That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Pattie in Jewtiful The Shushan King Musical.jpg


A Word From The Weiss      Maybe it’s a little late to wish you a happy Purim and to share the new recipe I found for hamantaschen that taste “just like buttah because that’s what they are -- mostly buttah. But is it too late to tell you about my latest Purim spiel -- latest and most probably last?

Hamantaschen just like buttah.jpg

       OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking. After 16 years of writing Purim spiels for your temple, you're quitting now? Just like that? And/or as my mother would probably say, "'Never again?' Really! We'll see But if you have any sense at all, never say never!’ "
       So for now, well, let’s forget about “last.” And “never.” Let’s just leave it at “We’ll see.”

       I knew that this was going to be a challenging year, Purim-wise, thanks to the retirement last spring of my congregation's longtime cantor who was beloved by all.

Pamela retired last year.jpg

       But out of courtesy to her young successorI am not going to go into many details of why, in many ways, that proved to be the case.

       Suffice it to say that transitions are difficult for everyone, especially for nice Jewish moms when they relate to age-old or at least longstanding traditions of the Jewish persuasion. So I will admit that I approached this year's Purim celebration with trepidation. And I am sorry to report that in many ways it managed to live down to my expectations.

       In all fairness to the new cantor, who deserves every consideration and every chance to succeed in her new position, I will also admit now that, after 16 years of writing lyrics for Purim spiels, I am borderline -- no, make that certifiably -- OCD when it comes to all things Purim. But in all fairness to me, please consider the situation.

       Last spring, at the end of our previous cantor’s retirement party, held in our synagogue’s social hall, I was approached by the temple president with a firm request. She wanted to make sure I remained on board for Purim for at least another year. “You can’t both leave!” she cried.

       It was an offer I wouldn’t have even considered refusing. Why would I, considering that writing the spiel makes me feel like I am making a real contribution to my community? And that I have a sense of loyalty to the merry band who appears in it every year, the group I long ago dubbed The Not Ready for Purim Players?

       Not to mention the best part for me: Thanks to my annual participation in the spiel, my kids always come home for Purim.

The kids came home for Purim.JPG

       So it was far easier to convince me than for Mordecai to persuade young Queen Esther to "woman up" and go see the king. I said that she could count on me.

       From my first meeting last fall with the new cantor, however, I began having second thoughts.

      To my relief, she readily embraced my chosen theme. After years of writing new lyrics to the music from assorted Broadway musicals, creating everything from “Kiss Me, Esther” (based on Kiss Me Kate) to “South Persia-cific” and “The King and Oy,” I had repurposed the music of The

Across the Jewniverse.jpg

 Beatles two years ago for “Across the Jewniverse,” followed by last year’s Beach Boys-based extravaganza, “Good CHAI-brations.”

       This year, I proposed, would be a happy marriage of Broadway and classic pop music: “Jewtiful,” using tunes written by Carole King et al from the current Broadway smash Beautiful.

       No problem there. The cantor loved musicals, she said, and had seen that one. She seemed not just on board, but gung-ho.

       Yet when I told her how we had always proceeded in the past, she stopped me cold.

Jewtiful logo for t-shirts.jpg

       The word “cold,” in fact, had everything to do with it. Our usual MO was to rehearse every Sunday throughout the winter, starting right after New Year’s Day. In years when Purim fell early, thanks to the fluctuating Jewish calendar, we might even commence practicing right after Thanksgiving... when the turkey carcass was barely cold.

       At this, she seemed incredulous. She was not inclined to begin rehearsals until the end of January, and planned to skip a week or two in the interim, due to school vacations and other obligations. After all, at her previous congregation they had managed to prepare with only three rehearsals, despite having young cast, half of whom were under the age of 8, no less.

       We proceeded to debate the matter. She remained unmoved. It was just Purim, she said. Why did it have to be perfect? Unlike most Jewish celebrations, Purim is pure funNever mind that she had never directed a spiel, or any other production before. It would be fine. The more mistakes the better.

       OK, maybe she had a point there. But it was a point that pierced me right in the heart.

Good CHAIbrations cast photo.JPG

       Over the 15 years that I had been writing the spiel, my shul had come to refer to Purim as the third High Holy Day because it consistently attracted so many congregants. And not just congregants. People from other synagogues -- why, even some non-Jews -- often came.

       Our clergy members clearly prided themselves on that fact. But how in good faith could I begin to explain that in our town, in many ways, Purim had become something of a competitive event?

       So instead we continued the debate. Sure, I saw her point. But here’s what I was hearing:

Jewtiful shot 2.jpg

       I had been engaged to ensure continuity and to initiate her into the way that we did Purim and had always done it. Considering that everyone always enjoyed it, I figured that they expected us to give them more of the same. And the only way I knew to produce that was to do it exactly the way we always had.

      To me, it was a lot like my brisket. Everyone in the family seems to love my brisket. And so I continue to make it every Passover, even though it takes hours in the oven. Now someone my daughter-in-law’s age was telling me, I want to make your brisket. And never mind that I have never made brisket before. I want to make it in an hour…  And then I want to serve it to almost everyone you know and tell them that it is yours!

My brisket.jpg


       What you need to bear in mind, of course, is that I do this every year as a volunteer. Even if I had continued to argue with her until I was blue in the face, I had no standing. She was in charge. And so we proceeded to do it her way.

       I will not continue to bore you by prolonging the saga, or denigrate her by supplying any other gory details of other conflicts that arose between us over – what should I call them?

       Artistic differences?

       Since I am writing a week later, I can now report that, despite all of my angst, and regardless of what felt to me like extreme under-rehearsing, the spiel went on and it was just fine. Everyone came. Everyone loved it, thanks in part to the clever script she wrote herself with no lack of subtle references to Donald Trump and the current political administration.

Jewtiful friends and family came.JPG

      As for me, once again it was better than fine because my kids came home as always... and many of our best friends came too!

      Instead, I will simply treat you to one of the many songs we sang – not Esther’s number, or the king’s, or the ballad sung by Esther’s cousin Mordecai entreating her to save the Jews, “We Need a Queen,” sung to the tune of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.

       Rather, here is one of the closing numbers, the one in which my husband and I got to each sing a solo, talking about how, despite all that has happened to us throughout history, the Jews are still here.

      Yes, we are here. The Jews will always be here. As for me next Purim?

      We’ll see.

We Are the Jews

(to the tune of “Up on the Roof” by Carole King and Gerry Goffin)

When this new world starts getting us down       

Beautiful The Carol King Musical.jpg

And no one “likes” what we tweet or post or say

We turn to temple or read the Torah

And soon our tsuris lifts, and we're OK!                                       


We’re the Jews, we kvetch and kvell and pray

We heal the world, but sometimes say, “Oy, vey!”


Let us tell ya now

That on Shabbat, we read from the siddur

Jewtiful Fred as Haman.jpg

We fast and we atone on Yom Kippur!

We are the Jews!


At Passover, we hold big seder feasts

And talk of 10 plagues – blood, boils, frogs, and beasts!                             

We are the Jews!


We love lox and are the only group

With balls of matzo floatin’ in our soup!


We wanna tell ya now

When you’re a Jew, although trite, it is true

You’re always glad to be with other Jews!

We are the Jews!


So when this world starts getting you down

Jewtiful cast photo.jpg

There’s room inside the shul

We are the Jews!

We are the Jews!                                        

We are the Jews!

We are the Jews!

Everything is kosher now!

We are the Jews!





3:52 pm 

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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.