The past few days have been even worse in the United States, what with a mass shooting a high school in Florida (where four Jewish teens and two Jewish teachers were amongst the dead); and many other awful, or aggravating stories breaking in the national, local and global news. More trouble with Iran and Syria; the Polish Prime Minister making stupid, vile statements about the Holocaust; it just doesn't seem to end.

How to find some escape? The Winter Olympic Games are of some assistance. I enjoy watching television coverage when I can, of snowboarding and skiing events, skeleton and ice skating, and more. Excitement and human athletic achievement are invigorating.

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And another way we had some fun and appreciated someone else's cultural activities was by visiting Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood on Friday, when they held daytime New Year celebrations. The New York City public schools give the day off because at this point, there are so many Asian students and teachers (especially Chinese, Korean and other East Asian nationalities) that it is respectful of their tradition. Everyone is off or Rosh Hashanah in the NYC public schools, and for the past few years for Asian New Year as well.


My two daughters, their friend Rebecca, and my cousin's son Daniel all went with me to Chinatown. We enjoyed slowly parading along Baxter and Elizabeth Streets with drumming groups and outlandishly costumed "Lions" who did their traditional dances. People young and old set off confetti  poppers that also made small bangs. A few people set off firecrackers or lit Roman candles and waved them around.

There were many non-Chinese people besides us at the festivities, but I was charmed to see many little Chinese kids dressed in traditional outfits, being handed red envelopes with coins in them. And nearly everyone was taking photos with their phones or their pro-quality cameras.

Soon we ended up at Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, which runs about a mile long between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets. While we listened to Chinese music and watched flags and dancers perform, I spotted a dowdy pale green building on Forsyth Street. I pointed it out to my four youngish charges.

"That is a former synagogue," I told them, and Rebecca said she saw the Jewish stars on the fire escapes. Yes indeed, 80 Forsyth Street was a synagogue, then a warehouse, then a home and studio for an artist named Pat Passlof, and now some other people live there. As a lengthy lion costume walked by it, held up on poles by about a dozen young Chinese Americans, I snapped a few photos of this lost synagogue which is now as much part of the Chinatown background as anything else.

New York City is brimming with these oddball juxtapositions of cultures. 




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