That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

This site  The Web 

A Modern-Day "Ima"
on a Modern-Day Bimah
(With new content posted every WEEK!)

Archive Newer | Older

Thursday, March 24, 2016


A Word From the Weiss


I was queen for a day.JPG

       Happy Purim, everyone! Here are some thoughts to chew on while you have a hamantaschen.


       During my early childhood, there was a popular TV show called Queen for a Day, in which women would air their tales of personal misfortune in order to vie for that title, along with lavish prizes ranging from washer-dryers and other household appliances to a night out on the town.

       “Would YOU like to be queen for a day?” host Jack Bailey would intone grandly. Then that day’s contestants would pour out their hard luck stories, and the one deemed most worthy according the studio audience applause meter would be draped in a sable-trimmed robe, presented with a dozen roses and a bejeweled crown to wear, and seated upon a velvet-upholstered throne to the accompaniment of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Queen for a Day with host Jack Bailey.jpg

       Although that early precursor to today’give-away game shows went off the air by the time I was 9, I have grown up to earn my own self-actualized version of that title. That is, every year I get to be queen for a day. And that day happens to be Purim.

      I have achieved this coveted honor, at least in my own mind, not by dishing about my own tales of woe, but by documenting another woman’s heroism. For the past 15 years, I have written the lyrics to my temple’s annual Purim spiel. Each time, I set the Biblical story of valiant Queen Esther to tunes borrowed from some popular Broadway musical or other – or, in the case of last year, to the even more universally popular tunes of The Beatles in a rockin’ Purim extravaganza called “Across the Jewniverse.”

Across the Jewniverse purim spiel logo.jpg

       So at least in my neck  of the woods – among Reform Jews in Central Connecticut, that is – I like to joke that I am the Purim queen.

      This year, as it happens, though, for once, I actually did get to play her.

      That’s right. I may be a bit long in the tooth to portray this teenaged role model – OK, let’s be honest, a LOT – but this happened to be a special year, and frankly we had no choice.

Across the Jewniverse Naomi as Esther.JPG

      We had no reasonable choice, that is, because the lovely young woman named Naomi who had assumed the role for the past two years – never mind that by last March she was very visibly pregnant – decided she wanted to abdicate her throne this year. And none of the other potential candidates were much past the age of their bat mitzvah.

Good CHAIbrations Lauren.JPG

      When we held auditions back in early January, and our Cantor asked who wished to compete to be our queen for a day, several youthful hands darted up.

        Aiming to be diplomatic, she began to explain as delicately as possible that she wasn’t even going to deign to hear the voices of the many young lovelies who clamoring to volunteer.

      The problem was not a matter of their abilities, because several of them sing like birds.

      Neither was it an issue of paying their dues, because at least four of them have been with us ever since they turned 8, the absolute minimum level of maturity I long ago stipulated for participation.

Fred was going to play the king.JPG

      The real problem, in fact, wasn’t their own ages at all. It was the age of the king.

     In the 15 years I have been involved with this enterprise, the same eminently talented trio of amateur thespians have almost invariably assumed the three lead male roles. Talk about the usual suspects! Although they may juggle from year to year who plays the fun-loving king Ahasuerus, the villainous Haman, or Esther’s noble cousin Mordechai, after 15 years all three fellows have held each part several time and have by now surpassed the age of 60.

      In fact, Fred FitzGerald, the gifted tenor we targeted to reign over the kingdom of Shushan this year, is now in his late 70s. How would it have looked to let him sing upon the bimah of his budding love to a sweet young thing who had barely reached puberty?

     So I dared to interrupt the negotiations that ensued between the Cantor and the bevy of hopeful young ingénues and put my personal spin on it in the latter’s language.

     “Does the word ‘skeevy’ mean anything to you?” I asked the girls.

     And then, with no other viable candidates in sight, I assented to undertake Esther’s royal role myself.

Good Chaibrations album cover.jpg

      Besides, as I mentioned earlier, this waa special year, and not just because I chose to follow up my Beatles tribute by borrowing 13 tunes from their California compatriots, those famous Jews, The Beach Boys. So I called it – what else? – “Good CHAI-brations.”

      I like to joke that I am the Purim queen, and this year I may have played her. But the elaborate annual production we rehearse all winter is a completely collaborative effort. And the person who really reigns over that enterprise, the true queen of Purim, is retiring after this year.

Pamela is the true Purim queen.jpg

      I am referring to our Connecticut synagogue’s incomparable cantor, Pamela Siskin.

      Purim is the only thing I do at Congregation Beth Israel. She does many things. Many, many things, in addition to infusing our sanctuary with song, by singing at Friday night services and intoning a world-class “Kol Nidre” on Erev Yom Kippur each year.

Pamela directs and comes up with the shtick.JPG

       And when it comes to Purim, I merely write the lyrics. As director, Pamela does everything else required to bring my words to life. She stages the entire production, presides over rehearsals, arranges the choreography, rules on the costumes and props, and comes up with all of the clever shtick that makes my songs jump off the page and onto the stage.

      And still I call this a collaborative effort because it takes we two to do this tango (not to mention the extraordinary talents of our Sunday Morning Live Band and the earnest endeavors of our multigenerational cast, whom I call the Not Ready for Purim Players).

      There are many historic Jewish musical teams whose names trip off the tongue.

Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations.jpg

      Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

      Allan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

     George and Ira Gershwin.

      And although I wouldn’t presume in a million, billion,gazillion years to insinuate that my name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as theirs, I will dare to suggest that our collaboration is unparalleled… with respect to the extent to which we get along.

     As flakey as I may seem to some people, in these pages and elsewhere, the truth is that I am a pretty exacting person when it comes to many things I undertake.

     As for the Cantor, as petite as she may be in stature, she has earned a reputation – at least I have heard this term be bandied about among congregants more than once – as an immovable force known as “She Who Must Be Obeyed.”

      Yet in 15 years, I cannot recall our ever having the slightest dispute. Even once.

      I attribute that largely to the fact that she doesn’t ever tamper with my words… and I respect her talents so much that I’m willing to just write those words, then let them go.

      Hence, I didn’t question it when she insisted that I perform much of my song as Queen Esther, sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” while pretending to speak to all of my friends on my cell phone.

Queen Esther.jpg


       Wouldn't life be nice inside a palace

       Maids and servants at my beck and call

       And every time I shopped for shoes and dresses

       Wouldn’t have to choose. I’d buy ‘em all!


       No more always looking poor and shabby

       I’d be living life at Downton Abbey!….”


      It is always astonishing to me how every Broadway musical I choose seems to incorporate the perfect song for each of the main characters featured in the Megillah, and the Beach Boys’ oeuvre was no exception.

Good CHAI-brations poster.jpg

      This year, the departing first queen, Vashti, who refuses to dance naked before all the king’s men, got to sing “Run, Run, Run” to the tune of “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

      Mordechai, who counsels Queen Esther to summon the courage to save the Jews from Haman’s evil plot, crooned “Help Us, Esther,” to the tune of “Help Me, Rhonda.”

      And along with a soulful closing number, “We Are Jews” (to the tune of “In My Room), we had a trio of young lovelies sing about the courageous efforts of Esther, “God Only Knows Where We’d Be Without Her.”

Good Chai-brations cast.jpg

       That expresses exactly how I feel about Cantor Pamela Siskin.

      And so, at the end of the spiel, before abdicating my throne, I told the hundreds of gathered congregants that I had one more royal decree. From now on, she will be known not as “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” but rather “She Who Will Be Missed.”

     God only knows where we’ll be without her next year.

     As for this year, to hear me sing my song as Queen Esther, click on the following link:

 https://www.facebook.com/patricia.w.levy.videos/1035121466563180/ Good CHAI-brations cast photo.JPG

2:48 pm 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


 A Word From the Weiss


Winds blew our fence down.JPG

     With temps slated to hit an unseasonable 70 here in the Northeast this week, March seems to be meandering in like a lamb... or a very tame lion. Never mind that a blustery storm at the tail end of last month unleashed winds potent enough to blow down half the fence around our house and rob us of power (including heat and Internet service) for nearly two days.

March came in like a lamb, not a lion.jpg

       Yet after the previous week’s brush with mortality, I am continuing to maintain my sense of bliss, no matter what comparatively minor inconveniences may blow my way.

      And after learning that I don’t have cancer, every advent of adversity now, be it momentary setback or major ordeal, seems supremely minor, if not insignificant, to me.

      So don’t imagine that I’m complaining when I say that I was just too busy with various and sundry obligations to post even a short, slapdash entry last week.

I was the guest of the day.JPG

      In fact, busy as I may be, all that I continue to feel is blessed – so much so that I’m beginning to wonder if my newfound upbeat attitude is creating its own good karma.

      Consider this: When my husband and I arrived at our hotel in NYC last weekend, I walked in to find a sign in the lobby announcing that I was their guest of the day.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Queens Queensboro Bridge room with a view.jpg

       Never mind that I had already managed to nab a king room in this establishment, a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Long Island City, for an astonishingly reasonable $93 plus tax. The management had elected to honor me with an upgrade to a penthouse room with a sweeping view of the New York City skyline. We were also given coupons for free drinks at the hotel bar, plus a goody bag full of snacks, then invited to help ourselves to the ice cream, beverages, and other

They gave me all kinds of goodies.JPG

 refreshments at the concession stand in the lobby.

      What had I done to deserve all this special treatment? According to the front desk clerk, it was literally the luck of the draw; my name had been pulled out of a hat. But I suspect otherwise. I believe that my sense of being fortunate is mysteriously managing to beget more good fortune.

Allegra and Kaitlin at The King and I.jpg

      And what better fortune could any nice Jewish mom ask for than to be invited to spend that evening with her daughter, daughter-in-law to be, and a few good friends for a rare girls’ night out on the town? My daughter had promised me all winter that, as a special birthday gift, she would take me to see The King & I at Lincoln Center, a widely acclaimed production that won the Tony award for best revival of a musical last year.

The King and I our girls' night out.jpg

      But suddenly last week she decided to make good on that promise. And having been dealt a clean bill of health, I didn’t hesitate to accept, or need to be asked twice.

      Rather, I am so caught up now in the spirit of enjoying life while I can that I readily opted to expand our groupgo out to dinner, and make a fun-filled evening of it.

The King and I

    And I’m happy to report that the production is virtually flawless. Even if you have seen this classic musical countless times, as I have, and you are able to sing along word for word to single every song – as decidedly tone-deaf woman seated behind poor Allegra chose to do, until at its stirring climaxthe supremely exuberant “Shall We Dance?,” I finally flashed her the evil eye – it is performed so exquisitely that it set our very souls pirouetting into sheer ecstasy.

Ed Harris and Amy Madigan in Buried Child.jpg

    In fact, it brought me to a startling realization that I can only sheepishly confess. The next night, my husband and I took in the favorably reviewed revival of a Sam Shepherd play, Buried Child, featuring a star-studded cast including Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. And I can say we enjoyed it immensely. But as a longtime theater buff who generally opts for modern, edgy, off-Broadway productions like that one, now enjoying an extended run at the Signature Theater, I suddenly realized that for me, there is still nothing more pleasurable than an old-fashioned Broadway musical.

The King and I -- pure, delicious shmaltz.jpg

      Sue me, sue me, what can you do me? I like thought-provoking, but I love schmaltz.

      And it’s not just because most off-Broadway productions, like this one, tend to be about poor people having tsuris in such squalid conditions that you go home feeling miserable for the characters, as well as so grossed out that you want to take a shower.

      Maybe I’m not as sophisticated a nice Jewish mom as I would like to imagine myself. Or maybe, in my new spirit of living life to the hilt, I am letting myself admit that there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a happy ending or as thoroughly fulfilling as having actual fun.  

      That is not to say that my life is suddenly filled with nonstop fun.

      On the contrary, as I said, I have been busbusy busy. Too busy to even write.

Harlan got cataract surgery.jpg

      Last Thursday morning, I had to take my husband in bright and early for cataract surgery. (He says that he now has 20/20 vision and can see me much more clearly than he has in years, which is not necessarily a good thing.)

The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks.jpg

      And the following morning, it was my turn to host my nice Jewish women’s book group, the Shayna Maidels, for brunch and a discussion of this month’s bookThe Secret Chord, a modern reimagining of the life of King David, by Geraldine Brooks.

My crustless spinach, leek, mushroom and goat cheese quiche.jpg

     This was more of an ordeal than it may sound, because it is the duty of the maidel hosting the meeting to not only prepare brunch-worthy items like my crustless spinach, leek, and goat cheese quiche, but to also do some research about the book and the author and to lead the discussion that ensues. Although the greatest challenge for me, by far, to be honest, was cleaning my house sufficiently so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed when they came.

I hosted my book group, the Shayna Maidels.JPG

      Having to entertain guests now was not exactly ideal timing for me, I must admit, between my husband’s surgery and my son’s impending wedding. But with my son getting married this summer, there is just no time that is a good time to entertain guests.

     Although as long as my house was relatively presentable for a change, I chose to invite even more guests, some old friends we hadn't seen in awhile, to come over for Sunday brunch two days later.

My kitchen, clean enough for company.jpg

      The good news is that I managed to do it all, and a good time was had by all, and after I had tidied it all up again my house was still spanking clean – so clean that I wish we could celebrate Passover RIGHT NOW, this very instant, before the clutter creeps back and it gets messy all over again.

      But maybe I can manage to maintain the order, along with my newfound perspective, because having a relatively clean and organized house is making me happier than ever.

With my friends at Treva for a belated bday dinner.JPG

     So is taking time off from writing to spend more time with friends, including yet another girls’ night out last week to celebrate my January birthday a little belatedly.

      I’m not sure I can get used to all of this happiness. But sounds like I may have to. For when we went out for a delicious Peking duck dinner with yet more friends on Saturday night, the message in my fortune cookie read (I kid you not), “Long life is in store for you.”

The fortune from my fortune cookie.jpg

      That’s not just good karma. That’s like winning the lottery of fortune cookie fortunes. And if I’m going to be on the road for that long, well, guess I might as well enjoy the ride.

      So bring on the schmaltz and feel free to sing along to this happy refrain:

      Shall we dance? Shall we dance? We shall dance!  

7:33 pm 

Archive Newer | Older

That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.