When I received a FAX this morning about an “Erev Rosh Hashanah Havurah Dinner,” I assumed it was a reader alerting us to the latest evidence of how far our people have wandered. The Rosh HaShanah meal, in a four-star restaurant? A Rosh HaShanah “Havurah Dinner” — “Because It’s a Tradition at Rosh Hashanah” — in a Seafood Restaurant? Scandalous!
Oddly enough, this didn’t come from a reader — but from the restaurant. My secretary later told me that the same invitation had also arrived by email. And things aren’t nearly as bad as they might have appeared to be at first.
First of all, it doesn’t appear that this “Havurah Dinner” is coming from any local Havurah — this isn’t a religious group gathering for Rosh Hashanah in a treife restaurant. It’s just the restaurant itself, marketing a “Havurah” dinner. The word comes from chaver, friend. It’s a friendly dinner. Hineh Mah Tov Umah Na’im, Sheves Achim Gam Yachad. How good and pleasant when brothers sit together.
And second… credit where credit is due: the menu, at least, is Kosher. I’m not claiming the food is, after pots and oils and everything else are taken into consideration, much less the wine list. But Kiddush will be said, challah served, the mandatory Chicken Soup wih Matzoh Balls provided (thankfully, Mrs. Menken has her own ideas about what’s “mandatory”)… and then, with all of the ordinary connotations of “seafood restaurants,” the entrees are… Grilled Salmon, Roasted Sea Bass, Brisket, Chicken Breast, and a Vegetable Platter. No shrimp, no mussels — although this feast will cost plenty of clams, none are on the menu.
While it would obviously be preferable to see people following the true Tradition at Rosh HaShanah — sitting together as a family at home, thinking about the wonders of Rosh HaShanah and discussing what they might do better next year — somehow, the idea of a restaurant going out of its way to provide an entirely “kosher-style” menu means that they believe there are lots of people out there where the pintele yid is looking for that bit of connection, even in a non-Kosher outing on a day not intended for restaurant dining. We just need to try harder to reach those people first.