A Gypsy in New York
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Pre-publication preview courtesy of Ash Tree Publishing
Chapter 1.4, continued from last month…
It seemed also to me a sign of modern times that close to the island of the Statue of Liberty is Ellis Island, used as a detention and deportation center by the United States Immigration Service.For two centuries New York itself has been an Eldorado to pressing crowds of immigrants and exiles from Europe, and among those human masses, many thousands of Serbian and Balkan Gypsies entered at the time of World War I.
The Jewish population of New York City is enormous and is estimated to be as high as 30 percent of the population.In the Lower East Side thousands of Jews occupy whole streets, but there is no ghetto there or anywhere in America. The American Jewish people are a free and prosperous minority, and their genius has created many of New York’s most famous and most beautiful stores. Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World was supposed to have been financed largely by Portuguese Jews.
At the time of Columbus’s voyage, King Ferdinand had already turned his jealous eyes upon the flourishing Jews of Spain, and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews anxiously hoped that that great navigator, perhaps of their own race, as some historians have decided, would find them a new country to which they could flee from the commencing agony of the Spanish Inquisition.
And that was exactly what came to be, although not as refugees from the Spanish persecutors; that was too early, the Jews of Spain leaving then for Holland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and thereabouts. My own family on my father’s side left Toledo for Smyrna in Turkey, and on my mother’s side they went from Barcelona to Tetuan in Spanish Morocco and to Marrakesh (they still bear names such as Barchelon and Maratchi).
It was the Jews of Russia and Poland who swarmed to the New World to escape the more recent pogroms of those lands, and yet later on, the German, Polish, Hungarian, and other Jews from Hitler’s Nazi-occupied countries found refuge in America from the worst pogroms of their history: refuge from the unspeakable mass death in the gas chambers or in the execution pits. That is why the European Jews predominate in America and the Sephardic – Spanish and Portuguese – Jews are still only a small percentage in comparison.
No one who has ever embarked at New York port can fail to agree that it is among the most beautiful, largest, and best of all the great ports of the world. It is claimed that New York harbor could easily contain any six of the world’s largest ports.
Other than the birch-bark canoes of the original Indian inhabitants, the small ship, Half Moon by name, sailed by the European Hendrick Hudson, was the first to travel, in 1609, the majestic river that leads to Manhattan Island. The river bears the explorer’s name, the Hudson, and so does one of New York’s hotels, the Henry Hudson, where I was to attend the annual dog show of the American Afghan Hound Association.
The part-English explorer, Hudson, was in the employ of the Dutch East Indian Company, and it was the Dutch who first settled Manhattan and the surrounding areas and called their settlement New Amsterdam. What a legend! And it was all true! How Peter Minuit, a governor of the Dutch trading company, purchased Manhattan Island from “the wild men,” for guilders to the value of $24 worth of baubles and a small amount of fancy cloth.
Now, in land value alone, it is worth untold millions of dollars only a few hundred years later,and the populationhas grown from a handful of Indians to millions of people who have come from all over the world to settle and trade there. I was coming to “trade” in books. A number of American publishers had written to my English publishers, Faber and Faber, concerning their interest in a book that I had written about Galilee of the Holy Land, legends and true travel tales. Now, with the help of a New York literary agent, Paul Reynolds, American publication of that book, and several of my earlier ones, was envisaged. So now I, too, had come to the Golden Door, rather old and tired and much traveled.
Before I left Granada, in Spain, my Gypsy friend, the great dancer La Faraona (one of the Gypsy priestesses of the famed mountain caves dancing-places of Sacro Monte), had taken my hand unasked and had begun reading it! I had never seen her hand reading before, and she seemed in a trance, as she pressed her powerful dancer’s leg against mine. She prophesied great success in America. I was not to find it! Moderate success in my work, but the making of many American friends and friendships that I know will endure my life through.
The success may come later! Faraona had seemed so sure. And indeed, she is always questioning any friends of mine who had come from America to Spain, asking them about my concerns: Had I made my fortune? Faraona is dead now. Her remarkable face is deeply etched on my mind. I miss her. We will meet again likely in the spirit world of the dead. Some friendships are everlasting.
To be continued…
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Author of Common Herbs for Natural Health
In this richly detailed memoir, Juliette de Bairacli Levy – one of the founders of American herbalism – offers us a rare documentary. It is at once an herbal, a travel book and a compendium of Gypsy lore and Gypsy ways. 210 pages,
This collection includes three great herbal medicine books and one video by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, well-known as the "grandmother of herbal medicine."
Nature's Children is a classic book on natural childrearing; it includes remedies, recipes, and fascinating lore.
Traveler's Joy is a unique guide to finding the wild bounty in simple living; Juliette covers topics such as travel, water, dwellings, medicine, and food.
Common Herbs for Natural Health is an essential herbal with lore and uses for 200 herbs including cosmetic, culinary, and medical recipes.
Juliette of the Herbs, the exceptional video included in this collection will delight, entrance, and inspire!
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