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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Routine

When I hear or read the word 'routine' I think of vaguely negative word describing everyday things... things that happen regularly, and without a lot of fanfare. 

For anyone who has been religiously observant for most of their life, many rituals can't help but become somewhat, well, routine.  However when one leaves the comfort of one's home and community to spend shabbat in a hotel, the expectation is that things will be anything but routine.   At least that was my expectation when a few months ago Zahava and I were invited to attended a Bar Mitzvah held over a whole Shabbat at a hotel in Jerusalem. 

It was a wonderful weekend and every detail of the event was arranged and executed to perfection.  On some level I knew that an Israeli hotel... especially in Jerusalem... had to be accustomed to hosting religious guests.  But having grown up in a country where the typical hotel banquet staff aren't well versed in Jewish ritual, it was particularly refreshing to see all of the staff had anticipated even the smallest ritual needs of the guests.

On Friday evening before dinner the guests were shown into a ballroom that had been set up to serve as a synagogue, and I was again impressed by how every detail seemed to have been anticipated. 

As I was passing a tall set of shelves on which all the prayer books had been arranged, I noticed a sheet of paper peeking over the top.  Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled it down to see what it was.  I have posted a scanned copy of this sheet of paper here for you to see:

Storder_1

[click the image to embiggen]

This is obviously a standard form used by the hotel staff to communicate what is obviously a routine requirement.  This form (I have deleted the names and dates) is used by the banquet staff to arrange for Siddurim (prayer books) and a Sefer Torah to be placed at the disposal of guests at a particular time and place.  The form also indicates which 'Nossah' (e.g. ashkenaz. sephard, edot hamizrach, etc.) is needed... which suggests that they have a wide enough variety of Siddurim and Sefrei Torah to meet the needs of most/all Jewish guests.

The fact that this internal hotel memo was so routine as to warrant a standard, photo-copied form made me smile.  This was not only a reflection of the frequency with which these items were required by hotel guests... but the lack of complex explanation also speaks volumes of a routine familiarity that the entire staff have with these items.

Even as I feel myself becoming less and less surprised by the 'only in Israel' moments... this one reminded me that I'm still pretty new.

I know, I know... this really isn't a big deal.  But that's exactly the point!  With very few exceptions, you can't book a weekend Bar/Bat Mitzvah party at a hotel anywhere else in the world and assume that the staff will know to provide all the trappings of a synagogue (right down to which tradition you follow) with the same routine ease with which they provide (l'havdil) clean towels, shampoo and bath gel.

Additionally, in a Jerusalem hotel you can likely turn to pretty much anyone - from the bellman to the catering manager - with a question about what time shabbat begins/ends,  where to wash your hands for bread or how to get an extra roll for making the 'HaMotzei' blessing.   

Try that at your local Ramada!

On many levels the big challenge facing those who are religiously observant is to keep things fresh and avoid the sense of doing things by rote.  But I have to admit, there is something comforting about being able to check into a hotel and know that, for the staff, my religious needs are completely routine.

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Posted by David Bogner on November 30, 2006 | Permalink

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Dumb question here, perhaps -- but a routine internal hotel memo in Jerusalem is in English?

Posted by: Drew | Nov 30, 2006 3:53:34 PM

Bingo! Nail on the head David. This, and the million and one other little things, make me so happy to live here.

Posted by: westbankmama | Nov 30, 2006 4:02:47 PM

It's very cool for you, Dave. It's those 'little' things, right?

Posted by: val | Nov 30, 2006 4:24:31 PM

man, thats what i miss.

unlike my teachers here, one of whom yesterday made a comment that "dont jews consider gentiles a lower class of people?"

oh well, just over a week and ill be back in israel

Posted by: SF Lisa | Nov 30, 2006 4:30:53 PM

This is one of the reasons my sister-in-law and her family will be making Aliyah next month. My B-i-L is tired of all the "special" situations that need explaining, planning, etc. He wants to be where all of this type of thing is normal. Now he's working on trying to convince me. Oy.

Posted by: Nighthawk700 | Nov 30, 2006 5:02:20 PM

I love this country, and especially my city of Jerusalem!

I've posted before about how this type of attention to religious needs isn't found EVERYWHERE in Israel -- Eilat, for example, isn't a great place to spend an Orthodox-style Shabbat -- but, oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!!! How I love you!!!!

Posted by: Sarah | Nov 30, 2006 6:12:53 PM

It's interesting how different people respond to different things. Don't get me wrong; convenience can be a wonderful thing. But there is also something to be said for occasionally having to do the legwork - having to put in time and effort to make all the special arrangements once in a while.

I know that for at least myself, it is often when things *aren't* easy that I am most diligent in my observance.

-LT

Posted by: Daboysof905 | Nov 30, 2006 6:20:10 PM

Pssst - when flying to NYC from central Europe, fly Singapore airlines and order kosher.
You'll be catered from London (I was, that is), your platter will be bigger than the ordinary platter of the mainstreamers next to you (they have two types fish, you get three, double dessert &c. &c.), and...staff will present to you your meals to prove the seal is unbroken! Your meal gets reheated before those of all the others, too.

Pretty .... impressive. The people five rows wide in front and behind loved me.

p.b. don't order kosher on the way back; you'll be catered from Brooklyn. 'nough said.

;)

Posted by: Account Deleted | Nov 30, 2006 11:02:23 PM

And in the case of this particular hotel, the (non-gebrocht) cake is taken by the fact that some 90% of the Renaissance Staff are not Jewish, yet can still advise without hesitation about Minyanim for Bnei Chul, Malocho on Chol HaMoed and Hechsers. Some of them even in Yiddish!

Posted by: PP | Dec 1, 2006 2:20:50 AM

The weird thing is, even though I'm not religious, I really would like that... Having the ability to do what one needs to do JUST IN CASE the desire suddenly strikes me. When I was flying El Al, I suddenly got this sense of comfort, and I couldn't completely articulate why, but now, after reading your post, I realize that in the airplane you kind of start off on the same ground as everyone else... OK, never mind, I still find it hard to articulate.

Posted by: Irina | Dec 1, 2006 4:43:23 AM

my kid's bar mitzvah was in that hotel...glad to see it's still a huha place for a simcha...shabbat shalom

Posted by: marallyn | Dec 1, 2006 2:38:32 PM

I LOVE the little things...thanks for sharing. Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: Essie | Dec 1, 2006 6:00:21 PM

I totally know what you mean. A routine can be a critical reminder that grounds you to your surroundings. When a routine is broken one can feel completely lost, as if even the other familiar things in one’s life are no longer in their right place because that one thing is amiss. This can be totally disorienting and upsetting.

That’s why I’m outta my frikken mind when THERE’S NO PHOTO FRIDAY!!!

Ahem. Sorry. Also, where are my pants?

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 2, 2006 1:46:35 AM

I got 'em, Doc. Nice and roomy, too!

Posted by: wrymouth | Dec 2, 2006 9:19:06 PM

Drew... The same question occurred to me. But perhaps the answer can be found in the fact that this is an international chain of hotels and they may rotate staff (especially management) around the world... making English forms necessary. Just a guess.

westbankmama... whew, that's a load off. I was worried that I'd never get around to a post with which you'd agree! ;-)

Val... You said it.

SF Lisa... A comment like that is not just offensive... it is probably actionable. If thee were witnesses I would file a formal complain with the administration. That goes beyond protected free speech.

Nighthawk700... I have countless nightmare stories about such 'special situations'. I am so glad to have put that all behind me. :-)

Sarah... I'm pretty sure you'd have to keep two days of holiday in Eilat, no? :-)

Daboysof905... What you are describing is valid... we all appreciate things that don't come easy. But there is also something to be said for being in a country (or at least a city) where you don't have to re-invent the wheel each time you want to go away for shabbat.

a. ... Thanks for the tip. Although I've heard that by far the best kosher cuisine is on Qantas (lamb, yum!).

PP... Yup. And I have no problem with that whatsoever.

Irina... Maybe you should reconsider litigation. :-)

marallyn... Yes, it was very nice.

Essie... Shavuah Tov! :-)

Doctor Bean... Sorry about that. Last week I was busy with thanksgiving preparations and this week we went in tot Jerusalem to see my parents. I'll try to plan ahead a little better this week. Oh, and (ahem)you might want to get that mole looked at.

wrymouth... Please don't encourage him. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 3, 2006 10:39:59 AM

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