My memories of shwarma: Thick, jagged cuts of succulent lamb dripping grease to be soaked up by puffy soft pita. Thin slivers of sharp onion and chunks of tangy tomato. Soul-filling.

The reality, last night, of what they called shwarma at A Fair to Remember: Half of a roll-up sandwich with tiny pieces of dry, gray chicken, shreds of lettuce, a dollop of mayonnaise and small pieces of tomato, enwrapped in a thin piece of lavash. Tasteless.

It was beyond cool that the thousands of people filling the Michigan State Fairgrounds were Jewish. Blue signs bore the Hebrew names of Israeli streets. I never see anyone I know at the State Fair but this year, I knew everyone and it felt so good to be part of a vibrant, smiling community.

My children were gleeful on rides. We stayed until late and they witnessed their first pop-blast fireworks display.

They completely forgot that we waited in line for half an hour to get tasteless kosher food.

Why does keeping kosher have to be so complicated?

I swear, we bring this chaos on ourselves! If a Jewish community wants to promote an inherent value – separating milk and meat, buying and consuming only kosher-certified victuals – then why not make it organized, easy and delicious?

Two slow lines converged on two order-takers. I couldn’t find ketchup, napkins or drinks. Detroit’s best kosher caterer provided the food but it was not his finest moment. To quote my grandmother: “He should be ashamed!”

Suppose you keep kosher because you believe it’ll bring you closer to God. Judaism does not believe in asceticism.

Last night was a microcosm of the Jewish world: tank tops beside ground-sweeping skirts, Israelis in flip-flops eating pepperoni pizza and black-yarmulke rabbis eating kosher food, strong athletes celebrating Maccabi wines and children ecstatic riding burlap sacks down the giant slide.

We are a strong community getting stronger. If only we can keep coming together, despite differences in belief and observance, we will only become better.


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