New York already has the auto show and the boat show; now it has the World Jewish Expo at the Javits Center. The convention hall was filled with just about anything that a Jew might conceivably want to buy in the course of a Jewish life, and there were 30,000 Jews there for the three-day event to prove it.
Uniting more than 450 exhibitors, including some 100 from Israel, it was a vast showcase of Jewish commercial and cultural life ó the first time in a decade that any exposition of this kind was held in New York City, according to organizers. But while that may have been geographically exact, it wasnít quite as new as that: the organizers, Menachem Lubinskyís Integrated Marketing Communications, produced a similar show in New Jersey in 1995, and more than a few exhibits on Jewish life and Jewish food were duplicated from the Kosherfest held just last month in the Meadowlands.
The three-day World Jewish Expo í98, co-produced by Israelís Anzata International and commencing on the seventh night of Chanukah, offered everything from pickles soaking in barrels to the latest high-tech products from Israel.
There were booths featuring the latest on computer games for children, jewelry, beverages, fine art, fashion, rugs, publications, while comedians and singers performed ó even the legendary Uncle Moishy and his Mitzvah Men in concert.
Ezra Friedlander, a chasidic political operator in the corridors of city government, and most recently a political aide to Public Advocate Mark Green, looked around the cavernous room and said in awe: ìThereís a huge amount of people here. This is clearly a unifying event. A tremendous amount. In this hall is a microcosm of the Jewish people, from A to Z, literally from cradle to grave.î
And thatís exactly what he was selling: graves in Israel, at the Eretz Hachaim booth.And cradles? A booth offered Torah Tots tapes for toddlers. Middle-aged folk could taste gefilte fish on a toothpick, sample kosher wines, or check out the costs of a rent-a-car or nursing home.Zev Brenner, the leading nationally syndicated Jewish talk show host on radio and cable, said the expo was a great place ìwhere Jews of all walks of life can get together. There used to be city-wide Solidarity Sundays and big rallies during the year, but not anymore. What we have here now is a celebration of Jewish life.îNot all exhibitors felt that kinship with the crowds. Elliot Stevens, executive secretary of the Reform movementís Central Conference of America. Rabbis, said, ìWe have had some business here. Itís been all right for us. But itís not quite our part of the community thatís in attendance here,î referring to the heavy Orthodox turnout.The schedule contributed to that: Estee L., with her four young boys in tow, explained that her childrenís yeshiva was off on the final day of Chanukah, unlike most other schools.ìIt is a wonderful expo for the community thatís here,î added Stevens. ìWe just donít have much of a representation. We may want to advertise a bit more than we did this year to bring in more people that would be welcoming to our products. So while weíre not doing well, for the sponsors of the show it seems to be a great success.î