Wednesday, December 16, 2009

California Dreaming (12/16/2009)

Regular readers of this column will already anticipate the next few paragraphs. If it is my winter trip to the U.S., I must have gotten sick. Actually, we had a mini-epidemic in the house, with everyone getting sick. This also means that it must be Chanukah time. I think the only person who did not get sick so far (B'H) was Moshe. And, inevitably, my cold was at its worst for my flight to California and the first few days of my trip.

I was privileged to spend Shabbat with the kehillah of Rabbi Kalman Topp, the former assistant rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere. It was great to see him and see how wonderfully he has embraced and been embraced by his new community. Everyone we met spoke glowingly of him as an orator, a rabbinic leader, and as a great choice for their community.

I was in California for Puah's scholar-in-residence weekend with the director of counseling (English-speaking) Rabbi Gideon Weitzman. Rabbi Weitzman gave several lectures over Shabbat and, as part of our expanding Continuing Medical Education certification, we were hosted by the shul (Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills) for a CME symposium as well, along with Dr. Snunit ben Ozer, a local fertility specialist.

This was also the first opportunity for us to celebrate our recent selection as a winner of the 2009 Jewish Choice Award from GreatNonProfits. This organization conducted a survey of various non-profit organizations over (I think) an eight-week period. Out of something like 4,000 submissions of recommendations for various organizations, Puah was ranked number 1 in the International Jewish Non Profit category, a terrific honor.

I had a hard time booking tickets for the trip, which also included a stop in Dallas. I had reserved a seat for Monday night's flight to Newark, planning on going to Dallas before Los Angeles and returning on the direct flight from L.A. to Tel Aviv. However, I couldn't confirm my schedule by the expiration of the reservation and let it lapse.

The next day, when I was ready to purchase a ticket, my travel agent couldn't find any seats on the original flight. He tried changing connection cities for Dallas or leaving a day earlier and could not find anything that worked. I couldn't figure out why the planes had so suddenly filled up until I realized that my flight was leaving the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Apparently, many last-minute travelers took seats on the Israel-U.S. flights and there was simply nothing available.

You would think that I, as a person who works in the U.S. on a regular basis, would be cognizant of the U.S. holidays and how they might affect my schedule. Yet I seem to have adjusted to the Israeli calendar and enjoy the lack of "American" stuff on my schedule (except for Sundays - I don't think I will ever adjust to Sunday being a full day of work).

No Turkeys or fat guys in red clothing in my neighborhood. No bunnies or phony holidays that are excuses to make big sales. (Side note: Chaim spent the entire night/morning of "Black Friday" running from store to store with some friends, looking for bargains). My little kids don't even know what Thanksgiving is, and have totally forgotten the winter decorations and other "holiday" celebrations we would trip over throughout November and December.

Having ignored the calendar, I was forced to reorganize my trip, but in true "it always happens for the best" fashion, I was able to shorten the trip by a day and get home to the family a little faster, a couple of days before Chanukah.

Chanukah is one of my favorite holidays. I especially enjoy taking a post-dinner stroll through the neighborhood to see the various chanukiyot, which are lit in special wind-resistant glass boxes outside homes in Israel. Seeing home after home of chanukiyot reminds me that we are living in the Jewish land. This year, my celebration will be doubly enhanced, with two Shabbatot Chanukah to enjoy.

As we did last year, we're heading to Eilat for a Chanukah mini-vacation. This year, we're part of a group of 27 families staying together and joining each other for various day trips and tiyulim as well. We even have an option to tour Petra (in Jordan), which I had originally signed up for but decided to cancel so that I could spend more time with the little kids. I am helping arrange tours of one of the major dairies, which is located just north of Eilat.

We hope that you and your family enjoy a terrific Chanukah and get to enjoy special family time together reveling in the celebration of the miracle of the recapture of the Beit HaMikdash - if only for a very short time. We hope and pray that we celebrate the rebuilding of the final Beit HaMikdash at the same time. If not, l'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim habenuyah.

A special mazal tov to our dear friends Dr. David and Shira Wiseman on the birth of their son. Mazal tov also to our friends and neighbors Motti and Penina Eichler (formerly of Cedarhurst) and Dr. Herman and Mrs. Mia Weiss (formerly of West Hempstead) who are celebrating their daughters' bat mitzvahs in the coming week as well. May we all continue to share s'machot in the future (especially the aliyah of you, our dear readers...)