99 Bottles of Manischewitz on the Wall…?

I may have misheard, but last Thursday I swear Rabbi Leitner told all of us at the JEA Senior Lunch Bunch that everyone’s favorite Passover song, “Dayenu,” is actually a traditional German drinking tune.

I can’t find any Googliconfirmation of this – anyone?

In the meantime, I watched this entire You Tube movie about drunk Germans and didn’t hear a damn thing that sounded familiar.

Peel Me From the Sky After the Candles Burn Down

I was just thinking that if this is the first you’ve heard about this evening’s edition of The Listening Room at Savannah’s S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, it could be construed as a nice, quiet place where the Sh’Ma is chanted over and over, maybe with some couches and a herbal tea, kind of like a Jewish ashram. Doesn’t that sounds lovely?

Actually, it might be kind of close: The Listening Room is actually a monthly smoke-and-alcohol-free musical event put on by Jake and Miriam Hodesh, a lovely and amazing Jewish couple who rides the edge of all that is cool and progressive, whether they’re distributing biodiesel to the city for their day job or organizing a monthly craft bazaar for local artists on top of a parking garage as New Moon of Savannah or helping organize last month’s Jewish Film Festival.

However, while it may get meditative at tonight’s Listening Room, it’ll be anything but quiet: Doors opens at 7pm and rootsy bluesman Jeff Beasley takes the stage at 8, and after that, THINGS GONNA GET FUNKY. The West African Drum & Dance Experience features djembes, dunduns, shakers and the crazy choreography of my home-women Aisha Rivers and her daughters. You’ll be able to read more about this mama in skirt!’s May issue, but you cannot know the power ‘til you’ve seen her dance, so come out tonight! Info and tix here.

I’ll be throwing down some moves, too – which might be worth the price of admission ($8) if you’d like a little comedy with your music. To be fair to myself, I have been a student of West African dance for 15 years: I just reposted my skirt! essay Tribal Confusion.

A beat-filled Shabbos to all!

Don’t Look A Gift Clam in the Shell

Look, even with the pay cut and the whole Big Brother-blocking-my email thing, being a magazine editor is still a much better job than anything else I could be doing (which, given my resume, is either making lattes or folding laundry.) Because folks assume I will give them publicity in the form of print editorial, a blog mention or at the very least, hot air from my big mouth, I get invited to all kinds of interesting functions, and if there’s food involved, you can guarantee I’ll be there. I’ve never turned down a free meal in my life, even before the economy turned down.

And that’s how Monday night El Yenta Man and I came to attend the most unkosher dinner ever, sponsored by the East Coast Shellfish Grower’s Association. With a dozen or so different stations manned by some of the best seafood chefs in the country, “Romancing the Clam” was a gastronomical tour of the ocean’s edible bivalves, including a raw bar that had people slurping and murmuring about the subtle differences in briney flavor between South Carolina and New Jersey species. (Insert a joke here about the particular seasonings provided by nuclear power plants.)

At culinary events like these I always seek out Savannah foodie Tim Rutherford, because he always knows so much about the cuisine and also because he outdrinks me so I never need worry about my reputation. Yet even his sophisticated palate was impressed by one dish in particular, the geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”) presented Vietnemese-style, shredded with julienned carrots and roast peanuts with a sweet chili kick. It was tasty, but y’all, this has got to be the most hideous creature on the planet:

I know, how could I eat something that looks like Snuffleupagus’ ding dong, right?

Which brings me to a few words about my halachic issues: By Orthodox standards, I’m pretty treif. I have half-heartedly tried to keep kosher in the past, but I could never get around the poultry problem (I’ve gone around and around with Rabbi Singer on why chicken parmesan won’t be on the menu at his house because it mixes milk with meat, something I will never understand because chickens don’t lactate.) While I am respectful to the point of awe of people who switch over their kitchens for Passover and buy their beef in bulk, my efforts at following the Torah’s dietary laws have come down to one point: I don’t do pig.

Which the more I think about it, is totally hypocritical. Kashruth says Jews may eat any animal with cloven hooves that chews its cud, but as far as forbidding goes, it doesn’t single out swine over, say, camels. And although all shellfish are verboten on the basis that have neither fish nor scales, shrimp doesn’t give me the willies like pork does. Like a lot of secular Jews I know, I guess rather than follow the ALL the rules, I make this one gesture at “eating” Jewish, and if I examine it with any rationality, it’s pretty dumb. Skipping the bbq table doesn’t make me a more pious Jew when I’m heading for the oysters Rockefeller.

That’s what was going through my Pinot gris-soaked keppe when I came upon the clams with dinosaur kale and garbanzo beans flavored with spicy chorizo sizzling away in front of chef Peter Hoffman of Manhattan’s Savoy Restaurant. In the South, so much is flavored with bacon, and I’ve always imagined God giving me an approving nod when I skip the collards at Mom & Nikki’s. But faced with a cute Jewish chef from SoHo who has been championing seasonal menus crafted from local ingredients long before it got trendy, I figured God already rolls Her eyes all day long at my inner spiritual negotiating and dug in.

Fabulous, fabulous. Peter and his lovely wife, Susan Rosenfeld, were such a complete delight and I look forward to our next trip to NYC so we can experience the smells of Savoy exclusively, and I hope they’ll return to Savannah with their kids so they can experience a little more of our offerings beyond the historic district. In spite of my sycophantic nerdiness and El Yenta Man’s chattiness, they must have liked us a little bit, too, ’cause Peter presented the unused ingredients from his dish to us. Either that, or he just didn’t want to shlep a bunch of clams back through airport security. Whatever the reason, we closed down the clam party and left with a bag full of forbidden foods.

Looking at the chorizo in the fridge the next morning, I wondered if I’d crossed a line that I never hop back over. But at dinner that night as I was sopping up with a piece of bread the remains of saucy noodles with clams, kale and sausage that EYT cooked up (babeleh, that dish could have stood up to any of those at the clam party chefs, yo!) I realized I am more interested in culinary adventures in this life (see Muppet penis, above) than I am following rules that don’t and never have defined me.

And though I still hope to be invited to your next Tybee Island oyster roast, you probably won’t see me at Blowin’ Smoke macking down on the pulled pork sandwich any time soon. This is a small town, and I got’s a reputation to keep.

RIP: The Tooth Fairy

So Yenta boy has found out the Tooth Fairy is not actually a magical creature with a fetish for pieces of little white enamel and a white puff of hair who writes in rhyming couplets.

I know, it was inevitable. He’s NINE, for heaven’s sake, and like President Obama says, it’s time to leave behind childish things. But our Tooth Fairy is special. Ever since that very first tiny tooth fell from our baby’s pink gums, El Yenta Man and I have poured our hearts into the myth, staying up late composing notes and inking delicate little drawings sprinkled with glittery powder, weaving a world of fairies and mystery that captivated our son’s imagination. Not to mention his financial prowess; he figured out he’s still got about $20-30 bucks coming by the time all his milk teeth go (sometimes the Tooth Fairy leaves $5 because she doesn’t always carry change, ‘aight?)

It all unraveled so unexpectedly. EYT and I were cooking when Little Yenta Girl sashayed into the kitchen with a little rhyming note of her own, complete with ink drawing. “Look what I found under my pillow!” she squealed.

“Did you do this?” EYT mouthed to me over her head.

I rolled my eyes. She’s still a year away from losing teeth, and I don’t have time for trial tooth fairy runs. Her brother stood in the doorway, looking innocent. I knew immediately that he had created the note for his sister so she could participate in the magical world of fairies, but EYT was not so sharp, insisting in front of the children that it had to have been my work because it was such a perfect match to the notes we wrote our son. I shushed him and we dropped it until dinner was over and we had sent the children to the bathtub.

“So, you really didn’t write it,” EYT asked for the fifth time. “But that means he did it. Which means he’s on to us…”

Just then the little scribe came to the table wrapped in towel, skin flushed and smelling like lavender. Looking back towards the bathroom, he whispered, “So, do think she suspects anything?”

No, we said. He’d done a great job imitating his Tooth Fairy. He stood there for a second, hair dripping.

“So, is it you guys who do it for me?”

El Yenta Man and I exchanged a whole conversation in one long look: Do we tell him? We can’t lie. But he believes it so much. God, parenting is hard.

I exhaled. “Yes, Baby, it’s us.”

His face crumpled and the tears came. He crawled into my lap, his precious little heart breaking. I cried, El Yenta Man cried, mourning the bridge we’d just crossed, the first of so many disappointments and disillusions life will bring.

I held him close and whispered that I still believe in fairies, that every flower, dragonfly, butterfly and hummingbird is magical. That there is evidence of glittering, otherwordly beauty everywhere we look, and that no matter how many times we see through things we used to believe in, there is always an unchanging source of creation and power where we can put our faith. I asked him to please keep the Tooth Fairy story alive for his sister, and his eyes sparkled when I asked him to help us create her notes when the time came. He sniffed, and agreed. “Will you still leave notes for me anyway until I lose all my teeth?” he asked into my ear.

Of course, babydoll. Anything to stoke the magic of your mind and heart.

Then he cocked his head. “You know how Santa leaves a new DVD near the TV on Christmas so you and Daddy can sleep in? Is that you, too?”

I pshhhhhed. “Don’t be ridiculous, son. We’re Jewish. How could we possibly be Santa?”

He pondered this for a second. Then he said brightly, “That makes sense. Love you!” and bounded into his room to finish the last chapter of his dragon book.

So the Tooth Fairy isn’t always honest. The kid’ll have to sort it out in therapy later.

Shabbos Again?

It’s so funny how it’ll come around like that and bite you in the tuchus – more like a loving nip, right? The Yenta has been inblogpacitated this week, but that doesn’t mean I ain’t been busy:

Sunday, I interviewed Her Ass-Kicking Folksinging Majesty Ani DiFranco before her show at the Trustee’s Theater. We discussed all my favorite subjects: Patriotism, feminism, motherhood and kombucha, and while we didn’t get into religion directly, Ani touched on feminine spirituality and why it’s the key to humankind’s salvation. Sing it, sister.

Then, of course there was TUESDAY. (The day began with green eggs, no ham.) Here in Savannah, St. Patrick’s Day is like Mardi Gras, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a frat party plus a hundred extra kegs of green beer, and though I’m pretty sure Saint Pat didn’t take too kindly to Jews, the Jews of Savannah all partied anyway – all together at the Kaminsky’s Acura dealership on Broughton street. Safety in numbers, just in case.

El Yenta Man could see I needed food after six Bloody Marys after I ran into the parade and attempted to clog with the Irish dancers, so we headed to top of the DeSoto Hilton for a traditional Irish meal – the only day of the year you’d be allowed in the Chatham Club without a tie. Say, did you know corned beef and cabbage actually has Jewish origins? Next year El Yenta Man should set up a brisket booth.

Anyway, after I recovered from that hangover, I was hit with another doozy on Thursday: The company that signs my paychecks, Morris Communications, announced that all employees are taking a 7.5% pay cut. It was not a request. That’s twice the amount of the only raise I’ve ever gotten. I’m super grateful that I still have a job, but do you think that means I can work 7.5% less?

And here we come to today, another one chock full of reasons to pray: My dear brother-in-law, David, underwent neurosurgery this morning to correct some dilated blood vessels in his brain. He is out of surgery and doing well, say the doctors. Please send up a Misheberach or the healing prayer of your choice for him if you have moment this Shabbos.

I just realized for the first time in many, many weeks, I have absolutely no plans this weekend. No bar mitzvah, no errands, no Shalom School on Sunday. I think I’ll spend the blank time in the garden, watching the tulips unfurl.

A blessed Shabbos to everyone – lumps, pay cuts and all.

Isn’t She Pretty?


As promised, here’s Her Highness Queen Vashti, all done up for the Purim festivities at Mickve Israel Monday night.

I, of course, went in my usual drag as Haman with black eyeliner handlebar mustache. Next year I must remember to add the noose!

Isn’t it so deliciously naughty to let loose in synagogue? El Yenta Man and I are always so into being super loud and raucous on Purim since it is a commandment, but mostly it’s an excuse to be as obnoxious as we truly are. What do you think – passing a flask back and forth over the pews – crossing a line? Seriously, you should have seen the stinkeye one lady gave us after the queen’s blown up-surgical glove-boobies got loose and tossed around the sanctuary like beach balls at a Dead show.

Speaking of good tunes, it didn’t help subdue the Yenta family that Elvis was on the bima. TMI brought in rawkin’ Jewish music macher Sam Glaser to entertain us little ol’ Savannahians and the man got into the ruach of Purim, yo!

Elvis’ Sam’s catchy compositions had us singing and dancing and jumping up and down – the lady across the aisle looked terrified. His kids’ tunes are on heavy rotation on the Yenta’s Shalom School soundtrack, but it wasn’t until I bought the grown-up album Presence that I’ve discovered the spiritual depth and diversity of this artist. Such a marvelous treat to hear him in person!

I don’t think the goatee freaked him out at all.

The Hebrew Mamita: A Reprise

I don’t know what’s going on, but no less that twelve people have emailed me in the last few days about Vanessa Hidary’s brilliant spoken word piece that I blogged about way back in 2005 as part of a post about Tiffany Shlain’s short film, The Tribe (which should absolutely be on the roster at next year’s Savannah Jewish Film Festival!)

Of course, that was before YouTube (can y’all believe the Yenta has been at this five years come Passover?!) so here’s Vanessa, again:

I’m kinda bummed there aren’t any old 19 Broadway performances of yours truly doing my own poetry – perhaps it’s time to revive the Cowgirl Housewife of Fairfax?

A Little Fambily Kvelling

Sorry, you’ll have to wait until after tonight’s megillah reading to see how gorgeous El Yenta Man looks dressed as Queen Vashti, but here’s a coupla items to tide you over:

My dad, Dr. Skip Feinstein, has thus far utilized his retirement to travel the globe, performing surgery in needy places and taking amazing photographs of the people he meets. But apparently, Dr. Skip’s true longing is to capture the classic cars of Cuba: He’s entered the “Name Your Dream Assignment” contest and needs your votes! It’s easy to register – do it!

And speaking of people who think dressing in drag is the only way to spend Purim, my former employers at the j. weekly not only have created a completely hee-larious Facebook parody (Punimbook! heheheheh) for the holiday, but have redressed their web site as fancy as Esther’s boudoir: It’s now streaming blogs – including Yo, Yenta. Looking forward to creating heresy on both coasts, yo!

Shushantastic!

Even if you’ve never seen AMC’s Mad Men, you’re gonna love “Meshugnene Men”, this year’s promo for the satirical deliciousness of the Shushan Channel, a yearly Purim spiel in NYC:

Heelarious – gettin’ us Yentas right into the Purim spirit! (El Yenta Man has already combed out his wig.)

Of course, Shabot 6000′s animated classic will always be the family favorite:

Hope to see y’all at the EVERYONE WELCOME JEA Purim Carnival on Sunday – be sure to goose the Queen Vashti with the 5 o’clock shadow.