How a Jewish deli run by Muslims became the symbol of a changing neighborhood

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pastrami sandwich, Davids Brisket House

Sarah Jacobs

The Jewish delicatessen is an iconic American institution. Nowhere else in the world will you find a local shop so focused on the preparation of beef by curing, brining, and poaching.

Pastrami, corned beef, and brisket are usually the trifecta of meats atop the menu at traditional Jewish delis. These beloved dishes grew in popularity in the 1930s, when the Jewish delis - then competing with the newly arrived supermarkets - began serving to-go items, including the now-classic pastrami on rye. While they're not quite as common today, there were up to 300 delis serving kosher dishes in New York City by the 1960s.

These days, in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant - or Bed-Stuy - in Brooklyn, you'll find David's Brisket House, a Jewish deli that has been owned by the same Muslim family for 50 years.

The deli was originally kosher, owned by a Jewish family, but when its former owners put it on the market in the 1960s, it was bought by two business partners: one, a Yemenite Muslim, and the other a Yemenite Jew.

The partners decided that instead of changing the menu, they would keep customers coming back for their beloved meats.

Today, even as Bed-Stuy faces vast socioeconomic change and gentrification, David's Brisket House has survived as a neighborhood staple and a truly unique blend of cultures. The deli has stayed in the family and is now run by Riyadh Gazali, the nephew of one of the partners.

We paid a visit to David's Brisket House to learn more about the miraculous meat - here's what we saw.

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