Jewish Journal: On Sunday, I Witnessed An Actual Jewish Event

November 19, 2020

This article was originally published in the Jewish Journal on November 17. 2020.

By David Suissa

This is not a typo. I went to a Jewish event on Sunday, with real people, real tables, real honorees, live music — the works. Two full hours without Zoom.

Remember those ancient things? Real Jewish events? Where a whole bunch of people gather to raise money for a good cause? And then rush out to be first in line at the valet parking?

We used to have hundreds of those. If you were wired into the community, you probably got about five invitations a week. Well, you know where this is going: Since the coronavirus hit us earlier this year, all of those events went into the cancel file. Or, I should say, the Zoom file.

You can imagine my anticipation on Sunday when I pulled up at the valet parking of the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. I was invited to a trustee luncheon organized by AISH Los Angeles, the Jewish outreach organization. The honorees were Gila and Adam Milstein. The theme was “Be the Light.”

I don’t mind being a light, but the real question on my mind was, Will I be safe?

That answer came quickly. First, they had golf carts take you up a hill to a wide outdoor space. Everyone wore masks. There was no cocktail hour. Tables were far apart. Some tables were only for two; other tables had two or three friendly couples, what is now called a “pod.” Just as in restaurants, masks were not required while sitting and eating.

If you saw someone you wanted to schmooze with, you put on your mask and walked over. Most people stayed at their tables. All food was served by staff wearing gloves and masks. I was told by organizers that 140 people attended.

There were several video screens throughout the space for the usual promo videos as well as a live speaker from Jerusalem.

Because the event was outdoors, it helped that there was a good sound system, both for the music and the speakers. The music was provided by a one-man band with a sweet voice and a keyboard that could probably play 100 instruments.

IN PANDEMIC TIMES, SAFE, LIVE EVENTS MAY NOT LOOK LIKE THE OLD ONES, BUT THEY ARE DOABLE.

The COVID-19 precautions ensured that no one would mistake this for a “regular” event from the pre-virus days. But there were enough familiar elements to trigger your nostalgia for the old days: the people, the music, the promotion of a cause, the long speeches. What stood out most, of course, is that it wasn’t on Zoom, which left me with this impression: In pandemic times, safe, live events may not look like the old ones, but they are doable.

My nostalgia really kicked in when I saw some people rush to give their tickets to the valet parking.