I am a little apprehensive when asked to show ID before being allowed in the door, but that hyper-paranoid-minority-mom response melts instantly once I walk inside the Jewish Community Center for its annual Apples and Honey celebration. I am greeted by a nice lady sitting behind a huge pile of apples. She hands each of us an apple slice drizzled with honey, smiling, “Have a sweet new year!”
I lose the younger children instantly to the panoply of bouncy houses, face painting, and clowns making balloon animals. When they reemerge, we move around the different craft tables, decorating a honey-cup plate with paper die cuts of the Torah and Star of David, frosting bee- and apple-shaped cookies, filling a tube with colored sugar. Eight-year-old Niu Niu braids a miniature challah to bake once she gets home. Four-year-old Little Brother watches with rapt fascination the rabbi with the power sander and drill making shofars out of real rams’ horns. Several burly bearded men show off how loudly they can trumpet. Then the rabbi hands Little Brother a shofar of his own to try, and Little Brother is proud of the wobbly squeak he manages.
The older children browse the information booths from all the different Jewish college and community groups and pick up their share of imprinted Frisbees, pens, color-changing plastic beer mugs, and too many free samples of kosher cakes and pastries. They finger the Judaica jewelry for sale, and I browse through the Jewish children’s picture books. I am impressed by the range of people helping today–from high school and college students to older aunts and uncles. All corners of the community are here.
We always make a point to try whatever the specialty is, and on a long table piled high with round challahs–round to show unity and wholeness in the coming year–we are drawn to the last remaining chocolate ring (if they are nearly sold out, there must be a reason). It’s a giant bread frosted and layered with chocolate–sort of a cross between a doughnut, a chocolate croissant, and a seven-layer chocolate cake. To die for. We buy one challah to take home, too.
As we walk out of the building, I pick up a free coloring book that explains each of the Jewish holidays of the season–Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, and Simchas Torah. Little Brother works on this coloring book for days, keeping the warmth of this community celebration with us awhile longer. When he overhears Jewish neighbors say something about apples and honey, he volunteers, “I know about that. I was there.”
The JCC Apples and Honey returns on Sunday, September 13.