Friday, March 23, 2007

Brotherly (and family) Love

I am off to Philadelphia for Shabbat. It is a strange experience for me. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and lived in Philly for 20 years. When I go back as a visitor/tourist, it is strange to look at the city I grew up in with visitor's eyes. It is also lots of fun. Last time I was there, i visited the National Constitution Center a relatively new (seven years old) museum in Philly. Sounds like a real bore, and truth be told, if you were raised in this country, it is to some extent. The opening exhibit/lecture is fantastic, however, and made the visit worthwhile. They do a multi-media presentation in the round, and the narrator is terrific. The rest of the museum focuses on stuff most of us grew up with.

This time, we will once again visit Congregation Mikveh Israel which is the second oldest synagogue in America. A Spanish-Portugese synagogue that has incorporated many of the pieces from the original synagogue, it was founded in 1740. To this day, not only do they retain the original style and cantorial "nusach", but they offer a communal dinner and lunch on Friday night and Saturday afternoon to anyone who comes in. (They do ask for a donation) The synagogue also houses the National Museum of American Jewish History which, while not open on Shabbat, is a great place to visit. Of course, no visit is complete with traveling a half block from the synagogue to see Philly's famed Cracked bell... The Liberty Bell. Again,this is weird for me because as a native Philadelphian, we used to drive past it all the time, and think, wow... look at the nutty tourists.... Now i are one. Of course, more fun is a trip to the Franklin Institute, which has an exhibit on King Tut. How appropriate before Pesach. Or the Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the country.
But the real reason I am going to Philly is for a family Shabbat away. My wife has had a tradition of going away with family members, and reconecting and just spending time together. This year, as a new member of the family I get to come along. Should be (gulp) fun. I'll let you know when I get back.

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