Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas on Chabanel

There' s a Christmas wreath hanging in the lobby of 99. There is also a small decorative electric Chanukah menorah close by. In fact each of the buildings our company administrates (seven) in the shmatte district have both a Christmas wreath and a menorah in their lobby. 433 Chabanel, with it's cathedral ceiling and mezanine also boasts two fully-trimmed, ten-foot high, artificial evergreens and a six-foot menorah with condor-like wing span. I admit I find it an odd sight. Not so much the menorahs; the ultra-orthodox Chabad Lubavitch on Chabanel has had a giant menorah out in front of their building at this time of year for as long as I can remember. It's the Christmas decor that feels somehow strange. Why that should be, I'm not exactly sure. Yes, these buildings have always been owned by Jewish people and still are. But to call the industry "Jewish" has been an exaggeration for some time. It's a mixed bag of ethnicities, increasingly Asian, south Asian, Armenian, Arab and more. In the past, the building owners tended not to celebrate holidays with festive decor of any kind. It may have been out of fear of offending one or more ethnic group. But I think what really makes it seem odd is that the industry has been struggling and word on the street is that retail has been disappointing so far this season. The stately, structured menorah is one thing. But the cheerful appearance of tinsel, shimmering gold balls, and mistletoe feels anachronistic for Chabanel these days. On the other hand, it may just be the pick-me-up we all need. The other day I went to see a tenant about a heating problem. At the end of my visit she said, "Oh and by the way thank you for downstairs." I said, "Downstairs? For what downstairs?" completely dumbfounded. She answered with a tired smile, "The wreath, it's a nice change."

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