When I was growing up, our town in upstate New York was small and utterly remote. (pause).. Obliging, unseen audience: How small and remote was it? Well, here’s an illustrative story: one day, my sister was telling a grown-up that we were going to “The City” that weekend. “Oh!” came the approving reply. “You’re going to Utica?”
Alright, that gives you an idea.
And there were just as many Jews in my town as you’d expect, also. (Actually, there were a fair number proportionally, but it was still a very small number in fact.) So, when I moved to New York, the acculturation process was startling. People of all backgrounds talked about ‘megillahs’ and ‘shmears’ and ‘chutzpah,’ all Yiddish words that no one in my small town had heard of. It was an adjustment, but not a bad one.
Nowhere, though, is this presence of Jews more strongly felt than in the legal community. I actually love when these gruff, old Jewish defense attorneys call and try to wheedle me with references to our common heritage. It doesn’t ultimately make a difference – beyond the difference that it ever makes when an attorney approaches me in a friendly manner – but it certainly is my favorite shtick (see? New Yorkers know this word, too).
Best of all, though, is my new favorite example of the absolute pervasiveness of Jews in the New York City legal practice. A few weeks ago, I went to a committee meeting at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. The setup was quite nice: clean conference rooms with all sorts of drinks and finger foods. There was soda, water, cheese, and fruit.
And there were latkes and applesauce.