New York, Nu York: A Small Joy Illuminates the Darkness

Frankly, this summer has been pretty rough in the United States. In fact, it is bordering on awful. We have experienced a great deal of gun violence and death, in Orlando, Florida; in Dallas, Texas; in other urban and suburban areas. And the violence has been heavily tinged with horrific prejudice: prejudice against the LGBQT community, against the African-American community, against the police.
Add to this a strikingly divisive presidential campaign which shows two highly unpopular candidates, Trump and Clinton, who are catalysts to a great deal of hate. Not just anger but hate. And add in widespread illicit drug problems, clusters of people overdosing on heroin, on painkillers, on "spice" or "synthetic marijuana." And also add in other sad and frightening news stories of late.
In fact, my younger daughter and I have witnessed two frightening incidents: one, in the Bronx, involved two large tractor-trailer trucks in a minor collision. As we drove east on the Cross Bronx Expressway on Tuesday, we watched one truck rear-end another. While it didn't seem like a major accident, the stench of burning rubber, emanating from the huge truck tires, was pungent.
The second incident was more of a reaction to a problem: yesterday, Wednesday, we drove past a Brooklyn intersection at Broadway and Myrtle Avenue. We saw an unusually large and loud crowd at a corner bodega (food store) where local politicians (I saw a few I recognized) and activists, police and media people armed with cameras and press passes were milling about. Just hours earlier, more than 20 people had overdosed on some nasty drug known as K-2, synthetic marijuana.
So I'm relating to you how unhappy is the vibe in Brooklyn, in New York City, in the United States. But I feel compelled to find something that was a joy in recent days, and there was one in particular. Last week, both my daughters and I visited the Cloisters, a recreated medieval European castle in upper Manhattan. This place seems about as un-Jewish as could be, as it is filled with Christian paintings and artwork. I did see one modern-Orthodox couple walking around, admiring the artwork (the famous Unicorn tapestries are housed here).
But I found something Jewish, precious and wondrous on display at the Cloisters, which my daughters and I lingered over in its glass case. There was a centuries-old Haggadah, featuring beautiful illustrations and delicate lettering. It was something so nice, so unexpected, that thinking about it in the days after our trip, when we heard of and read of awful news stories, was a bit of relief. Frankly, when things are sad and overwhelming, intimidating and daunting, it is important for us to find small joys and reflect upon them. They are buoys for our souls.