Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jordana in Jamaica Estates (Part 2)

       Welcome back to NYC- or rather, my reflections of my time in NYC coming at you from a booth at a coffee shop in the Moscow airport. 

I call this look "Blending In"

Where were we? Ah, yes- after a week of preparation for Passover and seeing some great friends, my family packed up to leave for our Pesach program, which was to be held in a mansion/hotel on Long Island. The program will henceforth be known as “Pesach-For-Less,” as it is both the actual name of the program, as well as the essence of the program. My whole life my family went to a hotel in the Catskills called the Granit (and then the Hudson Valley Resort.) This was Pesach for me- I didn’t even know Pesach could exist outside Kerhonkson, New York. Then a few years ago, we began to stay home. To say I hated this new arrangement is an understatement. So much so that I would find a way to spend a few days at the Granit by myself, and hang out with friends I knew who still went. Turns out, the only person who hated staying home more than me is my mom. So she found this program, and we hoped for the best. I mean, how bad could it be, right? We’d all be together and someone else would clean our rooms for Pesach and cook our food- seems awesome. Turns out Pesach For Less (PFL) isn’t just a name, it’s a lifestyle. While the location was lovely, the crowd was, shall we say, different from my family. We are a proudly Orthodox, American family, but we lean modern. My mom doesn’t cover her hair and my dad doesn’t wear a black hat. I might wear a knee-grazing skirt and flip-flops to the pool. This crowd did none of these things. They hailed from Brooklyn, Monsey and Lakewood- all lovely places, but certainly not my target demographic. Everyone was very nice, but I wasn’t motivated to socialize, which worked out great, since I was there to be with my family. My Bubby and Grandpa also joined us for the holiday, and my aunt, uncle and cousins came for the last 2 days.
        It was kind of weird to be away from Israel for such a special holiday. To this day, even with all the time I’ve spent in Israel, I’ve still never spent Pesach there! I got a lot of grief from a friend about leaving for the chag, “So will you actually have the nerve to sing ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ at your seder?” he taunted. When I reminded him that I live there full-time and he lives there never and still sings the same song, he did not back down and although I know he’s wrong, I am a bit irked. It actually has me thinking that I may have to spend next Pesach in Israel and find another time to visit the family in NYC. We’ll see. Holidays in Israel are one-day/one-Seder affairs, while outside Israel they are 2 days. This made my second day of the holiday confusing and weird. My rabbi told me I could do melacha (work/electricity stuff/what have you) only in private, with no one at all around. This was fun but awkward as I shared a room with my sister, and she is a napper. With her in the room, I basically just read, which is what I’d have done on the chag, so being Israeli wasn’t the perk I’d anticipated.
      Chol Hamoed at PFL was not all that exciting. Sure they had a pool and a tennis court, but the weather was atrocious and really, how many times can you swim in a 4-foot indoor pool? I spent most of my time outside the confines of the mansion, visiting friends and obviously, shopping (at this point, the addiction is kickin’.) The exception was Sunday, when my entire family spent the day together celebrating my grandfather’s Ninetieth Birthday! Since myself and 3 of my cousins live in Israel now, it was the first time the entire family was together in years! We all had lunch and cake together and then took a big family photo, which will no doubt be reused in perpetuity for years to come, as we are all featured. Two days later, I took my niece and nephews on a little trip to “Bounce!”, a play area essentially covered in trampolines and foam. Sounds super- fun, right? We made our reservation and headed over. To our shock and mostly dismay, every other Orthodox family in the tri-state area had the very same brilliant idea! The place was hopping (literally) with little kippa-topped kiddies as far as the eye could see. It made my little cuties extremely shy and apprehensive at first, staring at interminable lines of big kids waiting to jump. Luckily, the children have infinitely more tolerance for lines than their aunt, and as we left the day was deemed a huge success by the kiddos. And quite frankly, as long as they’re happy, I need to get over my own limited bouncing time!
         Pesach came and went without much more fanfare and I prepared for my last week in NYC, with no religious demands on my time, but tons of social demands. I know, good problems right? Basically, I would wake up and be out the door by nine every morning, only to return by eleven that night, exhausted and ready to do it all again the next day. As I used to do when I lived in the States, I lived in my car, catching up on my American radio (for those of you in Israel, it’s just “Uptown Funk”, the world’s most irritation song, on loop.) This would be my last hurrah with my car- as I’m not shipping it to Israel, and don’t want to make my family responsible for its upkeep for the once I year I use it. It’s now for sale (if you know anyone who wants a reliable Nissan Altima!) and that signifies just a bit more of my separation from America and ingratiation into Israel. I just got real deep describing selling my car, but I think you get it.
         After a week of seeing close friends, eating my favorite foods (I miss you already, Tuesday night sushi!) , taking in a Yankee game (and Yankee win!) with my dad, hitting a "friends of the IDF" event, and buying everything on sale in a twenty- mile radius, it was time for my last shabbat with my family. If you are my friend on Facebook, you know I love shabbat in Israel. Whether in Jerusalem or some other new and special Jewish neighborhood, I am blessed to experience shabbat in the Holy Land with holy people who also love and appreciate shabbat the way I do. All that said, there is nothing I connect with quite like hearing my father’s kiddush and havdalah, eating my mother’s chulent and chatting with my little sister at the shabbat table. My parents even made a kiddush with all their close friends who treat me like family. It was the perfect way to spend my last shabbat in America- in the incredible neighborhood where I grew up with the people I love most.
        One last- stop trip to Target (I had to!) and I was back in the airport, experiencing the utter joy that is international flying at JFK (insert extreme sarcasm emoji here). My flight here to Moscow actually featured 2 older Russian ladies who were probably the rudest humans I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet. They scream-spoke the entire flight (minus the hour they blessedly slept) and when I had the nerve to ask them to quiet down, not only didn’t they, but they yelled at me! I’m not ashamed to say I hope their ride home was bumpy, their borscht was spoiled and their fur hats were stolen! Anyway, next post will be back from Jerusalem, so until then- dasvedanya and paka!

It's Springtime in Moscow!

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