Foreword by Stan Lerner: a few weeks ago I predicted that a vibrant Jewish Community would emerge on Broadway, not to pat myself on the back or anything, but read this blog and tell me that I didn’t call this one.
Well, sederama 5769 has come and gone, leaving us with at least fifty-seven million new unforgettable Passover moments to love and cherish forever — venerable memories all, but the thing I keep thinking about is the gang of merciless Sephardi seven year olds who kept mugging me for matzoh in the hallways of our beautiful new Shul downtown. Those kids were street, yo, one of the hardest crews around: tight, relentless, organized; seamless in efficacy and design. In matching blue linens and insidiously misdirecting bowl hair cuts, they appeared not only harmless but adorable, to die for — I doubt there was a single adult among us who wouldn’t have gladly given our lives to preserve this paragon generation of future Jews – yet no sooner had one of them softly grabbed your hand to lay on the full heart-shmelzing big eyes and gap-toothed smile treatment than the other twelve would strafe in and converge from every nook and cranny to take your sucker tush down. “Where’s the matzoh?” they’d demand, but by that time it was already gone! Honest! Every bit of abikoman had long been found and ransomed — my own fully-grown Tante had already shaken me down for a ’76 Eldorado convertible in exchange for the packet of crunchy booty (I don’t know how that happened, really: in the spirit of the festivities I kept saying yes, and before I knew it I’m out 75 grand). These Jews are tough, and I can only thank G-d to be part of it, and that we had the blessing of a place and occasion to once again reaffirm our sweet, brutal commitment to each other.
The astounding speed and skill with which our indefatigable Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Rifki Greenwald managed to transform our lovely new Synagogue into a seder hall is a whole other magillah, a Magid unto itself. Suffice it to say that the results were breathtaking: the room was beautiful, the meal delicious, the Shmura matzoh straight outta Brooklyn. The proceedings of both nights were nothing short of electric, the joyous chaos of our bubbly gaggle never failing to somehow miraculously revert to an acceptable semblance of halakhic order in the very last second. There was wine, there was song, there was even a mildly alarming (due to his somewhat unpredictable behavior) homeless schizophrenic seated at the end of one of the tables. It is a Passover tradition to open one’s doors to any and all, especially those in need, and this gentleman was happily reaping the custom’s benefits by downing some matzoh-ball soup and mango salad with no small appreciation, taking meticulous care all the while to keep his yarmulke in place. Before pocketing the egg from the seder plate and vanishing back into the downtown night, he was asked by the Rabbi for his name, which he gave as Ray Engel. Well, where I come from Engel means Angel, so it’s hard not to think that if Elijah showed up a little early that night to bless us with his participation, a higher compliment or more resounding affirmation could hardly be found.
El nuestra shtetl la reina de Downtown Los Angeles,
April 12 2009/18th Nissan 5769