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The MTA Has a ‘Jewish’ Lost and Found Section

And there are apparently 10 sets of subway riders’ forgotten tefillin inside

Stephanie Butnick
May 07, 2014

Fast Company posted a delightful infographic from Subway Maven that depicts the contents of the MTA’s Lost and Found—a veritable what’s what of New York City’s subway riders’ possessions. With everything from suits (62) to cell phones (28,482), plus record players (26!), Walkmen (71!), and television sets (6?), the subway system’s repository is truly an ethnographer’s dream.

“Only in New York would there be a designated ‘Jewish’ category for lost and found items,” the infographic states matter-of-factly. What’s inside, you ask? For one thing, 10 sets of tefillin, presumably left behind by frenzied riders exiting trains during rush hour.

It’s a bit odd that the section is labeled ‘Jewish’ and not simply ‘religious,’ since I’d wager that a fair amount of prayer books of all stripes get misplaced each day, given how many teeny tiny siddurim et al I see on the Manhattan-bound B train each morning. And while there’s probably a few wayward yarmulkes in there too, there must be other types of religious garb forgotten during the daily commute.

There’s good news for straphangers whose misplaced ritual items have wound up in the lost and found, though. The MTA boasts a 60 percent return rate, which is much higher than the amount-of-trains-running-on-time-rate. MTA burn!

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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