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Gertrude’s, a new Jew-ish bistro, gains a following in Brooklyn

(New York Jewish Week) — New York City has gained another classic corner Jewish restaurant, this time at the intersection of St. Marks and Carlton Avenues in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Gertrude’s, on a quiet, tree-laden block, opened earlier this summer. It’s the latest offering from restaurateurs Nate Adler, 33, and Rachel Jackson, 34, the couple behind Gertie, the popular Jewish diner in South Williamsburg that opened in 2019.

“At its base, it’s a neighborhood bistro,” Adler told the New York Jewish Week about a sensibility he calls “Jew-ish.” “It brings together my traditional Jewish upbringing with a more modern sensibility.”

The couple’s original spot, Gertie, is a daytime, Jewish-inflected eatery. Specializing in classic deli sandwiches with a modern twist, like a turkey pastrami club with a “jalapeno schmear” and chicken schnitzel sandwich with “dilly cukes pickled cabbage,” the restaurant closes at 4 p.m. each day. Adler considers Gertie “an amazing homage to Russ & Daughters with full service.”

Gertrude’s, which opened in late June, is a more sophisticated, nighttime destination, with cocktails and menu items like a warm challah roll with duck butter — an appetizer — and Nicoise salad with smoked fish.

Both restaurants have the same namesake: Adler’s Jewish maternal grandmother, Gertrude Aronow. The dedication is in honor of the spirit she imbued into every room she entered. Grandma Gertrude, said Alder, was “a really colorful and eccentric human being who was the life of the party.”

In order to bring Gertrude’s to life, Alder and Jackson brought in a third partner: Eli Sussman, a chef who has Jewish cred under his belt, thanks to his work at Brooklyn’s Mile End Delicatessen, which specializes in Montreal-style Jewish deli eats, and Samesa, a Middle Eastern counter joint in Midtown.

Ahead of Gertrude’s opening, the trio spent months going back and forth about how to execute their Jewish bistro concept. “We spent a ton of time trying to be very cognizant of not going too far in one direction — not being too conceptual, not being only appealing to this sort of broad-reaching neighborhood,” Adler said. “We wanted to keep it really simple.”

Ashkenazi-inspired items on Gertrude’s menu include latkes topped with celery creme fraiche and trout roe. (Liz Clayman)

Adler also said that rather than opting for a more Sephardic or Israeli feel — with familiar items like pita and hummus — they wanted to “push the Ashkenazi tradition” at the restaurant. As such, Gertrude’s menu has inventive items like a burger available to order “Reuben-style” (a beef patty topped with melted swiss, Russian dressing and sauerkraut in between a challah roll), and a black & white seven-layer cake, a mashup of two popular Jewish desserts: black and white cookies and seven-layer cake.

The Jewish theme extends to the drinks menu, designed by Jackson, who previously served as the wine and beverage director at Williamsburg’s modern classic Marlow & Sons. A particular standout is the Seder Plate Martini (its ingredients include parsley and saltwater), as well as the Dirty Gertie, a martini made with pickle brine.

Adler and Jackson, who married in August 2021, come by their devotion to New York City throwbacks honestly: Both were born and raised on the Upper West Side. Although the pair grew up 10 blocks from each other, they didn’t meet until they worked at the Danny Meyer restaurant, Blue Smoke, during Adler’s stint there from 2011 to 2014 (Jackson’s was from 2013 to 2015). They later began dating when they reunited at Huertas, a tapas restaurant co-owned by Adler in the East Village that closed its doors for good on Aug. 12.

Adler told the New York Jewish Week that he was raised “traditionally” Jewish: His family celebrated Shabbat every week and he grew up attending B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side, where he had his bar mitzvah. Both of Adler’s parents are first-generation Americans, his paternal grandparents Holocaust refugees from Germany.

Adler’s decision to enter the restaurant world stems from two long-held interests: His consistent desire to push himself to do something creative as well as his passion for food from a young age. “When I was in college I read Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential,’ and read the line about nine-out-of-10 restaurants failing in the first year,” Adler recalled. “I wanted to be the one-out-of-10.”

There’s a family connection to the restaurant business, too: Alder said his great-grandfather owned a coffee import/export business in Cologne, Germany, and there was a cafe attached called Kaffe Adler.

Five years after opening Huerta’s in 2014, Alder and two partners launched Gertie at 357 Grand St.; Jackson came on as a partner and director of operations during the pandemic. “Gertie wasn’t specifically Jewish when we opened it, it was more like New York City food,” Adler said, noting that the “daytime cafe” concept evolved during the pandemic. “Only recently has it become more focused and concentrated on the Jewish diner idea.”

The shift, said Alder, was a “salient” one, calling the decision to home in on the Jewish theme a “very successful pivot.”

With Jackson on board (and the other two partners, Will Edwards and Flip Biddelman, out) the couple introduced bagels to Gertie’s menu; the popular carbs were hand-rolled and kettle boiled in house. As the long months of shutdown continued, they devised ways to help local Jews celebrate important holidays, selling “Hanukkah at Home” boxes and to-go Passover seders, helping to put the eatery on more solid ground in the midst of the pandemic.

“Passover has been our most successful holiday year-in and year-out, doing these to-go seders, and we sell them out every year,” Adler said.

That same sharp sense of brand definition was on Adler’s mind when creating Gertrude’s. After their offer was accepted at 605 Carlton Ave., Adler reached out to a few different people he knew for the chef role, including Sussman (another Prospect Heights resident, by way of Detroit).

“Eli and I had been friendly, and I remembered that he worked in or lived in the neighborhood and it turns out that he was interested in the gig,” Adler said of their partnership. “It kind of happened very quickly after that.”

Sussman was eager to build on what he’d learned during his tenure at Mile End, where he initially started off as a prep cook.

“I just always really wanted to be involved with a restaurant that sort of had those [Ashkenazi] types of flavors on their menu,” Sussman told the New York Jewish Week. “As someone who’s culturally Jewish, I think it’s exciting that I can put certain things on the menu, like beef tongue, that might not be something that everyone has had a lot of experience with, but really hearkens back to Lower East Side, old-school Jewish appetizing delicatessen-style cuisine.”

Adler hopes his new restaurant will continue to enjoy a certain buzz, and that people will travel from Manhattan to dine at his establishment. But first and foremost, Gertrude’s is a restaurant that seeks to serve its community.

“Our number-one goal and priority was to create a menu that was sort of neighborhood-first,” he said. “We wanted to have this type of place where you could come once a week, get your burger, get your chicken or your schnitzel, and be really satisfied.”

“Or you could come and have a salad and a glass of wine at the bar — there are a lot of different experiences for everybody,” he added. And by “everybody” Adler means everybody: He wants Gertrude’s to be the kind of place customers can feel comfortable perched at the bar for a first date, or sitting down to a long meal with their parents, or braving a restaurant meal with a toddler (this is Prospect Heights, after all).

So far, the Jewish bistro has been met with enthusiasm, with folks lining up to dine at the restaurant right when it opens at 5 p.m., something he called “awesome and also scary, because it means we have to be completely ready to go right at 5 o’clock.”

But overall Adler seemed thrilled with the turnout. “It’s amazing to be busy at 5:30,” he said.

The post Gertrude’s, a new Jew-ish bistro, gains a following in Brooklyn appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Top US Lawmakers Slam Palestinian Push for Full UN Membership as Dangerous ‘Ploy’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia November 23, 2021. Photo: Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS

Senior US lawmakers in leading positions to influence America foreign policy in Congress on Tuesday lambasted the latest Palestinian campaign to become a full member of the United Nations, making clear that any push from the Biden administration to entertain recognizing a Palestinian state would be met with fierce resistance in Washington.

“US law requires the United States to cut off all funding to the UN if the UN admits Palestine as a member state,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) — chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively — said in a statement. “Anything other than staunch opposition to this ploy from the Biden administration is political pandering.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) last week formally asked the United Nations Security Council for renewed consideration of its 2011 application to become a full member of the world body. The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state at the UN, the same status as the Holy See.

Malta, which is president of the Security Council for April, on Monday referred the PA’s application to the committee on the admission of new members. Palestinian officials have said the aim is for the council to take up the issue at an April 18 ministerial meeting on the Middle East.

US officials have historically argued that Israel and the Palestinians must reach a two-state solution to resolve their conflict through direct negotiations, and that circumventing such a process by appealing to the UN would be counterproductive — a point echoed by McCaul and Risch.

“The PA’s request for full membership at the UN endangers international security,” the lawmakers said. “The PA has not made substantive reforms, continues to implement pay-for-slay, and there is no negotiated solution between the PA and Israel. This is a not a serious attempt to find a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict; it is an opportunistic, politically-motivated move to bypass the peace process.”

Through its “pay for slay” program, the West Bank-based PA allocates significant sums of money to its “Martyrs’ Fund,” which makes official payments to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, the families of “martyrs” killed in attacks on Israelis, and injured Palestinian terrorists.

Meanwhile, PA officials have been regularly rationalizing the Hamas terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and in some cases even denying it took place or falsely claiming Israeli forces carried out the onslaught.

In such an environment, Israeli officials argued the recognition of a Palestinian state would undermine peace and create a dangerous precedent.

“Granting the Palestinian statehood is not only a blatant violation of the UN Charter, it also violates the fundamental principle that everyone can understand of reaching a solution, a lasting solution at the negotiating table,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told reporters on Monday. “The UN has been sabotaging peace in the Middle East for years. But today marks the beginning of the point of no return.”

However, some European countries, led by Spain, have begun aggressively pushing amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to recognize a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, the Spanish government said that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will meet several of his European Union counterparts over the next week to try to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The announcement came after Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Slovenia said last month in a joint statement that they would jointly work toward recognition of a Palestinian state.

Israel’s foreign ministry warned the four EU member states that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would effectively amount to a “reward for terrorism.”

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‘AEPi Will Not Be Intimidated’: Jewish Fraternity Responds to Vandalism of House at University of Arizona

Graffiti sprayed on the perimeter wall of the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at the University of Arizona as seen on April 8, 2024. Photo: Screenshot via Alpha Epsilon Pi

The national office of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), the largest college Jewish fraternity in the US, has condemned recent vandalism of the house of one of its chapters at the University of Arizona, expressing resolve in the face of rising antisemitism across the country.

On Sunday, someone graffitied “What side of history will you be on?” on the perimeter wall of the AEPi house, an apparent allusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

“Once again, an AEPi house has been vandalized with antisemitic graffiti in a transparent attempt to intimidate Jewish students,” AEPi chief executive officer Rob Derdiger said in a statement on Monday. “Administrators at the University of Arizona — and on campuses throughout North America — must commit to protecting its Jewish students by holding those groups responsible for these actions accountable by removing their recognition and expelling students from school who violate the university’s code of conduct.”

Antisemitism targeting AEPi at the University of Arizona is not new, according to numerous reports by local media. In 2014, a rival fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, broke into their house and proceeded to assault several AEPi members while shouting antisemitic epithets, according to school officials.

In recent months, two professors have been suspended for allegedly defending Hamas’ massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 and, as reported by the Arizona Jewish Post, Jewish students have been spit on during vigils commemorating Israelis whom Hamas murdered.

In Monday’s statement, Derdiger said “AEPi will not be intimidated,” adding, “We will continue to work to advocate — lawfully and peacefully — for Israel.”

Founded at New York University in 1913, Alpha Epsilon Pi is the largest Jewish fraternity in the world, with over 150 chapters spread across four countries and 100,000 alumni. Every year, its chapters hold “Walks to Remember,” a march around campus that commemorates victims of the Holocaust. Last May, the national office named a new deputy director in Andrew Feuerstein, who will lead the organization’s efforts to raise funds and sustain relationships with alumni.

Incidents at other universities in Arizona have drawn the attention of state lawmakers, who voted in February to grant Jewish students the right to withhold student fees from groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), that allegedly promote antisemitism. Just weeks after Oct. 7, Arizona State University’s (ASU) SJP chapter broke school rules to help bring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to campus. At the time, the lawmaker had been widely criticized for uttering a wave of virulent comments attacking the Jewish state, including those in which she accused Israel of genocide and erroneously blamed the Jewish state for a rocket that exploded near Al Ahli hospital in Gaza.

The event would not have been the first time that ASU’s SJP chapter hosted a public figure accused of antisemitism. In 2021, it invited Mohammed El-Kurd to address students, using about $10,000 in student government funding to pay for the event. The Palestinian writer has trafficked in antisemitic tropes, demonized Zionism, and falsely accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, AEPi chapters have been targets of antisemitic hate crimes across the country, including several eggings of their off-campus houses at Rutgers University. Last August, the fraternity announced that it was teaming up with the ADL to launch the AEPi Antisemitism Response Center, a “centralized system for reporting and tracking antisemitic incidents on campuses.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Iran Says It Can Close Hormuz Strait, Views Israeli Presence in UAE as Threat

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, followed by the fast-combat support ship USNS Arctic and the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze, transit the Strait of Hormuz. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado / US Navy.

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy said on Tuesday that Israel‘s presence in the United Arab Emirates was viewed as a threat by Tehran and it could close the Strait of Hormuz if deemed necessary.

Iran has threatened to retaliate for suspected Israeli airstrikes on its consulate in Syria’s capital on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders — stoking tensions between the arch enemies already heightened by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“We do not get hit without striking back, but we are also not hasty in our retaliation,” Alireza Tangsiri said, according to Iran’s semi-official Student News Agency.

“We can close the Hormuz Strait but are not doing so. However, if the enemy comes to disrupt us, we will review our policy,” Tangsiri said.

About a fifth of the volume of the world’s total oil consumption passes through the strait on a daily basis. An average of 20.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, condensate, and oil products passed through Hormuz in January-September 2023, data from analytics firm Vortexa showed.

The UAE, situated across the Gulf from Iran, became the most prominent Arab nation to forge diplomatic ties with Israel in 30 years under the Abraham Accords, a US-brokered agreement in 2020, though Abu Dhabi also has normal diplomatic and commercial relations with Tehran.

“We know that the Zionists [Israel] were not brought to the UAE for economic purposes but rather for security and military work. This is a threat to us and should not happen,” Tangsiri added.

The US has designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

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