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Issue 1 April/May 2013

Eli Gerstner: Sounding Out the Musical Keys to a Successful Simcha 15 | Steve K. Walz

That Catered Event: Joyous and Sanctified 6 | Rabbi Yaakov Klass

One of the biggest names in the Jewish music industry, Eli Gerstner, speaks openly and candidly to The Jewish Press about his career, the role he plays at Jewish weddings, and about how the music industry has transformed.

The Right Way to Celebrate 10 | Tali Ben-Ari Celebrating Simchas in a High-Tech World 12 | Shaindy Urman Chanukat Habayit: Sanctifying Your New Home 18 | Ita Yankovich Pre-Wedding Tips: Skin Care 20 | Tammy Holtzman Tori Tips 21 | Tovi & Rivi

A Taste of Simcha

27 | Mindy Rafalowitz

Preparing and cooking for your bris, upshern, or Bat Mitzvah can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be with these easy to make, elegant and delicious collection of recipes.

An Aliyah Wedding Gift 22 | Laura Ben-David

Match Made in Heaven

Rules of Engagement 23 | David & Isaac

40 | Perel Grossman

What shidduch crisis?

No Mohel? Get Out of Town! 24 | Amy A. Dubitsky

Laugh along as Perel Grossman offers a humorous look at two nervous young bochurim going to meet their potential wife’s family for the first time. Mazel Tov!

Selecting a High Style Caterer 25 | Olivia Bondarsky Choosing the Perfect Wine for your Simcha 32 | Anna Hardwood Simcha Showcase 34 | Jewish Press Staff Trending Now: Event Planning Apps 36 | Aaron Friedman A Spectacular Affair 38 | Shlomo Ben-Yissachar

Editor: Steve Walz Production Manager: Shaindy Urman Graphics: Esther Klinger/Central Design Advertising : Heshy Korenblit, Moshe Klass, David Hoppenwasser Telephone: 718-330-1100 Fax: 347-342-3152 Advertising: Submissions:

The Jewish Press

4915 16th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11204 Printed in Canada

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Dear Readers, As part of our ongoing effort to create unique editorial material that engage our readers, the Jewish Press is proud to present its premier issue of Mazel Tov – a Simcha magazine. Simcha events play an integral role in creating unforgettable moments and memories for the entire mishpacha throughout our lifetime, and allow us to perform important mitzvot within a festive atmosphere. Over the years, life-cycle events, whether it’s a bris, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a wedding, have become classy, sophisticated productions that beckon us to become experts in almost everything, ranging from the culinary arts to fashion design, to religious trends, technological advances, etc. It is also important to stress the need to be economically savvy when making a Simcha. A smart consumer is one who shops around and accumulates price comparisons, as well as feedback on everything from food and furniture to musicians and mohelim. Taking all of these factors into consideration, we have worked diligently to create a first-class magazine that offers our readers a wide array of information about the A, B, C’s of creating a successful and joyous Simcha. We also included fascinating and relevant articles about how social media, technology, and apps have impacted the Simcha scene, why one-man-bands are a hot commodity, as well as which organizations in Israel are offering families unique opportunities to enhance their Simchas via first-hand chessed experiences. We hope you enjoy the articles and information presented in this publication. We also cordially invite you to patronize the diverse group of advertisers in Mazel Tov, who are showcasing a myriad of products and services and who can assist you in completing your Simcha checklist and making your special occasion a beautiful and joyous affair.


L’chaim! Steve K. Walz


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That Catered Event:

Joyous and Sanctified When planning a catered event, thoughts immediately turn to the myriad of minutiae that need attention. Will every last detail be carried out correctly? How will these napkins look against those plates? Which soup, cream of asparagus or mushroom barley? Which entrée, squab Wellington or rack of lamb? The list goes on and on. Indeed, as you browse through this special edition, you will find all the components that go into planning that special occasion: caterer, orchestra, flowers, clothing, etc., down to the shoes. Yet all of the above – important as they may be – are not the essence of a Yiddishe Simcha. If you are preoccupied only with these details, the event, though quite dazzling, will still be lacking.

Crucial to any Simcha is the human touch. The Torah (and the Midrash – beginning in Parashat Lech Lecha) reveals the multifaceted uniqueness of our patriarch Abraham. What set him apart

“The graciousness of both the host and the guests, when combined together, is the ingredient most necessary to create an event that is not only joyous, but that is infused with sanctity.”

from all the people of his time was his solitary monotheistic belief. He developed an attachment to G-d that is rather unusual. As we see in Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-8), he does what no other believing man could fathom doing.

The Talmud (Sota 14a) teaches us by inference that not only is man to be occupied with the performance of mitzvot, but even G-d Himself engages in mitzvot. The Torah (in Parashat Lech Lecha, Genesis 17:23-27) relates how, at G-d’s command, Abraham – a man of 99 years of age – without hesitation hurries to circumcise not only himself, but his son Yishmael and all of the servants of his household as well. In Parashat Vayera we find that when he is in the midst of the greatest pain (of his convalescence), since it is the third day after his circumcision – when such pain is at its greatest – G-d decides to personally perform the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. Yet just as the Divine Presence arrives, Abraham beholds three wayfarers and realizes that they are in need of his immediate hospitality. He bids that G-d await his return once he

engages in this passing mitzvah.

What Abraham prepares for these wayfarers – who, unbeknownst to him, are actually angels of G-d – is an elaborate feast. He bids them, “Sa’adu libchem – dine to your hearts’ content” (Genesis 18:5). Only once the guests finish this elaborate feast and subsequently convey to him and his wife, Sarah, that they will be blessed with a son [Isaac], the heir who will follow in his footsteps in the creation of the Jewish nation, does Abraham return to receive the Divine Presence. Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbos 127a) derives from this episode that the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, hospitality towards guests, is so great that it even supersedes the receiving of the Divine Presence. We see from here that a key element at one’s catered event is hospitality, seeing to the needs and comfort of each and every guest.

We see this theme repeated again as the Torah (Parashat Yitro, Exodus 18:12) records that Aaron and the Elders host Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses. They prepare a feast for him. Rashi, citing Mechilta, asks: And where was Moses? He was the one before them serving all of their needs. His total concern was that their guest be completely comfortable.

Yet, lest one think that accommodation is all in the hands of the host, let us return to the episode with Abraham and his guests – whom we subsequently discover to be angels. We learn that a guest, too, must be accommodating. Rashi states: “‘They [the angels] ate,’ i.e., they made themselves appear as if they ate; from here we derive that man [too] is not to deviate from the custom [proper behavior].” The graciousness of both the host and the guests, when combined together, is the ingredient most necessary to create an event that is not only joyous, but that is infused with sanctity. Indeed, with such graciousness, every event, even when not specifically attached to a particular mitzvah – such as brit, bar mitzvah, wedding, etc. – becomes a sanctified event that is pleasing to both man and G-d. Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is the Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at

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Selecting a High-Styled Caterer

By Olivia Bondarsky

You may have the best dress, the most rocking band, or a one-of-a-kind extravagant venue. Your guests, however, are coming for the food! When it comes to Jewish events, hosts, caterers, and event planners live and die by the cuisine. We know how caterers think and what goes into pricing out a menu, so we’re sharing our catering insights to help you make your food budget stretch further and taste better! •

The Wow Factor or The Price Factor? – The typical way of thinking most certainly applies here: you get what you pay for. When it comes to food and catering, how much you budget will determine what you receive on your plate. In most cases, the food and venue is your biggest event expense, so it stands to reason you’ll receive a sufficient amount of quality food. But if you’re looking to “wow” your guests with sushi chefs and waiters serving up hors d’oeuvres, you’ll need to allocate significantly more funds. There are many variables that go into pricing catering menus, such as waiters, servers, chefs, cleaning staff, ingredients, etc., so haggling a great deal may seem sweet on the wallet but may sacrifice taste and quality when the big day arrives.

Go Behind The Scenes – Caterers base their business around word-of-mouth, which means you probably heard about them through a friend or family member who booked them for their event. Use that to your advantage and go behind the scenes at the event. Sample the foods they put out at your friend’s event and see what works or doesn’t work for your event. Caterers will even invite you to come taste their offerings at a client’s wedding or event in the near future (most likely, just the smorgasbord). If you’re not satisfied with the presentation, quality, or variety of delicacies provided at their event, you’ll get an instinctive feeling about whether you should book them on the spot or keep on caterer hunting. Ignore the web reviews and listen to customers – It may be tempting to browse online for caterer reviews, but a simple Google search can give you all types of flattering reviews and scandalous critiques. Skip the conjecture and go straight to the source: the people who used them. The Jewish community is close-knit enough that you’ll certainly stumble upon truly reliable feedback. Don’t know who reach out to for feedback? If you can access a shul

list or community email group, such as BrooklynShuls or FiveTownsShuls, you will receive at least ten genuine answers within an hour.

Know Your Seasons – You pride yourself on your grocery shopping savings on seasonal fruits, so work that same magic when planning your menu. Certain fruits and vegetables, like squash, pumpkin, strawberries and avocados, are seasonal items that play big roles in both menus and budgets. A summer squash salad or fall avocado salsa are great seasonal dishes to add to your menu, but know that it may cost more than you expected. If a caterer offers a certain seasonal menu item, like sweet pumpkin pie or peach cobbler, be sure to review the menu pricing to ensure you’re not getting overly high “seasonal pricing” tacked on to the final cost.

Specialized Caterers= Authentic Food – Anyone can slow cook lamb and vegetables, but it takes a specialized chef to call it a Moroccan Tajine. If you have ethnic menu items, which you must serve, such as Persian, Moroccan, or Bukharian cuisine, double check that your caterer is experienced in the cuisine or will hire an authentic ethnic chef to prepare special dishes. Hiring authentic chefs dedicated to ethnic foods is especially useful for weddings between an Ashkenazi and Sephardic couple where each family is expecting their own authentic foods as part of the celebration. Don’t merely rely on a caterer’s promise that the food will look and taste genuine! Request a tasting appointment and make your own decision. Remember the golden rule of catering - tasting is believing! With these catering and food tips, you’ll be more educated and prepared to discuss your catering needs the moment you sit down at the table! Olivia Bondarsky is the highly experienced Lead Event Planner at High Style Events, a team of Jewish event planners specializing in the Jewish event. Visit their website at: for more information and get Event Planning “High Style” tips on their Facebook Page!

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The Right Way To Celebrate By: Talia Ben Ari I remember my Bat Mitzvah fifteen years ago, a lavish supported by Meir Panim in Kiryat Malachi, in the south meal in one of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, followed by of Israel. “I chose Meir Panim because I specifically wanted to reach a Broadway show with twenty of my closest friends. At the end out to disadvantaged Israeli girls my own age. I wanted these girls of the evening, I dove straight into the part I’d been anticipating for to have someone to talk to, someone to make them feel special and days – the presents! When I think about it, the whole thing was really cared for.” Over the course of the year, the girls wrote letters and quite self-centered. I’d reached an important milestone in my Jewish sent gifts to each other. During the summer, the American girls flew journey. I was developing from a little girl into a young lady – one who to Israel to attend a large joint Bat Mitzvah party with their pen-pals was supposed to be accepting upon herself the adult responsibilities in Kiryat Malachi. “It was an amazing experience that brought all of of family, community and Jewish identity – and all I could do was party! us to tears,” said Isabelle. “When I first began writing to Sivan, I didn’t It always amazes me how these days, I keep hearing of young know what to expect. We lived worlds apart – not just in terms of Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls who are increasingly aware of continents, but experiences too. But I quickly realized that it doesn’t the importance of contributing to their community. They are engag- matter where you are or what language you speak; it’s easy to find ing in fantastic charity projects as part of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah cel- things in common and talk like normal friends.” ebrations. And there are hundreds of charities, both Jewish and nonAnd it wasn’t just the girls who were blown away by the experiJewish, in the USA, Israel and elsewhere, who welcome the support ence. Isabelle’s mother, Tali, describes the project as an eye-opening from these young adults, both for fundraising and awareness-building experience that all those involved will carry with them throughout purposes. their lives. “Many of these kids don’t know where their next meal is “When we started thinking about Aliza’s Bat Mitzvah, we strongly coming from,” she said. “It was a really humbling experience and we felt that there should be some all got a glimpse into what’s sort of spiritual going-on as truly important in life.” well. We wanted her to learn Another Israeli charthat it’s not always about you, ity, Reuth Medical Centre, and that it’s important to give encourages participants of to your community,” said Roits B’nai Mitzvah Friends chelle Levinsky of Teaneck, Program to maximize their New Jersey. Aliza and Roindividual talents and skills. chelle discussed different opAs the only rehab hospital tions, and ultimately decided in Tel Aviv, the center helps to initiate a project with Chai thousands of patients every Lifeline. “Aliza’s birthday is year, including soldiers, teraround Purim time, so we re- Meir Panim pen-pal project started in New York. rorist attack victims and car cruited twenty of her friends accident victims. “We like to and spent the afternoon decorating bags for mishloach manot and individually tailor each project so that it suits the person who is dofilling them with toys and food. Someone from Chai Lifeline came to nating their time or money,” said Miriam Frankel, Deputy Executive talk to the girls about the charity’s different projects, and the bags were Director of Reuth. So, for example, children who play an instrument later delivered to sick children in hospitals. It was really inspirational may decide to donate money to the music therapy department or and I think it showed the girls just how precious life is and how people perform for patients if they come to Israel, and those who like sports in our community really need our support.” can host a football tournament to raise funds for in-house sports and Helping other kids is an important consideration for many chil- physiotherapy equipment. “We had one boy who wrote and illustratdren when deciding on a project, as is doing something Israel-related ed a story book, which is now read by sick children and their siblings for others. Israeli relief organization, Meir Panim, enables Bar and Bat in the children’s department of the hospital,” Frankel added. “It’s all Mitzvah children to combine both elements. “As an organization that about establishing a connection. If a child of 12 or 13 creates a strong focuses a huge part of its efforts on alleviating poverty amongst Israeli connection with Reuth now, we know it can lead to a long and lasting children, it’s something that children abroad can really connect with,” relationship in the future.” explained David Roth, President of American Friends of Meir Panim. Whether donating time, money or talents, celebrating a Bar or The organization’s Project Connect program encourages children Bat Mitzvah is a wonderful opportunity to learn about and connect across the world to “twin” their Bar or Bat Mitzvah with a needy child in with many wonderful causes. Some of the many charities you can Israel. They can donate a proportion of their gift money to help pay for celebrate with include: their ”twin’s” Bar or Bat Mitzvah, organize a fundraising event within *American Friends of Reuth Medical Center (B’nai Mitzvah Friends): their community, or do something more long-term. *American Friends of Meir Panim: Twelve-year-old Isabelle Sehati from Long Island, New York *Chai Lifeline (Go Mitzvah): *YadVashem (Bar & Bat Mitzvah Twinning Project): started a year-long pen-pal project between her friends and a group of disadvantaged young girls who attend a school *Emunah:

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Planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?

MAZAL TOV! Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is not just about throwing a lavish party, it is about entering a new stage of life as full-fledged members of the Jewish People. Today, more and more kids want to do something meaningful to mark the occasion.

Meir Panim’s Project Connect: • Encourages Bar and Bat Mitzvah children to help children and families living in poverty • Enables children to ‘twin’ their Bar or Bat Mitzvah with a less fortunate child in Israel • Inspires kids to make a positive difference in the world and in the land of Israel. “It was really inspirational and I think it showed the girls just how precious life is...” - Rochelle Levinsky, Teaneck, New Jersey “It was an amazing experience that brought all of us to tears.” - Isabelle Sehati, Long Island, New York Project connect is an emotional, eye-opening experience that your Bar or Bat Mitzvah child will carry with them throughout their lives.

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Celebrating Simchas in a High-Tech World

By Shaindy Urman One scorching hot summer day, my grandmother, then nine months pregnant with her second child, woke up in the morning and found herself experiencing intense labor pains. So my grandparents brought my mother, their firstborn child, to a relative’s house, and off they went to the local hospital. Ten hours later, a healthy baby boy was born, and my grandparents were overjoyed. But before they could even hold their newborn son in their arms, the doctor had some surprising news. “Get ready,” he announced. “Here comes the second one!” My grandmother turned to my grandfather in shock and exclaimed, “You hear that, Eliezer? Twins! We’re having twins!!” That was 46 years ago. Fast forward to 2013, and a young woman is in the hospital, about to deliver her first child. In between contractions, she texts her best friend with updates on the unborn baby’s heartbeat, the doctor’s unpleasant bedside manner, and her mother-in-law’s not-so-subtle hints about what to name the baby. She, of course, knows the baby’s gender, and already gave all her friends and relatives a list of the websites and stores with her baby registry. She spent weeks picking out the perfect items for the baby – from the matching furniture for the nursery to the designer stroller to adorable stretchies and tiny little socks. Everything she chose is available to buy with the click of a button. She notices a commotion outside her hospital window, and so she takes pictures of the scene and uploads it to Facebook, changing her status to, “Man on bike got hit by a car… luckily he’s outside a hospital – at Maimonides Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y.” When the baby is finally born, pictures and baby announcements are immediately uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and both her and her husband’s social media pages become flooded with well-wishes from friends, family, acquaintances, and plenty of strangers. Six hours after the birth, when the phone calls, texts, voicemails, e-mails, Facebook messages, wall posts, tweets, and comments have subdued somewhat, the new mother opens her laptop and logs onto her work e-mail. She replies to a few important clients and lets them know that she’ll be back in the office in two weeks, but in the meantime, she is available via e-mail for urgent matters. Times have certainly changed.

Technology has transformed our lives in more ways than our grandparents ever dreamed possible, and the way we celebrate most of our special occasions is no exception. Whether it’s a big event like a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, or a smaller-scale bris, upshern, or engagement party, technology plays a key role in many of our Simchas. Many people, for example, have opted to save the cost of printing invitations and instead choose to invite their guests via e-mail. This method is a lot easier and more convenient than traditional printed invitations. One click of a button sends your invitation to your entire guest list – no more licking stamps, collecting addresses, or writing out each individual name and address on the envelope. When guests respond, their reservation comes right to the host’s phone, computer, or tablet. Others have taken it a step further by creating Facebook events and inviting their guests through there. Assuming that most of the guests are active Facebook users, creating an event is as easy as it gets. You don’t have to know any of the guests’ addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses – you simply need to know their name

– and you don’t have to schlep out to the post office, mailbox, or anywhere at all. A couple of clicks from your comfortable perch on the couch is all that it takes. Wedding planning has also gotten a lot easier, thanks to numerous websites, computer-based software, and apps. Things like seating plans, guest lists, flower arrangement ideas, pictures of table settings, vendors’ information, and to-do lists are accessible right in the palm of your hand – literally. These days, anyone can plan a

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professional, beautiful event utilizing the numerous resources out there – many of which are free. During the event itself, many musicians use sound technology to enhance their music. Some people opt for DJ’s instead of a live band, in which case the entire sound system is based on a computer. After the event, pictures and videos get uploaded to social media pages and YouTube, and texted and e-mailed to those who couldn’t attend. When ordering professional photos, you will find that nearly everything is edited in Photoshop and other computer programs. Some people order their entire wedding album in digital format, opting to access their pictures through their computers and handheld devices instead of keeping a physical wedding album. Despite the fact that it is has infiltrated our time, lifestyle and frame of mind, there is no question that the benefits of living in a

“Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing really depends on whom you ask. Some people are thrilled that they can share their good news so quickly and effortlessly with their friends and family, while others believe that posting such intimate information is a breach of tznius and privacy”. high-tech world are tremendous. Every aspect of our lives has become (at least physically) easier; everything we do takes so much less time to accomplish. But like with everything else in life, there are disadvantages to this new era as well. Privacy, for example, is long gone. Anytime you buy something online, click on a link, go on a website, log into your social media account – it is recorded and stored and used in more ways than you can imagine, from influencing the kinds of ads you’ll view to determining your line of credit. Children born in this generation truly have no idea what the word “privacy” means. Once upon a time, for example, every woman hid her pregnancy for as long as possible. Even when she began showing, it wasn’t common for her to flaunt her pregnancy, whether in the form of tight-fitting tops, or in conversations with people whom she wasn’t that close with. Now it is not uncommon to see a pregnancy “announcement” on social media pages in the form of a picture of the expectant mother’s belly, a scanned photo of the sonogram, or, quite literally, an announcement. But whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing really depends on whom you ask.

Some people are thrilled that they can share their good news so quickly and effortlessly with their friends and family, while others believe that posting such intimate information is a breach of tznius and privacy. Some are grateful that their loved ones who are not physically nearby can experience every step of their Simcha along with them, while others believe that it’s an ayin hara. There are other ways technology has influenced our joyous events that are not quite as controversial. Take Chavi, for example. Chavi’s grandparents live in Israel, and are too frail to attend their youngest granddaughter’s wedding in the United States. The entire family is disappointed, as this is the last wedding in the family until the grandchildren’s children will begin getting married – and that will only take place in quite a few years. Luckily, one of Chavi’s siblings found a website that allows the viewer to actually watch their event being broadcast live over the internet. And so Chavi’s grandparents, thanks to the amazing technological advances available today, were able to watch their last grandchild getting married. And when Chavi had her first child one year later, her grandparents were able to Skype with her and her husband, wish them a huge Mazel Tov, and see the baby in real time. It’s a different world out there. Simchas today are not what they used to be, and much of it is attributed to the technological age we live in. Technology is just one of those things that can be used for good or for bad – it all depends on how we use it. And when used for good, it has tremendous potential to enhance our most memorable, precious moments with the people we love – moments we will never forget. Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at

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Sounding Out The Musical

Keys to a Successful Simcha By Steve K. Walz


Gerstner is recognized by many as being the musical equivalent of a rabbinical “ilui” (genius), who has infused the Orthodox Jewish musical world with a myriad of inspiring prose and unforgettable melodies which have been performed by Gerstner’s growing entourage of talented singers in a variety of unique settings. With the 33-year-old Gerstner having composed well over 1,500 songs to date, it isn’t unusual to hear the “Chevra” belting out a catchy tune over the radio in a kosher supermarket in Brooklyn, New York, or young elementary school children in Modiin, Israel singing in unison with a “Yeshiva Boys Choir” hit being played over the intercom system during recess. Making the olam happy also means creating unique and upbeat musical interludes during once in a lifetime Simcha events such as weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. For these events, Gerstner’s musical conduit is the Yosis Orchestra. In an exclusive interview with The Jewish Press, Gerstner revealed the latest trends in the Simcha music world.

JP: How has the Simcha music business changed during the past few years? Gerstner: Times have indeed changed. When I first started out

performing at Simchas, 75% of the business was doing Bar Mitzvahs and 25% weddings. Today, it’s the other way around. Weddings have become more lavish. While 10 years ago, a wedding with a large band was considered to be over the top, today it has mazel tov magazine.indd 15

become the norm for most families to request anywhere from a seven to ten piece band. A standard size band usually consists of five musical pieces.

JP: What is your role in the Yosis Orchestra? Gerstner: I am the musical director who runs the whole pro-

duction. It makes no difference if it’s a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, etc. Once I take on a project, whether it’s producing an album, a huge concert at Madison Square Garden or an intimate Simcha event, I produce it from top to bottom. In many cases, it also used to mean that I was the main singer, but that’s not always the case today anymore. Most of my work is behind the scenes.

JP: What are the types of things families are looking for u Mazel Tov | 15 4/17/2013 2:19:03 PM

when it comes to weddings? Gerstner: I try and make the musi-

cal part of the evening personal. I’ll meet with the chosson and kallah before the wedding and go through the music they like. Remember, everyone has their own thing, their own tastes. You have to pay attention to the details. Whereas in the past, many Simcha orchestras featured musicians and singers who weren’t religious or even Jewish in some cases, nowadays it is very different. Today, almost everyone wants Orthodox musicians and singers, and that includes many of the Simchas I do out-of-town, in cities like Chicago and Cleveland. In the metro New York region, there are also growing demands for Chassidishe musicians and singers. It is important that everything is fully arranged and produced properly, and that comes down to the band leader. He has to know what the chosson and kallah want, understand the crowd and know which songs to choose, and in general,

make sure that the whole production of the songs works to fit the atmosphere. I want the chosson and kallah, as well as their guests, to feel as if they’ve enjoyed a maximum musical experience, which made the Simcha a unique evening.

JP: Do you get requests from clients for members of the Chevra, Menucha, Yeshiva Boys Choir, etc. to sing at a Simcha? Gerstner: Actually, there is a growing trend amongst families to ask for a ‘special appearance by…’ at a Simcha. Many times it will be a specific singer who will act as a soloist at a wedding, and has a powerful impact on the event. It’s an obvious advantage that I have created these groups and their music, so if someone wants one of my stars to appear, I can make that happen quickly.

JP: So if orchestras have become passé at Bar Mitzvahs, what’s “in”? u

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Gerstner: Let’s take the 5 Towns community in Long Island as an

example. It’s very rare to see orchestras anymore, as most families have gone straight to DJ’s and one-man bands. There are so many one-man bands today, it’s amazing. I also feature a one-man band, the conductor of the Yeshiva Boys Choir. Baruch Hashem, he’s busy almost every evening during the week and on weekends. By the way, a one-man band can cost as much as two standard musicians in an orchestra. These days, the average cost of a single musician is anywhere from $600-800 an hour depending on demand and popularity. The only difference is that a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is usually an hour’s less work than a wedding, which on average is about 5 hours. The one-man band/DJ concept also has its own dynamics. The one-man band is usually a keyboard player who will play a set of Simcha dancing. Today, many youngsters also want to hear a series of original tracks as well. This requires a unique creative effort before and during the Simcha.


Crown Jewel of kosher Catering

JP: Even at age 33, you’ve been in the business in one fashion or another for nearly 20 years. Do you have as much enjoyment out of it now as you did when you �irst started out? Gerstner: I originally started writing and performing at age 17, strictly for kiruv purposes. When I realized that people were really interested in the style of music I had to offer, everything just took off. Baruch Hashem, I enjoy working hard and making people happy and I’m not changing anything! 


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By Ita Yankovich newly married couple’s first apartment is both exciting and special. It is the place where new traditions will be created and countless new memories will be

formed. The Jewish home, whether it is a basement apartment, studio, co-op, condo or even a sprawling mansion, is a holy place since many Jewish functions are performed in the home, whether it is keeping Shabbat, Chanukah candle lighting, Yom Tov meals, affixing a mezuzah, building a sukkah, exchanging mishloach manot, etc. A significant number of Jewish newlyweds mistakenly don’t put much thought or effort into their first apartment since they look at it is as a temporary residence until they move into a bigger and better dwelling space. What they don’t realize is that in many cases, a couple ends up living there longer than expected. Even if they don’t – this is their home, the place where the shechina resides – why not make it as nice as possible? I know of many couples who didn’t bother organizing their first apartments, claiming their place was too small to look neat, or that they planned on moving out in a year, so what’s the point? But guess what? When they rented or purchased a new home, the same clutter and disorganization followed them to their new residence. If you have the mindset that your home is your palace, it will always look nice no matter what the size. Gloria, an interior designer and the owner of Kingdom Furniture, meets with many couples who are interested in decorating their homes, despite the sluggish economy. She noted that furniture, to many people, function like clothing and jewelry. “We all want our appearance to be unique with our wardrobe and accessories and have that extra twist – our homes should reflect that as well.” she added. Some Jewish couples look at home décor as a superficial waste of time and money, but that is an inaccurate assumption of Jewish beliefs. The Torah encourages adornment of dwellings – shuls, sukkahs and the Bais HaMikdash, for instance. In addition, there is the concept of hiddur mitzvah; since we assume that at some point you will be engaging in some element of Jewish ritualism, by making your surroundings beautiful, you also make the act, the mitzvah, beautiful. You can revel in your first apartment by throwing a chanukat ha’bayit party, since this is a special place where you will display your candlesticks, menorah, seforim, and other Judaica objects. Many do this when they hang their first mezuzah, but it is really up to each individual and there is no obligatory time to have a chanukat ha’bayit.

Items Every Jewish Couple Needs

Every Jewish couple is going to require certain items to complete their home. So if you are going to be attending a vort in the near future, here are some items Bentzion of Eastern Silver recommends you purchase: • • • • •

Kiddush Cup • Havdalah Set Challah cover and cutting board • Mezuzahs Shabbos Candlesticks • Machzor Set Birkas Habayis picture to frame Menorah, Seder plate, Etrog box-if wedding is near these holidays

If these items don’t appeal to you, or if the couple already has them,

Bentzion suggests napkin holders, liquor cups on a tray or nice bowls. Some key appliances every newlywed couple should have include: a microwave or toaster oven, food processor, coffee maker, mixer or blender, iron, plates, dishes, and pots and pans. “Look for appliances that have a Shabbos Mode,” suggests Mr. Green of S&W Appliances, adding that most manufacturers today are designing their appliances with Jewish clientele in mind. You can have an elegantly furnished first apartment without going broke! The key? Spend your money on essential pieces of furniture that highlight the latest trends. You don’t need every room to be all decked out, just one focal item in a room makes the room stand out. Recognizing that money is tight, especially for young couples starting out, doesn’t mean you have to skimp on style. “People want good quality for

their money,” explains Ben from Kitchen Connections, “but couples and their families need to be smart about purchases and invest the time to develop a workable plan. Stores like mine are turning to designers to help couples furnish their homes with function and style.” “Don’t assume that you cannot afford an interior designer,” advises Gloria of Kingdom Furniture. “You can start your home décor project with something as basic as fabric on chairs or simple wall paint. You just need to know how to coordinate, and fabric is key.” Don’t worry if your style changes; you can always make simple modifications to your existing furniture. You can update to a modern headboard for your bedroom, recommends Gloria, or simply change the fabric on your dining room chairs and have them re-upholstered. Even Judaica items can be updated. Eastern Silver, for example can even arrange custom-made candle-

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sticks that are larger than the typical candelabra or ones that feature a more modern look. “Whatever gift you plan on purchasing for the new couple,” Mr. Green of S&W Appliances emphasizes, “ask them what they need first. I cannot tell you how many times customers purchase pricy items and it doesn’t work out. No surprises needed here!”


Not just for children’s bedrooms anymore, storage beds are praised for their de-cluttering ability and for allowing people to save money by avoiding purchasing other furniture pieces such as dressers. Some storage beds are also available with bookcase headboards, which can be used to house books or display pictures and other collections, eliminating the need for nightstands. Invest in a storage bed and you will reap the benefits for years to come.


Due to the poor economy, many today are working from home or have started home businesses, which makes a good quality writing desk all the more important. You can place it in a hallway for a space to house keys, cell phones and other go-to items.


Jewish families love sectionals since they are a space friendly way to sit multiple people comfortably. They are also great since they can easily be separated and rearranged as needed with a growing family, new furniture or new home. They come in many fabrics such as tweed and velvet, in addition to the always popular leather.

Décor Tips on a Budget Wall Art If you don’t have money to splurge on paintings for your walls, you can create your own wall art by framing your ketubah, as many Sephardim already do. You can also cut out the pictures from Jewish calendars, the kind many banks and supermarkets give out, and hang them up in an elegant frame. Black and white photos always add a classic look to any room.

Birkat HaBayis wall art

Floating Shelves If you cannot afford a china closet, or your landlord doesn’t permit installing built-ins for your books, opt for floating shelves instead. They are a cheap and easy way to display your seforim or Judaica silver. You can arrange the shelves in a decorative manner and display some of your wedding gifts or books. Floating shelves add interest and conversation pieces to any room


If you have a small space, these furniture pieces make entertaining a lot easier since they allow guests to serve themselves, and they also cut down on the amount of traffic in the kitchen. Gloria of Kingdom Furniture suggest that couples replace the traditional heavy four or six door china closet and opt for a stylish English sideboard, or even just have two chairs and a buffet so you can retain more living space. Sideboards and servers are great for the Jewish family, which tends to be large and have frequent sit-down meals, since they allow you to store extra dishes and glasses for all your guests. They can be conveniently placed next to power outlets for warming trays. Interestingly enough, the top five colors for home décor in 2013 happen to be “Jewish friendly” colors that we tend to gravitate towards: black, white, dark blue/navy, and tan. Ben of Kitchen Connections has also noticed that in kitchen remodels, most Jewish couples are opting for darker colors such as grays and cappuccino, and more of a contemporary feel. “Mahogany is out and walnut is in,” adds Gloria.

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t one point of another, we’ve all heard about the importance of taking care of our skin, especially our face. After all, your face is the first thing people see when they meet you, and it’s important to make a good first impression.

So you made the appointment with the highly-recommended cosmetologist, listened very seriously to the unintelligible words and terms she was rattling off, and left her office with a full shopping bag and an empty wallet. Perhaps you worked feverishly for several days or even a week, cleansing and toning, exfoliating, applying moisturizers, serums and creams, only to forget about it a few week later and to abandon everything on that hard-to-reach shelf or in the bottom drawer until Pesach cleaning a year later... Now you are engaged to be married, and all of a sudden, you need an emergency overhaul for your skin, and fast.

by: Tammy Holtzman

So, in a nutshell, here are a few helpful tips from an experienced makeup artist to get your skin clear and glowing in time for your wedding:

Firstly, leave your facial cleanser on the shelf IN THE BATHROOM, next to your soap. Otherwise, you will think of it as an extra chore, instead of a usual part of your daily routine. Washing your face should become a natural habit: soap your body, cleanse your face, wash and dry!

For those who are acne-prone, use a cleanser which includes acne treatment in it. Neutrogena and Clean & Clear are two excellent

“Now you are engaged to be married, and all of a sudden, you need an emergency overhaul for your skin, and fast.”

off-the-shelf brands that offer acne-fighting cleansers. If your skin is oily, use it daily. If it causes your skin to dry, use it no more than three times a week.

Next, leave your moisturizer next to your towel. After you have dried yourself, apply the moisturizer to your face. It should not take you more than 30 seconds, yet so many people neglect this very important step. Make sure your moisturizer is SPF (sun protecting.) This way, your 30 seconds bought you moisturizing as well as protection from further skin damage. If a cleanser isn’t doing the trick, there is always the optional skin scrubbing in the shower, right after soaping and before applying the moisturizer. You can also add that abandoned serum you purchased before applying your moisturizer, or go see that cosmetologist if you have serious skin problems. But the “first-aid” kit for your skin will always start with a good cleansing, adding some moisture and sun protection. Follow these tips, and within a week, you will see noticeable results. Your skin will look cleaner, feel softer, and some or most of your acne will be gone. Mazel Tov! Tammy Holtzman is an experienced makeup artist residing in Brooklyn, N.Y. To book. Tammy for your simcha, call 718756-8684 or e-mail her at Tammy is also available to give individual or group makeup classes. 20 | Mazel Tov mazel tov magazine.indd 20

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Shopping for your First Wig

Is the store policy printed on the receipt? Remember, your receipt is a legal document.

owning only one wig can cause knotting at the nape of the neck from sweat. Imagine if you only washed your hair every few weeks! Your hair gets a “trim” every once in a while and there’s new growth; wigs don’t. Having more than one is wise and prolongs your investment in all your wigs.

Preparing for a wedding is a happy time but it’s also super busy! You don’t need the added stress of a “no returns, no exchanges” impulse buy. And having the wig home for a month or two before the wedding will allow you to decide if anything further needs to be done before your first time wearing it.

The average kallah purchase is one or two casual wigs, or a wig and a band-fall, plus one Shabbat or holiday wig. Obviously, a great exchange policy is important. This way, if one of the styles didn’t work for you, you’re not “stuck” with a wig you will never wear. Be sure to ask if you can exchange, and if so, for how long.

How many wigs should a Kallah purchase?

What texture hair should you get?

Every Kallah needs at least two casual wigs, or a wig and a band-fall, so that she has something to wear when the others are being washed. In addition, if you only own one wig, the wear and tear on it will cause it to “die” faster. Since you only wash wigs every few weeks,

Ask questions about hair texture. Some companies only carry one texture. Do they stock a variety? Will the hair hold a curl and go straight as well? Will it get frizzy? You want someone patient who can help you select the texture you need to best accomplish the style you want.

the fit? Will the seller stand behind the wig? For how long? This is one of those purchases where the store policy is more indicative of long-term use than price.



ewly engaged? Mazel Tov! Tori Wigs helps you navigate your first wig purchase with the following tips:

To begin with: Before shopping for anything else, we recommend starting with wigs. Your wig is going to go the furthest in making you feel like yourself. You can get all your clothing at H&M if your wig is a knockout, but if your wig is hideous, designer clothing won’t help! Remember the “golden rule” in fashion, ladies: Good hair, good shoes, and good bag. The rest is icing on the cake. Try to purchase from a place that allows exchanges and will do custom work for you if necessary. Will they adjust fit if necessary? Will they add hair if the wig gets “splitty” by the bangs over time? If so, for how long will they include this service? Is there an extra fee for all this? Are there “hidden fees”? Get educated on store policy. Remember, getting a “cheap” wig on sale is only a bargain if you wear it. However, overpaying to assure the best quality is not a guarantee either. Mothers want their daughters to have “the best” and are willing to spend a fortune on ensuring that. But this is an illusion. If you want “the best”, look for customer service! Some of the most expensive wigs can have an issue. What is store policy? What if you hate the cut or

Be sure to ask if you can exchange, and if so, for how long.

What time should you book your appointment? Try to book an early appointment as the best places can get busier as the day goes by. If the seller is patient, they don’t “evict” people when their appointment time is up. Remember, you will appreciate patience when it’s your turn “in the chair”. Come prepared! Bring a book in case of a long wait, and a good friend for moral support. Try bringing your most honest friend. Bring someone who understands your sense of fashion, not someone who will push you to be “someone else”. The wig needs to be YOU. Bring along pictures of previous haircuts you liked as well. Communication and trust is key.

Tori Wigs is a high-end wig boutique located at 2953 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Join their 10,000 FB fans for exclusive promotions. See actual customer cuts at

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Alan & Leora Katz upon their arrival in Israel.

An Aliyah Wedding Gift By Laura Ben-David At a time when most newlyweds attempt to calm down from their wedding high, Alan and Leora Katz, in the midst of their week of sheva brachot, boarded an El Al plane and undertook yet another lifechanging event. They made aliyah to Israel. Though born and raised in New Jersey, the young couple decided to fulfill their lifelong dream and begin their married life in Israel. “We both said that without a doubt, we want to live in Israel. We wanted to start our new life there. We are so excited to embark on this new beginning,” Alan Katz, 23, said immediately upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, in September 2012. The couple met each other over five years ago in a summer camp, but did not stay in touch. Eight months before their aliyah, a mutual friend reintroduced them, and within a short period of time, they had fallen in love and decided to marry. Quite early on in their relationship, they realized that they both had a common dream of one day making aliyah. Alan, who had graduated from Yeshiva University with a Bachelor’s degree, had already been accepted to Medical School at the Technion, following his dream to be a physician in Israel. Leora, 22, who grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., had received her bachelor’s degree from Stern College at Yeshiva University and already enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, studying for a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies. Alan joined the newest entourage of TEAMS students (Technion American Medical Students, class of ’16) and revealed that from the moment they stepped off the plane, they were welcomed with open arms. “We have had such a warm reception,” said Allan. “I hadn’t even completed orientation but the TEAMS faculty made sure that families would host us for Shabbat, as well as everything we needed to set up our new home in Haifa. YU instilled in me a love of Eretz Yisrael, religiously and culturally. Studying medicine at the Technion means that I can work in a hospital such as Rambam, which is infused with Jewish values, continue with my Torah studies in the many shuls and yeshivot in the area, and fulfill my Zionist dreams by moving to Israel.”

In other words, aliyah was the perfect shidduch for the enthusiastic newlyweds. “The State of Israel couldn’t ask for a better gift than having this charming young couple make aliyah right after their wedding, fulfilling their mutual dream of building their future and family in Israel,” said Erez Halfon, Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Nefesh B’Nefesh helped Leora and Alan with all the arrangements after the wedding to make sure that their first year as a married Israeli couple will be one that they never forget.” “We want to live here, raise our family here,” added Alan. “We want to be a part of Israel, and help make Israel the best it can be.” The Katz’s are joining a growing trend of young professionals, both singles and married, who have made the decision to make aliyah when they are just starting out. In fact, young couples such as Alan and Leora have inspired Nefesh B’Nefesh to launch two innovative social mediabased contests geared specifically towards young professionals and newlyweds who are considering aliyah. The Wedding Gift Challenge (www. is geared towards engaged couples and newlyweds, offering them the chance to earn great prizes to help start out their new lives together in Israel. The Best Job Contest ( will allow serious job contenders who are planning their aliyah to compete to win one of ten jobs in various high-profile companies in Israel, all of which are secured for a one-year contract. “Over the past few years, we have noticed a growing trend of young couples and professionals making aliyah, taking advantage of the healthy job market and great social opportunities available in Israel,” explained Marc Rosenberg, Director of Pre-Aliyah for Nefesh B’Nefesh. “These contests will help increase awareness of aliyah by involving the friends and family of the contestants who will be sharing in their aliyah journey and actively following and supporting them as they begin new careers and start new lives in Israel.”

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Rules of Engagement from JHitched

Congratulations! You’re engaged! Now you’re ready to date the rest of the family. See, all those dinners, Shabbos walks, coffee dates, and bowling between you and your fiancé was all a courtship of compatibility on an emotional, mental and physical level. And you each passed each other’s compatibility test; you get to take the next step! Go you! Right now, it probably feels like that happy romantic ending in “How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days” or “The Wedding Singer” or “Runaway Bride” or the dozens of feel-good date movies ending when the guy pops the question. That’s a great romantic feeling but we’re here to help you deal with what happens after the music stops and the credits end.

You’re about to date the family. You think you’re done dating? Please, you can’t even put your feet up yet. You’re about to meet the parents, get interviewed by the brothers, preached to by the grandparents, tested by the aunts and uncles, judged by the friends, and clash with the sisters. You’re about to walk into a new post-courtship dating battlefront and you don’t have the shoes for it. You’ll unofficially be required to become a wedding politician (vote Shlomo for chosson!) and kiss the babies, agree with their opinions, help with the dishes, attend the Simchas, and friend them on Facebook. And friend their friends. And comment too. Your new family will test your boundaries time and time again. You’ll clash with out of town in-laws who “just don’t get it”. You think winning over your new family comes down to just straightening your hair or getting to your future father-in-law’s shul on time? If only. The family is ready to push buttons and test boundaries to see what you are like, who you think you are trying to marry in, what they can get away with, what you’re capable of, and what your limits are.

Sounds intimidating? Don’t let it be. The engagement period is the exact time to establish standards and boundaries for your married life. You’re going from a single girl to a married woman; single guy to a married man. Earn that title by establishing rules and boundaries for your new family. Your new family may be looking for a certain type of girl or guy for their child, but you are your own person, and it’s okay to show them that. If they have certain expectations of you which you don’t think you can full, be honest and explain clearly that you are pursuing certain goals now and other goals when you’re ready. Send them the message respectfully, humbly, kindly but clearly. Trust us, your new family will respect you for having goals, a solid thought-out mindset, and a clear grasp on how life works as an independent individual. Let’s talk dollars and cents. Literally. You probably never had the finances talk while you were dating, but now you’re going to have to sit down and crunch numbers. You have an expensive day coming up. Whereas before you had a vague clue about finances, now you need clarity on your exact cash flow. It’s no surprise that the top two reasons for mazel tov magazine.indd 23

a broken engagement, according to pre-marital counseling research, is finances and family. Makes sense - you’re thrown into a new relationship status and new family, for better or worse, and you’re responsible for one of the biggest expenses in your lifetime – a Jewish wedding. It’s not about how much money; it’s how you discuss �inances and how you use your funds in the most responsible way. Working on your pre-wedding finances together is the best opportunity to bond over something truly important as a newly engaged couple. We’ve seen the most loving and dedicated couples plan a wedding on a shoestring budget and watched as a $100,000 wedding plan and engagement fall apart a few days before the wedding. It’s not the money; it’s how you handle your finances together in the most mature way.

But you think the expense of a wedding is the biggest hurdle? The stress, disagreements and drama that accompany wedding planning will drain your emotions faster than your bank account. Like we mentioned above, you’re going to be thrust into major financial decisions with complete strangers that you call “in-laws” and they don’t exactly let disagreements slide or fade from memory shortly after a wedding. An engagement lasts for a few months, a wedding is only a day (and a fast one at that) but a marriage lasts a lifetime. Which one are you planning for? Your priority should be planning a life together, not planning a wedding together. Hire a Jewish wedding planner to deal with all the stress and manage the drama between the two families and keep it contained so that it doesn’t affect your relationship. And there will be drama; two sets of Jewish in-laws (two Jews, three opinions) heatedly debating over how to spend tens of thousands of dollars within a few months will need an impartial Jewish wedding planner to keep the drama contained and families calm for your sake. And you have better things to work on anyway. Like a life together. There are things you need to consider – like an education, a job, a car, a home, and a community. Find time to escape the planning and date; ensure your relationship is growing, not damaged by wedding or family issues. Apartment hunting together is life planning; hunting for an ice sculpture centerpiece together isn’t life planning. Separate the life tasks from the wedding tasks. Your engagement is the perfect time to discover more about your fiancé, your relationship, your new family, and yourself. But without a strong relationship to stand on for years to come, an engagement period is just more dating and a wedding is just an expensive meal and stuff. So start engaging in that expected transformation from girl to woman, guy to man, single to couple. Mazel Tov! JHitched is a team of Jewish dating, social and style consultants dedicated to helping Jewish singles take better control of their dating destiny and date more successfully. We’re not matchmakers – JHitched gives you the tools to find your own dates, what to do on the date, and how to succeed in your dating! Call 201.304.7954, visit, or email JHitchedTeam@ to get started!

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No Mohel? Get Out Of Town! By Amy A. Dubitsky Once the relief and elation have set in from a baby being pronounced healthy, the next step (after the Apgar tests) is to whip out the cell phones and share the good news. If parents hear, “It’s a boy!” one of the first people they will need to contact is the mohel to make arrangements for the bris. But if people live outside of a major Jewish population center, the mohel might actually be the first person they call. Rabbi Yossie Semel is a certified mohel living in Phoenix, Arizona and a member of the Phoenix Community Kollel. Aside from servicing the local community, Semel has traveled for brisim to Albuquerque, New Mexico and Austin, since they do not have a resident mohel. “Make sure you know which mohel you plan to use and be sure to call him right away,” advises Semel, alluding to the cost of airline tickets and seven-day advance purchase discounts. A mohel will usually check on the baby a couple of days after the bris and normally remove the bandages. But when a mohel has traveled for the job, he doesn’t stay to do the follow up. “It can get tricky,” says Semel, as he describes a case where the mother of the baby called him a few days later insisting that something had gone wrong. Semel tried to reassure her over the phone, but the nervous mother raced to the emergency room with her baby. Apparently, she had not completely removed the bandage, and after the doctors removed the residual bandage, they told her it was a perfect circumcision. Semel’s most important piece of advice: “If you live in a city without a mohel, don’t let your wife give birth on Shabbos!” While this may sound like a joke, not every mohel is willing to leave his family for Shabbos to do a bris, let alone a Yom Tov like Pesach or Sukkot. Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics, a mohel who has been practicing in Los Angeles for 35 years, has preformed over 15,000 brisim and has traveled frequently to small communities. “The furthest I ever traveled for a bris of someone not related to me was Fayetteville, Arkansas,” says Lebovics. “I spent a nice Shabbos in Tulsa, and then drove in for an early Sunday morning bris.” Only once did he leave his family during Pesach, when two families in the same shul in San Jose, California had boys that both needed a bris done over

the last two days of Pesach. “It’s a risk you take, if you live out of town,” cautions Lebovics, as not everyone will agree to travel to perform a bris far from their home. Liz Rothstein of Phoenix looks back at her son’s Yom Kippur bris over seven years ago and feels honored that it took place on the holiest day of the year. She also remembers her rabbi explaining to her that he spent hours on the phone trying to locate a mohel that would travel to Phoenix for a Yom Kippur bris. Not to mention the $2,000 price tag and 50,000 frequent flier miles it took to bring him in from the East. While a mohel usually charges between $400 and $800 for his services, the Rothsteins understood that they were compensating the mohel for the three days he dedicated to being at this one bris. While many people prefer their mohel to be a rabbi, there are some parents who prefer a mohel that is also a doctor. Dr. Paul Block, a urologist in Phoenix, decided to train as a mohel when his wife Carol was expecting their third child. “After two girls, we assumed it would be a boy, and Carol didn’t want anyone else to do the bris,” explains Block. So after discussion with local rabbis and with encouragement from a mohel in Denver, Block studied all of the halachos of bris mila and tagged along to every bris in town. Now, 800 brisim later, Block notes that often when he is at a bris performed by a rabbi, “They put on a white coat and try to make it more medical. As a doctor, I try to make it more spiritual, explaining as I go along when it’s not for a religious group.” If a baby is born with an abnormality, the bris is delayed until corrective surgery can be completed. As an Orthodox urologist, Block has been in a unique position where he performed both the surgery and the halachic bris simultaneously. “The nurse in the operating room asked me, ‘Should I bring the wine in now?’” While Block is actually the father of three girls, he was finally able to perform his grandson’s bris four years ago. Doctor or rabbi, just make sure your mohel is qualified and on your speed dial. Amy A. Dubitsky is a freelancer writer living in Phoenix, AZ.

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ATast e of


Pesach has come and gone, and many of us are now focusing on preparing for upcoming Simchas. Mazel Tov is here to help, with a few tantalizing, low-calorie ideas that are elegant enough for any special occasion, yet simple enough to prepare yourself right in your own kitchen.

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Recipe by Mindy Rafalowitz

I love making mini rolls because you and your guests can eat one (or even three) without feeling guilty. “Mini” means you’ll be consuming less calories than their regular, full-size counterparts. These rolls, coated with garlic and seasonings, are so savory that you won’t even need a spread for them. This recipe yields a lot, just perfect for your simcha needs.

INGREDIENTS  7 cups whole wheat flour  1 tablespoons active dry yeast  2 tablespoons bread improver  1 tablespoons salt  ½ cup canola oil  ¼ cup honey  2-2¼ cups water  2 tablespoons minced garlic  ¼ cup olive oil  1 teaspoon basil  ¼ teaspoon salt  pinch of ground black pepper

Yields: 80 mini rolls

In a large bowl, place the flour and make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast into the well. Add the salt, keeping it away from the yeast. Add the bread improver, honey, oil, and 1¼ cups water. Combine in an electric mixer with dough hook attachment for several seconds. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup of water. Continue mixing for 6-7 minutes. The dough should be wet, but not sticky. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Uncover and mix the dough for another 5 minutes. Let rest for another 5 minutes and then mix again for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large plastic bag and close loosely. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1½ hours. Punch down the dough and let it rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C). Line 2 cookies sheets with baking paper. Divide the dough into 70 balls. Roll out into 3 inch ropes and tie in a knot. Let the rolls rise on the lined cookie

sheets for 30 minutes. Bake until browned, about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, oil, basil, salt, and black pepper. While the rolls are still warm, with a silicon pastry brush (plastic bristles may melt from the heat), brush each roll generously with the garlic topping.

[Tip] For fluffier rolls, roll out each piece of dough and then roll up jelly-roll style, before shaping into knots.

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4/17/2013 2:21:31 PM

ATast e of Simcha! PHYLLO POUCHES

Recipe by Mindy Rafalowitz

This phyllo appetizer is what you see at fancy occasions. Phyllo dough delicacies look so sophisticated, you won’t believe it’s actually easy to make once you get the hang of it. Phyllo dough has 0% fat as it’s made of flour and water only, so your guests can enjoy these beautiful and healthful delicacies guilt-free.

INGREDIENTS  1 lb. phyllo dough  ½ cup canola oil

Vegetable filling:

 1 large onion, sliced  3 cups celery stalks, sliced into ½ inch slices  ½ cup green pepper, cubed  ½ cup red bell pepper, cubed  ½ cup yellow pepper, cubed  ½ cup orange pepper, cubed  1½ cups fresh mushrooms, sliced  3 cups shredded cabbage  ½ cup scallions  1 cup thick bean sprouts  2 tablespoons sesame oil  2 tablespoons soy sauce (without MSG)  1 teaspoon ground ginger  ½ teaspoon salt  pinch of black pepper

Yields: 18 pouches

Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan. Add the vegetables (except for the scallions and sprouts) one at a time in the order above, mixing them about a minute between each addition. Set aside. Unroll the phyllo dough carefully. Place one sheet of dough on your working surface. Brush well with oil, including all the corners. Cover with another sheet of dough. Brush with oil. Add a third sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Cut the dough into 6 equal squares. (Using a pizza cutter for this will make it easy and fun.) Place a spoonful of vegetable filling in the center of each square. Form the pouch by gathering the dough corners to the center and tie with a piece of string (as shown). Place on a baking sheet and brush the exterior with more oil. Continue with the rest of the squares. You now have 6 pouches.

Repeat with the rest of the phyllo dough sheets. Bake at 350º F (180º C) for about half an hour or until slightly golden and sizzly. Serve piping hot with sweet and sour duck sauce. Phyllo dough pouches can be reheated before serving. [Tip] Add some shredded leftover meat like beef, turkey, chicken, pastrami or all of the above if you want your eggrolls to take main stage. [Health Tip] Use olive oil instead of canola. No one will notice the difference in taste but you’ll know you’ve served something really healthful.

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4/17/2013 2:21:40 PM

ATast e of Simcha! Cream of Leek Soup

Recipe by Mindy Rafalowitz

If leek is not part of your usual repertoire, it’s worthwhile to give it a try. Leek has a small white bulb, like an onion, and a long green stalk, like a scallion, only thicker. (It’s best to remove the green stalks, since it may have bugs. Consult your rav on checking and cleaning leeks before use.) You can add this vegetable to salads or stir-fry, but in my opinion, leeks are best in soups. Add leek to your Shabbos chicken soup and you’ll have a rich, dark, golden soup bursting with flavor, as if you’ve cooked it for hours. But there’s nothing like a cream of leek soup! Delicious whether served hot or cold, so go ahead and give it a taste once it’s chilled – if you still have any left…

INGREDIENTS  3 Tablespoons canola oil  3-4 large leeks (without the leafy parts) cleaned and sliced  3 large zucchini, peeled and sliced  3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed  2 stalks celery, thinly sliced  3 tablespoons salt (or to taste)  1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)  water to cover plus 1 cup  Fresh dill, to garnish

Yields: 12 SERVINGS

In a large nonstick saucepan, heat the oil. Sauté the leeks until tender, about 3 minutes, on medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the zucchini, potatoes, celery, and salt. Sauté the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add water to cover plus 1 cup and bring to a boil, adding more salt if needed. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. With a hand blender, puree until soup has a thick and creamy consistency. Add more salt if needed and black pepper. Serve hot or cold, garnished with sprigs of dill. [Tip] When cooking whole leek stalks in chicken soup, for example, it would be a good idea to place them in a special net bag made

for cooking (sold in most supermarkets). This will prevent the leek stalks and pieces from “swimming around” in your soup while cooking and will make it easier to “fish out” for serving. Mindy Rafalowitz is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various publications. She is also a recipe developer and food columnist for the Hebrew Hamodia for over 15 years. She has published a best-selling cookbook in Hebrew for Pesach and the gluten sensitive. Mindy is working on another specialty cookbook for English readers. For kitchen questions or to purchase a sample recipe booklet at an introductory price, contact Mindy at:mitbashelpo@

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4/17/2013 2:21:48 PM

ATast e of Simcha! Decadent Layered Ice Cream Trifle

Recipe by Sarah M.

This delicious dessert is elegant enough for a simcha, yet simple enough to make for Shabbos or Yom Tov. It can also be served as a softer-textured “mousse” when removed from the freezer a half hour to an hour before serving.


 160 grams (1 ½ stick) margarine  2 ½ cups unsweetened Rice Crispies cereal  1 cup coconut flakes  1 cup chopped raw walnuts or almonds  ¾ cup of sugar

Ice Cream Layer

 Two 8 oz containers pareve whipped topping  3 eggs  1 pkg vanilla-flavored instant pudding

Chocolate Layer

 8 oz (225 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate

Yields: 20 Servings

Melt the margarine in a small pot on a low flame. When melted, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything on a low flame. Keep stirring until the nuts get toasted and the coconut is golden. Remove from flame immediately, because the heat of the melted sugar will keeps cooking the mixture even when the flame is turned off. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Place in freezer. In a mixer bowl, whip the whipped topping on a high speed, until it looks like snow, or a very thick cream. You know it is ready when you spoon some and it does not fall off the spoon. To the whip, add the eggs and the instant pudding, still using the high whipping speed. Turn the mixer off and pour everything on top of the Rice Crispies mixture. Flatten with a spatula and return to freezer. Cover well so that it does not absorb any freezer smells.

After three hours, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler, and pour over the ice cream. Tilt the pan until all the sides are well covered. Return to freezer until chocolate hardens. The morning of your simcha, remove from the freezer and place in the fridge for a creamier texture. Garnish the top with coconut flakes, nuts, whipped cream, or cherries. [Tip] Use a Pyrex or a shutter-proof glass pan, so that all the layers will be seen when served. You may also prepare this dessert in individual pans, for a more personalized touch.

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4/17/2013 2:21:56 PM

Choosing the Perfect Wine for your Simcha By Anna Harwood The traditional Jewish Simcha is a grand affair. Wedding or Bar Mitzvah, there is a thriving market ensuring that every need is catered for. Trends are ever changing and wedding planners, caterers and even event entertainment continues to evolve to keep up with the latest fashions. Wine has traditionally been a less significant consideration for hosts, often due to lack of knowledge of the sheer number of varieties available to the kosher consumer. As appreciation of fine kosher wine is becoming far more commonplace in the U.S., it is time that wine regained its importance during celebration preparations. Giving a drop to a newborn at his brit milah, saying the blessing over the wine under the chuppah and marking Jewish holidays with kiddush, wine has always had a central role in Jewish celebrations. While kosher wine was previously synonymous with a sickly syrup served on Passover, it now is produced consistently to worldwide acclaim. Competing against wineries from around the world, the Golan Heights Winery in Israel recently won the titles of Best New-World Winery of the year at the Wine Star Awards 2012 and Best Wine Producer at Vinitaly 2011. Kosher and Israeli wines now compete on the international stage and there is no longer a need to compromise on good wine at your Simcha. Choosing Simcha wine can be boiled down to a few crucial questions: What food is being served? What wine do you and your guests prefer? How will the wine be served? Matching your wine choice to your menu is very important and goes further than simply serving red wines with meat and white wines with fish. As Debby Sion, head of the education department in the Golan Heights Winery explained, “Wine making and the needs of consumers have changed. Matching the perfect wine to the perfect dish has become an art form – playing with the structure, texture and flavor of the food and matching this to the weight, taste and character of the wine.”

Matching the intensity of the wine with the strength of the food is very important. “When you mix a heavy (flavorful) meal with a light wine, you simply lose the taste of the wine,” added Sion. Likewise, when a light food is eaten with a heavy wine, the flavor of the food can be overshadowed. A delicate starter like fish or Carpaccio goes very well with a semi-dry refreshing white wine like the Gilgal Chardonnay. Additionally, for those who prefer a red wine on the table, there are also a number of young red wines which have a lighter flavor and have not yet aged, such as a young Golan Merlot which can equally complement a light starter. Moving to a heavier, meatier main course calls for a change in wine. Just like the heavier reds such as a Syrah or aged Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon go perfectly with a good steak, there are some excellent stronger whites, such as the Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay, which form the perfect accompaniment to duck àl’orange. Kosher wine festivals, specialist wine stores and even your chosen caterer should be able to advise you on good pairings and also enable you to sample the available wines. Tasting affords you the opportunity to expand your palate and become exposed to a variety of wines that suit your budget. Having a lower budget does not mean that you need to settle for a sub-quality wine. Wines such as the Mount Hermon (Red or White) will not blow the bank, but offer an exquisite partnership to a variety of foods. If you or your guests are likely to include seasoned wine drinkers, it is worth considering toasting the day with a special vintage or barrel aged wine such as the Yarden Katzrin which is only produced from extremely high quality harvests and superior vineyards. How the wine will be served at the wedding is also an important consideration in determining what wine you choose. According to Jewish Law, wine that is not mevushal (heated to a high degree) needs to be served by an observant Jew. As the majority of awardwinning kosher wines are not mevushal, it is highly advisable to ascertain whether it is possible to have wines pre-opened by the kosher supervisor and placed on the table already open. When serving wine, white wine should be served chilled and barrel aged wine should be allowed to breathe prior to serving, in order to achieve the optimum tasting experience. The easiest chilling method is to place white wine in ice buckets on the tables to ensure that it stays cool throughout the meal. There is no fast and dry rule to securing the perfect wine-food combination. Most importantly, it should be guided by the host’s personal taste. As a basic rule, one red and one white wine should be served during the meal, but an addition of a bottle of sparkling wine or rosé is always a good, unexpected touch. Nowadays, sourcing good kosher wine is easier than ever before, and with over 30 million bottles of wine being produced each year by Israel’s ten biggest kosher wineries alone, the Jewish consumer has an infinity of choices. With all the extravagant extras that one can order for a Simcha, sometimes going the extra mile on the must-haves will prove to be the most worthwhile expense.

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4/17/2013 2:22:00 PM

Join Us for Our September Issue of Mazel Tov 2 ISSUE


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ISSUE 2 | Septem

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For more Information, Call: 718-330-1100 x 373 E-mail: Mazel Tov | 33 mazel tov magazine.indd 33

4/17/2013 2:22:08 PM

SHOWCASE From Katmandu to the Kotel – Event Planning in Israel is a complete, powerful, online software that will help you manage every detail and aspect of your guest information for your Simcha from beginning to end. Some of its features include: adding guests with integrated search, printing your own address labels/ envelops with stunning, professional results, guests RSVP and sending gifts online, creating tables and seating cards, recording gifts and managing thank you cards. Visit and request a free consultation in the form of a 10-15 minute phone call, where the dedicated staff will explain to you exactly what the power of SmartSimcha is all about.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made of.”

Na’ama Raicher, event planner extraordinaire, loves her job. From planning Bar Mitzvahs at the kotel to fairy-tale themed birthdays, there is no telling what Na’ama will be dealing with next. The Jewish Press met with her to hear about a typical day in the life of an event planner, and quickly discovered that there was no such thing – one day she could be bringing a chorus in from the South of Israel, and the next she is on Facetime with a client, planning a Bar Mitzvah from Hong Kong. “People usually don’t know what they want. I build an idea with them, a concept. It’s a very dynamic, creative job. It’s the most interesting job in the world,” enthused Raicher. “I work with people from around the globe providing that essential local knowledge and the ability to get the best deals from the best suppliers.” One of the more unique weddings that Na’ama recently organized took place on the banks of the Kineret, with the chuppah 20 meters off the coast, floating on the water. The concept was “A Thai Wedding.” Thailand, a popular holiday destination for young Israelis, is deceptively located on the same continent. Thailand and Israel could not have a more different feel, flora, or fauna. The chuppah was designed with bamboo and tropical orchids, neither of which is indigenous to Israel. From getting the waiters to wear brightly themed shirts, to bringing in acapella choirs, to strewing tropical bouquets down the aisle – Na’ama pulled out all the stops. As easily as she speaks about the more unusual events she has planned, she also reminds us that a traditional Simcha in Israel can be equally awe-inspiring. Adding some special touches, such as tailored excursions, bringing in Chazzanim, or planning the Torah reading at the kotel are just a few of the ways that can make any event in Israel absolutely remarkable. Do you ever go to a wedding, a graduation, a Bat Mitzvah or a baby shower and simply don’t know how much money is acceptable to give? SimchaBucks is a website that helps you take the guessing out of gift giving, with its unique online expected revenue calculator. Simply answer a few questions, and SimchaBucks will determine exactly how much money is acceptable to spend on your particular event. Alternatively, if you are making a Simcha, SimchaBucks can predict how much cash and gifts you can expect to receive, and helps you keep track of gifts and thank you notes. Visit to get started.

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4/17/2013 2:22:11 PM

Ketubot by Rabbi Yonah Weinrib

The ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, is an essential component of every wedding. The ketubah was developed to protect the Jewish wife and ensure her future. In the ketubah, the husband undertakes to honor and support his wife, and to live with her in affection and amity. In the past few years, the ketubah has become somewhat of an art form. Many people frame and hang their ketubah like artwork in their home, and so the design of it is an important part to consider when planning a wedding. The selection of ketubot out there is tremendous, and the designs are as varied as the artists who create them. Rabbi Yonah Weinrib, a renowned and talented artist, has a unique and sought-after collection of ketubot, available at many Judaica stores, and through his website,.

Simchacise Dancing DVD Learn how to Simcha dance and have fun doing it with Atara Serle’s easy step-by-step instructional DVD of the latest and liveliest Simcha dances for women and girls of all ages. This 72 minute production features dance classics such as Revach, Chiribim, Turkish Kiss and more. Get your body in shape for those summer weddings, impress your f r i e n d s with your new dance moves, and have fun! Look for Simchacise Dancing in your local Judaica store.

Online Wedding Planning Made Easy Traditional business practices are increasingly turning to online services to modernize and make everyday management easier, and what’s more traditional than a wedding? Israeli startup AllSeated is an online tool that helps couples en-route to the altar orchestrate their event easily. “It is not like any other collaboration tool that you use, because with other tools, you collaborate on documents maybe, but here, you actually collaborate on different sets of data between people who are not necessarily in the same company. They are just connected because of the event,” co-founder and chief of product Daniel Anisman told Israel’s “No Camels” newsletter. “The event-planning market is years back in technology,” Anisman claims. “Everybody had their own tools. Venues had CAD programs to create floor plans. The bride or the host has outsourced tools for guest lists. But still, if you want to share stuff between them, you have to do it by email, or by fax. It’s not easy to connect everybody.” AllSeated is designed to easily share all the data needed to plan for an event. A user can collaborate as a venue, a planner, a host, or as any other business involved in the event, and they can share different types of information based on the role played. Venues can share their floor plans, and if they don’t have one ready-made, they can send in the architectural layout, a sketch or even just photographs of the venue, and AllSeated will then create a digital floor plan that can be shown on the interface. When a user searches for a venue through AllSeated, the floor plan for that venue also appears.

“Planning a wedding is a mess”

Hosts can share their guest lists, which can be created manually or imported from Facebook or Gmail contacts. The guest list is automatically integrated with the floor plan and both planners and hosts are able to set out the tables and the specific guests at each table through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. The dimensions and shapes of the tables can be visualized and color codes will show which tables are full. In addition to various service-providers, hosts can choose to share the floor plan with anyone else they choose. “The idea came to me because of one of my employees. She was getting married,

and for months she wasn’t doing her job! So I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me, ‘Yeah, it’s a mess’, and so I wrote a little program, in Java back then,” says Anisman. That was in 2002 and that little program became Neetal, the precursor to AllSeated. Neetal is still being bought in CD format and used by venues in Israel because of its Hebrew interface.

“Built by the industry for the industry”

“AllSeated has been in development for two years. For seven months, every month we went to New York. We sat down with the venues, and tailored the product to their needs. So now it’s a product built by the industry for the industry,” Anisman says. According to Anisman, top hotels in New York such as The Plaza and the Mandarin Oriental New York were involved in the development of AllSeated, through AllSeated Chairman Arthur Backal and CEO Sandy Hammer. “That has helped us plunge straight into the U.S. market.” AllSeated was launched several months ago at BizBash Ideafest in New York. In contrast to most startups and event-planning tools, the marketing focus has not been on individual users but on venues and planners. Anisman explains the viral effect of concentrating on venues and planners: “Everything is a hive. Because a venue works with maybe 15 clients, and event planners with 10 venues, and all of them work with like 15 designers, once one of them goes into AllSeated, they invite the others to collaborate using AllSeated.” In the AllSeated interface, any venue, planner or service provider that is not found in the directory can be easily invited and added to the directory for future collaboration. Within the short time frame since its launch, AllSeated boasts more than a hundred venues and two hundred planners on its platform. AllSeated is a privately-held company and is not looking for venture capital. AllSeated also has no intention of monetizing itself at the moment. According to Anisman, AllSeated is all about the data, such as the floor plans and the guest lists. He is confident that when the amount of data increases, there will be monetizing opportunities. Originally published on – Israeli Innovation News

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By Aaron Friedman

Trending Now: Event Planning Apps Years ago, our parents planned their Simchas using oldfashioned pens, paper, and index cards with addresses and phone numbers scribbled on them. These days, we all have pocket-sized gizmos and gadgets to help us with our planning. Out of the mind-boggling number of apps out there, here are nine of the most useful ones for Simcha planning. 1) Evernote (free; Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry) is a handy all-in-one productivity application. You can take notes, keep to-do lists, and clip pictures and pages from the web. Plus, you can record voice notes while on the go, or quickly snap a picture and attach to a note for reference later. It’s great for keeping track of your party plans, vendors, guests, and more. Not only that, but everything is backed up to Evernote’s servers, so losing your phone or tablet doesn’t mean losing your plans. Everything is also available through their web app, so you can plan at home too. 2) Pinterest (free; Android, iOS) is like a giant scrapboard of ideas. Users pin pictures, sites, and anything else from the web onto boards that can be shared publicly. Other users can re-pin items to their own boards, and sort items by category. For the party planner, you can browse through others’ party themes and ideas. It’s easy to get lost in the catalog. Fortunately, Pinterest has an excellent searching system, and you’re sure to find something you like. The website is exactly the same as the app, so it’s easy to stay in the flow when you get home. 3) Amazon (free; Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry) is the familiar web superstore brought to your phone or tablet. You can check prices, reviews, and make purchases through the app, so you can skip waiting in line at the store. Even better, you can scan by barcode, so if you see a great item in the store, you can scan it, find it on Amazon, and buy it on the spot. It’ll be delivered just like any other Amazon order. Plus, you can add items to a wishlist or registry in the same way, and you can search other people’s registries and lists. It’s like the Bed Bath & Beyond registry scanner, but for everything. 4) Fearless Flowers (free; iOS) helps you find the perfect flower arrangement for any occasion. You can search by flower, arrangement type, or occasion, get information on different flower types, and choose arrangements (pictures included!). If you have a specific flower in mind, you can learn what arrangements fit it well, and you can choose between centerpiece arrangements, side arrangements, and others. On the Fearless Flowers website, you can buy videos on flower arrangement and selection.

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5) SeatingPlanner+ ($4.99; iOS) is the absolute dream of the Simcha maker. Forget about boring and confusing table lists: SeatingPlanner+ lets you visually arrange your guests into tables and tables into floor plans. You can import your guest list from your contacts or Facebook, select table sizes and shapes, and sort to your heart’s content. It includes features like gender marking, special food requirements, and PDF export so you can give it to your caterer. 6) Google Plus (free; Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is Google’s social networking application, but its strength in Simcha planning is in the powerful features it brings. With Google Plus Events, you can invite people to your event, give individualized directions (provided by Google), handle RSVPs, and have all of your guests’ photos uploaded to a single album. Face it, people are going to spend time at your Simcha taking pictures, and you don’t want to have to get them to email them to you later. Google Plus Event pictures are automatically shared as part of the event album, so you won’t miss a single shot. 7) Postagram (free; Android, iOS) is your solution for thank-you cards. Postagram lets you quickly create a beautiful card with a short message and pop-off picture. It looks incredibly professional and is sure to save your wrist from the endless drudgery of card-writing. Plus, it’s cheap! At $1/card (less if you buy in bulk), Postagram will print and mail the card. You can attach pictures and send cards directly from your phone, so you can start working on the thank-you card list before your event is even over. 8) Our Wedding Planner (free; Android) is an all-in-one wedding or party planner. You can manage your guest list, vendors, and budget. It comes with pre-populated to-do lists to help you remember what still needs doing, and it sets evenly-spaced due dates to keep you working smoothly. Guest list management (including plus ones) is built-in, and you can keep all of your vendors on their toes with direct calling from inside Our Wedding Planner. 9) POST. ($0.99; iOS) is a handy impromptu invitation-making and sending app. You can quickly choose a design, input text, and send invitations directly from your phone. What sets POST. apart from other invitation applications is that it allows you to send invitations via text message as well as email, so you can reach people without smartphones. It also includes to-do list and notepad functionality. There are tons of party planning applications out there, and these are just a small taste of what’s available. But whether you’re using an app, a notepad, or just keeping it all in your head, don’t forget to take the time to look around, relax, and enjoy your simcha.

4/17/2013 2:22:15 PM


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Wedding in the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel’s breathtaking courtyard.

Lavish wedding set up in the Inbal’s ballroom.


A select group of quality Israeli hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa are doing a brisk business catering to significant numbers of American clientele who wish to celebrate their wedding and Bar Mitzvah Simcha events in the Holy Land. “The Simcha business from chutz la’aretz (Diaspora), especially from the USA & UK has been as busy as ever, especially during the summer season between June and late August. The only significant change that we have identified amongst Anglo consumers is that they are spending less on flowers and fancy decorations and concentrating on giving their guests a first-class culinary experience, as well as a fun-filled short stay in the hotel,” the banqueting manager at a 5-star luxury Jerusalem hotel revealed to Mazal Tov magazine. The executive chef at the same hotel added, “It’s not unusual for our hotel to host at least twelve weddings a month and an additional seven or eight Bar Mitzvahs, 90% of whom are families from the USA, Canada, UK and France. It’s a real challenge, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to showcase what we have to offer guests.” In speaking with a number of 5-star Israeli hotel executives, banqueting managers and chefs, they all unanimously agree that it is the fantastic weather, spectacular facilities, palate-pleasing gastronomic offerings, and most importantly, attractive prices that continue to lure large numbers of American families. “We approach our Simcha business as a long-term investment in our clientele. Even after a family from the USA, UK, etc. makes a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah in our hotel, we continue to stay in touch with the families via e-mail over the years. Thus, it’s not that unusual for one family to make several Simchas in our hotel. A Bar Mitzvah boy or Bat Mitzvah girl will eventually grow up and make a wedding. In other instances, a satisfied bride and groom will tell their friends about our hotel, and based on word of mouth, we will receive enquiries that will lead to new business,” said Etty Shitrit, banqueting manager at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. The Inbal Jerusalem Hotel’s beautiful indoor and outdoor banqueting venues can host over 600 guests. Last year, the Inbal was lionized by the sophisticated readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine as being a world-class “Gold List” facility, based on its superior personalized services and elite cuisine. They offer a variety of wedding and Bar Mitzvah packages, highlighted by lavish settings and delectable Simcha meals. “I

By Shlomo Ben-Yissachar

spend a significant amount of time with clients, especially families who are making weddings, setting up personalized tastings. Many families will actually fly to Israel a few months in advance of the Simcha in order to taste various items on the menu. For those who can’t make it in advance, I will prepare the menus, photograph the serving options and email it to the client. Then they can either speak with me over the phone or through Skype,” Moti Buchbut, the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel’s renowned executive chef revealed. “Guests from abroad are absolutely looking for a true gourmet experience in Israel. While their culinary tastes tend to be more conservative than Israelis’ preferences, they nevertheless seek the very best, from filet denis to filet mignon.” Along the scintillating Tel Aviv seafront, the city’s venerable Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers is also a hot spot for unforgettable outdoor and indoor Simchas. Weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs can be custom arranged in the hotel’s Diamond Hall and Kum Kum restaurants, which can accommodate several hundred guests. Two 60” LCD screens located in the foyer are linked via video from the banquet halls, which enable guests to stay connected to the Diamond Hall. Most of the weddings are held on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Sheraton’s various Simcha menus are prepared by the hotel’s award-winning chef, Charlie Fadida. In the picturesque port city of Haifa, the Dan Carmel Hotel is the 5-star facility of choice for discerning English-speaking families looking to make a memorable wedding. The hotel, which recently completed a top to bottom renovation process, has transformed itself into the “King David” of Northern Israel. The outdoor lawn, which overlooks the colorful Bahai Gardens and Haifa Bay, provides a spectacular backdrop for many weddings. For more information on the aforementioned hotels, which boast a large variety of wedding and Bar/Bat Mitzvah packages, free Simcha consultations, reduced rates for wedding and Bar/Bat Mitzvah groups, and in some cases, a free wedding night stay for the bride and groom, visit their websites:

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By Perel Grossman

Match Made in Heaven

The desperately searching for a house number.

young man drives uncertainly down the road,

Gazing upward in search of Heavenly Guidance, he spies a bulky object hovering not too far above the trees. It appears to be… a blimp? It is pulling a banner that reads: “THIS IS IT!” Directly below the blimp stands a stately home with four sets of house numbers, each in neon lights. Above the door, a marquee proclaims “The Girl’s House: Now Playing”. Shrugging, the boy parks the car, slips on his jacket, and proceeds cautiously up the driveway. Arriving at the door moments later, he raises his fist to knock, but the door suddenly springs open. A middle-aged couple, grinning broadly, usher him in. The man drapes his arm over the boy’s shoulders and welcomes him warmly. “Won’t you come sit down with us for a few minutes?” the mother asks sweetly, gesturing towards the dining room table. “Well, actually, I was hoping to…” begins the boy, but is momentarily distracted by the sound of violins. A strolling string quartet surrounds him, producing ethereal notes accompanied by a vocalist. It is hard to distinguish the words, but they seem to be extolling the virtues of a young woman named “Shprintzah Yentalah”.

“Do sit down, Mark,” urges the father, “We put out a little something for you since you have travelled such a distance.” Mark eyes the sumptuous selection of culinary delights. There is not one square inch of tablecloth visible between the platters of delicacies. “Mark, we’ve heard such nice things about you!” the mother gushes. “You did?” he replies in mock astonishment, “Who has been telling such lies?” The parents laugh uproariously for a solid minute. A waiter comes by and offers the young man a flute of champagne. Suddenly, a trumpet player appears and plays a fanfare. As the string quartet strikes up the tune, “Here she comes …,” a young lady descends the steps slowly, striking a pose every now and then. “And here’s our Shprintzy now!” announce the parents in unison. (It is apparent that they have been practicing their lines conscientiously.) The girl makes her way into the room with mincing steps. Her hair is arranged in an elaborate updo; her face painted, lacquered and airbrushed. She wears a gown spun of 14K gold, encrusted with jewels. We know this because Mother is sure to

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point it out. “Shprintzy, this is Mark,” the parents declare, as one. The two young people smile politely. An awkward silence ensues. “Umm… nice room you have here…” ventures Mark. “Oh, do you like it?” the mother asks, breathless with excitement. “We had it made especially for you!” Mark laughs appreciatively, until it hits him. She’s not kidding. “Yes, that’s why the date had to be pushed off a couple of days, what with the construction and all,” the father explains. The young man’s mouth hangs open in disbelief. Shprintzy blushes. “That’s right. Nothing’s too good for our daughter and future son-in-law.” “Da-ad!” protests the Princess. “It’s okay, sweetie. Mark should know that whoever marries you will have it good. He’ll never have to work a day in his life.” The young man seems a little unnerved by all of this. “It’s not like we’re rich,” explains Shprintzy’s mother, “but we feel like we’ve already lived and now it’s your turn. We’ll sell off our assets as soon as the engagement is announced!”

“Hey,” picks up the father, “we don’t need a whole house. We can rent a studio apartment in an economically depressed area. And the cars are nothing but money-guzzlers. We’re better off without them.” “Maybe we should get going?” Mark suggests, obviously eager to leave. Shprintzy nods and they head to the door. The father stuffs two one hundred dollar bills into the boy’s pocket. Mark protests, but the father refuses to take it back. “For parking,” he insists, with a wink. In the car, the girl turns to her date with a coy expression and says, “Gee, I hope they didn’t come off as desperate?” At the very same moment, inside the house, the mother turns to her husband and asks “D’you think we were too subtle?” Both the father and Mark answer, at the same time, with a firm “no”. As he checks for traffic before pulling the car away from the curb, Mark notices the blimp carrying a new message: PROPOSE AND WIN A FREE TRIP FOR TWO TO ACAPULCO!!! “No, Shprintzy,” he reiterates. “Not at all.” * * * *

Chosson ‘Jeopardy’ Ding-dong! “COME IN!” barks a gruff male voice. The door creaks open. The figure of a young man appears in the hallway. “Hel-lo?” He calls out hesitantly, peering uncertainly into the dimly lit room beyond. “SHALOM? SHALOM KLEIN?!!” “Y-yes?” “CLOSE THE DOOR AND WALK RIGHT IN. WE’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU…” [Evil laugh.] The door slams shut of its own volition. Tentative footsteps are heard. “M-m-maybe this is not a good time?” ventures the bochur, “I could just leave now and…” “NO! WE HAVE BEEN WAITING A LONG, LONG TIME FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOU. NOW, SIT!”

He finds himself seated on a hard wooden stool. Suddenly, a beam of light is shined into his eyes. He shields his vision with one hand and attempts to stand. A vise-like grip seizes him and throws him back down onto the stool. “STATE YOUR FULL NAME.” “Sh-shalom L-Lipa K-K-Klien.” A pencil scratches on a pad. A female voice murmurs, “Nobody said anything about a middle name…?” “WHAT DO YOU DO?” “I learn.” “WHICH YESHIVA DO YOU ATTEND?” “Brisk.” A loud buzzer sounds. The boy bolts upright, shocked by the sudden noise. “I’M SORRY. THAT WAS AN INVALID RESPONSE. SHOULD I REPEAT THE QUESTION?” “Um… well… I almost went to Brisk, but then I changed my

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BUZZ! “Okay, okay! I was not accepted, so… I went to learn in a small yeshiva in the Negev.” “THAT WAS THEN. WHERE ARE YOU LEARNING NOW?” “Chaim Ber-” BUZZ! “Lakew-” BUZZ! “Well, I didn’t start Lakewood yet because I wanted to start dating career before I got there and was put into Deep Freeze”. “DO YOU COME TO MINYAN ON TIME IN THE MORNING?” “Yes.” BUZZ! “Well… fifteen minutes late is still ‘on time’, right?” “WHEN DOES YOUR FIRST SEDER BEGIN?” “9:00.” BUZZ! “What? It does begin at 9:00!” “MY SOURCES TELL ME YOUR FIRST SEDER BEGINS IN THE MIDDLE OF SHACHARIS.” “Oh.” “DO YOU SMOKE?” “No.” BUZZ! “ANSWER THE QUESTION TRUTHFULLY!” “Just a chosson cigarette.” BUZZ! “Only one…” BUZZ! “A day! A day!” BUZZ! “One PACK I mean!” “AND DO YOU THINK YOUR FUTURE SHVEHR IS GOING TO BANKROLL A NASTY HABIT LIKE THAT?!!” [Silence] “SPEAK UP!” “I guess not…” “WHAT DO YOU DO DURING BEIN HAZMANIM?” “The same thing I do during the zman. [Pause.] Hey, no buzz?” “THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. OUR SOURCES TELL US THAT YOU SLEEP LATE, DRINK A LOT OF COFFEE, AND SHMOOZE WITH YOUR FRIENDS ALL YEAR LONG.” [Gulp.] “AND WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH FOR OUR DAUGHTER?” “Um… y’know, you’re right. I’m really not good enough for your daughter. So… can I leave now?” “NO!!!! I WANT YOU TO GIVE ME THREE GOOD REASONS

WHY I SHOULD CONSIDER YOU AS A FUTURE SON-IN-LAW!” “Three?” he yelps. “I’M WAITING…” “Well… I have a degree?” “IN WHAT, PRAY TELL?” “Judaic Studies?” “TERRIFIC. WHAT ELSE?” “I change my socks daily?” “FINALLY. THAT’S A GOOD ONE. TWO MORE ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS. AND MAKE THEM COUNT!” “I like burned food?” “EXCELLENT. YOU ARE DOING MUCH BETTER. ONE MORE!” “I promised, b’li neder, to take out the garbage and the recyclables.” “I’M IMPRESSED… TOVA?” The flashlight beam moves to a small figure in the corner. “Yes, Abba?” “DO YOU THINK HE COULD BE ‘THE ONE’?” “Theoretically, Abba.” “AND YOU, YOUNG MAN! DO YOU PROMISE TO TAKE CARE OF MY DAUGHTER, STOP SMOKING, AND EITHER START LEARNING IN EARNEST OR GO GET A JOB?” “If I say yes, may I leave?” “SOON!” “Okay, then, yes!” “IN THAT CASE, LET’S ALL GO INTO THE DINING ROOM!” Tova and her mother walk through the door. Her father follows, clutching Shalom by the arm. All four blink as the lights are suddenly flicked on. They see a table festively bedecked with all kinds of delicacies, and plenty of good “spirits”. “MAZAL TOV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Balloons and streamers descend from the ceiling as people emerge from behind curtains and pieces of furniture. A one-man band picks up the tune ‘Od Yishamah’. Grins all around. BARUCH HASHEM – ANOTHER HAPPY COUPLE! Perel Grossman is a freelance writer who resides in Monsey, NY. She is a veteran of “The Shidduch Scene” with several married children of her own and years of valiantly attempting to match up singles. If you enjoyed this piece of satire, check out her book “Adventures in the Produce Aisle - and Other ‘Perelous’ Tales”, published by Israel Bookshop Publications. If you have any positive comments about this article, e-mail her at If you have any negative comments, please write them on a piece of paper, put them in a glass bottle, and launch them in your nearest body of water.

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