Tablet Magazine

The Ghost Architect of Vienna

Vienna is a city of ghost-buildings: 180,000 Jews lived in the Austrian capital before World War II; the infrastructure that served them is long gone. The Hakoah Sports Center, with its famous soccer fields, was seized in 1938. The iconic Leopoldstadt Synagogue, which seated 3,000 members, was destroyed by the Nazis during the November pogrom. Of the 80 synagogues and temples in use before the Nazi’s rule over Vienna, the Stadttempel is the only one that survived. Now the central religious inst
Tablet Magazine

Tour Guide Monica Unikel Preserves Mexico City’s Jewish History

To mark Day of the Dead on Nov. 1, thousands of Mexican families will flock to the Pantheon of Dolores, one of Mexico City’s biggest cemeteries, to light candles, play mariachi songs, and eat food on the graves of their dead relatives. Right across the street, in the smaller Ashkenazi cemetery, Monica Unikel will be leading an exclusive tour to make up for the lack of Jewish-Mexican rituals to mark the day. Unlike most Mexicans, Jews in Mexico don’t set up altars to their deceased ancestors or v
Roads & Kingdoms

Where to Eat Kosher in Mexico City

La Muertita—the Little Dead Woman—sets up her quesadilla stall every evening on a busy commercial thoroughfare called Prolongación in the hilly neighborhood of Bosques de Reforma on the western outskirts of Mexico City. She and her staff of eight drive 90 minutes across the largest metropolis in the western hemisphere to get here by 5:30 p.m. and set up her tent, tables, chairs and cooking station with military efficiency. La Muertita repeats this ritual every evening of the week. Every evening
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

In Mexico City, this Jewish NGO is the go-to agency for earthquake relief

MEXICO CITY (JTA) — I was on the 11th floor of an office building here when the ground started moving. There had been a mock evacuation that same day in remembrance of the 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people, but this was no drill. According to protocol, everyone ran toward the building’s columns — structurally the safest place to be in an earthquake. I closed my eyes as the rumbling worsened, focusing on my breath and hugging the concrete structure as ceiling lamps came down, b
Tablet Magazine

Secret Crypto-Jewish Diaries Rediscovered in New York, Displayed in Mexico City

After renouncing Judaism, Luis de Carvajal was granted mercy: Instead of being burned alive, he was tied to a pole, noose around his neck, and slowly asphyxiated to death. His body was consumed in a massive fire organized in a public plaza in 1596 at a Mexico City auto-da-fé, in which his sister and mother also died. During the trial, a collection of manuscripts in Carvajal’s distinctive calligraphy was used as proof of the family’s Crypto-Jewish practice. Found beneath Carvajal’s hat and behin
The Guardian

The black plague: Mexico City’s war on chewing gum

Each night dozens of trucks carrying 15 people depart from Mexico City’s downtown to Francisco I Madero Avenue, the most famous pedestrian street in the capital. Armed with 90C vapour guns called Terminators, the group begins the laborious task of combing the street looking for small, black circles fastened to the ground. It takes them three days, working in eight-hour shifts, to go through the 9,000 sq metre avenue. By the end, they have removed a total of 11,000 pieces of chewing gum.
Tablet Magazine

Trying to Save Ladino: Sephardic Culture Conference Lands in Mexico City

I expected, over the course of a three-day conference in Mexico City about global Sephardic culture, to hear more Ladino. But I was surprised, if not a little disappointed, to hear mostly Spanish being spoken at Erensya, an annual meeting run by the Madrid-based Sepharad-Israel Center. Founded in 2006, the SIC’s flagship program, the Erensya (“Heritage,” in Ladino) summit, is an annual meeting of Sephardic dignitaries that has previously been hosted in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Spain.
Tablet Magazine

10,000 Hardboiled Eggs and the Art of Pedro Friedeberg

Most Sundays, Pedro Friedeberg spends $50 to $100 buying junk in La Lagunilla, Mexico City’s massive flea market. Whatever he happens to find there—let’s say, a midget-sized Superman figure or a Simpsons-themed chess-set—will either be dismembered or placed into whatever nook is left among the doll heads, cabalistic drawings, I-Ching books, hand-shaped chairs, and other objects populating his house. At 82, he realizes he will never be able to organize his “collection,” though perhaps his son wil
Tablet Magazine

Stories of Emancipation: Aztecs and Israelites

Every Monday morning, in elementary school in Mexico City, I would line up next to my classmates in the main yard. As we looked up the red, white, and green flag we would sing a hymn to the Mexican flag, with our hands to our chests. The ritual was, and still is, repeated across Mexico. Atop the flag is a ubiquitous Mexican emblem: an image of an eagle, standing on top of a cactus, devouring a snake. The story behind this image is known to everyone in Mexico but to me, as a Mexican Jew, the
Tablet Magazine

The Non-Jewish Family That Serves 'Kosher' Quesadillas to Mexico City's Jews

Every day, at around 5:30 in the evening, a white van loaded with kitchen utensils, cooking ingredients, chairs, tables, and a tent departs on an hour-and-a-half ride across Mexico City towards Bosques de la Reforma, a wealthy enclave on the outskirts of the megalopolis. As soon as it parks on Prolongación, a busy commercial street with heavy traffic, eight people get off the van and work with military efficiency to set up the tent, laying the tables and organizing the chairs in the sidewalk. Th

City Trash “Archaeologists” Head to the Beach in Australia

​In San Diego, 325,000 tons of household trash will be collected this year. According to New York City, its residents generate 12,000 tons of waste each day. In 2012, the World Bank reported that “world cities generate about 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year,” and estimated that figure would be 2.2 billion tons by 2025. While cities around the world set goals regarding recycling and improving collection services, one group of artists in Mexico City looks at trash as an important agent in
The Forward

The Jew Who Gave Castro a Boat (and Helped Launch a Revolution)

Encased in a glass box on one of the main plazas in old Havana is a small and ordinary fishing boat called “El Granma.” Sixty years ago a young group of socialist militants led by Fidel Castro crossed the Gulf of Mexico on it, igniting a revolution that would affect the region for decades to come. Today, “the Grandma,” as it translates into English, is part of the revolutionary mythology of Latin America. Among other things, the main daily newspaper of Cuba’s communist party is named after it.

Living Dada in the age of Trump

I met Dada by chance — which is, come to think of it, the most Dada way of meeting it, if at all. It was during a trip to New Orleans: I was strolling through the Modern Art Museum’s gift shop when I ran into a a small pocket-book called The Post-Human Dada Guide. A strange piece of work, this text, organized as a dictionary but structured as a roadmap for living what it called a “Dada life” . An impractical guide, the back-cover stated, for “it is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada
The Forward

Mexico’s Celeb Jewish Envoy Gets Smacked by His Own Community and Fired By His Government

October was a tough month for Andres Roemer — Mexico’s now former ambassador to UNESCO and a highly public, if controversial, member of Mexico’s Jewish community. Suddenly, last month, a rapid and complicated tangle of Middle East-related developments conspired to recast the 53-year-old star diplomat as a piñata, subject to severe whackings by both his government and his community. The trouble began on October 13, when Mexico supported a resolution on Jerusalem at UNESCO’s executive board that

Donald Trump and Mexico

Thursday, protestors will gather in Mexico City’s main square to demand the resignation of president Enrique Peña Nieto. The selected date is charged. The 15th of September is Mexican Independence Day, the most important in the national calendar. Which means the president will be there, too. Actually he will have to face the crowd: tradition requires him to stand in the presidential balcony and shout “Viva Mexico” to the jubilant masses who, under normal conditions, are expected to shout back.
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