Decline and Fall of the Jewish Deli

No home country and an Americanized palate spell doom for brisket
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2009 11:37 AM CST
Katz's Delicatessen in New York.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Jewish deli is dying, author David Sax tells New America Media, and there’s not much anyone, Jew or gentile, can do about it. In New York, for instance, there are about two dozen kosher and non-kosher establishments today, down from 1,500 in the 1930s. One of the problems is the rootlessness of the culture. “A Mexican restaurant always has a Mexico to go back to, for its source,” Sax says. With Jewish food, “there is no physical place that you can return to.”

Combine that fleetingness with the famously omnivorous Jewish palate, and “traditional” Jewish food can disappear. “Most people do not keep kosher,” Sax says, “and those who keep kosher will probably cook kosher versions of Chinese food.” There is one bright spot for the Jewish deli: Los Angeles , where they are still community hubs, especially among the entertainment industry. “In other cities, people tend to go to Jewish delicatessens for nostalgia. And nostalgia is a strong, powerful force but it’s not exactly something that bodes well for the future.”

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