Candle by candle, Michele and Douglas Cortese are passing down Jewish traditions to their children. They're doing it, in of all places, the South Bronx.
"There's no City in the world that does not have Jews," said Rabbi Choli Mishulovin, a co-founder of the Chabad of the South Bronx. "And what we've noticed in the Bronx is that there are so many of them that are, were just neglected for such a long time."
Mishulovin and his wife Chana Mushka run the Chabad of the South Bronx for Jews like the Cortese's, who live in the area but had no local place to meet, worship or celebrate Jewish holidays.
"Most of our friends were in Brooklyn and in Queens or Manhattan," Cortese said. "We had to travel to see them, to spend holidays."
The Chabad of the South Bronx organizes everything from Shabbat dinners to discussion groups. The gatherings are held in homes and rented spaces for now. But the Chabad hopes to have its own building here one day, creating an echo of the past. The South Bronx is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Black now but it once had a large Jewish community.
"If you take the area of south of Tremont Avenue, the proportion of the population of that South Bronx area that was Jewish was 80 percent," said Lloyd Ultan, who has been serving as the Bronx Borough Historian since the '90s.
The Jews began leaving after World War Two, part of the demographic shift that remade America's cities. But a tiny number of Jews never left and others have trickled in, lured by affordable housing and new, upscale buildings that have begun sprouting.
Enter Chabad, which operates Jewish communal centers everywhere from Korea to Kathmandu. The organization tends to Jewish needs in often far-flung places.
"I feel like it is a special opportunity for us to fill up, um, the old spaces where there was some Jewish spirit there and bring it back," Chana Mushka Mishulovin said.
The issue of gentrification is a sensitive one here, but the Rabbi and his wife say they do not want to remake the community, only help those already here.
"We're not trying to what's it called transport any people or kick anybody out. God forbid," Chana Mushka Mishulovin said.
"We're not looking to build a Jewish community. We're looking to build the community," the rabbi added.
And become a community where residents like the Cortese's can once again gather and celebrate their traditions.