Bizzy Yenta

I was planning to write a self-aggrandizing post about how this past weekend I:

*With the help of my co-workers, pulled off an ass-kicking “THIS Is What A Feminist Looks Like” Cocktail Bash (Hint: Feminists are hott)

*Attended an Autism Awareness Fundraiser organized by my friend Kim Spencer, a true balabusta, even if it was a Boston Butt sale

*Rollerbladed for the first time since my hip surgery last spring (and only fell on my tushy once!)

*Taught the kindergarten version of the Noah’s Ark tale at Shalom School, complete with prism rainbows spinning around the room and a thunderous chorus of “Rise N’ Shine” (sorry for disturbing your lesson on mitzvot, first graders!)

*Washed, folded and put away four loads of laundry, cleaned two ceiling fans and vacuumed seven hundred pounds of dog hair

*Read a pile of books aloud, kissed the snake, walked the dog four times and snuggled with the kids an extra ten minutes each in their beds.

I was feeling pretty accomplished until I met Bizu Riki Mullu today at the Savannah Federation Ladies’ Luncheon (which I accidently dressed down for because it’s Veteran’s Day and the kids had no school – a huge mistake, since everyone else was fapizted to the nines. I felt like such a putz – even worse than I did last week at El Yenta Man’s 20 Year high school reunion when the situation was reversed: I was all frontin’ in my Diane Von Furstenburg dress and all the other women were lounging in their Sevens. Why does no one ever tell me these things? Do you enjoy my fashion faux pas?)

Anyhoo, Bizu is a phenomenal jewelry designer and Ethiopian Jew who made aliyah to Israel as part of Operation Moses in 1984. She was part of a group of 24 children on the last plane out of Sudan and didn’t see her family again for 10 years. Gorgeous, articulate and warm, Bizu also works for the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem helping Ethiopian Jews assimilate to Israeli life after Operation Solomon brought over 14,400 more “home” in 1991 and recently started Chassida Shmella of North America “which seeks to help Ethiopian Jews assimilate into the greater Jewish community in America and keep their connection to Israel.”

The story of the Ethiopian Jews is so amazing – their faith, their dedication to ritual makes me realize how much we take for granted as American Jews. For instance, during her talk today Bizu described how life in a Jewish Ethiopian village meant making everything from scratch, by hand. Shabbat preparations started on Wednesdays. A entire month before Passover was spent making new dishes for the holiday because of the tradition of breaking them afterwards – can you imagine sitting at a pottery wheel whipping up table settings for the family after cleaning out the chametz? Not only that, but there was no ordering boxes of Streit’s – Ethiopian Jewish mothers made their matzah just like the ancestors did, and since leaving it out made it stale and reverted it back to chametz (I don’t understand why this is, but I believe her) they had to make new matzah for every single meal for eight days. Now that’s the definition of balabusta, yo. I am humbled – my weekend was a freakin’ vacation compared to that.

Bizu says that many Ethiopian Jews (also known as the Falash Mura, and later as Beta Israel) have jettisoned their strict traditions since living in Israel, where there are grocery stores and nightclubs and perfectly fresh matzah available on every street corner, and now the work remains to help the second generation remember their unique origins. It was wonderful to hear her speak, and thank you to Toby Hollenberg for inviting me to this event – and oy, sorry about the jeans!

2 thoughts on “Bizzy Yenta

  1. Your accidental dressing down reminds me of the scene in “Start the Revolution Without Me,” where Louis XVI whines, “I thought it was a costume ball.”

    But that was some jam-packed entry. You even managed to fit in 700 pounds of dog hair.

  2. my wife and I have similar social flaws. We still do not know how to arrive at the proper time. At some affairs we come on time and are the only ones there for 30+minutes. When we decided to be 15 minutes late to something else, we find we missed all the fun.

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