Our board is comprised of dynamic individuals who are committed to serving the community and ensuring the sustainability of the JCJ. Board members are smart, hardworking people who are dedicated to this community. We would like to give board members an opportunity to write something to the community so that we can all learn more about this great group. Larry Greenberg starts us off this month with an interesting tale of his journey to Japan way back in 1985.
Knishes, Sandwalkers & Sushi
According to Wikipedia, the first knish bakery in the United States was founded in New York City in 1910. Sounds about right to me.
By the time I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, knishes were a staple food sold by street vendors, delicatessens and concession stands at city parks and beaches everywhere in New York City. I should know – I must have sold thousands of them.
I started working as a sandwalker in June 1981. That was four years after Luke Skywalker dazzled us in the opening film of the Star Wars series. To this day, whenever I tell people that I worked as a sandwalker they ask if I carried a lightsaber. I did not. I did carry a switchblade – just in case anyone on Manhattan Beach got any funny ideas – but I never needed to use it.
As a sandwalker, I was licensed by the New York City Parks Department and hired by the concession stand at Manhattan Beach – which is a few miles due east of Coney Island in Brooklyn. Every morning from late June until the end of the beach season in late August, I filled up four or five double-layered shopping bags with cold sodas, hot knishes and other foods that I would sell to the hungry and thirsty hordes that gathered each day to soak up the rays and show off their bikinis and biceps. That was before we all started worrying about skin cancer and when it was cool to have a deep, dark tan – if possible while wearing a cool blood red shirt with a wide collar and a white suit like Travolta did.
Sandwalkers work hard. Carrying 20-30kg of food and drinks while walking up and down the beach in blazing temperatures is tough work. But it pays well. I was just 16 when I started and until then I had been earning $2.35 an hour working as a waiter or busboy, first at Edelman’s Delicatessen on Kings Highway near Ocean Avenue and then at Moishe’s Delicatessen on 16th Street off Kings Highway. I made a bit more on tips, and when the owner wasn’t watching we could sneak some half-sour pickles and chopped liver into our back packs. But still, my take home after a 10-hour shift was never more than thirty bucks. My first day working as a sandwalker I earned $108. Cash. No taxes. And that was for about 6 hours of work. It was a game changer for me. I worked as a sandwalker for the next five seasons, earning an average of $100 a day and a record high of $364 on a blistering July 4th weekend Sunday. I saved close to $5000 each summer and was financially independent from the age of 16. Well, I guess my mom did continue to pay the rent and utilities and put food on the table. But from the day I brought home $108 in knish cash I never had to ask my mom – or anyone else – for a penny.
Financial independence at 16 meant anything was possible. Thanks to full scholarships from New York University and then Williams College I was able to get a degree and also take a year off and backpack around Europe and North Africa. That was when I discovered my love of and talent for learning languages. French came easily and when I was looking for a tougher challenge that would stretch me and give me a chance to prove to myself that I could master a really difficult language, I stumbled across a ranking of the “most difficult yet practical” languages. According to the CIA Factbook, they were Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Russian. Russia – too cold. China – too communist – think back to 1985. Pre Deng Xiaoping. Before the Open Door reforms. Korea – too small. The guttural sound of Arabic appealed to me, but I’d already been to North Africa. Japan? I knew very little about Japan. Democracy. US ally. I read somewhere that it was easy to get a job as an English teacher. So, Japan it was.
I flew to Japan in December 1985 and I have lived here ever since. A lot has happened in the last 36 years. It was all made possible by sunny days and hungry people buying knishes from an ambitious 16-year-old kid from Brooklyn with a hunger to explore the world.
We invite you to in-person Family Shabbat this Friday night (7/2) at 6pm. Please RSVP by replying to this e-mail. Social distancing guidelines will be maintained.
Thank you to Marsha and Jerry Rosenberg for sponsoring the very well-traveled Kirkland Signature ice cream, Chloe’s Organic Popsicles and Izaki-san cookies awaiting all who attend.
Friday night Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat will NOT take place this week in deference to Family Shabbat.
Schedule for Summer Shabbat morning 10am in-person services: 7/10, 7/31, 8/14, 8/28
Next Kiddush available for sponsorship is August 14th.
Sponsored by Marsha and Jerry Rosenberg
Date: Friday, July 2nd
Time: 6:00pm – 7:00pm
In-Person Shabbat Morning Services
Sponsored by the Brownstein Family
Date: Saturday, July 10th
Time: 10:00am – Noon
Havdala/Tisha b’Av Services
Date: Saturday, July 17th
Time: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Mornings at the JCC
Date: Wednesday, July 28th
Time: 10:00am – Noon
The JCC wishes a Mazal Tov to Stella Bleiweis on her Bat Mitzvah and the Yiddishe Naches Seth, Geri and Max will undoubtedly schep as a result. Anyone who wishes to watch Stella’s accomplishment may do so at 10:15pm JST this Saturday night at the following link: https://www.bethelmc.org/spirituality/watch-live/
The JCC wishes a Mazal Tov to Larry Greenberg on the 30th Anniversary of his making a cool $364 in non-taxable income as a Coney Island Sandwalker on a blistering 4th of July weekend.
We wish all who are celebrating a happy July 4th USA Independence Day.
In the following weeks and months, we will roll out several new features in the newsletter including a message from the board (this week!), featured members, a Japanese column and member recipes. If you would like to volunteer for any of the above, please reply to this e-mail.
Image: The business waiting for Larry Greenberg if he had not moved to Tokyo and opened Urban Connections. How fortunate for Keiko, Jonathan and Natalie and the JCC that he did.
Candle Lighting: 6:43pm
Shabbat Ends: 7:46pm