A doctor, a lawyer, and an accountant all walk into the same synagogue. … Sounds like the beginning of a classic Borscht Belt joke, right?
Well, welcome to Panama, where there are 41 kosher restaurants for a population of 17,000 Jews! I am not sure if that is the same information you would get on Google, but I have never claimed to be a genius.
This all started when my dear, dear Husband #1 said, “What would you like to do this summer?” And I responded, “I would love to go to the Bahamas.”
And now we are in Panama. I guess the three As got confusing.
Yes, I sound like a spoiled brat, but I am not. Though it is all relative. I am spoiled compared to the woman selling mangoes on the street, but I am not spoiled compared to the woman who owns the street that the mangoes are being sold on. Again, it is all relative. This column might translate better in person, but I will try my best to relay the humor that has been this past week.
Years ago, when all of us Jews would go on vacation, there would be a lot of concern over food accessibility. I mean, how many times can you have tuna fish for lunch? Or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on challah rolls? I ask you, how many times??? But now, almost anywhere you go, there is food. All kinds of food. And Panama has even more food than Miami. Who even knew that was possible? And when you go in the off-season, which, coincidentally, is the very rainy monsoon season, making reservations isn’t as important because there are fewer tourists here.
But before I begin my reviews on the restaurants, I wanted to talk about the holiest and most precious day of the week: Shabbos. When Jews are on vacation, Shabbos becomes even more Shabbossy than ever before. If you are staying in a hotel that has keys, you are already ahead of the game. But those hotels are now few and far between. Now everything is electronic. This means one of four things: 1. You are going to have to arrange for someone to let you into your room. Or 2. You are going to remember to bring tape to put on the sides of the door frames so the door looks like it is closed, but it really isn’t. Or 3. You are going to throw caution to the wind and just leave the door open. And 4. You aren’t leaving your room for 25 hours.
No judgment about any of these choices.
Once you have decided that you do indeed want to leave your room, there is the matter of getting out of the building. Some hotels have stairways that are easily accessible,and you can walk up and down them on Shabbos. That sounds great. Easy-peasy. Nope, not every hotel is like that. In our hotel in Panama, we were told that we weren’t allowed to use the stairs. We could arrange for someone to come to get us and bring us downstairs. Of course, we met the couple who insisted on taking the stairs. In the end, they told us it was a disaster, and if there was ever a fire in our hotel, we were all in very big trouble.
Now there are many halachic rulings on elevators on Shabbos. You can all guess what my opinion is and what Husband #1’s opinion is, but it’s his vacation, so I behaved myself. Eight of us came back from a very lively, lovely, and delicious Shabbos lunch and decided to go right in the elevator, because it was open and right there. How hard could it be to get someone to push the button for us?
Well, it was very hard. There we were eight very God-fearing Jews in a reasonably sized elevator with little to no ventilation. I was looking up at the security camera, trying to get someone’s attention, and our other new friends started giving a dvar Torah, hoping that would hasten the process, but no. No. No. No. We were all starting to sweat, but spirits were still high and laughter was plentiful. Then Husband #1 starts to talk about our dead fathers, and it was then that the elevator elevated to our floor, and we were able to get out and rehydrate. How’s that for a cool ending?
Looks like there will be another part to this series. That one will be called Husband #1 and his life partner sit at the singles table.
I hope you will tune in!
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is very grateful to Husband #1 for this really wonderful vacation. It is good to know that we still haven’t run out of conversation after 28 years, thank God.