Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli

December 15, 2012


In Chicago, New York, L.A., and other American cities, the delicatessen was the lifeblood and the linchpin of the Jewish community. The "soul food" and atmosphere it dished up became a quintessential part of American culture for Jews and non-Jews alike. But as Jews moved into the suburban middle class, the deli lost its bite, giving way to other ethnic restaurants and cuisines. Can the deli be resurrected?

Ted Merwin, an associate professor of religion and Judaic studies at Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) and a well-known writer on Jewish culture, shows how the Jewish deli, which originated in Germany and Eastern Europe, developed in this country into a neighborhood institution on par with the synagogue. He also discusses how the deli became an icon of film, TV, music, and comedy about the Jewish experience, from When Harry Met Sally to a Shelley Berman routine about a rebellious son of a Chicago deli owner.
Recorded Saturday, December 15, 2012 at Kendall College.