Vajiradhammapadip Temple: New York’s Hub for Thai Culture and Religion

The Theravada Buddhist Temple Vajiradhammapadip has become both New York and the United States’ main center for Thai religion and culture. It has brought both Thai peoples and others of different faiths and nationalities to celebrate Thailand’s vast culture together.

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Pharamaha Suwannarat Saensupa, Buddhist monk at The Vajiradhammapadip Temple sweeping pavement of the front entrance of Vajiradhammapadip Temple as part of daily mid afternoon routine for Buddhist monks at Vajiradhammapadip Temple Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by Victoria Lore/Full Sail University)

Originally located in the West Bronx, New York, Vajiradhammapadip Temple had relocated to both Mount Vernon and Centereach, New York do to the growth of temple members.

Since it’s large growth and relocations, Vajiradhammapadip Temple has shared its religious services, courses in Thai and Pali languages, Thai music, and overall culture with the Long Island and the Tri-State area community.

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Phra Kittiyanides, Abbot monk and President of Vajiradhammapadip Temple walking inside the temple practicing Zen meditation in order to achieve complete awareness with ones surroundings Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore/Full Sail University)

“It is an honor to share our faith and traditions with those who may not be familiar with our religion and culture,” said Phramaha Suwannarat Saensupa, monk at Vajiradhammapadip Temple in Centereach. “We are able to keep the Thai religion and traditions alive through our courses, events, and activities that are offered to the community.”

Vajiradhammapadip Temple offers Buddhist Sunday School classes, which is its main activity in the temple, along with lessons in the Thai language, morals, and general social studies. For young students, special lessons are offered in painting, Thai dance, and Thai swordplay, which are taught by both monk-residents and volunteers. Lessons in the Pali and Thai languages, Southeast Asian and Thai studies, and Thai literature are also offered for English-speaking students. Meditation training is given as well depending on if there is a meditation-master monk currently in residence at the temple or if a visiting monk is invited by the temple to hold sessions.

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Phra Kittiyanides, Abbot monk and President of Vajiradhammapadip Temple practicing deep meditation to alter of Buddha in order to reach spiritual freedom and enlightenment Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Centereach, NY. (Photo by: Victoria Lore/Full Sail University)

Saensupa discussed how Vajiradhammapadip Temple has kept the Thai population on Long Island together.

“Many of the Thai people who come here feel that they are back at home in Thailand. They are able to speak their native language and interact with monks, family, and friends to celebrate the Thai culture together that they know and are proud,” said Saensupa. “This is what draws Thai immigrants to congregate here.”

Saensupa started his journey as a Buddhist monk back in his native country of Thailand as a novice in order to become closer to his religion and to receive a better education.

“I was raised to be a divot Buddhist as a child, I was one out of four children, and my parents wanted me to receive a good education which lead me to become a Buddhist monk.”

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Phramaha Suwannarat Saensupa, Buddhist monk at Vajiradhammapadip Temple sweeping the steps to the entrance of Vajiradhammapadip Temple as part of daily mid afternoon routine for Buddhist monks at Vajiradhammapadip Temple Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Centereach, NY. (Photo by: Victoria Lore/Full Sail University

As a monk in Thailand, Saensupa was recruited to come to the United States in 2007 by Phra Kittiyanides, the Abbot and President of Vajiradhammapadip Temple in Centereach. When the temple first opened, Saensupa helped the start of the temple by contributing and writing in Vajiradhammapadip Temple’s magazine and their newsletters.

“I enjoy being a monk. It keeps my roots strong and in touch with my culture,” said Saensupa. “It’s rewarding to practice Buddhism with other Buddhist and share our beliefs and traditions with others of different cultures and backgrounds. Vajiradhammapadip Temple is always open to all people.”

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Phramaha Suwannarat Saensupa, Buddhist monk at Vajiradhammapadip Temple preparing to head inside the temple for the late afternoon and second meditation session of the day as part of routine for Buddhist monks at Vajiradhammapadip Temple Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Centereach, NY. (Photo by: Victoria Lore/Full Sail University)

 

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The Feast of San Gennaro: Celebrating Both Italian American Culture and Small Business.

This year marks the 90th annual tradition of the Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan’s Little Italy. This feast has had a long history in the Citythumbnail_img_0198 of New York and with Italian Americans for many decades. Since 1926, the feast celebrates the Patron Saint of Naples along with other historic Italian traditions. It has brought all peoples of different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnic groups together.

Not only has the feast kept the spirit, culture, and heritage alive of the Italian immigrants who have brought these traditions to the United States, but has also given the opportunity for local businesses to promote and create brand awareness.

The feast is known for its endless choices of Italian cuisine that is provided by many local Little Italy restaurants and businesses through food stands and other outdoor dining areas. This is often the main attraction for both locals and many tourists who come to experience one of New York City’s oldest traditions.

fullsizerenderEstablished in 1892, New York City’s famous Italian Bakery and America’s first espresso bar Ferrara is one of Little Italy’s and the Feast of San Gennaro’s most notable attractions.

“We are the fifth-generation owners of Ferrara, which is 124 years old, but has an even longer history,” said Adeline Lepore Sessa, owner of Ferrara. “The business was started by my great grandfather Enrico Scoppa and great-great uncle Antonio Ferrara. They came from Italy, and Ferrara was the place where their countrymen could come, meet, and socialize with other Italians in the community. Our bakery to these immigrants represented a place out of Italy.”

Ferrara is one of the oldest businesses that have been participating in the Feast of San Gennaro since it’s start in 1926. After all these years, the feast has brought popularity to many of these businesses including Ferrara.

“Many of the local businesses such as Ferrara and Umberto’s Clam House have been my family and I’s favorite spots to hit both during the feast and all year round,” said Lucille Pinnisi Lore, a local New Yorker, Italian American, and yearly attendee of the feast. “Throughout the years I have seen what are small shops grow into hugely popular spots for Italian delicacies and cuisines because of the Feast of San Gennaro.”

The Feast of San Gennaro’s notoriety has created a way for many local businesses to promote themselves to the millions of people who flock to New York City’s Little Italy for this occasion.

thumbnail_img_0253“The San Gennaro Feast definitely drags them to this area and it brings in a lot of tourists that don’t already know about Ferrara. But, I think Ferrara definitely has a brand of it’s own,” said Anthony Sessa, son of Adeline Lepore Sessa. “Once people come here, through something like the feast they see what we’re about and how we still have that old-world feel when you come inside. I think people are really drawn to it.”

Little Italy is a major tourist attraction. Making it’s location a major factor that many local businesses that partake in the Feast of San Gennaro thrive on. Little Italy, located in Manhattan, NY is rich in history. During the late 1800’s, many Italians suffered from unemployment and poverty in their native country forcing them to relocate to the United States in hopes of starting a better life. This immigration would later cause the massive Italian influence of culture, traditions and cuisine. Mulberry Street, located in New York City’s Lower East Side is as well rich in history. Once dominated by Italian immigrants in the 1890’s, Mulberry Street is the prime location for the Feast to take place. It is also known for its vast selections of restaurants making it the height of tourist attraction in Little Italy.

“Being located in Little Italy has definitely helped the success for our business. Ferrara’s building itself is landmarked,” said Sessa. “I have noticed that Little Italy is slowly dwindling down. Grand Street where we are located was once all Italian businesses and now it’s only a few Italian businesses on our block now.”

Despite this fact, the buildings that still have Italian roots are what keep both locals and tourist coming back to Manhattan’s historic lower East Side.

Grand Strthumbnail_fullsizerender-3eet has four or five old businesses that are at least 100-years-old and most of them are family owned,” said Lepore Sessa. “So there’s a culture and history in that alone.”

Lepore Sessa went on to further discuss how one of New York City’s oldest festivals has played a special role for both Italian Americans and other cultures in the community.

“The feast has kept the Italian tradition alive. Back in the day only Italians would come to the Feast of San Gennaro, now all different cultures come here to celebrate with us. It makes our culture solid and lets other cultures know and experience the Italian traditions that are important to us.”

Pinnisi Lore discussed how she felt honored to share one of her culture’s pastimes with others from different communities and backgrounds.

“I am extremely proud to be an Italian American. Through the Feast of San Gennaro myself, my family, and many other Italian Americans are able to celebrate our culture and share it with all different walks of life from all over the world.”

“It’s all made possible through the hard work and dedication of these businesses. There’s a magic about it and there isn’t anything quite like it,” said Pinnisi Lore.