Had a swanky hotel Bar M this past weekend. My good friend, Karyn and her husband Asher, hosted a good crowd of their friends and family to their 3rd kid's BM. 3rd kid, is the typical 3rd kid, rolls with the punches, talks back, cracks jokes, is a nudnik not that disimilar from my own loveable nudnik, Gabe, and up until 6 mos ago was the sole male child of the family (in April, after a 9 year hiatus from baby making, little Dan was born). Ira and I were invited, along with Gabe who is friendly with Gad, to come. Natan and Akiva spent Shabbat at sister Sarah's house, being fed and taken care of in Goldbergian style.
The hotel was in Herzilya, a well-heeled town on the beach, north of Tel Aviv. The hotel was on a strip with other hotels and beachy like surf shops and such enterprises. The average Herzilyite has the look of a Tel Avivite with that suburban air - well fed, well dresed and generally, with a good tan as well. Karyn and Asher chose the hotel because of its proximity to Asher's shul of his teen years. His family made Aliyah from Queens - ask Lisa Kleinman, she knew them - to Herzilya, which was probably a sleepy beach town in the early '70's when they arrived. His father was an engineer who did something interesting for the military - can't remember what, and they essentially built the shul in Herzilya. Asher's father died some time ago, yet he is still remembered fondly, along with his wife and 5 kids (only 1 currently doesn't live in Israel), by the synagogue community. Asher was pleased to have his son be called to his first Aliyah in the same place where he himself marked the same moment in his life. As well, the portion read this week, talked of the births of Jacob's sons, of which 2 of them are named Asher and Gad, which was a nice touch for the Bar Mitzvah family.
Essentially, the weekend consisted of prayer, food, speeches, some singing, more prayer, more food, a few walks on the beach between prayer and food. I'm not ordinarily a hotel cuisine type but the food wasn't bad at all. Decent salads, unabused vegetables, some mighty fine non-dairy desserts, in and of themselves a miracle, really, some hunks of meat that many enjoyed and I will say that I partook of a piece of lamb as that is my favorite, and a pleasant selection of wines and liquors that made the whole experience much more palatable for all. Gabe spent the weekend playing ping pong when he wasn't eating, praying, sleeping or playing cards.
For us, the weekend was an excellent social opportunity that we mined to its fullest capacity. Karyn and Asher live about a 10 min walk from us in central Talpiyot, the next neighborhood over (as Miryam W as she grew up in Talpiyot until she was 7 or 8). They daven at Beit Boyer, a local community center that is a 5 min walk from out place. Beit Boyer is a very standard ortho minyan - meaning, separate seating for men and woman with a reasonable height but not very attractive divider between, men are responsible for all syn duties of a ritual nature and the style of prayer is standard "Land of Israel." Given that the synagogue is in Talpiyot, it is host to a large amount of Eng speakers, Brits and Americans and a decent amount of French speakers. It boasts an MK - member of Knesset (Israel's parliament) as de facto Rabbi of the community, which means he makes ritual decisions and occasional announcements or talks. He actually seems like an ordinary guy, but hey, I'm not reading his tax returns. The BarM crowd was a Beit Boyer crowd - everyone was from our gen'l neighborhood and they either go to Beit Boyer on occasion or every week. Again, in J'lem, it is not unusual to meet a couple that splits up synagogue, it's normal. As well, given that it's J'lem and Israel, we sat down at dinner and within a short time I was greeted with a comment from the woman on Ira's left - "You look familiar, do we know each other?" We reviewed the basics, name, age, place of birth, college, workplace...bingo! Somehow I made the connection. We both worked at The Jewish Agency in NYC, in the old building on 60th and Park, in the late '80's. She moved to Israel, married, had kids, got more religious....blah, blah, blah. Then, I turn to my right side and realize I'm sitting next to Karyn's first cousin, who was in high school with brother Jonathan (they were good friends) and I haven't seen him in a billion years and he just got remarried - mazal tov to all and how's it going, I ask. We talk some more and then, someone, can't remember who, comes over to tell me that I've got to meet this couple that's at theBarM, they "know who you are..." It's a couple that we had emailed back and forth with from NYC. They know Karyn and Asher from Cambridge/Harvard Hillel days, and also know good friends of the Touger family (former Kane Streeters) in NJ and and old college buddy of Ira's (isn't this just a bore?) and we are very excited to meet them because....they have a 3 kids, one of whom, their youngest, a daughter, who is retarded, autistic and hearing impairmed. We bond - it's that retarded thing that does it every time. It's lovely to meet them and the wife is from Kentucky - who'd've thunk it? Our initial bonding moment over, we are greeted by an classmate of mine, Miriam Feldstein - we met in 2nd grade (when I met Karyn) and went to school together until 6th. Were we in HS too? Could be, can no longer remember. Her brother, Eric, went to Columbia with Ira, altho the only thing of worth that I remember of Eric is that went we were on the same school bus in JHS/HS, he "played" his books (like a drum) and did a great version of "Hawaii 5 O" - I can hear you all humming. Miriam and I stood and mused (we missed the soup course but I was already full from salad and fish) that at the weekend there was me, Karyn, Miriam and Abby Rick. We were all in the 2nd grade at H.A.N.C. - our school, in 1968 together. Pretty cool. Of course, Abby Rick's mother was the teacher but then they moved to Israel shortly after that year.
The Bar M itself was lovely the next morning. The weather was warm and lovely, it's always amazing how much warmer it is in the center of the country than in J'lem. It's been too warm lately, anyway, with no rain the past months and everyone is worrying about drought conditions for this winter. At least I don't get too depressed about no snow and no skiing, as I really haven't been cold yet. Of course, even if Ira and I wanted to ski in the Alps, we wouldn't be able to, as they're experiencing the warmest fall/winter in 1200 years, or something like that. No snow, no World Cup races.
The best "do I know you" moment was yet to come. Ira, who has been rediscovering old friends right and left recently (old girlfriend refound thru sister in law, Jo, on dress buying trip in Merrick - I'll let Ira tell), is standing at the salad table choosing from the dizzying selection at lunch. He's being introduced to a VERY tall woman, who's also choosing salads. "Marla, this is Ira...what's your last name?" "Skop," he says or I say. "Skop?" Marla says, musingly, "I once knew an Ira Skop in Queens. Ira and Charlie Skop." Ira, looks closely and says, "Marla? Marla Travis?" "Yes," Marla says. "Ohmigoodness!" exclaims Ira. They had last seen each other sometime in 1978, perhaps at a USY kinnus or shabbaton. She moved to Israel right after HS and they lost touch, and here she ends up at my friend Karyn's kid's BarM, AND, she lies around the corner from us. We're planning Shabbat lunch together. Ira had a pic that he searched around the house for after the weekend - Ira, my friend Beth Mann, Marla (looking tall and about 15 or so), and 2 other friends, at the Salute to Israel Parade, circa 1976.
Only in Israel.
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