Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NYT Fail

The New York Times loves a good article about Paris.  They even have a regular Paris correspondent, Elaine Sciolino, who has an incredibly impressive resume.   That said, the NYT's eagerness to report on the intersection of Paris with an always-popular Jewish theme has sorely missed the mark this week.

I'm referring to the article titled "Solving the Passover Puzzle in Paris."  The article presents a seriously limited picture of what it is like to prepare for one of Judaism's biggest annual holidays (and certainly the one that requires the most effort) here in Paris.

It is true that the French have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize their religious identity such that it is difficult to ascertain the average Frenchman's religion or level of religious observance,  that most synagogues are located within unmarked or minimally-marked buildings, and that a neighborhood's kosher market may look like a regular store from the outside.  Yet this does not mean that it is difficult to prepare for Passover, nor that the only options, as presented in the article, are a trip to the Marais or to Rue Richer.

We live on the border of the 8th and 17th arrondissements.  Within a fifteen minute walk of our apartment are three kosher butchers, a kosher bakery, two kosher markets, and multiple kosher restaurants. There are even Passover products available in the chain grocery store down the street, and the kosher markets carry much of the standard Passover fare one finds in the US - matzah ball mix, frozen gefilte fish, potato starch, largely-tasteless Passover cake mixes, and more. 

Even better is that several of the kosher restaurants in Paris - of which, by the way, there are well over 100 - remain open during Passover.  Last year's list of kosher-for-Passover restaurants includes over 15 businesses.

Do you have to find out where to shop for specific products, or where your local kosher market is located?  Sure, but that is no less true in Teaneck, New Jersey than it is here in Paris.  Are there many more Sephardic-approved products here that you must be aware of if you follow Ashkenazic traditions with regard to Passover food?  Sure, but they are clearly labeled as such.

So listen, New York Times.  I know that people love to read about Paris (really - I love to read about the city, and I live there!) and I know that Jewish-themed articles invariably end up on your most-emailed list.  But next time you want to write about how to find or eat kosher food here, or celebrate a Jewish holiday in Paris, please consider talking to someone who is either a) actually Jewish, or b) has a wider view of Jewish life in Paris than Ms. Sciolino.

The anecdote about the pork-filled duck is cute, but I promise it is much easier to simply walk to the kosher butcher who can provide the same array of products minus the pork.  I also realize that this post is a bit of a deviation from my normal style, but what can I say, my apartment is already filled with matzah and this article just pushed my Passover buttons!