Koscher in Europa

Jüdisches Leben in EuropaMit der Hilfe des Himmels

[Kosher or kosher style?] [Olivenöl] [Wein] [Danel Feinkost] [koscher.net/witze]

Lower East Side, Manhattan:
Kossar’s Bialys

[English] [German]
367 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

From the book "Milch und Hering" Kosher Foodshops in New York

I never stayed with anything longer than three years except my husband. When I graduated college I had a speech and hearing BA and I worked in the Public School system for three years and then I had my first daughter. When I went back to work, after my second daughter was old enough to go to a program, I worked with senior citizens in the neighborhood, and I loved it. See, I never thought I was talented. I had nothing zero. Now I’m a baker, I have one talent -- bialys.

My maiden name is Freund. The grandparents on both sides are Germans.
My paternal grandmother was from Aschaffenburg and my grandfather was from Frankfurt. They were born around 1910. When they took away my grandfather’s livelihood, in ’38, he went to France, where my father was born “on the way”, and then they came to America 1939. My grandfather was a lawyer and he was ready to be a judge. They were able to take their stuff, so we still have furniture from Germany.
My mother's parents came from Niedelsberg, they had a butcher store, and my grandmother grew up milking the cows. They were literally tossed out with nothing, left the cow there and ran.
If I lost my business, today, would I leave? I wouldn't leave, it's unbelievable. But still, you were German and then you were Jewish, and they lived very well -- like we do here, which makes me nervous. You hope you learn from the past…

My grandfather is still living up there, in Washington heights, he lives at home but he does have help. He had cancer ten years, was on chemotherapy, didn't lose his hair, felt fine. They say those Germans are really strong. Every time he goes to the hospital they say "Take your teeth out." And he says "They're mine!” And they can’t believe it.
He gets weepy every once in while, and talks about Kristallnacht. I mean his parents came out with him. His brother, his aunts and uncles came out. But, see, he still has his doctorate, his law degree, on the wall. You call him Doctor Freund still even though when he came to America he became a CPA.
Actually he was very proud being German. You know, we were Yekkes, German Jews, we were punctual and proper. We were dressed right and had the right gift at the right time. We had our own bakeries, our own butchers and our own prayer books, which are different than everybody else's. We always shook hands. We never kissed. Everything had it's place, it's order. So that's how I grew up - and here it's like one big mess.

I got married and then I moved down here. I didn't know what a bialy was, growing up. There are no bialys in Washington Heights. My husband was born here, he's the Polish, Russian – just from the Lower East Side. We are very different. I always thought what I did was normal, and then you go into the rest of the Jewish world, which is mostly Polish - Russian descent, and all of a sudden all the customs were different. We kind of picked what we liked. But I think for my kids, you know, they're basically American.

When I met my husband he was working in a deli and he wanted to become a caterer. And I'm like "No, you can't become a caterer because all caterers are fat and miserable and die young." So he went into politics but he always had food on his mind.
And then this came up, February, '98! I was just eight months pregnant with my last son. But together with my sister-in-law and her husband we bought the store! I'm the only one that works here full time.
Everyone always says bialy is a Polish food -- it's really not! I think it's a New York food now. I think some Polish Jews migrated, took it here and New York water happens to be excellent for bialys and bagels, I have no idea why. The fluoride, the filth, I don't know. There are three bialy bakeries in all of America and two are in Brooklyn and one is in Manhattan.
We'll start with bagels and I'll contrast it with bialys! Well, bagels have to be made first and they're put at a cold place and then they're boiled in a kettle. Then we put the seeds on them, put them in the oven, we flip them over and then we pull them out. So that's the bagel process.
Bialys, on the other hand, we like warm and we rise, and then we bake it out right away. No flipping, no boiling, no anything. I'll even give you the secret ingredients, it's flour, water, salt and yeast. I find women like bialys better -- or thin men. Men that like to have heavy stuff in their stomachs like bagels.

A full shift is 270 dozen bialys. And we have about three full shifts a day for regular life, six days a week.We have now four bakers, my youngest baker is probably in his forties, and they've been working here a long time. Actually making a bialy dough is difficult. Even if I told you how to make a good dough, when it becomes winter, that dough would no longer be good. Or if it's humid outside, or if there's a wind, - sometimes you'll see the door will be open when they bake, sometimes they keep the boxes tight closed, sometimes they open the boxes. I find that so amazing because they don't realize that they're doing chemistry.

Another ritual is for the dough: Each dough, if you have more than five pounds of dough at a time, you have to take a piece off. You make a blessing, which I get to do everyday. We throw each piece in a bucket in a big paper bag and at the end of the week, when we finish baking before we close on Friday afternoon, we burn the dough then. Well, then on Saturday night we take it out and we start again. This way if anyone wants to see they can see the dough sitting in the bucket. People don't trust.
The original owner’s name was Morris Kossar. The store is about sixty-five years old.. It was always a kosher business, but it was open Saturday. We closed it on Saturday, which caused a lot of trouble for our old-time customers. I'm kosher myself. Shabbes is a day that none of us like to work, we want to have family time --
I’m Jewish. I’m religious and I have my customs.

"Milch & Hering":
Jewish Foodshops in New York
Eine Ausstellung von Michael Melcer und Patricia Schon im Jüdischen Kulturmuseum Augsburg-Schwaben, vom 30. Januar bis 6. April 2003

Artikel des Aufbau zur Augsburger Ausstellung (pdf)

hagalil.com / 2003-08-31




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