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“Perhaps because I’m writing this as I sit in a vibrant, quirky coffee shop in Washington Heights, its walls decorated with graffiti-inspired art and fake ivy, it strikes me that whenever I arrive in a new city, I make a beeline for the nearest independent coffee house. But it wasn’t until I read Shachar Pinsker’s new book, “A Rich Brew: How the Café Created Modern Jewish Culture” (NYU Press), that I learned that Jews and coffee shops have been connected for at least a century; Jews, especially Jewish writers, he argues, have made the café their primary gathering place and, in many cases, their collective muse.
Pinsker, who teaches Hebrew literature at the University of Michigan, chronicles the history of cafés in six cities (Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, New York and Tel Aviv), showing that major Jewish journalists, novelists, poets and playwrights, from Sholem Aleichem to Isaac Bashevis Singer, were not just inspired by coffee shops but frequently used them as the settings for their work.
Jews have a long history with coffee. While coffee houses first sprang up in Constantinople, Cairo and other Middle Eastern cities during the mid-sixteenth century, it was a Jewish entrepreneur who brought the coffee house to Europe, opening one in Livorno in 1632. The first café in England was opened in 1651 in Oxford by one “Jacob the Jew,” who was an immigrant from Lebanon.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."
"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."
"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."
"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"
"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."
"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."
"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."
"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"
"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."
"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."
"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."
"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."