Monthly Archives: October 2010


Blogger Christian Murray of the Sunnyside Post

After Christian reported about pigeon dirt on newspaper boxes, Jimmy Van Bramer was quick to have the feces removed.

“This is my neighborhood. I want to know what’s going on. Everyone needs to know what’s going on.”

Each day Christian Murray takes his two Boston Terriers on a long walk through Sunnyside. He carries a camera and a notebook to  gather material for his website, the Sunnyside Post. Christian misses no community board or police precinct meeting. Whether residents complain about the size of their Christmas tree, Sunnyside hosts a Pumpkin Day or troublemaker Casa Romana incenses the community with a Wet-T-Shirt and Oil-Wrestling Party, Christian reports, follows up and often sets an example for local community leaders. (A couple of days after Christian reported on the planned event, Jimmy Van Bramer announced the event thwarted.)

“This is my neighborhood. This is where I live. I want to know what’s going on. Everyone needs to know what’s going on,” Christian says matter-of-factly as we sit down to talk. A financial reporter for Thompson Reuters by day and a blogger during late night and lunch break hours, the native New Zealander started the Sunnyside Post two years ago. He updates the blog at least ten times a week, with roughly half of all postings gleaned from local newspapers and the other half featuring original reporting.

“I sometimes spend two or three hours a day [on the blog],” he says. “My wife thinks I am crazy.” But his website provides him pleasure, and the human interest issues offer a good balance to his “dry and abstract” nine-to-five job.

A few months ago the Sunnyside Post began posting ads from local businesses and institutions, including Camp Bow Wow, the Sunnyside Reformed Church and Santa Fe Steak House, and most recently it was revamped to better reflect Christian’s main focus, “Keeping the vitality of our main streets going.” The Sunnyside Post now also collects suggestions on how to improve business on Queens Boulevard.

In the podcast, Christian talks about a large fire on 42nd Street that other news outlets failed to report and about his blogging obsession.

Listen to Christian’s interview


Rabbi Lerman in front of a fabric painting by Betty Ann Weiner

The synagogue has been housed in the basement of an apartment building at the corner of 43rd Avenue and 46th Street after the old synagogue was demolished in 2005.

Young Israel’s three Torahs, with the newest one on the right

The Yizkor candles are lit several times a year to commemorate the six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust.

“As Jews we have something unique to contribute to this diversity.”

As I arrived at the Young Israel synagogue one recent rainy Tuesday morning, Rabbi Nesanal Lerman was bending over the brand-new Torah scroll, making sure that none of its assiduously hand-written letters were overlapping and thereby implying new meanings. The 37-year-old rabbi experienced a hectic start after being installed only three months ago in Sunnyside’s small orthodox Jewish community, which had been without a rabbi for several years.

“It’s been a little bit erratic up until now,” Rabbi Lerman admits as we sat in the basement of the apartment building that houses The Young Israel synagogue. A month ago the community celebrated the dedication of a new Torah with a joyful procession down 47th Street, Skillman Avenue and up 46th Street. This was followed by Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. In addition to all the professional duties that come with holiday celebrations, the rabbi and his wife Nechama care for two young children and a little baby girl who was born only two months ago. But enthusiastic and ambitious by nature, Lerman appears to thrive on challenges. He now plans to renovate the synagogue, which he proudly notes is the only one offering daily services in all of Western Queens. He also wants to create a Jewish daycare center for those congregants who wish to expose their children to a Jewish learning environment.

Raised in the orthodox community of Borrough Park, Brooklyn, Lerman lived in Jerusalem for the past eleven years, where he studied and helped establish a Jewish structure for its Anglo-Saxon population. He hopes that Sunnyside’s 20 observant orthodox Jewish member families will benefit from his intense and focused religious experience in Israel and that his presence will enrich the community as a whole.

“We were looking for a place where there is a diversity of culture and where we can contribute,” Rabbi Lerman says about Sunnyside. “As Jews we have something unique to contribute to this diversity.”

While he is still trying to read the map of his new territory—he considers finding out people’s needs and reaching out to fulfill them among his most important tasks—he relies on his two main philosophies, learning and believing. “The Torah says man’s created in the Godly image. There is so much that people can accomplish if they only believe. Every person has to look at himself as a deep text that they have to learn.”

Listen to Rabbi Lerman’s interview