic hatzalah members left the church with the patient, they got a standing ovation!

A clash of world like that – it’s incredible.

Picture

I always ask my groups what the above pastries are, and invariably a few people will call out rugelach. I ask if they know of another name for it, and not once has anyone ever said kipelach.

I asked Kaff’s Bakery what the difference between rugelach and kipelach is, and the cashier said that it’s the same; the terms are interchangeable. In our family we used to call the above kipelach, and the below rugelach. I’d eat both interchangeably though…

Picture

Actually, the origin of both names are worth looking at. According to the Nibble,“Its name [rugelach] comes from the Yiddish “rugel,” or royal, and it goes by other names such as kipfel (in Hungary and the Czech Republic) and horns of plenty (in non-Jewish areas of the U.S., where people “rugelach” may not easily roll off the tongue).”

However, I never heard of the Yiddish word “rugel”. For regal, we used a Hebrew adaption of malchusdig or maybe the Yiddish keniglech or prechtig.

The encyclopedia of Jewish food has a long entry on the kipfel:

“Austrian bakers originally called the little pointed loaves of white bread zipfel (German meaning “corner/tip”), also spelled ciphel. Zipfel is still used, in conjunction with polster (cushion/padding); polsterzipfel refers to a jam-filled Austrian cookie, also known as Vienna kipfel and in Germany as hasenörchen (little rabbit ears). Meanwhile, the Viennese took to mispronouncing the pointed breads as kipfel, and the word soon becoming a synonym for the German hörnchen (crescent). 

“In Yiddish, the word kipfel came to specify crescent cookies, both leavened and unleavened, and not the croissant bread. One form of the cookies, nusskipferlin (nut crescents), still ranks among the favorite Ashkenazic cookies. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants brought the kipfel to America…

In late twentieth century America, kipfel, particularly with an unleavened cream cheese dough, became better known as rugelach.”

It seems the original kipfele had a pronounced F that is no longer around in the Hasidic pronunciation, which is kipele.

In the 1933 Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife, there’s a kipfel recipe. It calls for a lot of cottage cheese in the dough, something I imagine no one who makes Hasidic kipelach does. The pastry is described as “Hungarian half moon cookies.” Here’s the recipe. The word “filling” is transliterated in Yiddish, already beginning the tradition of adopting English words to Yiddish.

Picture

If anyone makes it, please email me the pictures of the kipfels and let me know how it tastes!