THIRTEEN / WNET has a web series called City Concealed, in which they visit lesser-known New York landmarks. Their latest video concerns the Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue here on Broome Street. Since 1927, the temple has been the spiritual home of the Lower East Side's Romaniote Jews, who came from the town of Ioannina (Yanina / Janina) in Greece. Neither Ashkenazi not Sephardic, this group has their own language and cultural traditions, although they worship in much the same way that all Jews do.
My favorite part of the video comes as the congregation members are discussing the foods of their culture, naming them one by one. As they get to fasolia, which someone says means "beans," congregation member Jerry Pardo interjects his own very personal memory of the dish:
"Fasolia's not just beans. Fasolia is your mother in the kitchen, five o'clock in the morning, Friday morning, with a cigarette hanging outta her mouth, and the beans are on the stove. They're simmering, and they're simmering, and they're simmering, and they're simmering, and there's pieces of lamb in it - the one that your father sucks the middle out of it, the marrow."
This dish isn't just some pot of beans - it embodies his mother's labor and love, her devotion to her culture and her family, and the special work she put into the weekly Sabbath meal.
The City Concealed: Kehila Kedosha Janina from Thirteen.org on Vimeo.
The synagogue is open for services and also open Sundays for guided tours of their small museum. Check it out next time you're in the neighborhood.
- Posted by Kate