That's a headline to grab your attention: "Jews Invade Governors Island in New York Harbor." Governors Island, what is that? Governors Island is an ice cream cone shaped island with a lengthy history, plunked down in the Upper New York Bay. South of Manhattan, west of Brooklyn, east of New Jersey, and nearby to the fabled Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Governors Island had a long run as a military installation. Now it is largely used as a quirky tourist attraction, although it has a public high school located on it and a variety of landmarks.

From the late spring through the early autumn, visitors flock to the island via ferries for arts and entertainment events. Every year my family and I visit once or twice a season, enjoying the unusual mix of arts, verdant lawns, spectacular views of downtown Manhattan and other nearby areas.

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We came today for the annual Figment festival, a kooky melange of arts projects, environmental and social causes dressed up with artsy touches, live and recorded music, costumed people of various ages...all arrayed in a setting that brings to mind small-town America (old wooden and brick houses, big old trees, small and large monuments and plaques, etc.). And somehow Jews made a big splash this year.


The most obvious and curious was that a group of youthful and spirited Breslover Hasidim and onlookers were blasting dance music versions of Chasidische pop songs. Men danced in a pack, women in a smaller group, and a few people pranced about and blew on a sizable, twisty shofar. It was quite a scene. My older daughter, a high school student finishing her first year, was giggling at their antics, and snapping lots of photographs.

Then there was the Art Kibbutz, the more sedate Jewish scene here. Located in the southern half of a large wooden house, their "GovIsland Residency & Exhibit" was intriguing. In each room and corridor of the house you would find the work of a different Jewish artist, and sometimes the artist as well. On the porch there was a hands-on craft activity. One of the artists, Harriet Finck of East Orange, New Jersey, had made drawings featuring words and themes from Kohelet, (Ecclesiastes). Another artist had painted skate boards with different colors and vaguely Jewish themes.

And what's more, this year there was a kosher food truck on Governors Island. There was a truck that draped an Israeli flag on its side window, and served two variations of shakshuka and some other snacks. I had the "red" traditional dish, and it was tasty. A few trucks down was a "kosher style" deli sandwich truck. Usually I ignore that but this time I noticed that the two counter men running that truck were the guys who used to run the kosher deli that had been near my house! It closed two years ago, due to rising rent, but we went over and chatted briefly with them. They did remember us.

If you were looking for a comprehensive history of Governors Island, sorry, I haven't provided one here. If you wanted an in-depth look at Jewish arts and culture, it's not here. But if you wanted to know how a bunch of Jews, or a few bunches of Jews, ended up having a fun time at the fabulous Governors Island, on a beautiful sunny Sunday in June, here is your report.


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