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Travel:Spring in New York City. USA June 8-13/2023

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

After an extended traveling period, and upon returning in mid May, back to CA, being embraced by an amazing spring flowery bloom that has burst out from the carefully tended gardens around our neighborhood, was most intoxicating..

After one sedentary month, I was ready to take off again, in mid June

A joyous family Bat-Mitzva event provided a fabulous opportunity for my

2 daughters, who flew in from Israel and I, arriving from CA, to spend for few wonderful days in the "big apple"

Over 5 years passed since I last visited

the city, which I often frequented, much more before, when both my daughters resided there.

Instead of asmell of Roses , a. "heated smoky scent" welcomed us.

On June 7th and 8th...a dense murky air pollution blackened NYC sky due to the ravaging Canadian forests' wildfire which turned the city hazy and opaque.

Hundreds of uncontrolled forest fires blazed across Canada threatening critical infrastructure, Smoke from the wildfires caused bad air quality in Ottawa, Toronto, as well as most of Southern Ontario on June 5–7 hitting the highest level,

It blanketed New York City affecting air quality at its worst,

I stocked on N95 face-masks which David manged to buy in CA, at a paint store just prior leaving to the airport. They came handy for one day. .Luckily ,the air cleared out substantially the following day, so it was a big relief taking them off.

Issu de fue - From the Fire - Lee Bae

Corresponding to the wild fires, large masses of vertically stacked charcoal

was placed by this Korean artist, next to Rockefeller square

As the Bat-Mitzva's festivities took place over the weekend (June 10th & 11th)

the free time, the three of us had, was used to visit to the Metropolitan and the Jewish Museums as well as seeing 3 fabulous plays , highly recommended..

At the NYC Metropolitan museum of Art

Entrance fee, used to be free for all, based on "pay as you wish", But no longer,

As of March 2023, only NYC residents are exempt of paying the entrance fee

All other visitors, out of town, are required to pay and the tickets are super expensive.

Art viewing, became again affordable leisure activity for those "who have"

The 2 leading exhibitions seen were that of Van Gogh and Karl Lagerfeld

Van Gogh's Cypresses - May 22nd - August 27th, 2023

The exhibition focus on the trees—among the most famous in the history of art—immortalized in the Dutch Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) paintings.

Some 40 works illuminate the painter's fascination with the trees painted, over the course of 2 years in the South of France - Arles and at the asylum in Saint-Rémy.

The exhibit was exquisite and uplifting

Karl Lagerfeld - until July 10th 2023

A German fashion designer from Hamburg (1933-2019)

Lagerfeld, a colorful personality, who hid his real age for many years, began his career in fashion in the 1950s, working for several top fashion houses including Balmain, Patou, and Chloé before joining Chanel in 1983

Most of the approximately 150 pieces on display are accompanied by Lagerfeld’s creative sketches.

At the NYC Jewish Museum - The Sassoons

The Sassoons - known as the "Rothschilds of the East" due to the immense wealth they. accumulated in finance and opium trade

Portrait of David Sassoon. by William Melville.

A fascinating exhibition on the Sassoon Family - four generations of family members that originated in Iraq and wondered to India, China, and England, is showcased through a rich selection of more then 120 works amassed by the Sassoon family members of paintings, decorative arts, illuminated manuscripts, and Judaica

Hebrew manuscripts from as early as the 12th c, many lavishly decorated; Chinese art and ivory carvings; rare Jewish ceremonial art; Western masterpieces including paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and portraits by John Singer Sargent ( 1856-1925) of various Sassoon family members, are on dispaly

Born inn Florence to American parents, Singer was the most successful portrait painter of his era, as well as a gifted landscape painter and water-colorist.

Portraiture of Lady Sassoon by Singer 1907

Sir Philip Sassoon, by Singer 1923

Flora Sassoon (and daughter )the first

woman who run the business in Bombay in the 19th c

The paintings of the family members provided for me a visual aid to the characters brought into life, telling their pioneering role in trade, art collecting, architectural patronage, and civic engagement, from the early 19th C, through World War II

as is so well outlined in these 2 books which I read and highly recommend:

The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China

A new third book which was recently published (2022) by an Israeli historian

Joseph Sassoon - same family name but

not related to this original family

The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire


The 3 plays we manged to see were all superb and are highly recommended


Tom Stoppard's Olivier-winning play, Leopoldstadt, as well as Tony awarded for Best Play .playing a limited Broadway engagement at the

Longacre Theatre

Fabulous and not to be missed!!

One of the actors encountered in the street after the play

Oscar winner and 2023 Tony Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars in iconic role, at the new production of

A Doll's House, adapted from Henrik Ibsen's classic by Amy Herzog and directed by Jamie Lloyd


Chastain's acting is superb and riveting

Jodie Comer,- the British one women play, a winner of the Tony for Best Actress in her roll as Tessa - a thoroughbred. young, brilliant barrister who loves to win.

A loaded topic with a mesmerizing fast path acting.

Real life "theater" also unfolded in the streets of NYC by Times Square

Times square - the major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment hub, was back to its normal "human zoo" dense and mobbed with people especially from theater hours and into the wee hours of the night,

The flashing neon screen blinding in psychedelic shades, kept advertising any conceivable products


The weirdest costumes which can draw attention and extract Photo -Money from the incidental tourists, takes the stage in the mobbed streets.

The family Celebration at Great Neck - "the old village"

The convenient Long Island Rail Road (LIRR ) - busiest commuter railroad in North America, which departs from the recently upgraded midtown Penn Station, makes the voyage to the upscale and most Jewish suburb, of Great Neck, in less then an hour

Great Neck is a region on Long Island, New York, that covers a peninsula on the North Shore which includes nine villages, among them Great Neck village which was incorporated as a village in 1922 and now its population is of about 10,000

(The larger Great Neck area comprises a residential community of some 40,000)

Great Neck is a heavily white and Jewish - (though 3 percent of the population is black) The mix includes most religious denominations and other ethnic and racial groups

There are 11,100 Jewish households that contain 29,900 people. The area's Jewish density — that is, people in Jewish households as a proportion of all people in this area — is 71%, which is extremely high with large number of .Orthodox Jews, Iranian Jews.

As of 2000 the Village of Great Neck was the second most Iranian place in the United States with 21.1% of its population reporting Iranian ancestry, majority of Jewish decent

"Babylon Community"

There are at least 20 synagogues, 2 kosher supermarkets, a kosher butcher shop and more than a dozen kosher food establishments as well as three mikvahs,.

The volume of the impressive Synagogues structures, often in proximity to one another, was the first feature that captured my sight, when arriving early morning, at 9:00 am on Saturday, at the quint village, which is dotted by spacious beautiful homes surrounded by manicured verdant loans.

The Religious Ceremony

Temple Israel (108 Old Meal Road)

The Egalitarian Conservative temple, ,where the Saturday's Alia La Torah of the Bat- Mitzva girl took place,,was founded almost 80 years ago,

It has been a leading congregation of the Conservative movement in America.,serving more than 800 member families by providing religious, chesed (social action), educational, and social activities.

The temple is listed as one of the 1o beast synagogues in town, and although it is still very large Conservative synagogue it is much smaller than its heyday under the extraordinary leadership of nearly 60 years of

Rabbi Mordecai Waxman. (1917- 2002)

Under the successor Rabbi, Howard Stecker,(since 2003) who has worked toward a vision of inclusion, finally few minor changes, were made, such as slightly shortening Sabbath services to 3 hours (that was still too long for me..).and doing a good job on egalitarian issues.

Women can do now, anything they want, from reading the Torah, leading the minyan. or celebrating a Bat-Mitza as our amazing young family relative - Shoshana - conducted masterfully,. during the 3 hours..service..

Party at The Chabad Building

Chabad of Great Neck (400 East Shore)

Since 2012 in its new constructed building Chabad Great Neck managed in 11 year to realize the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s dream of touching as many Jews as possible, providing spiritual assistanc , daily prayer services, synagogue programs, hands-on children’s holiday workshops, public menorah displays and lightnings, Weekly classes and lectures, daily study sessions are also given at he Silverstein Hebrew Academy and the Cohen Chabad Hebrew School,

A full-color community magazine published seven times yearly..

The elegant spacious building right by the bay water, is a popular venue for family celebrations. Thus it was where the non-religious Sunday's lavish joyous party, took place from 11:00am and through the entire afternoon

Shoshana's milestone festive 12th birthday celebration and that of her tween brother Aviv (whose Bar Mitzva's at 13 will be celebrated later in the year) provided a great opportunity for us to reunite with several dear family members ,I have not seen for years..

With Karen, Shoshana and Aviv

Cousin Victor

A live music band, which specializes in playing Israeli repertuare, ignited up the guests of all ages,onto their feet, in between the massive banquette and sit down munching.

While the master of ceremony - a talented effective ..who else .. Afro-American guy, , popular among the the Chabad community members, operated and led the many teenage kids (classmate and friends) as well as the adults, at line dancing , social games and sing along, all .to the tunes of Israeli lyrics, he was well versed in.

My Girls definitively had a good time on their feet and dancing

Back to Manhattan -

Late afternoon with the disbursement of the party, and back in the city's West side the amazing installation at Hudson Yards Times Square took us by surprise

Hudson Yard is a neighborhood on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, bounded roughly by 30th St. in the south, 41st Street in the north, the West Side Highway in the west, and Eighth Avenue in the east

This newest area is the site of a large-scale redevelopment program and the square is built from the ground up, It provides a confluence of culture, commerce and cuisine.

.new real estate, a fancy subway station that serves the 7 train and stunning waterfront views,

The view from the Hudson yard square

Vessel.- on the square

The larger-than-life sky-high art installation designed by British multi-award winning architect Thomas Heatherwick is 60-ton sculpture, resembling a honeycomb and known to be ,New York’s version of the Eiffel Tour.

Though when we were there it was closed, it is possible to climb up the spiral staircase made up of 154 interconnecting staircases, almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings, Apparently the various outlook points offer sweeping views of the Hudson River

The Shed, is a a five-acre smart park a giant, metal beehive. new multimedia cultural center that is able to physically transform itself to accommodate each performance it hosts

The High Line walkway

There is an access from the Hudson Yard square into the High Line walkway - the elevated public park built in 2009 on a historic freight rail line, above the streets on Manhattan's West Side.

It is a sheer pleasure to take such a walk from the 30th all the way to 14th st and enjoy the views of Manhattan's streets ,the river, and the renovated buildings,, the art on the line and to where the Whitney Art Museum at the southern entrance to the High line, is located in the Meatpacking District, and where we got off downinto the street.

The Art on the High Line.

Freedom's Stand 2022. The Wind Blows 2023

The visit gave us also a wonderful opportunity to meet another cousin - Shira, whose wedding party we unfortunately missed, but had the luck to have a breakfast with her one morning.

Walking endlessly the city's streets,

or the trails of Central Park, and passing some galleries, like that with the work of Carole Feuerman (which I also saw last year's June at the Venice Bianale here ) and of course also doing some shopping

all added to the great pleasure of the viist.

Villard Mansion -Midtown

451–457 Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets

The Villard Houses are a set of former residences, comprising a historic landmark (since 1968) which was commissioned in 1884 by railroad magnate Henry Villard,

Henry Villard (1835 – 1900) - a German born, was an American journalist and financier who was an early president of the Northern Pacific Railway. shortly before he fell into bankruptcy.

He acquired the New York Evening Post and The Nation, in 1880 and established the predecessor of General Electric.

He was the first benefactor of the University of Oregon, and contributed to other universities, churches, hospitals, and orphanages. He died of a stroke at his country home in New York.

The Residence in 1980

Designed by the architect Joseph Morrill Wells of McKim, Mead & White in the Romanesque Revival style with Italian Renaissance touches, the structures, which had change few ownership hands through the mid-20th C (late 1940s, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and Random House in 1971.) are comprised of six separate structures.

The "U"-shaped plan, with wings to the north, east, and south surrounds a courtyard on Madison Ave, with a portion of the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, (from 1980) the main tower of which is to the east.

Lotte New York Palace Hotel is a luxury hotel which originally developed between 1977 and 1980 by Harry Helmsley. operated by him until 1992. and consisted of a portion of the Villard Houses,

As part of a bankruptcy proceeding, it was sold in 1993 to the Sultan of Brunei, who completely renovated the hotel and Villard Houses.

The government of Brunei took over the hotel from the royal family in the late 2000s.

It also includes a 51-story skyscraper designed by Emery Roth & Sons

The houses' center wing serves as a lobby, while the south wing serves as an event space.

Some of the more elaborate spaces, such as the Gold Room, dining room, and reception area in the south wing of the complex, still exist as part of the Palace Hotel.

The facade is made of Belleville sandstone, which largely lacks ornamentation.

Among the artists who worked on the interiors were artist John La Farge, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and painter Maitland Armstrong.