These were all valid questions at Carnegie Deli this morning, where Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz proclaimed today “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn Day,” in celebration of the off-Broadway return of Jake Ehrenreich’s musical memoir, “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn.” Ehrenreich’s photograph entered the hallowed ranks of the pastrami pushing palace’s celebrity-lined walls, and a perplexing new sandwich honoring the show was debuted.
Almost every aspect of the event, however, sparked some contention. Why was a show about Brooklyn, with Brooklyn in the title, being celebrated in Manhattan?
And then there was the sandwich, a towering mix of symbolism and functionality on rye.
“Corned beef and pastrami represent the soil,” explained the event’s organizer, Glenna Freedman. “You have to have turkey on a sandwich. Lettuce and tomato for the greenery. Russian dressing because there are so many Russian Jews, and the broccoli garnish on top, for the tree.”
“We thought about chopped liver, but it was just too messy,” she added.
Markowitz, however, had no truck with any highfalutin explanations, and questioned the “Brooklynness” of the sandwich.
“Did you choose these ingredients yourself? Come on!” he mocked, particularly bemused by the sandwich’s blasphemous inclusion of identifiable vegetables. “Are you sure you’re not from California?”
Ehrenreich ably defended himself, noting that the greenery was necessary to keep him ‘regular,’ prompting a very situation-appropriate conversation about their intestinal fortitudes. The arrival of Carnegie proprietor Sandy Levine, who apologized for the “child-sized” portions, turned into a hometown discussion of their rival high schools from the old country across the river.
“There are too many Jews in this room,” someone suggested in a moment of introspection.
On the way out I recreated a smaller version of “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” out of the “child-sized” portions. Don’t worry; I’ve already called my cardiologist. Markowitz deigned not to give it a try, instead picking up an order of cold borscht with sour cream and a potato on the side.
“Well,” Markowitz said, “back to Brooklyn.”
“A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” is playing at Manhattan’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Theater. Tickets available here.