This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My First "Real Shabbos" - 5-24-2014

I wrote what is below from a home in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday night, 5-24-2014.  My daughter, Annabelle, and I stayed with an Orthodox Jewish family and I wrote this when Shabbos was over and it was a wonderful experience!

Shabbos began at around 7:55 pm on Friday, May 23.  Everyone in the house took showers in the late afternoon and early evening and began getting ready.  Earlier in the day, the entire family prepared dishes of food and Challah that would be eaten over the weekend.

The women (including me and my daughter) lit candles just before sundown.  The men went to shul.  When the men returned, we gathered around the table.  It was set up so beautifully with flowers and special dishes and even special napkins were at each place setting.

There were some prayers done by the men and then there was a blessing for the grape juice and wine and we said a motzi and ate challah.  Soup came after that and then various dishes, including chicken, noodle kugel, potato kugel, and other dishes were served.  There was a cherry pie type dessert.  We talked and laughed and shared until midnight!

In the morning, we slept in, and then after having a light breakfast and coffee (the water for the coffee was kept hot and plugged in before Shabbos), I walked with my hostess to a synagogue called Young Israel (in Flatbush) and got see the last part of the morning service.  The men were in the center and the women sat above.  After the service, we went to the basement for Kiddish which was very elaborate.  There were all kinds of cakes and other dishes including gefilte fish that was way different than the kind you buy in a grocery store in a jar!

We walked back to my hostess's home.  As we walked back, people stopped and greeted one another and wished one another Good Shabbos.

Back at our hostess's home, I spent some time talking with her sons and their next door neighbor.  The boys told me the stories they learn at school from the Torah, Midrash, and Gemara.  They told me story after story!   We talked about the pictures in the books, including pictures from The Little Midrash Says.

Some members of the family went to wish people in the neighborhood best wishes for a Bar Mitzvah and also the birth of a new baby.  I heard there was more food at those gatherings and it was very elaborate!

A huge elaborate family meal then took place.  Just like the evening before, we washed our hands, and then did a kiddish and motzi.  There was more noodle and potato kugel, Cholent (a stew type dish), salad, more challah,  chicken nugget like pieces, and other food.  It was all so good!

For dessert, there was a chocolate birthday cake baked in the shape of a butterfly.  One of the girls in the family celebrated her 15th birthday.  Her birthday was actually on Monday, 5-26, but the family celebrates during the Saturday Shabbos meal.

After the huge meal, everyone sat in the living room and read and talked.  Some family members took naps.  After awhile, I took a nap too!  My daughter took several walks with the neighbor's daughter and her friends.

Then men left for more prayers as Shabbos drew to a close.  Finally, it was time for a light evening meal that included fruit, veggies, fish salads, dips, challah, crackers, and chips.  There was more talking and laughing.  The son-in-law of my hostess said some prayers before we ate and we did a blessed the grape juice and ate challah.  When the father finally returned home after the sun had set, there was a beautiful Havdalah ceremony.

All of a sudden, the house seemed to return to usual business.  Mail was opened.  Lights were turned on.  The phone began to ring.  Computers were turned on.

Wow...what a wonderful day!

Friday, May 30, 2014

A New York Jewish Wedding to Remember 5-25-2014

Annabelle and I just returned from New York City!  We did all the fun things you are supposed to do in the "Big Apple" including seeing a Broadway show (we saw Rogers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella which was fantastic!).  We crossed The Brooklyn Bridge on our scooters and ate New York lox and bagels.  We went to China Town, LIttle Italy, and Battery Park.  We went to Central Park and Times Square.  It even rode my scooter to Coney Island!

I smile with my study partner, Dena Leff,, whose daughter, Shira, got married on May 25, 2014 - Dena and I have studied together for eleven years now!
The reason for our NYC trip was centered around the wedding of the oldest daughter of my study partner from Partners In Torah which took place in Brooklyn on Sunday, May 25, 2014.  All the other activities were put around that day, and what a day to remember was that day!

We arrived at the wedding around 1:30 pm and the wedding took place at Ateres Chynka, 129 Elmwood Avenue in Brooklyn. Annabelle and I stayed with a family who lived nearby, so our hostess drove us to the wedding.

When we first entered the hall, we were greeted by a woman sitting in front who asked for money in Hebrew. It was good I didn't give her the envelope with our congratulation card and check that was meant for the bride and groom, since I thought at first she was a greeter directing guests into the wedding and collecting presents!

After we entered the hall, someone directed us downstairs to the wedding. The hall was inside a Jewish boys school. When we finally entered the wedding, there was an entrance for men and another entrance for women. We looked for our name on cards set up on the women's side. Annabelle could find hers, but I couldn't find mine, so we decided to wish the bride "Mazel Tov" and find, Dena, the mother of the bride, and also my study partner from Partners in Torah.

I realized it had been so long since I'd seen Dena in person (the last time I had seen her was during the summer of 2007 for my son Joel's "spur of the moment Bar Mitzvah"), so I asked one of the guests who the mother of the bride was. As soon as she pointed me to Dena, I approached her and was greeted with a warm hug! Then I was introduced to the bride, Dena's beautiful daughter, Shira, who radiated with a glow and happiness and love, as she met me and Annabelle. I met some of Dena's sisters and mother and began to get excited!

Next, Annabelle and I checked out the food. There were men and women eating from the buffet. I learned that some of the people at that part of the celebration were not invited to the wedding, but had come to wish either the bride or groom Mazel Tov. Some of the people eating from the buffet even seemed to appear as if the meal they ate at the buffet was their only meal of the day. There were appetizers including homemade New York gefilte fish (which I had to try and I ate two pieces since it was so good...didn't taste anything like the stuff I buy in a jar). There was fruit and veggies at that center table, but other tables were filled with hot main dishes which included pasta, chicken, and other meat dishes and cooked vegetables. There was a table with desserts and another table with drinks. People visited and ate at some tables and others stood.

Just before two o'clock, the crew at the wedding hall, began to tear down the food buffet, and guests were directed to either the women's or men's areas where the Chuppah was set up. Annabelle and I were fortunate to enter that area early, since the seats filled up quickly and many of the women who attended had to stand. More chairs were eventually brought in, but still, there were not enough chairs for everyone.

The wedding ceremony then began! The women sat on one side of the aisle and the men set on the other.

First the grandparents came down the aisle and waited around the Chuppah. Then, the groom was walked down the aisle with his mother and father on both sides. The groom's mother was dressed in a beautiful dress and wore a hat over her head. The father put a white robe on his son under the Chuppah.

Then we stood up and the bride, Shira, was led down the aisle by her parents. I began to cry as we all stood and watched Shira, who was glowing and smiling, come forward.

The two mothers and the bride then circled the groom (I think it was seven times). Shira's eyes seemed to be closed and seemed to look as if she was seeking Hashem and I could see the smile and excitement on Dena's face as she led her daughter around Matthew. Matthew smiled with excitement and anticipation.
Music was played and sung during that time and then there were Hebrew prayers, songs, and blessings. It didn't take long before Matthew broke the wedding glass with his foot and everyone shouted Mazel Tov! The bride an groom exited and the guests began to move.

I immediately joined other women around Dena to congratulate her and spoke a bit with Dena's sister, Leah, who told me that one of her sons had gone to Jewish camp in Colorado. Leah told me to sit anywhere and not worry about finding the card with my seat assignment.

In the background, the wedding hall employees began to change the room into a banquet hall. The Chuppah was taken down and so was the carpet that had just been the aisle. Dena and her sister told me to either sit at table 12 or 14 since my seat assignment card could not be found. Annabelle was assigned to table 10 with Dena's daughters, so no one was there yet, since photos of the family were next on the agenda.

My daughter, Annabelle, and I smile during the wedding celebration dinner!

Annabelle smiles with Dena's beautiful 15 year old daughter Faiga.
Dena's sixteen year old daughter, Pearl, smiles with her cousin

My daughter Annabelle smiles and is surrounded by Shira's sisters and cousins.  They made her feel so welcome!

I peeked at what was going on on the men's side!

The main table - Matthew's mother is on the end in the hat, Dena is holding her son in her lap, Shira and Matthew sit in the center...other honored family members are on the other side of Matthew...

The men's side...

At Table 12 I sat next to one of Dena's first cousins. Her name was Miriam and next to her was Jackie, who was married to Miriam's brother, Jeremy. Jackie explained that she and her husband were not "religious" but she'd married into Dena's huge family and that she and her husband attended Jewish orthodox weddings like this almost every two months since family members got married all the time!

Jackie has a really important job with the New York City public schools. I believe she told me she was the vice-president or director of the New York public school system. She trains and hires new school principals and oversees other things related to the New York schools. She lived in a huge apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with 600 units. Her husband, Jeremy, is Dena's first cousin. Jackie shared with me that she and her husband "are not particularly religious," but she married into Dena's very large family and they attend weddings of family members every couple of months. She told me that they'd taken a cab to the wedding hall in Brooklyn from Manhattan and that the traffic had been horrible. She'd missed the buffet and the earlier part of the wedding where the bride was wished be best by guests, and had arrived just in time for the canopy. Jackie explained what would happen during the reception and encouraged me to dance and take part in the festivities before the bride came on to the dance floor to celebrate.

There were mini loaves of Challah at each place setting. A very large meat appetizer came that I thought was the entire meal. Most people only at a little of that, but I didn't find that out until I had eaten most of that dish! There were kosher pickles and cole slaw and other salads on the table too. Soup came next. There was a choice between vegetable or mushroom soups. After the soup, it was time for Shira to appear and all the girls used their arms and a white prop to form a canopy for Shira to run under! The girls jumped up in down with excitement as Shira ran in. Then a circle was formed and the dancing began. The men must have been doing something similar on the men's side.

Shira and Matthew were lifted in the air and brought to the main center table. There were speeches and the eating and celebrating continued. The main course was brought in which was chicken and potatoes and some sort of dish that looked like it could have been stuffing or a dessert. Wow...was I getting full! When it was time to think about leaving, Annabelle and I went to the main table to say good-bye to Dena. I gave the card and present I'd bought for the young couple to Dena's sister, Leah. I wondered whey there was no central place for gifts, but also I noticed that there were two men inside the hall soliciting donations for the poor, so maybe leaving gifts in a hall like that was not a good idea.

The women dance!

More dancing!

Another wedding hall!

When the dancing began again, Dena danced with me and then with Annabelle. The women circled us!

Annabelle and I finally said our official good-byes and left. On our way out, we found my name with the assigned table card on the men's side! We took both cards home as a souvenir. We walked back to our hostess's home along McDonald Avenue. It turned out that the wedding hall was very close to where we were staying and we even passed another wedding hall on our way back. What a wonderful day! It truly was a Jewish wedding to remember and only later did we realize that we missed the dessert that included ice cream, chocolate cake, and an apple crisp dessert that was set up buffet style!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Son's Ten Day Israeli Journey With Taglit-Birthright Israel May 21 to June 1, 2014

Joel at THE Wailing Wall!

This is a summary of my son Joel's trip to Israel.  His tour was called Israel Journey and was young people between the ages of 18 to 22.

Day 1
Afternoon arrival in Israel
Drive north
Opening ceremony and program orientation
Overnight: Kinneret region (Sea of Galilee)

Day 2
Tsfat – tour of the old city, ancient synagogues and artists’ galleries
Winery in the north
Kabbalat Shabbat (candlelighting)
Shabbat Dinner
Oneg Shabbat – fun group activity
Overnight: Kinneret region (Sea of Galilee)

Day 3
Shabbat discussions
Visiting Hours for Friends and Family
Fun night in Tiberias
Overnight: Kinneret region (Sea of Galilee)

Day 4
Gilabun water hike-introduction to the north
Mt Bental – overlook into Syria and entire region, introduction to the area and the story of the Golan Heights
Valley of Tears
Rafting on the Jordan River
Fun group activity
Overnight: Kinneret region (Sea of Galilee)

Day 5
Drive south to Tel Aviv
Neve Tzedek, oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv
Independence Hall: Site where state of Israel was born
Lunch on Sheinkin Street
Yitzchak Rabin Square
Israel update with guest speaker
Night out in Tel Aviv
Overnight: Tel Aviv

Day 6
Drive south
Volunteering at ecological farm
Ein Avdat desert hike
David Ben Gurion’s Grave – Visit the grave of the first prime minister of the State of Israel, learn of his story, his leadership and his special connection to the Negev.
Bedouin Hospitality in Kfar Hanokdim
Overnight: Bedouin Tent

Day 7
Early ascent to Masada – enjoy the sunrise and tour the site that has a unique story of faith and survival and that has become a central part of Israeli culture and Jewish legacy
Ein Gedi Hike
Swim in the Dead Sea!
Drive to Jerusalem
Resting at the hotel
Prepare for Yad Vashem
Overnight: Jerusalem

Day 8
Yad Vashem – visit the National Memorial for the Victims and Martyrs of the Holocaust
Mt. Herzl – the tombs of the leaders of the nation and the military cemetery tell the story of the struggles for Jewish independence from the first days of Zionism to today
Cultural event displaying Israeli diversity
Overnight: Jerusalem

Day 9
City of David and Hezekiah’s Tunnels – explore the first Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, when King David chose Jerusalem as his capital, forever linking the city with the story of the Jewish people
Tour the Jewish Quarter – learn the stories of its inhabitants, then and now
The Kotel – the central, most significant site in Jewish tradition
Machaneh Yehudah open-air market
Kabbalat Shabbat (candlelighting)
Shabbat Dinner
Oneg Shabbat – fun group activity
Overnight: Jerusalem

Day 10
Morning Services
Shabbat discussions
Time to rest
Visiting time for family and friends
Program evaluation
Night out in Jerusalem
Depart for airport

Photo of My Great-Grandfather Menasha Kadison

One of my mother's relatives has done extensive research on our family history and sent me this photo today.

This is the photo of Menasha Kadison, my grandfather Joseph Kadison's father (my maternal grandfather who died before I was born). This is my great-grandfather! My mother's father's family came from Warsaw, Poland. Many left before the Holocaust. When I see a photo like this, I realize that the weekend I just spent with Orthodox Jews in NYC was very much part of the life my grandfather led before he came to the USA seeking adventure!

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.