Magda Teter, 52, is the first-ever Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University, the Jesuit university in the Bronx, and author of the 2023 book “Christian Supremacy: Reckoning with the Roots of Antisemitism and Slavery.” Although she is not Jewish, Teter is passionate about Jewish history and culture — as she tells the New York Jewish Week, she grew up in Poland at a time when it was taboo to discuss Jews or Jewish history. As the co-director of Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies, she’s spearheaded a unique, only-in-New York project: a growing collection of items that detail the once-thriving Jewish community in the Bronx, including yearbooks full of Jewish last names, bar mitzvah invitations and phonebooks full of Jewish-owned businesses. “It’s not only preserving a piece of New York Jewish history, but also a way of life,” she says.
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
Salo Wittmayer Baron, a historian and a community leader
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
One of my master’s theses was on the Mongolian translation of the Hebrew Bible
How does Judaism influence your work?
I am not Jewish, but Jewish history and, especially, the Jewish past in Poland have shaped who I am. Growing up in Poland and witnessing the salient past, presence and the stark current absence of Jews were formative for me. Over the decades of studying Jewish history and culture, I have become passionate about its relevance to the broader world. Understanding Jews’ place in history and society, on their own terms but also on the terms imposed on them from the outside, holds much relevance today. Perhaps especially today.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
“The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t.” — Yehuda Bauer. And: “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.” — Maya Angelou.
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
I miss “My Most Favorite Food” restaurant at West 72nd Street and especially their desserts. Now, it’s Hummus Place.
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What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?
1. Fordham University’s Walsh Family Library and the exhibits in its Henry S. Miller Judaica Research Room (of course!).
2. The Grand Concourse in the Bronx (the Heinrich Heine Fountain; the Bronx Museum, which is a former synagogue; Grand Concourse Seventh Day Adventist Temple, which was Adath Israel until 1972, and more).
3. Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue — one of the oldest Jewish businesses in the Bronx (check out the Star of David on the mosaic floor).
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