We love New Jersey. It's our home state, after all. From the Jersey Shore to the Appalachian Trail, from the Liberty Science Center to the Atlantic City casinos, from the Cherry Hill Mall to the Short Hills Mall, New Jersey has got it all.
Alas, the largest city, Newark, is not a fair representative of our fair state. Recent attempts of urban renewal notwithstanding, it's still a crime-ridden, distraught city, where abandoned buildings seem to outnumber livable ones.
Not so during Philip Roth's youth. Through the 1930s and 40s, Newark was a manufacturing center, a booming metropolis. And it was filled with Jews. 70,000 Jews.
Imagine: where you now see bodegas, wig shops, and liquor stores, you would see delicatessens, synagogues, and Kosher liquor stores. The abandoned buildings were filled with voices of Jewish youth, studying for their bar mitzvahs, (not) eating their chopped liver, getting berated by their mothers, stealing glances at young shiksas...
That Newark helped shape Roth into one of the greatest American authors — ever.
Today's Newark... well, here's hoping it gets back into shape.