Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Di Naye Kapeye's Traktorist: Finally Out on Oriente!

Just in time for Hanukah, it is finally out: Di Naye Kapelye's third CD on Oriente records, entitled Traktorist. It feels like a huge weight is off my shoulders, since versions of this CD have been in the bin for over three years since our initial recording sessions for it over at the now defunct Yellow Studios, located in the old Hungarian Army barracks that formerly housed the Hungarian Communist Army music division. But it is done, finished, and out now, and available from Oriente records in Berlin, as well as from Hatikvah records in the US. Eventually, Amazon should carry it in the US catalog, but it takes time. Like all of our CDs, it isn't exactly mass-marketed... and don't write me for a copy. I only have a couple of promos from our folks in Berlin...
Ari Davidow wrote us a wonderful review, and even stuck us on top of his annual top ten list of Klezmer recordings. Which makes my day. And I sincerely hope it makes Till and Gigi at Oriente's day as well, with special kudos to Michael Vogt for the cover design. The original plan was to record a few sessions in November 2005 during the Hungarian Jewish forum conference, at which time Adam Schoenburger from MAROM was able to bring Michael Alpert and Josh Dolgin to Budapest for a concert on the A38 boat. About half of the material was planned and arranged ahead of time - the other half was done in our usual manner: impromptu jamming and brain storming in the studio, lots of raw takes, and almost no overdubbing or editing to detract from the live quality of the recording sound.This CD is partly a testament to Di Naye Kapelye's long time connections to the godfathers of modern Klezmer, Brave Old World (above: Michael Alpert and Stu Brotman playing for a klezmer dance with DNK in Budapest in 2006) and it was my first serious introduction to Josh "DJ Socalled" Dolgin. Josh plays uncharacteristically traditional on the CD: piano backup on an old Moskowitz cimbalom tune and Romanian style accordion on "A Briv fun Yisroel" but he later used the studio to record Puma playing kontra riffs, which he used in his own hit video "These are the Good Old Days"We also feature our good friends the Técső Band, a group of Gypsy musicians from the Hutsul village of Tjaciv, in the Western Ukraine. I had learned a lot of their Jewish repetoire, which comes from the father of the Csernovec brothers, Manyo up Csernovec, and decided that the best way to present the material was to simply invite the guys to the studio and let it rip.
I actually recorded with the Técső Band about six months after the initial sessions while they were in Budapest for some gigs during the filming their documentary film "The Last Kolomeyke" so the studio sessions are included in the final cut of the film. Sadly, these were the last recording sessions for tsymbaly player Misha Csernovec, who passed away about six months later.
But the best moment on the CD? We brought my son Aron, who was then twelve going on thirteen, in to sing a verse in Yiddish on the Hassidic song "Az Nisht Keyn Emunes." Aron - who knows German from his school - learned the Yiddish pronounciation from Michael and Yankl, giving the song the perfect Brooklyn pre-bar mitzvah Yeshiva bukher sound that you hear on all those cassette tapes one can buy in Boro Park Hassidic music shops. And Yankl pronounced that the session counted as Aron's bar mitzvah. Aron also did a great job singing it on stage at the A38 with his old man.
Di Nayes are playing at the Siraly on December 23 for a small concert with Shrayem. We'll also be teaching a klezmer dance session with Sue Foy around 8:30, and showing some archive videos of Klezmer dance to help in teaching. Hope to see you all there! Feri, our cimbalom player, alas, won't be playing, since he's in a cast due to a moped accident in November, and Yankl is in the US, so we'll be a trio. I'll be celebrating the CD release with the band (a bottle of tequila in the fiddle case) so don't expect an awfully linear response if you come up to us... happy hanukah!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Criuleni/Krivlyany and The Mystery of Oniţcani Solved

I was about ten years old when I learned that our family name - Cohen - was not entirely our family name. When my paternal Grandfather finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York harbor in 1923, he went through the famously disorienting process of registering as an immigrant to the US. When asked for his name, he answered ""Onitskansky" but according to him the American officials couldn't spell it and asked for his "Jewish name" and he gave it - Cohen. We all have a "Jewish name" given at birth - I'm Reuven ben Yithak ha-Kohen, for example (Reuben son of Issac the Cohen) , and my son is Aharon ben Reuven ha-Kohen. When Grandpa became a US citizen he was offered the chance to return to his old name, but he had already built a business based on the new name and decided to stick with it - Cohen is a pretty high status name for a Jew in any case, nothing to sniff at, really. My Grandfather, Moishe Onitskansky, born in the small village of Krivylyany (also known as Criuleni in Romanian) in 1890 thus became Morris Cohen.Criuleni/Krivilyany was where my grandfather was born, but after a few years the family (which included twelve siblings) moved to Kihinev (about twenty miles west.) So after leaving Orgeyev with a few hours left in the afternoon, we took a long dirt road through Orhei Veche on the way to the town where my Grandfather was born. Orhei Veche is famous for a beautiful Monastery carved into the rock of a cliff, less famous for a rather dismal prison, and filled with the classic style of Moldovan peasant houses - painted blue.Another half hour of dirt road down from Orhei Veche and we reached Criuleni - which is known in Russian as Kryvyljany and in Yiddish as Krivilyan.) Criuleni is located in the Dnister valley, right across from the town of Dubasarry. Today it is a small town of mixed Romanian and Russians, in my Grandafthers day it contained 600 Jews, 300 Romanians, and 300 Ukrainians.Once we got into the village I asked if there was a Jewish cemetery - I had hoped that I might find some grave stones with the Onitskansky name on them - but the villagers said that the Jewish cemetery was across the river. Which is to say, in the internationally unrecognized Transnistrian Republic. Which is to say, if I wanted to risk a few hundred Euros in bribes to various cossack militias, crooked border cops, the renegade Soviet 14th Army, and assorted local mafia-oids to travel two kilometers east to visit a cemetery, I was welcome to try - the Transnistrians are all too happy to discuss exit visa costs on your way out.
I took the opportunity to stroll around downtown Criuleni, happy to get my shoes caked in the same mud that my own tayere Zeyde walked in a century before. Like I said, November isn't the best season to visit Moldova - the grey skies and muddy streets lend a stereotypical shtetl ugliness to these places that at other times must be lovely - although somewhat less than exciting - places to visit.But let it be understood that in any small town there will be a cafe, and lo and behold, nearly every cafe serves a fine hot placinta. No, it has nothing to do with the Hungarian crepe known as a palacsinta, it is rather, what we know in New York as a knish. Mashed potato rolled in strudel pastry, just the thing you need on a cold Moldovan afternoon. And they were always served hot.
There was not a heck of a lot to keep us in Criuleni and it was getting late, so our driver headed down the road, deciding at the last moment to take a shortcut back to Kishinev. This turned into an amazing bit of luck. Two villages south of Criuleni I noticed a road sign, and at the same time both Fumie and I shouted for the driver to stop. I know it doesn't look terribly exciting, but my family has been asking me for years about the name Onitskansky - where could it come from, what does it mean? Bingo... here it is. (Anybody know the joke about the Fakowi tribe?)
The name Onitskansky is one of the more obscure names in the Ashkenazic family tree - none of my family ever knew where it came from, and apart from immediate family, we never met anybody else who bore the name. Some of my Grandfather's family had left Moldova and moved to Russia or the Ukraine, one branch had emigrated to Argentina, some had stayed in Kishinev, but every time I ever met Jews from Moldova I would ask about the names Onitskansky or Tsarivcan, and nobody ever responded that they knew anyone from those families. I had always suspected that it reffered to a toponym, and the only near match was the record that Oniţcani had been the scene of one of the earliest pogroms connected to a case of blood libel, which is mentioned in a Wikipedia article: In 1726, in the Bessarabian borough of Oniţcani, four Jews were accused of having kidnapped a five-year old child, of killing him on Easter and of collecting his blood in a barrel. They were tried at Iaşi under the supervision of Moldavian Prince Mihai Racoviţă, and eventually acquitted following diplomatic protests. Oniţcani, however, doesn't show up much on maps and the only printed reference I had seen abbout it specualted that it was located across the river in Transnistria. I did, however, find a pretty complete account of the blood libel accusations in an article I dredged up on the academic library archive (which is password protected, so either learn to hack it like I do or email me and I will send you a copy of it in PDF format. The article is "The Jews of Moldavia at the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century" by E. Schwarzfeld, in the The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Oct., 1903.) On one page, there is a small - and significantly misleading - footnote about Oniţcani:

"A little town which has now disappeared..." Well, if any place can be said to have dropped of the map, then Oniţcani can take the cake. It would seem that my Grandfather's ancestors knew how to take a clue and moved north a few villages away to Criuleni. In the end, the blood libel case was dismissed through the intervention of the Ottoman Turkish authorities - who ruled Moldavia through a delicate system of appointing Christian princes such as the famous musician Grigori Cantemir, alongside a set of Greek administrators from the Fanar district of Istanbul who helped make the term Phanariot a byword for Romanian political corruption to this day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Grandmother's Shtetl: Teleneşti and Orhei

My Grandmother, Bunye "Betty" Tsarevcan, was born in Teleneşti, in the Republic of Moldova in 1893. In my family's history, of course, we always knew the place as Bessarabia. My Grandfather was born in Criuleni, which he knew as Krivilyany in Yiddish. On Di Naye Kapelye's last CD "A Mazeldiker Yid" I included a track of her telling the story - in Yiddish - of how her grandfather, a rich textile merchant, had to send all the way to Iasi to hire the Lemesh family of Klezmer musicians for my great-Grandmother's wedding festivities. She began her tale with the words "We're from Teleneşti... we're not from Orgeyev." And so, I had to see Teleneşti, not so much for myself, since I have seen a more small muddy Moldavian towns over the last fifteen years than I care to count, but to, somehow, close a circle. My Father and my Uncle Eli are the last of their generation, those that were raised on their parents' stories of the Old Country, told in a rich Bessarabian Yiddish dialect with absolutely no nostalgia and no desire to ever return, stories of unfortunate arranged marriages and poverty and broken marriages and pogroms and World War One and Bolsheviks and finally the epic of escape. But as Bessarabians, my father's generation always maintained a natural curiosity - "What is it like in the place our parents came from?"
It is a natural curiosity. Among Jews in the USA, the "Old Country" is fading into a dim mythological realm, divorced from the reality of first person stories told by those who were born on the land. When I grew up, however, most of the people I knew who were my grandparent's age were emigrants from Europe, people who spoke Yiddish as their first language. As emigrants, they had left a lot of their family behind in the old county, and although attempts were made to keep in touch, history had other plans. Some connections were kept, but World War Two and the Holocaust intervened - and whatever connections survived were strained by the Russian occupation of Bessarabia after WWII. Still, Moldavia is where we came from, where Moshe Onitskansky (Cohen) and Betty Tsarivcan met and married, and at family gatherings the talk always drifted back to "I'd like to visit there sometime." But nobody ever did. Ever. It was the frigging Soviet Republic of Moldova, a place chock full of Red Army military industrial zones that was practically off limits to foreigners until 1990. Then the Other Europeans project set up a field trip for music research in Moldova, and Alan Bern invited me. So I became the first member of my immediate family to return to Bessarabia since 1923.
While Alan Bern, Zev Feldman and I were in Edinets, we talked about how strange it was for us (all Bessarabian Jews) to come back and find a sense of ccommunity and continuity - when we said "Our families came from here!" local people in Moldavia understood that we felt we had somehow come home. That sounds normal, but for a diaspora Jew it isn't. We didn't have large networks of relatives in the US - we had immediate family, and then a series of friends and landsmann who substituted for kin. Relatives were something you had lost in the fog of 20th century European history - politics, pogroms, emigration, the Holocaust, aliyah to Israel. At best you had a half-remembered list of names and villages. But way back in your mind, you knew you actually had a place... there was a map... there was a reality.Jewish-American literature doesn't have the sense of family and place you find in William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County stories or Peter Matthiessen's South Florida or even Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon - we depended on the mythologies of I.B. Singer or the diluted Anatevka of Fiddler on the Roof as a substitute for the actual experience of having been there. And so the urge to go is that much stronger. And there are still a lot of Jews in Moldova. Real Yidn! Efim Chorny and his colleague Susan Ghergus are Moldavian Jews who choose to stay in Besarabia, who don't want to leave, and they have made something new and alive out of Jewish culture in Moldavia, as music teachers and performers of Yiddish music in the band Klezmer Alliance. (Photo below: Diana Ghergus, Susan Ghergus, me, Zev Feldman, Yiddish singer Slava Farber, Alan Bern, and Efim Chorny in Kishinev.)Efim and Susan were essential to Alan Bern's Other Europeans Project focus on Bessarabia and acted (alongside Marin and Diana Bunea, and trumpet virtuoso Adam Stinga) as our guides and hosts in the Republic of Moldova, and - amid the million things they had to worry about - they organized a day trip for Fumie and myself to vistit the shtetls that my Grandparents came from. Through them we were able to hire Volodya, a professor of Mathematics at the University, as a driver for the day (full Professors in Moldova make about US $100 a month, so extra work is always welcome - and the man was a damn good driver on those back roads!)That's downtown Orhei, also known as Orgeyev and - in Yiddish - as Uriv. Orhei is famous for several things, among them it's roads - which suck. The other is it has a famous insane asylum. In Moldova, when you ask somebody "What? Are you from Orhei?" it means "Are you crazy or what?" It also has a small but still functional Jewish community and Synagogue. When I was growing up in New York, Orgayev was a place that was more important to us than, say, Chicago or London. Orgayev Jews maintained a landsmanshaft - a Jewish regional welfare society - that was based around the burial society of Orgayev Jews in New York. When you die, you get buried alongside other Orgeyev Jews, and the society maintains a cemetery out in Long Island to this day. My family are pushing up the daisies there and will continue to do so happily till... These regional "Burial Societies" (Zev's family were active in the Edinets society) actually functioned as social networks and insurance companies, and had monthly meetings which were mainly get-togethers and fund raisers with klezmer music, dance and food. My grandparents are the couple in the second row on the left, next to the mirror, at an Orgeyver Society of New York's meeting sometimes in the early 1950s.All that good will, effort, and nostalgia for the memory of... Orhei. In New York. In the 1950s. Who would have guessed? On the day I visited, Orhei... it was a cloudy day in late November. No town looks great on a cloudy day in late November. I need to make a visit in June or September (when the wine harvest is in...) Orhei actually seems to be a pretty happening small regional town, although a century ago Orgeyev county was a much larger regional administrative unit, which included much of the central Bessarabian area including Teleneşti and Criuleni. From the main road we saw some Jewish cemeteries there, but since we had to visit Criuleni we didn't spend an awful lot of time there. About a half hour north of Orhei is Teleneşti , which lies about ten kilometers off the main road. Downtown Teleneşti is not much to speak off... asking around, I found that no Jews live there today, and as far as I know, my Grandmother didn't live there long either, having been sent to live with an Aunt in Orhei as a child. I asked some of the local folks if they had heard of the family name - none had. It has been a long time, after all.We had coffee and a knish, and a friendly local man led us to the Jewish cemetery in his car. I've been to a lot of old Jewish ceneteries in Romania - the ones in Moldavia are known for the ornate carved grave stones, often featuring symbols such as the two hands held in the sign of the priestly blessing, denoting that the deceased was a Cohen, or perhaps a shelf of books, denoting a scholar.In Teleneşti there are a number of stones shaped as trees, implying that the tree of life had been cut by the hand of God.Overgrown graveyards are the normal state of affairs in eastern Europe - there isn't a lot of money for upkeep of the graveyard, although the area with the most recent graves - those dating back to the 1940 until a few years ago - is kept tidy. I didn't find any stones with the name Tsarivkan, but I couldn't escape the novel feeling that everybody buried here is, essentially, a relative of mine.The stone I was hoping to find is the grave of my Grandmother's own mother, ornate even by the over the top standards of Bessarabian funerary art.If it was in Teleneşti, it may have fallen down or become overgrown. Chances are it may be in one of the two Jewish cemeteries in Orgeyev. I'll have to check the next time I visit Moldova.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Northern Moldova: Lautari and Klezmorim, The Other Europeans

We're back from Moldova now, and aside from some Transnistrian cognac I seem to have come home with a cold and my life has become one big cycle of kleenex and chicken soup. And Transnistrian cognac. But I'm beginning to piece together some of my impressions of the trip. First of all, visiting the Republic of Moldova was a fantastic experience - both as an ethnomusicologist and as the descendant of Bessarabian Jews who emigrated to America in the 1920s. Moldova was nothing like I had expected. The music tradition was rich and alive, the food was great, the people open and friendly in a way you just don't find in western Europe. Moldova is probably the least known nation in Europe - most news coming from there isn't good news, which obscures the reality of a nation of gracious, hard working people struggling to integrate into a new Europe. Moldova is hampered in this by the status of the district of Transnistria, a sliver of land across the Dniester River which broke away from the newly independant Republic of Moldova in 1992 in a short but nasty civil war. (On the map below, the breakaway Republic of Transnistria is bordered in blue.) With about two thirds of Moldova speaking Romanian, Russian is still the dominant language in the cities, and not long after the declaration of Moldovan Independance on August 27, 1991, the Russian 14th Army - helped by paramilitary Russian nationalist Cossack units - split off and created the internationally unrecognized state of Russian speaking Transnistria (which is split, linguistically, into almost perfect thirds: 30% Russian, 30% Romanian, 30% Ukrainian, and the other 10% wisely keep their mouths shut.) Today, Moldova's attempts to gain EU membership are stymied by its inability to guarantee human rights within its own borders. How long this state of affairs will last is anyone's guess, but until then Moldova's economy is held back (much of the industrialised part of the country is in the east) and much of the country's income comes from Moldovans working abroad. They do send a lot of their earnings home, and the cities, especially Chisinau / Kishinev are lively and bustling with developement.Our first stop was in Edinets, in the north of Moldova. Ethnomuscologist Diana Bunea, whom we met last summer in Weimar as part of the Other Europeans conference and seminar, had done her historical research on Moldovan lautari traditions here - and her husband, violinist Marin Bunea, has family roots in Edinets as well. Musicologist and Klezmer historian Zev Feldman's family is from Edinets, while Alan Bern's family is from Vertujeni, not far away to the east. Toss in my family's roots in Telenesti and Criuleni, and we had... well... can you ever have too many Bessarabian musicologists in one room?The Lautar tradition in Edinets area is multiethnic as well - while some musicians are Gypsy, most come from Ukrainian and Romanian families, and there were Jewish musicians working in this millieu as well - trumpeter Voinisha Popov, for example, is part Jewish and has relatives in Israel as well. The dynastic nature of the profession, however, is common to both Jewish Klezmer and Roma Lautar traditions. The mix of instruments - brass alongside strings, for example - is rarely found in western (Romanian) Moldavia, but was common in early Klezmer ensembles, and the cimbalom is unique in an ensemble alongside brass (usually the cimbalom is replaced by a keyboard when doing contemporary weddings. The hall we see in the photos is, in fact, the wedding salon of the Hotel Paradis in Edinets, where we held most of our music sessions.) [All photos except this one (of Fumie Suzuki, obviously) taken by Fumie Suzuki.]During the four days we worked with the musicians we asked ourselves a lot of questions about the co-territorial musical relationship between local Moldovian music and Klezmer. There isn't really any clear dividing line - Jewish musicians used a lot of the same melodic and rythmic elements that modern Moldovan lautari use, and surprising snatches of melodies were recognized in each repetoire. If anything, this mixed ensemble Moldovan "fanfara" brass band is the most developed form of the Moldavian brass tradition most widely known by the commercial success of the musicians from the Romanian Moldavian village of Zece Prajini known on the world music circuit as "Fanfara Ciocirlia." But in Edinets the use of valve trombones leads to a richer background of improvised counterpoint. Here's a bit of a session in which the trumpeters trade solos (led by the frighteningly talented multi-instrumentalist and accordionist Anatol Ciobanu, who teaches music in the local schools) against a steady rythym provided by the valve trombones.. and stay alert because at around 5 minutes in there is some fine dancing by a friend of the band - a restaurant manager from Czernowitz, in Bukovina - whose dance style is as close to old style klezmer solo men's dancing as I have seen.And here is a Moldavian "Hangu" - also known as a "Honga" in Yiddish dance tradition, in classic form, a manic stream of sixteenth notes usually danced in conga line formation.Being a fiddler I fell head over heels for the music of one of Edinets' oldest lautari, Aurel Gada, who was also one of the most knowledgeable sources for information about the older traditions. This is how I like my music: simple, direct, home cooked folk music, untempered by the training of the music conservatory.If any particular thing can be said to have been gained from our experiences, it is the cultural access between Klezmer musicians and Lautar that seems to have been cut off by war and politics many generations ago is now again open. Bessarabian Jewish musicians utilized all kinds of musical sources in the composition of what we call "Klezmer music" - Moldavian folk, Turkish light classical, older Jewish folk and liturgical, as well as many other influences. We still have these resources to inform us. We can still create new music for our communities based on familiar forms. This first trip to Moldova was just a beginning. I for one, will be back. (Coming soon: Moldovan food, wine, and family roots!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Greetings from Edinets, Republic of Moldova!

We are in Edinets, a town in the northern part of the Moldovan Reublic as a part of Alan Bern's The Other Europeans project, which we participated in during the summer in Weimar, Germany. Having met the wonderful Moldavian lautar violinist Marin Bunea -and his ethnomusicologist wife, Diana Bunea - we are now traveling around Moldova listening and learning from the Moldovan lautar tradition. It's a brass folk tradition that hasn't been heard much outside of Moldova, but is also probably one of the few living traditions that has very close roots to the origins of modern Klezmer music.
What is interesting here in the north of Moldova is that the Klezmer influence was so closely intertwined with local music that the local non-Jewish slang term for a musician is "klezmeras". We've been spending a couple of days trading licks and ideas with some great musicians.
This morning we visited the Jewish cemetery of Edinets with Zev Feldman. Zev - who was one of the founders of the klezmer revival in the 1970s - has family roots in Edinets, and so it was moving to visit the boneyard with him. That's Zev, dressed as an extra in the film Dr. Zhivago.
Took a stroll down Holocaust Street, which is a memorial located in the old Jewish street of Edinets. Edinets, everybody told us, only has about two Jews living here, which is interesting since we met about seven of them this morning, all speaking Yiddish. And now, two floors below me, I hear the band warming up, so I am off with my fiddle... I will go into more detail soon when I can type sitting at a regular desk...
A taste of what Mark Rubin is missing: north Moldavian brass lautar with cimbalom, heavy on the valve trombones.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kádár Étkezde Redux

I've written about the Kádár Étkezde before, but one can't overstate the obvious: the Kádár is simply one of the best places in Budapest to find honest, home-style Hungarian food at a decent price. While my parents were here we hit the place twice, and there is simply no competition. The last time they visited Budapest, I found myself appalled at the quality and cost of Hungarian style restaurants in the downtown areas. This time, I simply put the 'rents in a cab and hauled them over to the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, Klauzal ter, and sat them down in Kádár. No complaints, no problems, just simple, good Hungarian food.Kádár gets crowded at lunch time, which is the point: it is only open for lunch. The food is fresh - prepared in the morning - shoots out of the kitchen, and then they close at 3 pm. The place is a treasure chest of odd peccadillos, such as the payment system: you finish your meal, and then go to the doorman and recite a litany of what you've eaten, including glasses of seltzer water and slices of bread, pay, and then slip your waitress a nice tip. But in terms of "old-fashioned" it doesn't get better. My Father was in the midst of dental restructuring, and so he was obviously pleased with good old Magyar meat soup, beef boiled to the point of agreeable gummability.They even serve pink tall glasses of malna, the old rasberry syrup and soda soft drink that was the staple soft drink of pre Coca-Cola communist times (before the advent of traubisoda, even!) My Mom found the daily special was tőkfözelék - creamed squash mush with a slice of pork - which (without the pork slice) is what she had been feeding me and my siblings for decades in New York before we ever saw it on a restaurant menu. I used to eat this for breakfast when I was a kid. Mom loved it.I went for the meat: below is the pork ribs and red cabbage lunch. Next to it is a plate of beet salad with fresh horseradish piled on top - strong enough to knock you to the floor and bring floods of tears to your eyes. Khreyn heaven...
A lot of customers come in to the Kádár and only order the filling, cheap soup and a dessert. It's an older way of dealing with lunch - soup and sweets. The desserts are an edible museum of old Magyar home style sweets, from back in the day when the dessert course was just as important as the main course in filling you up with cheap starch. Our choice was fánk, which is, essentially, donuts, except the Hungarian donut is a ball of sweet fried yeast dough dusted in sugar and the jam is spooned over it. Doh!Other Kádár options might include várgabéles, sweet bread cubes swimming in vanilla sauce, or any of a load of grandma era afters like mákos tészta, poppy seed and sugar sprinkled on spaghetti, which is usually eaten as a main course (and was the source of Primo Levi's disdain when, after being released from Auschwitz, the pasta loving Italian Jewish writer was interned for a year in a transit camp with Hungarian Jewish cooks.) Or, you can stroll three blocks away down Dob utca for a visit to Frölich Cukrászda, the last of the old style kosher pastry and coffee shops in the Ghetto.Frölich's is famous for flodni, the ultimate Budapest Jewish pastry: poppy seeds, apple, and nuts sandwiched in a pite pastry sandwich. This is the stuff that was the cause of the famous flodni-gate episode two years ago during which local bloggers mercilessly mocked the officially recognized Jewish community organization by presenting a flodni to Hungarian president Sólyom László .This isn't the Jewish pastry that we know from growing up in Galicianer-influenced New York City, but I'll soon be on the road looking into the origins of some of that. I am heading out to the fabulous Republic of Moldova on friday... palm trees... tropical drinks... sandy beaches... Aloha Moldova! I'll be with a lot of the teaching staff from the Weimar Yiddish Culture weeks with whom I worked in the summer - Alan Bern, Zev Feldman, Kalman Balogh - visiting lautar musicians in Edinets and Chisinau, and basically spending a week in the poorest nation in Europe - the birthplace of my paternal grandparents, and hopefully, get a chance to visit the shtetls where they were born. More soon... gibt mir Bessarabia!