One Shabbat morning a few years ago I decided to skip shul and head over to a friend’s apartment for coffee. I didn’t time my visit well. Strolling along in sweatpants, I ran into one of the rabbis in my community coming home from shul with his family. I was mortified. While he could not have been any friendlier and wished me a good Shabbos, I was embarrassed to be seen in non-Shabbat-like clothing during peak Shabbat hours.
Despite the 1,800 miles that separate Paris from Tel Aviv, Jews in France say they face ongoing repercussions from the ongoing Middle Eastern tensions. And it’s not only from the country’s large Arab population but perhaps even more so from na
Paris — Nestled among Parisian gefilte fish proprietors, pickled herring vendors and boulangeries stocked with chocolate rugelach, an Israeli restaurateur yanks otherwise oblivious customers into his teeming falafel palace while Chabad boys sell palm fronds for Sukkot across the cobblestone Rue des Rosiers.
In the Marais, the traditional Jewish quarter of the French capital, neon leaflets advertise Hebrew classes and nearly every shop window has a stamp of approval from the Beth Din of Paris.
The scholars of the Talmud, concerned about the welfare of the Jewish people, debated the meteorological conditions that exempt one from eating a meal in a sukkah.
"They talk about rain," says Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig.
No one talks about a sukkah filled with two feet of snow: which happened last week to Rabbi Friedfertig, spiritual leader of Kehillat Ohr Tzion, a small Modern Orthodox congregation in Williamsville, a northern suburb of Buffalo.
Shortly after Linda Moses and Arthur Gurevitch, a young couple on the Upper East Side, enrolled their 5-year-old son in an art class this fall at the 92nd Street Y, they discovered that the Y's Sunday Young Artists class was starting on Sukkot.
Moses and Gurevitch, "somewhat observant" Conservative Jews and participants in Y programming for two decades, had assumed that the art class, as in past years, would skip Sukkot, which was last Sunday, and Simchat Torah, this Sunday.
During a trip in Poland in the mid-1920s, Jacob Kret, a teenage yeshiva student from the northeast part of the country, found himself in the town of Radin, home of Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, an aged Talmudic authority who was known as the Chofetz Chaim and was regarded as the Torah leader of his generation.
Unable to get home in time for Shabbat, the young man stayed in the home of the Chofetz Chaim, sleeping on a straw bed, eating and praying and discussing religious topics with the sage.
Every year for the past quarter-century, Rick Landman has held the same Torah scroll during the hakafot dancing on Simchat Torah at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Greenwich Village. The sefer Torah belongs to him.
Katrin Yaghoubi wanted to find a synagogue with gemutlichkeit. That’s German for coziness. And it had to have eshtemah. That’s Farsi for community.
And a rabbi whose services kept her interest. That’s English for not boring.
It took her almost eight years.
An Iranian Jew born in Germany, Yaghoubi now lives in Manhattan but her shul is in Great Neck, home to her mother, one of her three siblings and thousands of other Iranian Jews.
I’ve long defended the New York Times against critics who insist the paper has an inherent bias in its coverage of the Middle East and the Jewish community. But an item in today’s City Room column in the New York section made me a bit queasy.