…But my family wanted to send off my oldest brother — the first of my siblings to get married — in a way that found a little more meaning amid the chaos. When my father suggested a few days before the big banquet that we host a sheva brachot [one of “seven blessings”] at a Masbia kosher soup kitchen, it was such an obvious idea that I wish I had thought of it myself. Masbia has a few New York City locations, each designed as a restaurant, to help give its client base dignity. Rather than burn money at an expensive eatery, we could hold the party in a Masbia dining room, bring the regulars in on the fun, offer our guests something different and give a donation that would more than cover the costs.
While planning the soup kitchen affair, I called Alex, the executive director, with a list of concerns. Would wearing suits, a show of wealth, make the regulars feel out of place? Could we take pictures? Would there be enough food for everyone? I didn’t want to get in the way of operations or cause the organization undue expense. And I wanted the regulars to feel a part of it.
He laughed it off and told me not to worry, reminding me that fun was contagious. He suggested that we exercise caution about pictures, though, because the regulars deserve anonymity.
Slowly, more of the regulars started to trickle in, some wearing their Shabbat best on a Tuesday, to be a part of the festive atmosphere. An older woman brought a bouquet of roses, which we proudly displayed on the dais in front of the couple. Some took pictures with their old BlackBerry phones, like proud grandparents.
Alex gave a wonderful introduction to our family and friends about the organization. The meal — four courses, soup included — was delicious.
During the party, I got up to greet a cousin. Then, I turned around to see my seat taken by a stranger. The regulars were starting to sit side by side with us. I was more than happy to grab a seat at a nearby unclothed table [one without a tablecloth], especially because some of our guests were joining the clients in the other part of the eatery. Throughout the evening, the happy couple were approached by dozens of strangers who wished them congratulations.
My brother told me that it was the best of his seven get-togethers. There were no speeches and no pressure. When I looked at pictures of the event, trying to count our family members, I lost track, unable to differentiate between familiar faces and new friends.