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Blog - It's all Greek to me!!!!

Life in Greece with a Jewish twist

Where did the 2 of you meet?

This past Shabbat was also our anniversary (thank you, thank you for your kind wishes J ).

We got married the 15th of Av, in Paris, nine years ago. And how did we meet? Here is the story that we are often asked about.

I was a teacher in France, Mendel was studying in Brooklyn. He became friendly there with my uncle and used to hang out in his house with some friends. My uncle “set his eye” on the charming young man ;-) and thought he would be a perfect match for his equally charming niece (that’s me!). Mendel was scheduled to visit his parents for the holiday of Pesach so he decided to make a stopover in France for a few days and meet me. So he came, and then came again after Pesach, then I traveled to the States where we got engaged! (how’s that for a shortcut for hours and hours of conversation? J).

Many people ask us if we had an arranged marriage: I like to answer that yes, it was arranged in Heaven, as are all marriages. But they mean, was it a “shiduch”? My answer is: if by “shiduch”, you mean a forced marriage when the bride and the groom meet the night of the wedding, no way!!! (such arranged marriages are a myth anyway). “Shiduch” means that the young boy and girl are introduced to each other by an intermediary (the Shadchan, famous hero of many jokes), which is often a friend or a family member. There are also professional matchmakers, and they are usually very sensitive and careful in their job.  Before the young couple meets, the parents take great care in finding out information about the potential match, in order to make sure it is suiting. This helps to avoid a lot of time wasted on unsuitable dates, as well as a lot of heartache if the young people get involved romantically before discovering serious character flaws. But then, the young couple meets on its own, and is free to decide to get married and build a house together… or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also this excellent article about arranged marriages.

Be in touch and share good news

Simple arithmetic:  if we have between 10 and 30 guests each Shabbat (not counting hundreds for holiday meals), then we have more than 1000 visitors going though our house every year, which means we have met over 7000 people during our seven years in Athens… Many times, they send us an email or even a donation towards our activities after their visit. We recently opened a guestbook feature on our website, and the visitors can leave their impressions there. Some of our guests have sent us packages with kosher products unavailable here, toys or books for the children… Others have kept in touch and even returned for a second visit: it was fun to see again Nick and Deb S., who first came during their honeymoon, this time with their cute little daughter. Sophie the French teacher came again as well, this time with her husband and with a suitcase full of kosher delicacies. An interesting couple, the Z. from Jerusalem, both school principals who have traveled the world, spent a second Shabbat with us, bringing along their grandchild, a small genius fascinated with Greece. They have this tradition to take each of their grandchildren on a Bar/Bat Mitzva trip, and Greece was the destination of his choice. Naomi, an Israeli choreographer and a fan of the city of Athens visited us again recently 3 years after her first visit and brought a friend along. It’s always nice to hear again from our guests, and of course to see them!

I thought about all this when, yesterday, we had the pleasure of hearing good news from Marco and Frida B. from Costa Rica. We met them last December, when they were stuck in Athens during their holidays and needed medical assistance. How exciting it was to learn that she gave birth to twins, and that the mother and the babies are doing well, thank G-d.

I wish them a lot of nachas, “na zisoun!” as they say in Greek (literally they should live) in good health and happiness… I also wish the happy parents a lot of strength and patience to go thought the sleepless nights, the 1001 challenges of raising kids, but mostly to always share with us good news with a happy heart (my grandmother’s formula).

We need a larger place...

This was a huuuge Shabbat. The emails and the phone calls kept pouring and the guest count to rise… Thursday, we already had around 60 guests planned… There was no way we could fit everyone in our house (unless we asked them to sit on each other’s laps J ) So we decided to host the Shabbat meals for this week in the Novotel, a great hotel where we organized already many celebrations, Purim, Pesach, Rosh Hashana… (this is an opportunity to thank Mr. Attias, manager of the hotel for his valuable help and all the staff of the hotel, always eager to assist us and a pleasure to work with).

 

That was some organization: cook the meals in our home for 70 people (the numbers went up on Friday), pack and transport everything to the hotel, think about all the details… where would we wash our hands? Bring the song booklets, the wine openers, all the salads, fish, main and side dishes, the cakes… Transport packs of water and cold drinks, cutlery and plates, etc. Of course, we also needed to kosherize the oven in order to reheat the food prior to Shabbat…

 

The meals were fantastic: 70 guests from France, Israel, UK, United States, even Venezuela gathered to feed their bodies (!) and souls with the delicacies and the spirit of Shabbat… There was a group of French young people vacationing in Greece, teachers from the UK, a school principal from Israel who invited the former to make Aliya and teach there (she said there is a lack of male teachers), various couples and families who all mingled in a relaxed atmosphere. Each one introduced himself in a round full of laughter…

 

There was a lot of work before and during the Shabbat of course, (not forgetting the cleanup after), but amazingly, like an angel sent from Heaven, Leah Touger came to our rescue. She is staying with us for the week, and did not rest until all the work was done, the plates set, the dishes washed, the kids taken care of... Leah, the words “thank you” are too pale for what you have done, but our hearts are forever grateful for the help you have offered us, always with a smile!

 

I hope you always continue to smile, and that life should smile back to you!!!!

 

As for us, it’s time to look for a larger place…

Pictures from Azerbaijan

I found some pictures from our trip to Russia and Azerbaijan (see previous post):

In Moscow, the Red Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Baku, in front of the Caspian Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mendel with members of the community

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