My Obstetrician’s Rx: Liverwurst

October 8, 2009 - Leave a Response

THE FORWARD-October 06, 2009

A Mother-to-Be Ponders Giving Birth Abroad

By Deborah Kolben


When I moved to Berlin last year, I settled into a Bohemian-chic neighborhood in what was formerly East Berlin. Despite Germany’s declining birth rate — the once decaying buildings here, where coal ovens and shared bathrooms have been replaced with stainless steel kitchens and cupboards filled with organic muesli — are packed with babies. It’s considered a German miracle. Coffee shops are more like nurseries. My block was home to three preschools, including one in my building. They say to be careful — there’s something in the water. And then, it happened to me.

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In Germany, a Baron’s Castle Is Your B&B

August 16, 2009 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK TIMES—August 16, 2009


WHEN Thilo von und zu Gilsa, a scion of one of Germany’s noble families, arrived in the formal dining room of his ancestral castle in central Germany, he wore a green Bavarian hunting jacket. On the wall behind him hung a portrait of a great-great-great-grandfather, the hunting master for a local duke. His four children were on perfect behavior, including Genoveva, 2, who was buttering her own bread with a silver knife.

It was easy to forget that this was also a hotel, until Mr. von Gilsa’s wife, Tanja, walked in wearing black riding boots and carrying a large white china platter of roasted chicken, which her two paying guests eagerly carved up. After dinner, Ms. von Gilsa became the tour guide, holding forth on the provenance of the heavy antique furniture and ornate decorations throughout the home. “I think that one’s mine,” Ms. von Gilsa said, pointing to the skin of a wild boar she had recently killed. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Orthodox Women Are Choosing Natural Birth

August 12, 2009 - Leave a Response

The Forward—August 12, 2009


Looking for a doctor to deliver your baby when you’re 30 weeks pregnant isn’t exactly ideal. But when I moved back to Brooklyn earlier this month, after living in Europe for the past year, that’s exactly what I had to do.

In my perfect world I wanted to find a caring midwife who could deliver my baby in a non-hospital setting. After some extensive Google research, I found myself driving out one rainy morning to the Brooklyn Birthing Center, a small freestanding practice of midwives on an otherwise dim residential strip in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry »

Motion Sensitive

December 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

NEXTBOOK.ORG–December 10, 2008

Photographer Hans Robertson captured the expressionist dancers of Weimar Germany

By Deborah Kolben and Gal Beckerman


When Lotte Jacobi’s photos were exhibited together for the first time four years ago, reviewers were dazzled by how many of Weimar Germany’s glittering jewels—from Käthe Kollowitz to Martin Buber to the famously vampy Lotte Lenya—had been captured by her lens. She seemed to have single-handedly taken on the task of portraying the immense artistic, psychological, and political fervor of those tumultuous years, which seemed fragile even at the time—an ambitious task for any one photographer, even one as hungry as Jacobi. But her atelier was, in fact, one of 400 in Berlin, and she was just one of the many—mainly Jewish—photographers feverishly recording the dancers, writers, and actors that made this doomed moment in German history so extraordinary. Another photographer who clicked away at an incredible rate and with singular results was Hans Robertson.
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Perfect Places to Hit the Hay in Germany

October 18, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK TIMES — October 19, 2008

n the hayloft at Herrenhaus Salderatzen, one of hundreds of so-called hay hotels throughout Germany.

In the hayloft at Herrenhaus Salderatzen, one of hundreds of so-called hay hotels throughout Germany.

WAKING up in a strange hotel can be disorienting. Now imagine staying down the hall from 60 cows, 2 goats and a baby rabbit. Oh, and you’re sleeping on a pile of hay.

Leave it to the Germans to combine livestock with lodging. In the last decade, hundreds of farms throughout Germany have transformed old barns and potato warehouses into heuhotels, or hay hotels, where guests spend the night on a bed of dried grass.

The eco-friendly hotels (no sheets to change) are cheap and appeal to the country’s many cyclists, nature lovers and outdoorsy families. Sleeping accommodations range from open lofts filled with bales of hay, to feed stalls furnished with wooden platforms. And while a few hotels have added more civilized amenities like privacy curtains and bottles of wine to take to bed, most still require that guests bring their own sleeping bag and towels. Read the rest of this entry »

A Wife, Down and Out in Berlin

September 18, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE FORWARD — September 18, 2008

This Must Be the Place
By Anna Winger
Riverhead Books, 303 pages, $24.95.

Days after moving to Berlin from Brooklyn this summer, I fell into a deep funk. It was the kind of can’t-get-out-of-bed depression where at 5 p.m. you realize that you haven’t left the apartment all day — except once, and that was to get a donner kebab, the pervasive Turkish street food and Berlin’s answer to the New York slice. I knew that outside, out in Berlin, there were galleries to see and cafés to idyll in, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. It all just seemed so gray, vast and empty. I was realizing that Berlin, with all its heavy history, could do this to a person.

It probably wasn’t the best idea, then, to start reading Anna Winger’s debut novel, “This Must Be the Place.” When the book opens, Winger’s protagonist, Hope, a third grade schoolteacher from New York, has also just arrived in Berlin, and fares even worse than I have. Drawn to Europe by a husband who spends his weeks in Poland — leaving in his stead a stack of books for his non-Jewish wife, with titles that invariably contain the words “Holocaust” or “antisemitism” — Hope hides out. Read the rest of this entry »

Where Did All the Truckers Go?

March 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK TIMES — March 16, 2008

“They’re going to call Gowanus ‘West Park Slope’ or ‘East Carroll Gardens,’ ” a local potter said.

“They’re going to call Gowanus ‘West Park Slope’ or ‘East Carroll Gardens,’ ” a local potter said.

TEN years ago, when a Bay Ridge businessman named Emmanuel Maropakis bought a former metal fabrication factory on a desolate strip of Third Avenue at Sixth Street in Gowanus, he thought he could make a few dollars renting the place out for storage.

The immediate surroundings were not promising: Local commerce included the South Brooklyn Casket Company, a pasta factory and a fairly active drug trade.

“It was all empty, empty, empty, except for the prostitutes,” Mr. Maropakis recalled one day recently as he stood in his building and wiped his hands on his paint-spattered pants.

But when he heard last year that a luxury condominium and a boutique hotel were planned for this stretch of Third Avenue, he got a better idea.

Just before Christmas, he started transforming the old factory into a sprawling pizza and barbecue restaurant, with nearly 300 seats. Mr. Maropakis’s most recent addition is a brick oven he built, which can cook 1,000 pounds of meat at a time. Read the rest of this entry »

The Little Georgia Town That Covers New York City in Turf

January 7, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK SUN — January 7, 2008

DALTON, Ga. — With a population only twice the number of people who work inside the Empire State Building, this self-proclaimed carpet capital of the world appears to have very little in common with the hustle and bustle of New York City.

Delfino Cruz, above, moved to Dalton, Ga., from Oaxaca, Mexico, 14 years ago and now works 70 hours a week for FieldTurf Tarkett, one of the largest turf manufacturers.

But Dalton, which is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, has forged a most unusual connection to New York: It has, literally, become crucial to the ground on which many New Yorkers walk and play.

The town has carved out a niche for itself as the manufacturer of New York’s “grass” — the artificial turf that the city has been laying increasingly in parks and asphalt lots and, most recently, public housing projects.

Since 1997, when the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation began turning to turf, Dalton has knitted, tufted, and coated thousands of feet of it and loaded it onto trucks for the 800-mile journey to the five boroughs.

To date, the city has replaced 90 of its 800 grass or asphalt ball fields with artificial turf, and another 23 are scheduled for conversion.

“Anywhere you’re going to look, there’s a 100% chance that’s it going to come from Dalton,” the president of Elite Synthetic Surfaces, Mike Gismondi, said about turf around New York City.

Until a decade ago, Dalton was a sleepy, white town where residents and carpet barons piled into Baptist churches on Sunday mornings. But in the last 15 years it has become a magnet for Hispanic immigrants and, in turn, an even more important manufacturing community. At the same time, New York’s manufacturing industry has virtually disappeared. Read the rest of this entry »

The Matzo Show on Rivington Street

January 6, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK TIMES — January 6, 2008

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Through the window of Streit’s matzo factory, some watch and others ask for free samples.

ALL day long, people ask Leonides Negron if he is Jewish.

Mr. Negron, a 46-year-old Puerto Rican, works at the venerable Streit’s matzo factory on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, handling the stacks of steaming flat breads as they emerge from the 900-degree, 72-foot-long oven. While bearded rabbis upstairs bless the dough, Mr. Negron stands near the first-floor window, listening to merengue on the radio and moving matzo from a conveyor belt onto wire cooling racks.

The bakery has operated in the same four red brick tenements since 1925, and because its oven is on the first floor, passers-by often gaze through the barred windows to watch the action inside. Some ask what is being made; others request a taste. A man who strolls by every morning asks for a piece of matzo for his dog.

Mr. Negron is happy to chat.

“I tell them it’s Jewish bread,” he said of the matzo in the familiar red and blue box. “But to Spanish people, we just tell them it’s crackers.” Read the rest of this entry »

Practicing Different Religions (but United on the Issue of Pork)

November 16, 2007 - Comments Off on Practicing Different Religions (but United on the Issue of Pork)

THE NEW YORK TIMES —November 16, 2007

Sam Habib, a Muslim, and Cindy Gluck, who is Jewish, on the job.

Sam Habib, a Muslim, and Cindy Gluck, who is Jewish, on the job.

ON the morning in August 2005 when Sam Habib and Cindy Gluck opened their first Dunkin’ Donuts, they awoke at dawn to make sure that the glazed fritters and French crullers were out on the counter. Then Mr. Habib sneaked off to the neighboring mosque to pray, and Ms. Gluck, panicky about the prospects of their new venture, went to the back of the store to cry.

Mr. Habib, a bearish 47-year-old with a warm smile, is a Muslim immigrant from Egypt, and Ms. Gluck, 34, is a slim, petite Orthodox Jew from Borough Park, Brooklyn. Both had sunk their entire savings into buying the franchise, on a busy stretch of Church Avenue at East 17th Street in Flatbush.

It was a terrifying gamble. The two had known each other only a few months when Mr. Habib, who says he dreamed for decades of running a Dunkin’ Donuts, asked Ms. Gluck, a real estate broker he had met while looking for a location, to join him in business. He knew she was an Orthodox Jew but said he didn’t care.

Technically, Ms. Gluck is a silent partner, owner of just 49 percent of the business, but as Mr. Habib is quick to point out, there is nothing silent about her.

“I let him make all the decisions,” Ms. Gluck said.

“Really?” Mr. Habib replied, with raised eyebrows. Read the rest of this entry »