Tuesday October 11, 2005

Happy Jew Year!

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

If you know any Jewish folks (and “some of your best friends are Jews,” right?), you might be aware that they’re in the midst of the holiest time of year. The 10 days between Rosh Hashana
(New Year’s) and Yom Kippur (Juvenile Sardine) include Shabbat Shuva, the “Sabbath of Returning,” a period for self-reflection in which to justify their existence to god. The way it works, god opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah, and by the time he slams it shut 10 days later on Yom Kippur, he has determined whether or not your dirt nap is scheduled in the next 12 moons.

Sounds cut and dried, no? But the way it’s set up, you have those 10 days to repent, to cleanse, to ask forgiveness of those you’ve screwed over or treated badly in the course of the year. And if your performance is satisfactory, maybe the Big Guy cuts you a break, although let’s face it—the god of the Old Testament was known for having a shorter fuse than George Steinbrenner. And a little less money.

On Yom Kippur, often referred to as the Holiest Day of the Year, Jews are required to fast, avoiding all food and beverages from sundown to sundown (actually, 25 hours). In so doing, they emulate the angels, which never eat or drink—or bathe, and in fact, certain Orthodox Jewish groups practice this omission as well. In sticky South Florida, this is inadvisable if popularity is a priority. In any event, it means that at the conclusion of the holiday—yeah, some holiday, sort of like calling a trip to the colon cleanser a holiday—there are lots of teeth-grindingly hungry people let loose in the streets. Many head for restaurants to break their fast.

South Florida has a large Jewish population, which suggests that area restaurants must brace themselves for an influx of ravenously hungry diners. I called around to a few that share their neighborhood with synagogues to ask what it was like. (None of them would talk to me unless I promised not to identify them.)

“It’s the worst goddam day of the year,” one deli owner exploded. “I wanna tell you, and remember, these are my people I’m talkin’ about, they’re pushy and demanding when they’re not starvin’ to death. When they bust through that door on Thursday they’re positively drooling. Some of ‘em start licking the salt shakers!”

The manager of a Spanish cuisine restaurant shrugged his shoulders. “The customers are no worse than they are any other night around here,” he said. (Pause. Smile.) “They’re no better, either.”

The Chinese restaurant manager got indignant. “Jews good customers! Jews very good customers! You no make fun of Jewish customers! Thursday very big day here for Jewish customers. You come you see! You no make fun!”

The guy behind the barbecue waved his hand dismissively. “Nobody’s eatin’ pulled pork sandwiches on Yom Kippur, ” he said. “A lotta Jews come in here alla time, but Yom Kippur Pork? That’s just fuckin’ wrong.”

At the pizzeria the chef laughed and clapped his hands. “Oh, boy, Young Kipper!” he exclaimed. “Bigger than the SuperBowl! Better’n Christmas and the 4th of July! What I do is I bake ahead—I got dozens and dozens of shells all set to go half heated. They come through the door all dressed up screamin’ and wavin’ and shovin’ aside the old and the lame and I’m slicin’ and boxin’ and grabbing the cash! You never seen so many people burnin’ their mouths, tomato stain all over their white shirts, neckties and beanies. Hooey! I bring in my whole family to help out. I fuckin’ love Young Kipper!”

So there’s your story, South Florida. Family values, respect for tradition, celebration of diversity, observation of faith. What a great community we share.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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  1. Neil    Tue Oct 11, 09:38 AM #  

    This is disgraceful. You’re going to hell.

  2. Otis The Chauffer    Tue Oct 11, 12:47 PM #  

    I love the Jews ‘cause they blow the chauffer.

  3. MisterE    Tue Oct 11, 01:32 PM #  

    “Ten days to repent, to cleanse, to ask forgiveness?” Does this apply to Jewish lawyers, too? Not near enough time, even if they work right through Wednesday’s golf game!

  4. Neighborhood Shicksa    Tue Oct 11, 02:06 PM #  

    I grew up not far from an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. Many of the men fasted every Saturday. After a while (they told me) it was no big deal. What they really missed was the tobacco, and sometimes they’d cheat. I guess that was something for which they repented each year about this time. Looking back, I think some of them took literally that part about not bathing, too. Maybe the tobacco smoke served as a kind of incense. Oh the memories.

  5. Otto Moe Beal    Tue Oct 11, 02:08 PM #  

    How about the German/Chinese restaurant? Only trouble is, an hour after you eat you’re hungry for power.

  6. Neil    Tue Oct 11, 02:11 PM #  

    You’re headed for hell, too, Otto. You and Otis the Shofar.

  7. The Python    Wed Oct 12, 04:17 PM #  

    I prefer to break the fast with a fresh house cat. Or muscovy duck. Alligator tends to upset my stomach.

  8. The Daily Sketch    Fri Oct 14, 09:49 AM #  

    One of the best posts I’ve read yet. Loved the interviews!