The Funnest Day of All

Let’s say we had to pick one single day as “The Funnest Day in the Jewish Calendar.” The obvious choice would be Purim or maybe Simchat Torah, followed by, in no particular order, the days of Hanukkah, Tu B’Av, and the like. But how about the day after Yom Kippur. That’s a biggie – at least in certain circles.

Many of us have gone through a period of, for wont of a better term, reflection or introspection, starting from the beginning of Elul and going through Yom Kippur. But think for a moment how all that plays out in Hareidi circles, where they take VERY SERIOUSLY the feeling that their actions during this period will determine their destiny for the next year, whether, in fact, they make it through the next year in one piece. So they spend, not a lot of time in shul as most of us do, but essentially all day in prayer on Yom Kippur. Imagine being in a room, which may or may not be air-conditioned, with a bunch of over-dressed and often under-washed men, and you’ve been there since the break of dawn and it’s now 5PM, and they will soon commence Neilah.

And then it’s over. Yom Kippur has come and gone. On to the next holiday! In Hareidi circles, it’s like being let out on the last day of school. The day after Yom Kippur is when the sukkahs go up lickety-split and it’s time to spend quality time with your buddies purchasing a lulav and etrog and whatever else you need. And that’s when every year I head out with my camera to photograph the goings-on. Continue reading

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The Taliban Lady and the Coffee Machine

There is a widely held belief – probably true – that, in general, women are more interested in people and men are more interested in objects: gadgets, toys, and the like. The two incidents I’m writing about give credence to that notion. What they have in common is that they both stem from an inability to talk on the phone.

Barbara had just come back from The States, a visit timed to coincide with the birth and brit milah of Tina and David’s second son (whose moniker is Milo, if you’re interested). Barbara is not much of a shopper (an understatement!), but she was given the responsibility of returning with two Android devices: one to replace her aging Galaxy and one to replace Natania’s unspeakable Chinese knock-off. She also had a number of items to bring back for an assortment of friends.

It was a Thursday morning, and she had finished her volunteer work, helping to pack food parcels for an outfit known in English as Victims of Terror. Her plan was to bring over one of the items she brought back to her friend Arlene, who lives nearby. Normally, she would have called first to make sure it was a good time. However, in moving the SIM card from her old phone to her new one, she somehow lost almost all of her contact information. (Don’t ask me what this is all about, I’m an Apple guy.) Unable to call, Barbara walked over to her friend’s apartment unannounced.  Continue reading

A Long Way to Go for Lunch

Rather than wait for you to ask the obvious question, “Who’s this guy Perry?” perhaps I’d better explain. Many years ago, before Barbara and I got married, she was living by herself in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. And there was this young kid in the neighborhood who took a liking to her and kept an eye out – just in case. We invited him to our wedding, and, on and off over the years, he and Barbara kept in touch. He did switch neighborhoods, but he never left the borough of Queens, while we were gallivanting all over New Jersey, finally making the big decision to come to The Land.

Five years ago, after years of saving his pennies in a big glass jar, Perry had put aside enough money to pay for his fare over here. His greatest desire at the time was to ride a camel, something you don’t get to do often in Maspeth. The deal I made with Barbara was that, sure he can stay here; no problem. I’ll be happy to feed him and make my best conversation, but you’re going to be the tour guide. That worked; everyone was happy. In case you need to know: there are a number of these even-toed ungulates on duty between here and Jericho, should a camel ride be on your “bucket list” (an expression sure to join the list of catch-phrases headed for merciful extinction). Continue reading

Music in the Night

It was several years ago when this incident occurred. I was on the Light Rail, probably heading to the shuk for my weekly Thursday shopping excursion, when a European tourist asked me a question. (I somehow have an “English-spoken-here” look about me that any world traveler can recognize.) “How do I get to Old Town?”

Old town, old town, old town…… You could have heard my brain go into overdrive. Until, click. She means The Old City! Now I could help her with precise directions. I decided to make it simple. I didn’t ask her which Old City she wanted: the Christian tourists Old City, the Arab locals Old City, or the places where these days we Jews hang out. (Enter through the Jaffa Gate into the large plaza; hang a right past what’s called the Tower of David, past the Christian Visitors Centers and the Armenian shops; take the first left and snake your way around, down to the Cardo, and then you know where you are; or don’t take the first left, but continue past the Armenian churches, past the Zion Gate until you come to Chabad St., where you go left…)That’s really three separate destinations, even though The Old City is one fairly small area. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 11: A Last Hurrah)

Shabbat was over, and the good ship Diadema was now steaming towards Marseille, the final port of call on the “AACI’s Marvelous Kosher Cruise” before we would return to Barcelona for the flight back home. It occurred to me that we were headed towards two very different versions of Marseilles: the politically correct city described in Wikipedia (the second largest French city, with a history going back 30,000 years, a major center for trade, industry, and tourism), or the less glamorous one described here (For many years, the busy port city of Marseille has suffered from a serious image problem. Dismissed for its down-at-heel reputation, urban decay and often alarming crime statistics, it’s been the black sheep of the Provençal coastline.) A very serious image problem indeed! Maybe that’s why there was so little interest among our cruise mates to head into the city, even though there is, by all accounts, a lot to see there. I can’t imagine what people expected to happen if we were to wander through Le Panier. Seasoned travelers have stated most emphatically that your chances of having your pocket picked are much greater in Rome or Barcelona, but who’s to say? Continue reading

Another Day in the Jordan Valley

Here’s a stumper for you: think of a place where you’d never ever want to live, and…… you can’t imagine why anybody else would want to live there – but…… you’re truly glad that somebody is living there. Are you ready for my answer: The Jordan Valley – not that far from where we are, a little bit east of Yerushalayim. And that’s where Shelley Brinn (along with tour guide Susie ben-David) was taking us on a Thursday when it was supposed to rain, but we caught a break, and it didn’t. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 10: A Ship-Shape Shabbat)

There we were, safely back on board the Costa Diadema, which would set sail from Civitavecchia at 6PM. For most of the passengers on board, it would be another day at sea, getting on and off the ship at the port of Savona. But for us, the AACI’ers, it would be Shabbat, so, while we could get a tantalizing view of this old and picturesque port from the balcony of our cabin or the decks of the ship, we would remain on board until we arrived at Marseilles Sunday morning. We would have our meals, served buffet style, in a different restaurant on one of the upper decks (either walking or using one of the Shabbat elevators to get there), and the Shabbat prayer services would be held in an area that is normally a disco. And therein lies a tale. In this case, one related by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, one just too good not to tell his audience, and for me not to tell you.

It seems, he announced, that this was the second time that he was davening on Shabbat in a disco. Well, that got everyone’s attention real fast – as he, the master story teller, knew it would. Continue reading