April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Walking the Streets of the Heights

My Mordechai and I returned many times together to our very “old neighborhood.” Every time we were there I would tell him how much I loved our tiny apartment on 184th Street and Amsterdam and the entire experience of living down the block from YU for the first almost-four years of our marriage.

We were these two totally independent “kids,” married and really experiencing life for the first time. We ran over to the “caf” every once in a while and loved eating Parker’s food—especially the marble cake and challah. Did we realize at the time what a zechut it was to be present each time the rav walked into the caf with one of the “guys” holding his tray behind him? Every moment, except perhaps for some uninvited guests in our apartment who had the ability to scurry quickly away, was a part of a very exciting first step in our life together.

Today I returned once again, to partake in the Seforim Sale, which we always loved to attend, and this time I was accompanied by grandchildren and even a precious great-granddaughter. We were not sure exactly what sefer she would be most interested in but I am sure that by next year she will have a better idea of her likes.

Nostalgia took over immediately as we walked along Amsterdam beside what we used to call the “Morgue” (Morgenstern Hall), and I recalled the many times I pushed our eldest, Malkie, in her baby carriage together with my friends and her many buddies: Tova Radinsky, Dena Weiss, Natanel Yudin (now known as Gotch), Doni Cohen (now the rav of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford), etc., etc., etc., and we hoped that we would not be hit by a water bomb being politely (of course) thrown from one of the upper windows in the dorm.

The direction we took today was towards what used to be the Greasy Spoon. It was a great place to have a quick bite to eat. All of the other shops next to where it used to be have now become restaurants of “great finery”—Grandma’s, Burger and Grill, Lake Como Pizza and Golan Heights. Wow, the Heights is buzzing, and this is without including the shops on the other side of Amsterdam, as well as a Dunkin and 16 Handles. The pizza store was full; perhaps it always is or maybe the fact that it was Washington’s Birthday (whoops, I mean Presidents’ Day) and many are not working contributed.

I looked around at the men and boys walking down the streets surrounding YU, many with their tzitzit flying out of their pockets, and I remembered my Mordechai looking exactly like that.

There were young couples walking together, some pushing strollers, and I thought to myself that I had been those people. I would have loved to share some of my life experience with them and tell them that I had lived in a similar apartment, my husband had learned in the same beit midrash with Rav Aaron Lichtenstein as his rosh kollel, and the rav and his rebbetzin were frequently seen walking up Amsterdam when they spent a few days each week in their apartment in Rubin. Then I told myself that none of those couples would be interested in hearing what I have to say. I saw familiar faces but few that I actually knew. I passed Rabbi Ari Berman as he entered the Seforim Sale, and realized that we were at one time a generation who knew everyone well enough to chat with them and now there are few (still some) I have any connection with at all.

It definitely made me sad. The same way I feel frequently when I walk in the neighborhood surrounding our home and realize how few people I really know. Every time I meet someone who asks where I am from and I mention Bergenfield/Teaneck, they begin to rattle off all the names of the people they assume I know. Generally it is seldom that I know anyone. It is for that reason that I tend to say I am from Montreal, in which case I am asked about the one person they know in Canada (not necessarily Montreal), and generally I do know who that person is.

I realized upon our return that our connections from the past now have very busy lives and have already established themselves with long-term friendships and community. At our age, most are not interested in establishing or rekindling friendships.

I will continue to return to the Heights with pleasure. In all honesty, it does sadden me, but at the same time I remember our YU days proudly, beginning with our attendance at YU seminars and with gratitude in the role it played in helping us establish our role as rabbi and rebbetzin, a loving home and our outstanding family.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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