Erev Sukkot fell on the 16 October in 2016 and I made some arrangements to visit a local synagogue close to the Econo Lodge in Fort Lee. This part of New Jersey is apparently very fashionable with younger Jews. The New York Times says they are moving here from the more expensive parts of New York.
Fort Lee is nothing more than one of the suburbs of New York, but all the Asian restaurants give it a special feel. According to the New Yorker, at one point so many Asian-Americans were moving to Fort Lee that some people in the adjoining towns began calling it Foto Lee. Rents are far lower here although transportation seemed like a lot of hassle.
You first need to cross George Washington Bridge by bus then change to the Subway, taking over an hour. You can also take a long distance bus to Midtown Bus Station from in front of the Econo Lodge, taking under an hour. Problem is downtown is still quite far from the bus station.
I set out to find the Gesher Shalom Synagogue in Fort Lee. After about one hour of wondering around I managed to find it and learned that it was shared with the Koreans. It meant that during the day it was used for Christian gatherings and in the evenings for Jewish services.
Instead of sticking around I headed into town as I made arrangements to visit the B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue the next morning anyway.
Erev Sukkot at B’nai Jeshurun
B’nai Jeshurun is a nonaffiliated Jewish synagogue community. They use a traditional prayer book and welcome Jews from every stream of Judaism. How I got there is also an interesting story. After crossing the bridge back into New York I got lucky. As I was getting off the bus a Mexican looking guy asked if I needed help and so we started talking. It turned out his grandmother was Hungarian and he was from Israel. He told me he was heading into town so if I wanted to share a ride in his Uber I could come along. He reassured me he wasn’t a kidnapper (like you would admit to it) so I got in as it was on the way to the synagogue.
Here is a little tip: if you are staying in New Jersey cross any bridge and then get into a taxi or uber to save a tonne of money. These companies charge extra for doing inter-state journeys.
The drive took nearly 40 minutes so in that time we practiced some Hebrew and he gave some travel tips. I got to the synagogue a bit early so I went for a walk in Central Park. It was beautiful and the sun was just about to set.
The synagogue looked amazing on the inside and everyone was very friendly. There was lots of singing and they had a sukkot at the top of the building. They were super welcoming so if you are ever in New York I totally recommend a visit.
Dinner at Subway
I was pretty hungry by the time I got to New York so I had dinner at a Subway. I only really eat the veggie patty sandwich which is my favourite. I used to work at Subway in Edinburgh as a student and I am sort of a connoisseur.
Here is a bit of history: Back in 1965, Fred DeLuca set out to fulfill his dream of becoming a medical doctor. Searching for a way to help pay for his education, a family friend suggested he open a submarine sandwich shop. With a loan of $1,000, the friend—Dr. Peter Buck—offered to become Fred’s partner, and a business relationship was forged that would change the landscape of the fast food industry. Today, the Subway brand is the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain with more than 44,000 locations around the world.
After the service I headed out into town. First stop was Times Square. (Click the images below to enlarge). The square is just super busy and it’s not that big a deal, some signs on the walls and people staring at them. It was also a special Diwali festival, so the place was full of people queuing up to get Indian food. On top of this they were relaying the sidewalks so it was impossible to walk anywhere.
The World Trade Center Memorial
Take the underground from Times Square to the WTC Memorial. It is well worth a visit and by 7-8pm it is pretty quiet. It looks absolutely magnificent with the waterfalls at the the centre of the WTC site. There is also a new shopping centre covered in white marble in the shape of a dinosaur skeleton. The area is not that big itself and they managed to dig up the sidewalks here, too. It felt like the entire city was a massive building site.
Brooklyn Bridge at Night
I was hoping to take a bus or the subway to Brooklyn Bridge but it turned out walking was much faster. Manhattan is not wide at all so if you have the energy just walk everywhere. It will save you the hassle of getting on the filthy and slow subway.
The subway ticket cost $31 for a week and is also valid on the bus and other forms of transport. However, it is only valid in New York! Which sucks if you are staying in New Jersey! Every time I crossed the bridge to New York I had to pay a separate fare for the bus. It also took almost an hour and a half to get back to the motel from downtown New York. In retrospect it was a silly thing to book in Fort Lee. Even Meadowlands was better, where I stayed for my fourth night.
Anyhow, Brooklyn Bridge looked fascinating at night and I managed to take some awesome photos. By this time I was totally exhausted so I headed back to the hotel for an awful night’s sleep.
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