We had a layover in New York for a day before the El Al flight, and spent it with our friends, Kathy and Bruce. I’ve known Kathy since kindergarten in the Midwest, when, as five year olds, we rode the bus to town from our respective farms, one north, one south, to start our academic careers and a life-long friendship. They came to take us from our hotel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we saw an exhibit of life in Jerusalem from 1000 – 1400. I confess that now, in my jet-lagged state, I remember little of that vast exhibit, but I won’t forget seeing one of Maimonides’ books, written in his own hand! Having the book inches from my fingertips continues to amaze me. To see the handwriting of one of the greatest of minds ever — those even, precise lines across the page — was as if he had been in the room only a minute before and had just set down his pen to leave for a bite of supper!
The other object that stays with me was the Venetian Marino Sanudo Torsello the Vecchio’s, Book of Secrets, (1307-1321), a source of information on geography, history, ethnography, and commerce. If Sanudo was not as well-known as his contemporaries, Petrarch and Dante Alighieri, his was still a great accomplishment. Even with this it was sad to learn that Sanudo was the first among the bigoted pro-Crusaders to thoroughly explore the possibility of an economic blockade as an action of war in the Holy Land of the time. The first BDS movement??!!
Kathy and Bruce, finished off the day by taking us on a tour: down 5th Avenue, through Greenwich Village, and into the Lower East side where, on that third night of Hannukah, we double parked while Steve ran into Yonah Schimmel’s to pick up latkes and knishes (potatoes and kasha. Yum!). He was happy to take part in a tradition: his mother, during a sojourn in New York in 1938-39, used to eat there.