There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Ezrath Israel was originally established as a Jewish Community Center in 1917 by the West Side Hebrew Relief Association, a group of Orthodox Jewish shop owners. The area was known for its busy steamship ports, however, the entertainment business eventually became one of the biggest industries in this part of town. As show business grew, so did the number of congregants, and it became the place of worship for many prominent actors and performers, including Sophie Tucker and Shelley Winters. The Actors' Temple continued to thrive until shortly after WWII when people in the industry began journeying across the country to Hollywood. The synagogue then found its membership slowly decreasing. By 2005, there were only twelve members left in the congregation. A year later, when Jill Hausman became the rabbi, she found herself resuscitating what had once been a proud shul. Rabbi Hausman was pleased to report to us that in the eight years that she has been there, membership has increased to about 150, a marked improvement. Still, she has hope that the Actors' Temple will continue to grow. "We are a well-kept secret, " she says, "but we don't need to be. " To help maintain the synagogue, the sanctuary is shared with an Off Broadway theater company that performs on their "stage, " just a few feet in front of their sacred arc and collection of eleven torahs. Today, Rabbi Hausman welcomes all denominations of Judaism, even those who are "on the fringes of society. " She is a warm, sweet, bright woman who not only has her door open to everyone, but her heart as well. She emphasizes the importance of love and acceptance in her sermons and is adamant that the Actors' Temple is a "no-guilt synagogue. " People should come if they feel compelled to pray – Rabbi Hausman's only goal is to have them leave with a desire to return.
For the first seven years, Phil Podemski had his shop on Park Row across from City Hall, but in 1973, with the help of his son, Sam, they came uptown and have resided on 47th Street ever since. "It was a good move on our part, " Sam admitted. "It has allowed us to weather each of the storms that have come our way. "Because Phil's Stationery is in the Jewelry District, there have always been customers in need of memorandum books, special jewelry bags for shipping, and other necessary items that Sam and his dad never allowed to run out of stock. "This has kept us alive. " That and the warm customer service that he strongly believes in. "Yes, I could close up shop and sell my goods solely on the internet, but I would miss the people — the human connection. " Sam's best connection, however, was with his dad. "We were together for forty years until he passed away in 1996. I have the best memories of him yelling at me throughout those years, always in the most loving way. "When Sam and his dad initially opened, they were not known as an office supply store. They carried an amalgam of health and beauty products, chocolate, and other novelty goods. As time progressed, they evolved into a full office supply shop carrying absolutely everything that one could want or need for their desk. In addition to having fun rummaging through the stacks of notebooks, journals, pens, markers, and an array of art supplies, it is the collection of Berol pencils made in the U. S. in the 1960s, the old Swingline staplers — and several other items that date back some fifty to sixty years — that will provide a noteworthy trip down memory lane for many.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven, ” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house. The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.
The Manhattan Theatre Club is dedicated to helping artists in theater by offering educational programs and a varied repertoire in which they can get involved. Founded in 1970, it took off two years later under the leadership of Lynne Meadow, the organization's Artistic Director. She worked tirelessly to encourage and support growing playwrights, actors, and directors. The MTC has flourished and become a Theater District institution – garnering multiple Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and dozens of other distinctions. Well into its fifth decade, it remains a vital part of New York's artistic community. The Club moved into the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on 47th street (previously known as the Biltmore Theatre) when it was newly renovated in 2008, and continues to produce shows and inspire the Broadway community at large.
The last theater commissioned by the Shubert brothers, the Ethel Barrymore was built by Herbert J. Krapp in 1928 to honor its namesake. The brothers decided to dedicate this to the actress when she came under their management as a way to convince her to take the lead role in The Kingdom of God, the theater's premiere play. Ethel Barrymore was part of the Barrymore family, an acting dynasty during Broadway's zenith. She was considered the "it" girl of her generation and starred in numerous successful Broadway shows. The building's design is based on the public baths of Rome and is among Krapp's most intricate endeavors. The front of the theater features a terra-cotta grillwork screen and French-inspired embellishment beneath the marquee. Through the Depression and Broadway's times of trouble, the Ethel Barrymore Theatre has persisted and continues to carry on the legacy of Ethel and the Barrymore family with shows like A Streetcar Named Desire and A Raisin in the Sun, which have gone on to revolutionize the theater, much like Ethel did throughout her life.
Once the late night spot where, according to a 1953 issue of The New York Visitor, the "glitterati [would] spin in their best evening gowns to [a] live orchestra, " the Hotel Edison has had its fair share of celebrity. Built in 1931, it had modern amenities for the period – air-conditioned dining rooms, radios, and private baths – and an accompanying ballroom fit for any New Yorker spending a night on the town. Currently, the hotel has done its best to preserve the Old New York charm with murals in the lobby, and wine tastings twice a week that welcome their guests to New York. With a location near Times Square, its popularity has endured and, unlike most other hotels built around the same time, its history has survived.
“Everyone needs coffee, ” explained Tulian, co-owner of Frisson Espresso, a small coffee shop he opened in December of 2014 with his best friend, Robert. Having previously worked with coffee equipment as a technician, Tulian wanted to bring quality and good vibes back to the trade. “We care about how people feel, ” Tulian expressed, “We care about the experience. ” As the two partners served coffee to the line of caffeine-crazed customers, and Robert showed off his talent by crafting artistic lattes, everyone involved was having a good time. The shop also offers delectable baked goods from Bien Cuit and Las Delicias, as well as a selection of teas.
The entrance to Sushi By Bou consists of wooden steps leading down to an unmarked doorway adorned with unchecked graffiti. Inside, the Manhattan Sideways team found a space that it is barely larger than one's average bedroom. The décor is an explosive battle between colorful Japanese designs and minimalist, mid-century modern designs. Four barstools sit in front of a counter, behind which works the American-born David Bouhadana. David, himself, is part of the allure: his looks and roguish irreverence evoke the archetype of the wisecracking best man at a wedding. The crisp Japanese quips that he often fires at the grim-faced guest chef working next to him, who often responds with a boisterous laugh, hint that David is as comfortable in that language as he is in English. Indeed, his omnipresent half-smile and conversational, thinking-out-loud tone show him to be truly at home behind the sushi counter. The obvious question is probably how David found himself there wearing a hachimaki headband. He is quick to respond to with a phrase that, coming from anyone else, would seem cliché - “I didn’t choose sushi, sushi chose me. ” In his case, this is simply a statement of fact: on his first day as an eighteen-year-old waiter in Boca Raton, the chef tossed him an apron, proclaiming, “Tonight, you make sushi! ” David found himself suddenly thrust into a new, fast-paced world, one that demanded not only the self-discipline and love of labor required to cope with a rigorous routine but also the drive to push oneself and to constantly improve on yesterday. As it turns out, he had what it took, and he soon found himself on a one-way-trip to Japan. Studying under his sensei’s wing, he was quickly accepted by the local talent as he developed his own techniques and hand movements. His master, whose life was saved by American medicine, gave David a mission along with the tutelage: to repay the west by teaching them about sushi. “Sushi is an educated food, ” he explained to us as he rapidly prepared uni. “The more you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. ” According to David, western appreciation for food cannot compare with that of Asian cultures. “Food is simply more important in Asia, ” he claimed, describing how food in the Far East is in tune with even the turning of the seasons. He calls his somewhat educational approach "Sushi for the People. " It’s not inexpensive, as $50 will earn one an omakase selection, which in this case is a spread of twelve sushi types that David called the "New Basic. " However, David pointed out that compared to similar New York City fare, "it’s a steal, " and it complements the approachability David strives for. He elaborated by telling us that he also carefully selects guest chefs to be welcoming and approachable, deliberately avoiding the "tough angry chef. " He wants customers to feel encouraged to ask questions, which necessitates the intimate design of the restaurant. As for why he chose New York City, David thinks the accepting environment and pervasive mindset of equality will draw the type of person who is open to learning about other cultures. But he also chose the city for what he describes as a “wild, crazy, allure, ” a fast paced testing ground where one can come with nothing but become whoever they want. David chose sushi.
In the late 40's, a group who had suffered from mental illness started "We Are Not Alone" dedicated to helping others who had shared their troubles. They sought to fight against the stigmatization of the mentally ill. In 1948, "We Are Not Alone" developed the idea of Fountain House, an organization that would help the mentally ill recover by giving them an opportunity to actively live, work and learn. When we visited Fountain House, we were given a tour and introduced to the organization and its workings. Having been a member for a little less than a year, the gentleman speaking with us said that he still felt green at Fountain House, but nevertheless at home. Fountain House staff carefully selects people living with mental illness to join their community. Together, they help run the organization by working in one of the eight Units (Communication, Culinary, Education, Employment, Horticulture, Reception, Membership, and Research). We walked around the two connected buildings that make up Fountain House to see each Unit in progress. About 250 to 300 members and staff work daily to contribute to the operation of Fountain House and build communities in which members develop close-knit relationships. While touring Fountain House, the attractive facilities and congeniality of the members left an impression on me. Everyone in each unit seemed to be busy performing a task – sweeping the floors, making a call, and folding the monthly newsletter. Their approach to helping people with mental illness relies entirely upon members' participation and active work. The sense of belonging and purpose fostered at Fountain House has been proven to reduce the hospitalization of patients and improve the likelihood of completing their studies and, ultimately, being able to secure a job outside of the House. The organization has dozens of sister programs worldwide and has helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their lives, breaking the cycle of stigmatization and isolation.