June 4, 2019

Why a Jewish Deli Closes

Rego Park…There are few institutions that close that generate as much rancor as when a Jewish deli closes. Jewish delis at one point were synonymous with the Jewish experience in New York. According to the Forward, in the 1930s there were at least 1,500 Jewish delis in New York City, according to Ted Merwin’s book “Pastrami On Rye.” Now Jay Parker, owner of Ben’s Best Deli, a Jewish landmark, says he can only count 12 Jewish delis left and he is closing his deli in Rego Park after 73 years. One reason given for the closure was that a new bike lane was obstructing access, but truth be told the answer lies in the demographic change. Without a proper hechsher (kosher certification) the Jews living in that neighborhood will not patronize a Jewish deli, local rabbis pointed out. Making all kinds of excuses for the demise of an institution that will not step up to the demands of the times will not save delis like Ben’s. Time to smell the pastrami!