Shayna Abramson

A Jerusalemite Jew Yorker’s view of London

I am really too concerned about getting run over by oncoming traffic every time I look the wrong way while crossing the road, to write down all the observations I have about London when compared to Jerusalem and Manhattan, my two hometowns. (Sorry, Brooklyn.) But here are some thoughts:

  1.  At first, I thought food in London was really cheap. Last night, my fiance and I went out to a kosher Indian restaurant. I got really excited – a set 3-course meals for 25 pounds! At the end of the meal, my fiance informed me that our meal had cost 130 dollars. Next time we travel, I’m sticking to the twenty dollar all-you-can-eat lunches at Madras Mahal, one of my favorite Murray Hill hangouts. And after a year in Jerusalem, I’m still amazed by how a city so full of delicious kosher delicacies lacks a decent kosher Indian restaurant.
  2. New Yorkers and Israelis are known for their directness, whereas British people are famed for their subtlety. I tried extremely hard to play into the local culture: When meeting someone and being asked if I knew so-and-so, I politely replied, “I think so. Is he the man who was standing by the bar a few minutes ago, who is a bit overweight?”. “Oh no, that couldn’t have been him”, was the reply, “He is extremely overweight”. I guess the British aren’t so polite after all.
  3. I am amazed by the amount of kosher food. Not because there is more kosher food than New York or Jerusalem: In fact, there is quite a lot less of it, but the London kosher food establishments are more concentrated, meaning that in certain parts of certain streets, half the restaurants are kosher, making me feel that I am in a much colder, less pleasant version of Tel Aviv – but because my expectations for kosher food in London were so low. The other day, I started babbling like a crazy person at the site of Achla chumus and Tirat Tzvi cold cuts in the one shelf that made up the local Tesco’s refrigerated kosher section. If a store on the Upper West Side had such a tiny kosher selection, I’d probably call them anti-Semitic.

It occurs to me now that two of my three observations are about food. I guess I have a one-track mind, or maybe I just enjoy fulfilling the Jewish stereotype – but rather than engage in intense introspection, I’ll choose to pop into the shops and buy some Cadbury’s chocolate.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.