Wednesday, July 13, 2005


The Gray Line tour bus wound its way through the streets of New York.

From Central Park and the Upper West Side, the bus headed south, through the spires of Midtown, toward Lower Manhattan. Greenwich Village. SoHo. TriBeCa. Chinatown. Little Italy.

Past Battery Park and Ground Zero. Wall Street. Then over the Manhattan Bridge into Williamsburg.

The tour guide delivered a running commentary during the journey, explaining to the goggle-eyed Iowans and Nebraskans that the people filling the sidewalks there, the ones in dark coats and broad-brimmed hats, were Hasidim – Orthodox Jews who continued to maintain a seventeenth-century lifestyle in 21st-century New York.

“These are very religious, pious people, clinging to their traditions, valuing study and learning above all other considerations.

“See on that street corner there, on the left? See that elderly gentleman, the one with the long white beard, holding that little boy’s hand? He is probably instructing the young man in the fine points of Talmud. If we open our windows and listen carefully as we drive past, perhaps we can hear some of the pearls of wisdom that the old man is trying to impart to his little grandson...”

As the bus slowly moved past the corner, the tourists strained to catch part of the old man’s conversation with the boy, and this is what they heard:

Azoy zugt men tzu Zayde? [This is how you talk to your Grandpa?] ‘Fuck you, Grandpa’?”

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