By Larry Gordon
It’s not the holiday week, and the big yeshiva intersession week is still a week or so away. But people are here in Florida, and they are coming from somewhere.
We spent part of the week in Boca Raton and then with friends in Boynton Beach. As I mentioned last week, Boca is booming, and it appears that Boynton is not far behind.
We moved over to Bal Harbour for Shabbos to celebrate the bas mitzvah of Yocheved Bruk, daughter of our cousins Yochanan and Perry Bruk who have lived down here for many years. Yochanan is the brother of our columnist Chaim Shaul Bruk, the Chabad shliach in Bozeman, Montana.
Yochanan and Perry throw great parties. Though they live down south they love to order certain food items from Pomegranate in Brooklyn. But on Thursday and Friday there was snow up north, and some of the specialty herrings they ordered for the Kiddush got stuck in the FedEx base in Memphis and did not make it to Florida for Shabbos.
Yochanan said he tried calling FedEx to reason with them, but he thinks he spoke to a customer service rep in India who could offer nothing more than a plethora of apologies. The herring probably eventually arrived on Monday and will still be good this week, but there’s no party this week.
When the customer service person managed to get a word into the conversation, he explained that it was not only the problem of inclement weather but also COVID and related supply chain issues. Despite the hardship, there was still a choice of herrings, though they were of the local Floridian variety. I’m not a big connoisseur of what exactly differentiates one from another, so it was all tasty to me.
The Shul—as it is known—on Collins and 94th Street is filled with minyanim on Shabbos from 7 a.m. to the last minyan that began at 10:30 a.m. It’s a hub of Bal Harbour, and Rabbi Sholom Ber and Rebbetzin Chani Lipskar are the spiritual vortex of what makes this busy community function as beautifully and efficiently as it does. At Kiddush on Shabbos in the tent on the veranda of The Shul, I had a chance to chat with Rabbi Lipskar. He and his wife established The Shul 35 years ago, and he says he is awed by the kind of people who choose to make this area their home either seasonally or permanently.
This is an auspicious week on the Chabad calendar, as it includes the 10th of Shevat, the day on which the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, accepted the leadership of the global movement that he has continued to inspire even after his death in 1994.
The relationship between chassidim and their Rebbe is an inexplicable dynamic that continues to revolutionize the Jewish world. How that works almost 28 years after a leader’s passing is difficult to explain. But all one needs to do is look around and see it happening all around us.
It’s not a secret that the parts of Florida our people visit or live in are dominated by folks who lived in New York at some point. And that is only important to point out today because of the stark contrasts between how the two states are governed.
It is not of special interest to Jewish community members only. The difference between life in New York and Florida these days is the talk of the country, if not the world.
When it comes to managing the pandemic it’s clear that despite all the blistering criticism, Governor Ron DeSantis has been ahead of the curve. He is governing with the best interest of the people as the main consideration. The tandem of Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, combined with the arrival of the Biden administration, brought a horror show to New York. Cuomo and de Blasio are now gone, but their replacements are still devoted to the counterproductive Democrat agenda.
On that count, however, help is on the way. We are now inside an important election year, and I cannot help but be optimistic about our national future. Biden is deteriorating both physically and politically, and that is too bad for the country.
Let’s get back to the more mundane matters of life in Bal Harbour and its popular kosher restaurants. You probably know this, but if you are coming down here for intersession, make your eatery reservations today. That might actually be too late, but it’s worth a try.
Last Saturday night I had an experience that I only had once before, and that was in Israel. My offense, or miscalculation, was that we did not have a reservation at 26 Tapas on Harding. On the other hand, we were just two people and very often there’s a random table for two available at most restaurants with a constant turnover. So, at about 9 p.m., I stepped into Tapas and explained to the young person at the door that I noticed there were a number of unoccupied tables for two.
The young lady said that, no, on Saturday night, reservations are imperative. I gently tried to convince her to relent, but to no avail. I asked her if I could make an order to take out. She said I certainly could, but it would take about a half-hour or so to fill the order. I said OK and placed my order. We then stepped out onto Harding to wait.
Up and down that part of the avenue there were tables, most to accommodate two people, and right outside the restaurant there were several such tables with no one sitting at them. I figured we’d sit down and when they needed the table, they would ask us to move.
Years ago in Jerusalem, when we were a party of seven, I walked into a restaurant without reservations at about 6 p.m. With one or two exceptions, the tables were empty. I asked for a table and was told that I could not have one because the restaurant was full.
I was momentarily speechless but then said that it looked to me like the place was empty. The person doing the seating said there were reservations for all the tables beginning at 7:30 p.m. I responded that if they could serve quickly we would eat quickly. Thankfully, they seated us and it went well.
At 26 Tapas last weekend we sat at an empty table for two on the sidewalk just outside the entrance, undisturbed, for the full half-hour until our order was ready. It was nice outside and we chatted with friends who were passing by.
It’s still best to make reservations, especially at this time of year down here, because everything’s busy and booming.
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