Sunday, April 15, 2018
A Word From the Weiss
Note: I wrote this blog the week before
Pesach, but for some mysterious reason it didn't post. Until now.
Happy almost Passover from NiceJewishMom.com!
It seems almost unimaginable to me now that we took a vacation to Miami Beach and returned a little over three weeks ago. Is that even possible? Seems like a distant memory.
Ever since, I have been demoralized and overwhelmed
by all sorts of things.
The New England weather has been horrific, with winter continuing to rear its ugly head. Doesn’t it know that the calendar says it is officially, at long last, spring?
I’d felt euphoric when I’d managed
to finish the book proposal I had been working
on just before we left, cranking out an astonishing 140 pages. But after we returned, my literary agent said that it was twice as long as he could use –
that I had bitten off more than any editor
can chew, so to speak – so I’ve been going through the agony of trying to cut it in half.
Then there was the gross, unimaginable, unbearable thing that finally
DID ME IN.
It all started a few days before we left for Miami, when something awful happened.
I was taking a quick lunch break one afternoon when
I felt something hard inside the
sandwich I was eating and discovered that
one of my teeth had apparently cracked.
Cracked almost right in half.
This turned out to be a lower tooth with a large silver filling in it, dating from when
I was a child. It had been feeling a little
sore for weeks. It probably didn’t help that I often snack on nuts, which are hard but supposedly healthy. It had suddenly
I rushed over to my dentist’s office, where they drilled out the remaining filling, filed down
what was left of the tooth, and put in a temporary crown. Then, after we returned from Miami, I had several more
painful procedures, all involving more drilling, more filing, and countless shots of Novocain.
Finally, a permanent crown was put in the Monday before
Passover. To make matters worse – much worse – after my husband semi-retired
in September, I no longer had dental insurance. He qualifies for Medicare, and I have
never required anything beyond twice-yearly
cleanings, which presumably would cost me less than shelling out for dental insurance. So
I had foolishly decided not to buy any on my own.
And so that crown had cost me a whopping $1,600.
At least I was finally done with the ordeal that Monday afternoon. Or so I thought. Late that night,
I was eating some leftovers when once again I felt something hard in my mouth. Then, to my horror, I spit out two more large fragments of broken tooth.
another tooth cracked already? Yikes! Would this cost me another $1,600, and would
it require more shots of Novocain and countless more agonizing
led to another thought: Were ALL of my teeth starting to fall out, one by one?
Followed by an even worse idea: Was I getting THAT OLD?
I must admit that this
got me so upset that I started to cry. It felt like this was the beginning of the end. The end of me, that is. Or at least the end of eating. I was afraid to bite into anything harder than some applesauce and vanilla pudding
for dinner the next night.
I also decided that it was time to break down and actually get some dental insurance.
A little investigation online yielded the disturbing news
that private insurance policies for seniors (i.e. people who are over 55, like me) are pretty pricey. What’s worse – far worse in my
case – they often require you to wait 12 months before having almost any major dental procedure, such as getting a crown. (Or perish the thought, root canal.)
I finally ended up buying something called a dental discount plan instead. It only reduces dental procedure costs a little bit. But it was affordable and better than nothing.
Meanwhile, I kept peering
into the mirror, trying to figure out which tooth in my
mouth had cracked now. For the life of me, I couldn't see or feel one that was broken. The first time it had happened, the cracked tooth had been
so jagged that I’d had no doubt. This was different. But I was afraid to simply let it go. I
had to go to the dentist.
I actually had to go to a new dentist because my old one did not accept my new dental discount plan. This was just as well. I love my longtime dentist, but he is turning 80 soon and has decided to retire and sell his practice (yet another sign that I am getting old).
But guess what? My new dentist’s nurse looked in my mouth, then the dentist herself looked in my mouth, and finally her hygienist looked in my mouth. And they all came to the same conclusion: There was no broken tooth in my mouth. The tooth that I’d spit out apparently wasn’t mine!
This brought two immediate thoughts to
No. 1, EEEEEWWWWW!
Someone else’s broken tooth had been in my MOUTH!!!
No. 2, if it hadn’t been my tooth, then whose tooth WAS it?
The food that I had
been eating the second time around wasn’t something hard. Nor was it something that I had prepared myself. It was a bit of leftover pasta from my favorite local restaurant. I had gotten a dish
to go for my husband, and he hadn't quite finished it. I had found his leftovers in the fridge late Monday night and finished them myself.
So my best guess was that those bits of tooth must have been my husband’s.
The fact was that he planned
to go to the dentist himself the next week -- the same new dental office that
I was in now, because his own longtime dentist had also just retired. (If I’m getting old, then what would you call my husband, who is 10 years older?)
Yet my new dentist said that
if he had indeed a broken tooth, then he needed
to be seen right away. Never mind that,
though. I needed to know right away if those broken bits of tooth that I’d spit out had been my husband's.
So I called him, and he came to the dentist's office right away.
guess what! She (and her nurse, as well as her hygienist) all said the same thing: That broken tooth that I’d
spit out hadn't been his, either!
That left only one other possibility, it seemed.
said, the food that I had been eating when I’d discovered the broken tooth had
come from my favorite restaurant in our town. The broken bits of tooth must have come from the mouth of their chef.
As horrifying as this was, and as disgusting as it was, I now felt
relieved that I did not have a broken tooth myself, after all. I would not need
to undergo any more painful
procedures. Plus, I would not need to pay for any more dental work (other than the unnecessary visit
I had just made to this new dentist,
which had set me back the reduced
rate of $81).
Still, I felt that I needed to say something about
the incident to the restaurant in question, even if it was my favorite place, and was a very reputable restaurant at that.
I called at once and
spoke to an assistant manager. I assured him that I was not just some lunatic.
I was a longtime devoted patron, but felt that I needed to say something. He was
mortified to hear my saga and said that he would speak to their CEO, or CFO, or whoever was
at the top of their food chain, and I would hear back that night.
I did not hear back that night, though. Which was just
as well. Because later that night, while racking my brain for any possible alternative explanation, I suddenly came
up with a brand-new theory of how this latest dental nightmare may have come about.
(Warning: Before you read any further, I feel obliged to warn you that
things are about to get graphic – as if they aren’t graphic and gross enough already -- the way TV networks often warn you to remove small children from the room during the evening news.)
My husband has long had a habit of reusing items such
as aluminum foil, plastic bottles, and plastic zip-lock bags. He can be a bit of a cheapskate, if you ask me -- although if you ask him, he’s just being frugal, as well as environmentally correct.
With this in mind, I asked him where he had gotten the little plastic bag in which he had stored the leftover pasta that I’d eaten when I had found the broken bits of tooth. He pointed
to a little pile of used plastic
bags perched on top of our microwave.
I recalled that when my original tooth had broken in my mouth, about six weeks earlier, I had put it into a
little plastic bag in order to show it to the dentist. Afterwards, I had brought it back home. I don't know where it went after that, but I couldn't find it now.
My new theory: My husband had put that
bag into his pile of used plastic bags, not realizing that it wasn’t quite
empty, and then he had put his leftovers in it on Monday night.
When I asked my husband if this was possible, he replied that it was ridiculous. He would have noticed that there were bits of broken tooth
inside the bag, he said.
Hmmm. Maybe so. But isn't my explanation
far more plausible than the possibility that the chef at a nice, upscale restaurant had spit half a tooth into my takeout food?
I didn't know WHAT I was going to say to that CEO or CFO or whoever if and when he called me the next day. But I decided to head the whole thing off at the pass and contact the assistant manager the next
day. When I was told that he would not be in for several hours, I left the only message that I could think of. In the inimitable
words of Golda Radner as her SNL character Emily Litella, "Never mind!"
Meanwhile, I kept laughing about the whole ordeal
so much that I was no longer
what you might legitimately call depressed. Plus, I started eating again, although fewer nuts. (The dentist says that almonds, in
particular, can break your teeth. So, I fear, can an eight-day diet consisting
primarily of unleavened bread, a.k.a. matzo.)
I still have to get back to that blasted book proposal now, and try to cut it in half. HALF! I think that I would rather have more Novocain instead, as well as a root canal.
But I need to finish it in time to start cooking for Passover
early this week. And if I can, then we’ll be drinking Champagne at our seder this year instead of Manischewitz.
Sunday, March 25, 2018
A Word From the Weiss
Where have I been?
I’ve been away from this space, as you must have noticed. Working on a proposal for a new book, which turned out to
be gargantuan effort. “Gargantuan,” in fact, is the word that my literary agent used. He thinks that it’s too long.
But I have also been away from home. After a long, long winter, and writing
a long, long proposal, I needed a change of scene, a dose of sun, and a chance to
So we spent two weeks in Florida, in insanely sunny South Beach.
Two-plus weeks, to be exact, nearly twice as long as we normally go for. But since my husband semi-retired in September,
we had nothing to rush back
to – nothing but snow and cold.
Since we were going away for such a long stretch, though, changes needed to
be made. Changes to our usual routine, that is. We were far from the only ones
with fun and sun on our minds, so hotels in South Beach were a bit pricey. In the interests of economizing, we chose
one that wasn’t too posh.
We realized that it would also be prohibitively expensive to rent a car for so long. The rental alone would cost upwards of $600
for two weeks. Parking, even at our not-too-posh hotel, would
have added another $600 for 15 nights. Besides, our hotel had a rooftop pool, and the beach was right across the street. Where would
we have to drive to?
needed to travel anywhere beyond walking distance, we would make like our kids
do these days. We would call an Uber. You know how
to call an Uber, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.
Just kidding! You download
the Uber app on your smart phone and add a credit card or other source of payment. Then anytime you need to go somewhere, you type in your destination, and Uber tells you how
much it will cost, how soon a car
will pick you up, and the make, model, and
license plate number of the car that will come to get you.
For each trip, in fact,
it offers you three different prices
– one for a private Uber, called UberX; one for a larger Uber, called Uber XL; and a third for their ride share program, called Uber Pool. In the interests of economizing even more, I discovered that opting for the pool usually made sense.
During the two weeks we were Ubering around Miami Beach, we were never
once taken out of our way in order to drop someone else off first. We simply saved a few bucks on every trip. Plus, our fellow passengers often proved to add something positive to our ride. In one case, we had trouble conversing with
our driver, who only spoke Spanish, which
we do not. But our fellow passenger did, and she was able to translate.
Another time, the other passenger turned
out to be the concierge at the Delano Hotel, the poshest place on the beach,
and he offered some useful advice. (Our
not-so-posh hotel smelled like weed 24/7; I don't think it had a concierge.)
Then there was the Uber we took from the airport to our hotel. Our driver stopped at a synagogue en route to pick up a young man who’d been attending a wedding. He turned out to
be the bartender at a hotel near ours and invited us to come over for a free drink.
There were, however, three
places that I needed to go during our
trip that were beyond Uber range, so I decided to
rent a car for three days, after all.
Our daughter Allegra and her fiancé JP were joining us for a long weekend, along with their little dog Luna. I wanted to be able to drive them to the airport
on the day they left.
While they were there, I also wanted to take them to the Coconut Grove Arts
Festival, about 15 miles south
of Miami Beach, which is always festive and fun.
Plus, I wanted to pay my usual annual visit to my late mother’s best friend Nada, who lives in Boynton Beach.
That would leave one day between all of these activities when we would have a car, but no particular agenda.
I told the kids that I
would take them anywhere they wanted to go within reason. Meaning anywhere
within 100 miles. It didn’t take them long to come up with a plan.
They wanted to be able to take Luna, their Schnoodle (a miniature poodle/schnauzer mix), to
the beach. That meant that we needed to drive somewhere, because the
beach across the street did not allow dogs. And the closest public beach that did was in Haulover Park, up Collins Avenue, about a half-hour's drive from our hotel.
And as long as we were going up there, they had another destination in mind.
Earlier this winter, they had seen something on their favorite show on the Food Network, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The episode
in question had focused on the best thing available between two slices
of bread. And one of those things was something
called the Jewban.
I’m not sure
if this delicacy was a combination of Jewish and Cuban, or it was simply something likely to be banned by Jews. All I know is that it was a sandwich available only at Josh’s Deli in Surfside, Florida, just south
of Bal Harbour.
Was this concoction kosher? Probably not. Josh’s Deli proudly identifies itself as “A Jewish
Deli Done Wrong.”
But as I have always admitted, I have never really maintained a kosher household. At least, if I am attempting to keep the laws of kashrut, then I am definitely doing it wrong.
So I was perfectly willing to drive the kids there and
let them find out for themselves. Find out what was so great about Josh’s Deli. Or at least about their famous (or infamous) Jewban.
The traffic was heavy driving up Collins Ave., and after we had managed to park, we got a little lost wandering around the neighborhood. We walked around several corners, then down
a deserted alley. Then, finally, we saw it:
a rather non-prepossessing storefront amid banks, boutiques, and other shops.
Josh’s, it turned out, is only open until 3 p.m. each day, but serves breakfast all day. It also serves all-day lunch.
Both its breakfast and lunch menus feature many items loved by Jews, including lox, bagels, corned beef, and pastrami. All of the meats
are cured, smoked, and/or roasted in-house. All of the bagels are baked on the premises, too.
But nearly all of these items are served in a way that is unorthodox, to say the least,
or, as stated, is somehow "wrong."
They have tongue, for example. I can’t remember the last time that I tasted tongue, something that I relished when I was young. But this tongue is served on a Deli Melt Tongue Frita Burger, which the menu said included “papas
frita,” beefy aioli, and cheddar. I have no idea what “papas frita” is.
All I know is that eating tongue with cheese is wrong,
about as wrong as eating it with mayo. Or, at the very least, it isn’t
kosher, because it mixes milk and meat.
But even if you can find something
on Josh’s menu that sounds right,
and/or kosher, it still probably isn’t. Take their Three Eggs Any Style,
for example. Whether you opt for scrambled, fried, or sunny side up, these eggs are all served non-kosher style, with a side of pastrami smoked bacon.
Then there’s the
dish called Lobster Jewchachos. I don’t know what it is. I don’t even know how you pronounce it. But for the
sake of those readers who do keep
kosher, I’m not even going to go there… and you probably aren’t either.
We had already gone all the way to Josh’s Deli, though. Gone in search of a decidedly unholy Grail, the famous (or infamous) Jewban. Since there were four of us, we decided to order two of these, along
with the Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes and a bowl of matzo ball soup.
Matzo ball soup is something I make it a point to never order anywhere. No matter where I go, I’m always disappointed. Disappointed by the
matzo balls, and even more disappointed
by the soup, which never tastes homemade. Or as good as mine.
was my policy, at least, until the moment
I tasted Josh’s. Tasted it and swooned. The broth was rich and flavorful, loaded with succulent bits of chicken
and tenderly simmered vegetables –
not the usual mélange of mushy carrots and celery, but healthy veggies like kale. The bowl's single giant matzo ball was heavier than mine are, but in a good way, I'd say. It had heft and hearty substance. It tasted almost healthy, too.
I got to devour most of this delicacy myself because my companions had only one thing in mind. OK, make that two. Those two Jewban sandwiches,
which soon enough arrived at our outdoor table. I watched as everyone eagerly
lifted his or her half and eagerly bit in.
The menu had listed the ingredients as pastrami, pork, pickles,
Swiss cheese, mustard, and something called “crack sauce.” The Jewban turned out to be a double-decker sandwich with an extra slice of toast in the center separating the “Jew” part (thick-cut, juicy slices
of hot pastrami and dill pickles) from the “ban” part (pork). Accented with gooey melted Swiss, mustard, and some sort of other tangy condiment, these half sandwiches were massive, even without the accompanying side of salad, fries, or slaw.
In a word, gargantuan.
Almost too big to eat, yet too delicious to leave even one morsel or crumb behind.
So, was this truly the best thing available between two slices of bread? Could be.
But the most delicious things on
a plate, if you ask me, were those Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes – deep-fried, crispy golden nests of shredded potatoes topped with
dark-pink slices of tuna sashimi and
a dollop of cream cheese spiked with hot srichacha sauce. Yum!
all so impressed that we went inside in search of their creator, Josh. We not only
wanted to meet him, but to implore him to open a branch in NYC, where there are many Jews – Jews who would no doubt appreciate his deli, even (or especially) done wrong.
I also wanted to bestow on him
my website's highest honor, the NiceJewishMom.com Spiel of Approval ("I tried it! I liked it!).
We found him behind the counter wearing a hat and an apron and wielding a very large knife.
Josh appreciated our praise, but was not prepared to grant our plea. He long ago abandoned the Northeast for the Florida sun. Thanks, but no thanks, he said; he had no interest whatsoever in bringing his artistry or culinary blasphemy north.
Oh, well. Guess you’ll
just have to take my word for it. Take my word, or go to Florida yourself, and I strongly suggest that you do.
Josh’s Deli is not just worth hiring an Uber for. It’s worth renting
a car for. Heck, it might even be worth flying down to Florida for.
You’ll get a change of scene.
You’ll get your fill of sun.
And if you need a break, and you aren’t strictly kosher, what’s
wrong with a little deli done wrong?
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Word From the Weiss
Happy last night of Hanukkah! It may be a relatively minor holiday, as Jewish ones go, but considering that there are eight whole nights of it, I
hope that yours was happy.
I got some very interesting
gifts this year, from a novel back scrubber, flamingo pajamas, and a jar of posh truffle salt to a bright fuchsia mermaid blanket from my well-meaning husband.
But if there was one thing that I wanted
more than anything this year – anything at all – it was to not be able to spend my daughter’s
birthday or the rest of Hanukkah with her.
And no, that “not” was not a typo. I really didn’t want her to be anywhere near
me on her special day.
But before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me tell you why.
Between Hanukkah, New
Year’s, and my daughter Allegra having been born on the 18th of the month, December tends to offer our family almost too much to celebrate (although one of my best friends from college was known to say, "Too
much is never enough!"). Now that Allegra is engaged to JP, who shares not just her upbeat personality but her date of birth, we have even more reasons to raise a glass or two.
Last year, we got to celebrate Christmas with the two of them as well. And
not just our usual Jewish approach to Christmas – dinner at a Chinese restaurant,
followed by a movie. JP cooked an authentic Chinese meal for us in our home, with Allegra pitching in as sous chef in a Santa
But this year, it was his parents’ turn to have them for the joint birthday and holidays. And his parents happen
to live far, far away. Halfway around the world, in fact. They spend this half of the year in Hong Kong.
Normally, JP’s family
convenes for the winter holidays in Sydney, Australia, where his brother and sister live. But this year they chose to gather in Hong Kong instead, in large part because it would be relatively easy for Allegra and JP to get there (if you can call the 16½-hour
flight from New York to Hong Kong “easy” in any respect).
Allegra couldn’t wait
to see her future in-laws again, especially her little niece- and nephew-to-be, who are 2 and 4 respectively. She and JP spent weeks buying gifts for everyone
and counting down the days till they left.
There was just one little catch.
JP, who is not a U.S.
citizen, applied for a work visa in the early
fall, soon after he moved to NYC when he and Allegra got engaged. In late
October, he was assured that the visa would
be mailed to him in about two weeks. But as of last week, it had
yet to arrive.
On Friday, he explained to his family and ours that if he left the country without it, he might not be able to return for several years. Yikes! His entire family was deeply
disappointed, not to mention livid that he
had failed to mention this before everyone else had booked their own flights. Allegra was heartbroken
that they weren't going anymore. She was also mortified
that they had offended her future machutunin.
JP’s parents had arranged to host a lavish luncheon on Monday to celebrate the joint birthday. JP and Allegra were the guests of honor, but they would no longer be there.
What were they
going to do?
Our own family was getting together in NYC to celebrate both Hanukkah and the birthdays on Friday night. But suddenly no one was in any sort
of celebratory mood.
was the fourth night of Hanukkah, and all the way to the city, I fought back tears. My heart ached with pity.
We had agreed to care for Allegra and JP’s lively little puppy Luna during the 11
days they'd planned be away. We had been kvetching for weeks about this daunting responsibility, and had even recruited our son Aidan and daughter-in-law Kaitlin to split dog-sitting duties with us. But now we would have given anything to have what had previously appeared to be a bit of an imposition. Yet we felt powerless to help.
Before leaving home, I'd grated potatoes and
onions to make latkes when we arrived. Allegra's tiny kitchen is too small to cook in, so we were going
out for dinner. In fact, we were going out for hibachi. No latkes were
likely to be there. But what's Hanukkah without the latkes?
I also had gathered
up the many holiday gifts
I had purchased for one and all.
Even though the kids are now grown,
I still give everyone in the family, including our dog Latke, at least one present for
each of the eight nights. In fact, with all the sales on Cyber Monday, I got a little carried away this year. Too much in
this case might really be too much. They may be unwrapping till Tu Bishvat. No
matter. With the travel-ban pall cast over the festivities, I hardly felt like Mrs. Claus, let alone Hanukkah Harriet.
With soggy snow falling all the way from our home in Connecticut to NYC, the drive took over five hours in relentless traffic. But that’s not the reason it felt as gloomy
as a walk to the gallows. We
arrived to find Allegra looking dejected, her
eyelids red and puffy. She admitted that she had been crying for hours. Some
Aidan and Kaitlin arrived soon after us, and everyone ate a latke smothered in applesauce. I brightened momentarily when Aidan said that they were my best ever. Whether or not he
meant it, he certainly knows the way to a Jewish mother’s heart.
there was no time to rest on my laurels as a ballabusta (that's Yiddish for “good cook”). We
were already late for our dinner reservation.
Dejected or not, we still had to eat. Between
the manic antics of the high-spirited hibachi
chef, who hurled morsels of food at us as if
we were trained seals and squirted streams
of cold, tangy sake into our mouths, things brightened up a bit during dinner.
Everyone also managed to put on a happy face when we returned
to Allegra and JP's apartment to exchange holiday gifts. Even when you’re
feeling blue, it’s a lighter shade of blue when the family is all together.
But Allegra and JP soon realized that they had no choice and called the airline and
cancel their Saturday afternoon flight. And that turned every's mood from blue to black again.
Early the next morning,
their apartment buzzer sounded off early. There was a special delivery downstairs for them.
Wait! Could it be?
Perhaps it could
have. But it was not. It turned out to just be a document from JP’s bank. After having their hopes raised, even momentarily, only to be dashed, they now felt even worse.
Then they got some news from Hong Kong. One of JP’s aunts was in the hospital and gravely ill. JP’s sister, who is a doctor, composed a letter to Immigration outlining Aunt Betty’s condition and saying it was urgent that JP be allowed to come home ASAP.
A friend of our family who is an immigration lawyer advised us that JP and
Allegra needed to get to the Immigration
office before it opened at 7 a.m. on Monday morning. There was no guarantee that anyone would even agree to meet with them, but that was their only hope. The lawyer did not sound at all optimistic. An ailing aunt, he said, would not appear as compelling as a sick parent, sibling, spouse or child. But it was worth
out that poor Aunt Betty was gravely ill indeed.
We woke up Sunday to the sad news that she had died. JP was desperate to get home to help console his mother. They would now ask for permission to attend the funeral instead.
Eager to console Allegra and JP, my
husband and I took them out for another birthday
dinner on Sunday night. Then my husband drove home to Connecticut. But I insisted on staying overnight on the kids' couch in order to watch little Luna while they went to Immigration
the next morning. It would help them get out at the crack of
dawn if they didn't have to walk her first. I also wanted to be there in the event that they got bad news. It was the least that I could do.
Allegra stayed up late packing her bags, just
in case there was good news
instead. It was the least that she could do.
They left the apartment
at 6:22 a.m. armed with every document that they might need. Even though they
arrived well before 7, they were
already sixth in line.
Finally, the office opened. They watched in mounting horror as the five people before them, including a sweet, pregnant
young woman who wanted to go see her sick grandmother, were brow-beaten mercilessly by the surly official
manning the only reception window that was open. Then, just as it was about to be their turn, an affable young man arrived and took over a second window, and
he summoned them to approach.
Examining JP’s documents, he
noticed right away that this happened to be his birthday. JP pointed out that it was his fiancée’s as well. Hearing this and the details of their plight, the man seemed extremely sympathetic. He readily granted JP an audience with the
next person up on the totem pole. At
least they would be heard.
“OK, we have an appointment,” Allegra texted me, sounding cautiously optimistic.
“But we might need proof of JP’s relationship to Aunt Betty.” The
couple in front of them had been told that they needed such documentation themselves. They began freaking out. What would possibly demonstrate this relationship? Would they
need to obtain both his mother’s birth certificate and Aunt Betty’s? How would they get those right away?
The woman who met with them next didn’t request any such documents, though. She just seemed eager to help. She checked JP’s application status in her computer.
That’s when she discovered that his visa had already been approved – last Friday. It was presumably already on its way, in
transit in the postal system somewhere. But they wouldn’t have to wait for it to arrive. She issued them
another one right on the spot.
Allegra texted me a little after 10. “It’s a Hanukkah miracle.
They phoned the airline, United, and managed to nab the last two economy seats on the 3:05 p.m.
flight to Hong Kong. Never mind that United would call them back soon after to say that there had been some mistake – that the only two seats left were
business class and cost thousands of dollars more. They had to go no matter what.
And so they flew into action, as though someone had
fired a starting pistol and actually shouted, "Go!" They raced
home and somehow finished packing within the hour. They crammed all the gifts into a carry-on bag. While I went out to buy them breakfast to go, they even packed for Luna, who would be spending
the next few days with Uncle Aidan, Aunt Kaitlin, and their cats.
Then we jumped into the car, and I drove them straight to Newark International
Airport. We arrived two hours before the plane left, with
just enough time left to check in.
Then I drove back to the city with Luna sleeping beside me on the passenger seat. Never mind that there
was heavy traffic all the way there and
even more on my way home. I was still only as happy as my least happy child. But with just a little help from the universe,
and her nice Jewish Mom, that child was now happily on her way. Although she had spent the morning biting her nails at Immigration and would spend the next 16½ hours sitting on a plane, she was having what might
prove to be the best birthday ever.
So I would say we definitely have too much to celebrate this year. Guess we're just going to
have to party on till New Year's, or even Tu Bishvat. Who cares if Hanukkah's over? Let the celebration begin!
Friday, November 17, 2017
Word From the Weiss
Is it just me, or does everyone feel
like their life entails enough
drama, tsuris and nachas – that is, enough to kvetch and kvell about – to warrant
its own reality TV show? Well, The Real Nice Jewish Moms
of Connecticut may not be airing
in primetime any time soon,
but it recently occurred to me that it might be high time for me to go on a certain existing reality show instead. Or, more precisely, for my daughter to go on it. And given
the nature of this particular show, I would be obliged to go with her.
If you are a woman of a certain age (that is, my daughter’s, which is 27), give or take, then there is no need to explain when I say that I’m talking about Say Yes to the Dress. This phenomenon, now in its 15th season on TLC, entails brides-to-be
shopping for their wedding gowns at Kleinfeld’s, the most exclusive bridal salon in all of NYC.
OK, let me
be perfectly honest. I wanted us to go on this show not because I crave attention or publicity, but because I craved attention and publicity for my daughter. That is, I thought that this would be an ideal way to help promote her
career as a jazz singer. Even if it would most likely lead to her buying
an extremely expensive wedding dress.
(No, they do not GIVE you the dress. They do their utmost to SELL one to you.)
After all, they don’t need to
give away dresses to entice people to go on
this show. Almost every young woman of
a certain age (my daughter’s), as well
as her mother, would give her right arm (or at least ring finger) to get on. That’s how popular it is.
So don’t imagine for one second that simply anyone can go on it. I didn’t. I knew that Allegra needed an angle – some special drama, personal hardship (i.e. tsuris) or other distinction that
would make her more compelling than your run-of-the-mill or even runaway bride.
In other words, she needed a hook.
And we were pretty sure that we had one. Maybe
even more than one.
One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I sent Allegra a
link to the online application for the show.
She never mentioned this, but soon after she filled it out and submitted it. And the
show apparently agreed that she indeed had
an angle (or maybe even more than one). Because they
contacted her almost instantly, requesting more information and photos.
One of the angles that she’d used
to promote herself did, in fact, relate to her singing. We had once seen an episode in which a beauty pageant queen explained that she had been wearing beaded and glittering gowns for years,
so she needed something even more spectacular for her wedding day. Allegra could legitimately say the same.
And so she had.
As I would later tell them myself, she already had closets full of shimmering gowns. They are her work clothes – her everyday (or, more accurately, every night) attire. So, for
her wedding dress, she really needed to find something that would kick it
up a notch.
Then there was the multicultural nature of her match made in heaven (or, actually,
in Hong Kong). Allegra is a nice Jewish girl. Her fiancé, JP, is half Hong Kong Chinese and half German. She has
dubbed their impending nuptials “My Big Fat Jewish
Chinese German Wedding.”
Yet there was
still one more selling point that my daughter had
up her sleeve. (Although given
our taste in bridal gowns, there
would probably be no sleeves
As I have indicated, Say Yes to the Dress thrives on drama. Especially family drama. They like it when the mother of the bride, or some other member of her entourage, has
a vision of what the dress
should be that clashes with the bride’s own preferences. Years ago, I was a fashion writer. I
wrote about fashion for USA Today, and later served as the fashion editor for a Sunday magazine in Connecticut. I produced fall and spring fashion issues showing slinky models striking poses in the
latest styles. I also covered the semiannual
fashion shows held by NYC’s top designers.
To say that I am still what you might call a “fashionista” now was a bit of a stretch. However, I did have strong opinions about what sort of gown my daughter should wear. And whether or not these would conflict with
her own, that probably sounded promising.
It was promising
enough, at any rate, for the show to interview
her over the phone. This was followed by a live screen test, also performed over the phone via FaceTime. That presumably
lived up to their expectations, for they proceeded to screentest me.
I guess they had to be sure that I had at least a modicum of personality and would not just sit there like a lump… or a potato latke.
Have you ever had a screen test (albeit one performed over the phone via FaceTime)? I hadn’t. So I must admit that I was a little anxious. At least, as luck would have it, it was slated for an afternoon right after I already had
a hair appointment scheduled. I still agonized over what to wear and, more
significantly, what to say. I even prepared
a script for myself, although I knew that I wouldn’t be able to actually read from it while looking into the phone exhibiting at least a modicum of personality.
During the five to ten minutes I spent on camera, I forgot half of what I’d planned to relate. But I managed to rattle off my spiel about Allegra needing to kick it up a notch for her wedding. I also talked about how close a relationship we had – how we were beyond best friends. Even though my daughter has a full-time “day job,” we managed to
speak to each other several times a day, almost every day. When she’d spent a year in Hong Kong singing at the Four Seasons Hotel there, we’d still managed to talk almost daily, despite the 12-hour time
difference, even if this meant that one of us was typically in a glittering gown and the other in a nightgown. (Which one of us was in the PJs? You get one guess.)
I was not prepared for the last question
they would ask me, however. If Allegra came out on
the show in a dress that I didn’t like, was I prepared to be honest?
I hemmed. I hawed. Then
I gave the most candid answer I could muster. Which went something like this:
“I love my daughter so much that I would never say anything that might crush her.” On the other hand, she had such a fantastic
figure that I was certain she would be able to find a dress at Kleinfeld’s that
looked absolutely stunning on her. So I couldn’t imagine allowing her to buy anything that truly didn’t. For
this reason, I thought that I could afford to be honest with her – not brutally honest, necessarily, but gently honest.
I guess that they were satisfied with this reply, or whatever else we both said. For Allegra was told by the nice young woman who had screened us both that if the show was interested, they would give us a choice of several dates sometime in the distant future. But a few
days later, we heard back from them. Never mind the choice of future dates.
us ASAP. Were we available to go on the show the following Thursday? That is, were we ready to say yes to Say Yes
to the Dress? What could we say but “YES!?!”
Allegra was told that she could bring only three people on the show, including me. But so many of her friends wanted to get in on the act that she persuaded
them to let her have four. This would not include my husband, to his enormous disappointment, although not necessarily mine.
I knew that he would have only one thing to say about each dress that she modeled: “What does it cost?” That would instantaneously suck the joy out of what promised to be the experience of a lifetime. I did my best to explain this to him. “Honey, we’re not going to Kleinfeld’s to save money.”
Allegra was told that we should expect to be there for six hours, and that we needed to arrive “camera-ready.”
Camera-ready? Even if we’d had more than a few days to prepare, I’m
not sure that anything, including industrial-strength
Spanx, would have made it humanly possible
for me to be “ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.” Allegra made
hair appointments for herself and
the rest of the group. But I decided to go as myself. Go as
is, that is. Just kidding! I would spend at least an hour and a half transforming myself into a female contortionist as I
tried to blow-dry my own hair.
I would also shell out for a new top just for
the occasion at my favorite local shop, Kimberly Boutique, after explaining my mission to the instantly envious staff (my main mission being to not look like
a whale in high heels on TV). OK, maybe the item I chose wasn’t the most
slimming garment possible – no small
consideration, considering that, as
everyone knows, the camera adds 10 pounds. Then again, the cold-shoulder effect
was “on trend,” as Kimberly noted, and I thought that it looked reasonably glam and tasteful. I was going to play The Mom
on this episode, after all. I didn’t want to look skanky.
Allegra had already made one shopping foray to David’s Bridal with my daughter-in-law Kaitlin and her dear friend Leslie to try
on gowns. She wanted to do some advance research to see which styles suited her best.
What suited her best at David's Bridal was a strapless Vera Wang. The Sunday before we were scheduled to shoot, I got to go on a second such outing, to The Bridal
Garden, the special bridal shop on West 21st Street where Kaitlin
had found her wedding gown when she and my son
Aidan were married last summer.
The special thing about The Bridal Garden is that its inventory consists mostly of samples and overruns donated by top wedding dress designers, including Vera Wang, Marchese, Ann Barge, Lela Rose, and Monique Lhuillier. It then sells these at a deep discount. Equally compelling to us was that, as the only completely nonprofit bridal salon in NYC, it donates 100 percent of its proceeds to the Brooklyn Charter School, a tuition-free
K through 5 school for disadvantaged children in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
As ecstatic as Allegra was to have been chosen for the TV show, she was eager to contribute to this worthy cause, just as Kaitlin had when
she bought her own gorgeous Vera Wang gown there. So it was a little unnerving when
our entire group fell head over spike heels for a breathtaking Badgley Mischka mermaid-style gown there. It customarily sold for $3,000, but was marked down to a mere $999.
little doubt that she would end up spending more at Kleinfeld’s. Quite a bit more, perhaps. If she didn’t find anything that she loved there, at least she now had a back-up plan. Yet if she didn’t end up saying yes to a Kleinfeld dress, the chances of her
episode ever airing might be flimsier than a tulle
So she ruefully said no to The Bridal Garden gown. Oh, well. On with the show!
The following Wednesday night, I drove to NYC with
her good friend Emily. We had to be at Kleinfeld’s by 1:30 p.m. sharp Thursday and couldn’t risk arriving late.
JP joined us all for an early
lunch at Cafeteria, a trendy eatery near Kleinfeld’s. Presumably, we would not be fed a thing during the six hours that we would be filming. But we were
all so nervous and excited (not to mention worried about looking svelte). Who could think of eating now?
Then it was on to Drybar, part of a chain of salons where they will blow-dry your hair for $45. As planned, I had turned myself into a
human pretzel while curling my own locks that morning. But I readily succumbed
to their offer of a beverage while waiting, and downed a Mimosa – OJ spiked
with champagne. Yes, I’m a real nice
Jewish mom, but to play one on TV? A little dose of liquid courage couldn’t hurt.
We arrived breathlessly at Kleinfeld’s right on time, and were soon all hooked up
with hidden microphones. Then Allegra was whisked to the
back of the salon, where we were told she would be briefly interviewed. This interview, alas, was not so brief. She was gone
for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, the rest of us – Kaitlin, Emily, Leslie, and I – practiced
reacting to possible dresses. “Look like you love it!” I ordered, snapping them on my iPhone.
“Now look like you’re not so sure.” (Meh!)
While we waited on the couches that
lined the lobby, we peered longingly into the well-lit salon, which looked like a winter wonderland filled with headless
mannequins draped in snow-white dresses, as well as future brides in every possible shape and size giddily trying
We also watched in fascination as the front doors suddenly burst open and a large gaggle of giggling teenage girls flooded in, trailing none other than Randy Fenoli.
For anyone who may not know, Randy is a popular wedding dress designer and one of the show’s main bridal consultants, all of whom have become celebrities in their own right. He had arrived just in time to be spied by these star-struck passersby from the Midwest. They
could hardly contain their joy bordering on ecstasy as they posed with him for a group picture in the lobby, their chaperones
looking on with a mixture of puzzlement and pride.
Finally, Allegra rejoined us, and a producer came out to give us directions. We were about to meet Randy on camera ourselves. After a brief
intro, he would ask Allegra what she did for a living, whereupon she would answer by spontaneously bursting into song.
What would she sing? No problem. There’s something major I forgot
Shortly after Allegra had done her screen test, she had
been asked to write a jazzy jingle for the show. She’d promptly obliged with a ditty that ended with a “scat” solo sung as only a jazz singer can. The producers had loved it and wanted to include it on our episode.
At least five minutes into shooting this segment, however, someone suddenly
realized that there was something wrong with Randy's mic, so we had to reenact the entire scene again, trying to look natural and not stare directly into the cameras this time. Argh!
Although most of the questions Randy
asked were addressed to Allegra, I knew that I needed play my own role to the hilt. The
role of mother-of-the-bride-slash-fashionista, that is. So soon after I was introduced, I blurted out a little speech I had prepared.
I explained that I had once been a
fashion reporter, but now contented myself with buying clothes for members of my family – my husband, my son, my daughter,
my daughter-in-law, my niece, my nephew, and
now JP. “Soon after he met Allegra, he discovered that dating my daughter meant that he had to say yes to how I thought he should dress. But I guess
he doesn’t mind too much, because they’re engaged, right?”
This prompted an immediate
question from Randy. “What was wrong with
the way he dressed before?”
“Oh, nothing,” I replied. In truth,
there wasn’t. But I don’t
think I sounded convincing.
Randy followed up by asking me what kind of wedding dress I thought
Allegra should wear. I was prepared for this one and
had rehearsed that answer, too.
“Oh, anything at all,”
I said blithely, “as long as it has a mermaid or trumpet silhouette with a strapless or sweetheart neckline, and it hugs her body down
to here, then flares out into a cloud
of ‘wow!’… preferably in silk, organza, or maybe silk tulle.”
Fearing that this might sound a bit too specific, I followed it up with a second
“Honestly, though? She can wear whatever she wants.”
Randy smiled, nodded, and sized me up with a knowing glance.
“I don’t believe you,”
Was I already being painted as the evil mom? I had no time
to ponder this alarming prospect. We were immediately ushered at last into the cavernous salon, which
was filled with pale-colored upholstered couches, towering floor-to-ceiling columns, gleaming chandeliers, and hundreds of dazzling sequined, beaded, and billowing white dresses embellished with ballgown skirts, lace, ruffles, peek-a-boo patterns, and trains long enough to rival Princess Diana’s.
Spoiler alert: There will be no spoilers here. I don’t want to detract in any way from the show when it eventually airs.
Plus, even if I wanted to, I can’t show you any of the dresses Allegra tried on, because we were asked to put our cellphones away.
I won’t even tell you whether
she actually ended up saying yes to a dress or not.
All I am willing to report is that, as
exciting as it all was, the rest of the experience ended up being exhausting
and, well, a bit unnerving. For, as honest as I was prepared to be, it was horrifying to see my daughter step out in a series of wedding gowns and to have to weigh in on camera about whether I liked them before I could ask her if she did.
But I will divulge that
when she sashayed out in one overly ornate dress, I dared to utter the one word that instantly sprang to mind, never mind that it was in Yiddish.
demanded a translation, which I did my best to supply, never mind that there
is no word in the English language that comes close to being equivalent.
means everything and the kitchen sink,” I said, knowing that this
was hopelessly inadequate. “That dress just has too much going on.”
In that way, I think I totally did my part
to play up the Jewish mother angle.
The former fashionista element, though? That, I was
a little less comfortable about.
After Allegra had finished trying
on dresses, I was escorted to the back of the salon myself and interviewed on camera, under hot lights, for what felt like at least an hour.
In relation to what I’d said earlier about buying clothes for family members, I was asked if these people knew that I was out shopping for them. I explained that I never actually went shopping for anyone. It was just that
if I was out and about and happened to spy something that would look perfect on someone I knew, I would often buy it for them.
“I guess you could say
I’m a self-designated personal shopper,” I explained.
The producer, a pleasant Scottish woman with a dry wit, seemed to like this phrase so
much that she repeated it slowly as she jotted it down. I envisioned that I would end up on the show with that title printed beneath
my image: “Self-designated
But now I’m not so sure that this is quite where
that line of questioning was
She began to ask me leading questions, like, “Do you sometimes see people and think that they’re wearing
the wrong thing, or they ought to change
their hairstyle or whatever?”
I looked at her, surprised, and shrugged. “Sure,” I said, “I guess.”
Who can help doing that when they're on the
subway or they go to, say, the DMV? So, I thought to myself, “Doesn’t everybody?”
She then proceeded to ask what I thought she was doing wrong, and how she should change her own style. In other words, what might I do if I gave her a makeover?
she genuinely want a few fashion tips, or was she just trying to brand me as the fashion police? She was dressed in all black, as was almost everyone connected with Kleinfeld’s or the show. Hers looked like comfortable clothes, a plain black top and tailored slacks intended for
a long day of hard work behind
the scenes. Who knew what she wore under normal circumstances, or
when she was all dressed up?
Whatever the case, this
felt like a trap. So I looked away and squirmed.
“Come on. Just tell me. I can take it,” she prodded.
You know how they say of some people, “She can dish it out, but
she can’t take it?” Well, that’s not me. I’m closer to the opposite. I can’t take it. Or dish it out.
Instead, I gulped again and continued to avert my eyes. “I really don’t
feel comfortable answering that,” I said. She shrugged and finally moved on.
Days later, though, as I reviewed the conversation, that’s what would stick with me most. Was she trying to brand
me as the fashion police? Or, just as bad, a snob?
Talk about drama! Not to mention tsuris!
I am certainly
not any of the above. I’m not one of those
people who walk around judging other people – not for the way they behave, and surely not for the way they dress. I used to write about
fashion way back in the ‘80s. What the heck do I know now?
I know is that I love my daughter, and I hope she is happy with whatever
she wears for her wedding, and, far more
importantly, with the man that she weds.
should live and be well in whatever they wear. I will happily say yes to that!
Note: Our segment of “Say
Yes to the Dress” probably won’t air until next fall. I will
keep you posted.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Word From the Weiss
So sorry! I mean, I’m really, really sorry! I don’t call. But what’s worse is that I don’t write.
Don’t write here, anyway. The good news is that I’m hard at work on another book. The bad news? No time lately for NiceJewishMom.com. Other duties call. But it breaks my heart. I lie awake at night feeling like I have an itch that I can’t scratch.
fly by without documentation or, even worse, self-examination. I don’t write. Therefore, I am NOT.
Even more exasperating is that I did start writing something, several weeks ago. So many weeks that it’s now retreating into the rearview
mirror. Every day, I think that if I don’t finish it soon, it will be way too old to post. Staler than a week-old challah. I mean, how can
I tell you about Rosh Hashanah when it’s almost Halloween?
my daughter says that one of her best friends, a faithful reader, keeps checking this
space and is disappointed to still find nothing new. This story, as
I said, is hardly what you might call “new.” No matter. Here it is. Kylie, this one’s for you!
A very belated happy Jewish New Year from NiceJewishMom.com! I certainly hope this year will be a happy one. Not to mention a Jewish one. Yet, beyond being someone who blogs about being a nice Jewish mom, who am I to talk about being Jewish?
I would hate
to think that I am gradually turning into one
of those Jews who only turn up in their temples on the High Holy Days. But the
truth is that, in recent years, my husband and I often
don’t even do that.
When our kids were young, we celebrated everything from Shabbat to Tu Bishvat, which meant going to synagogue more often than not. But
now that the kids are grown and living on their own, many major holidays force us to choose: Go to our own shul in Connecticut, or drive down to NYC instead and share the occasion with them?
To me, when it comes to holidays, particularly the High and Holy ones,
my priority remains being
with family over simply following protocol. That
is, I would rather eat with my kids – or, when it comes to Yom Kippur, not eat with my kids – than daven without them. And in the pursuit of family togetherness, it tends
to be easier for the mountain to go to Mohammed (excuse the expression) than vice
I was hoping this year that we might be able to kill both birds with one shalom. That is, to be with our kids and still manage to attend synagogue services somewhere. But however
sweet that objective might sound, making it happen was far from as simple as dipping apples into
Rosh Hashanah fell midweek this
year, there was little chance that our kids would come home. So
I looked for a temple in NYC to
which we could go together.
As members of a Reform synagogue in Connecticut, my husband
and I are entitled to free reciprocal
tickets to Reform synagogues elsewhere. But now that the kids rarely come
home, we no longer maintain a family membership, so we couldn’t get free tickets for them. And for those of you who may not live in Manhattan,
or don't go to synagogue there, let’s just say that these tickets come at a price.
That price can top $400
per person to attend on both Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur. And since my son is married, and my daughter will be soon, there are now six members of our family. That could
amount to quite a lot of gelt.
The distinct possibility also
remained that the kids might cancel out
at the last minute, so I didn’t want to invest too much in this endeavor. So I was
very happy when an Internet search led me to Kol Haneshamah, a.k.a. the Center for Jewish Life and
Enrichment. Not only was it a short walk from my son’s apartment on the
Upper West Side, but its services were free.
Hesitant to take advantage of its hospitality completely free of charge, I made a small donation after reserving six seats for Rosh Hashanah morning. But not
feeling confident that at least someone, if not
everyone, wouldn’t reneg, I
gave only a small amount, figuring that if all actually went as planned I could always give more later.
Unfortunately, just as I’d feared, when we checked in with my son the night before, it turned out that Aidan hadn’t been entirely aware of the plan. He wasn’t free to
attend services the next morning. Neither was my daughter-in-law, Kaitlin.
My daughter lives in Manhattan in the East 20s. We were staying at a hotel
in Long Island City. We had been willing to schlep all the way to the Upper West Side only for my son’s benefit. If
he and his wife weren’t coming, going
there made no sense, free services or not.
So my daughter found another service far
closer to her home.
This one was held by an organization called Ohel Ayalah, which offers free walk-in services meant primarily for unaffiliated Jews in their 20s and 30s. That makes it possible, according to its website, “for a Jew to wake up on Rosh Hashanah morning and say, ‘I feel like
going to the synagogue today and being with other Jews.’”
It all began in September of 2003,
on Erev Kol Nidrei –
the night before Yom Kippur. Rabbi Judith Hauptman was on her way to religious services when she encountered a distraught
young Jewish couple who had been turned away from two different synagogues earlier that evening. They had failed to make reservations, and all the seats had already filled up.
upon hearing this, was equally distraught. A conservative rabbi, and the first
woman ever to receive a Ph. D in
Talmud, she had been teaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary since 1974. Determined
to find a solution, she quickly came up with an idea: She would find a way to offer free, walk-in services for those who
wait until the last minute to make up their minds about worshipping on the High Holy Days. (As well as those whose plans suddenly change?)
The following year, Ohel Ayalah (“Tent of Helen,” named for her late mother) was born.
The very first service
was packed, primarily with young people under the age of 35. In the ensuing years, the organization continued to not only flourish, but grow, branching out to add services in Brooklyn and Queens,
as well as Passover seders.
This year’s services in Manhattan would be held at the Prince George Ballroom on West 27th Street. Allegra and JP agreed to meet us there late the next morning.
We woke up to an urgent message from them, though. Their new little
puppy, Luna, had been up all night vomiting. They
were very concerned and rushing her
to the vet. Allegra was not ready to cancel out on temple just yet, though. And neither were
we. We agreed that we would go to
the service ourselves and attempt to save her a seat.
Good luck to us with that! Although the Prince George Ballroom is cavernous, at over 9,000 square feet, we arrived to discover that the service was already packed and standing-room-only. So we made our way to the back of the room... and stood.
At least this spared us from the usual routine of having
to get up every time the rabbi entreated the congregation to “please
rise” whenever a major prayer was read. We were already on our feet.
a bit sheepish about going to a service intended mostly for young people in their 20s and 30s. I’m a
nice Jewish mom of two people in their 20s and 30s. Young, I am not. And if I’m not young, then what is Nice Jewish
Dad, who has just over a decade on me?
Indeed, we stood out in the crowd – and I do mean crowd. Hundreds of well-dressed young
Jews filled the rows of seats and stood lining the perimeter of the room. Many among the seated soon began approaching us and
offering to give us their seats. As generous a gesture as this was – a mitzvah in the making –
we would graciously decline.
Yet it was an unusually warm day, both inside and out, and I eventually persuaded
my husband to accept one such offer, seeing that he was tired and beginning to shvitz in his suit.
I was there mostly to
be with our daughter, though, and there was no seat available for her. So I remained standing alone in the back, keeping one eye
on the prayers in the siddur (prayer book) and the other trained expectantly
on the doorway.
And finally, after an hour or so, there she was! They were still awaiting results
of the X-rays, so her fiancé, JP, who is not Jewish, had been obliged to stay behind with poor sick Luna. But Allegra was finally there, and I moved over eagerly so that she could lean against the wall beside me.
Eventually, I found that I could
no longer stand on ceremony, though, let
alone my high holiday heels. So I dared to sit down on the floor. Seeing this, to my amazement, dozens
of young people instantly followed suit, despite being attired in dresses and suits.
Maybe I had unwittingly managed a mitzvah of my own.
when it was announced that there were still seats available for an afternoon service on Yom
Kippur the following week – and that if you registered in advance, you were guaranteed to get one – I decided to make reservations for us all. This time, I would make sure that everyone got the memo.
We would get to worship as a family, after all.
Not that I was complaining, mind you. The service that we were attending now was not only free, but included a free reception afterwards.
After the closing hymn, everyone filed into
the hallway to feast on gefilte fish,
noodle kugel, and assorted rugelach. Yum!
No wonder I felt obliged to make a donation to Ohel Ayalah afterwards. If you are interested
in helping to guarantee the future of the Jewish community, what a worthy cause!
Afterwards, we hurried home to Allegra’s apartment.
Aidan and Kaitlin would be joining
us for dinner. There was still a whole holiday
meal to prepare!
Knowing that her kitchen is barely bigger
than a mezzuzah –
there isn’t even a drawer in it for silverware or Saran Wrap – I had toted most of the
food from home, along with pots
and pans to cook it in. Not to mention bowls, trays, condiments, and assorted
I had also done as much of the food prep as
possible in advance.
Out now came the apples and honey, the round braided raisin challah, the homemade chicken
soup with carrots and fine egg noodles, the kosher
chicken to roast with prunes, olives, and
fresh herbs from my garden, the broccoli I had already cut into florets and fresh organic carrots I had already peeled, the portabella mushrooms I had already stuffed, the apple crisp I had already baked, plus a pot of quinoa, which may not be a traditional Jewish food, by any means, but what the heck, it’s healthy!
Being a nice Jewish mom, I spent the rest of the afternoon cooking. Then the rest of the evening cleaning
it all up. But all that I remember now, looking back in the rearview mirror, is the magical moment at which we all finally sat down together as a
family, lit the tall, white holiday candles, and raised our voices to sing the Kiddush and the Motzi – the blessings over the wine and the bread. Suddenly, it was worth
every single second of effort. And, certainly, having to have missed services at our shul back home.
(From left to right) Aidan, Kaitlin, Allegra, JP, my husband Harlan... and Luna,
who was feeling much better, peeking out on the floor.
As for next
year, I am already looking forward to services at Ohel Ayalah again. Whether we reserve in advance and get to sit, or end up needing to stand again, they deserve a standing ovation.
To learn more about this group or make a donation yourself, go to www.ohelayalah.org.