535 men attended Beth Sholom Congregation’s 6th annual “Guys’ Night Out and Seder Summit.”
Photo by Eric Silberg
Booze and ribs are not the usual traditional fare served at a synagogue — but the Beth Sholom Congregation hosted its 6th annual “Guys’ Night Out and Seder Summit” on Sunday, March 11 — and 535 men were overjoyed to gorge on delectable food and drink at the most-loved event of the year. Not only did they devour their favorite comfort foods — but each had the opportunity to sample scotch from a selection of distilleries, schmooze with other men, give back to their community and share in an evening of learning how to celebrate Passover in a more meaningful way.
The men come from Maryland, Virginia, D.C. — and even further away. Some attended with their sons, some came as three-generation attendees (father, son and grandson) and others come to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
“It is my fifth time and what draws me back each year are several things,” said Ken Berman, “not just the camaraderie, but the chance to see friends, acquaintances, and even people who I come across only occasionally, in business or in other areas, in a relaxed and informal setting. This just doesn’t happen in the rush of everyday life. Everyone in the room is relaxed and the conversations that occur are indeed special.”
Stuart Bassin said, “Event Chairman Mark Eidelman has created a brotherhood that goes across synagogues, nationalities and age groups. It is just a bunch of guys bonding with no judgment and with open arms. I am not a member of Beth Sholom but I absolutely feel at home at this event.”
This year’s summit honored Ambassador Manuel Espina from Guatemala and Ambassador Marlon Tabora from Honduras as well as seven military attaches from the Israeli Embassy. The ambassadors were pleased to reiterate their longtime support and partnerships with both the State of Israel as well as the United States. The evening also afforded the men to “give back” by bringing gently-used sports coats and suits for The Wider Circle, providing used sports equipment for Leveling the Playing Field and donating to the Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA) for the Maot Chitim mission to make certain all families can celebrate Passover in a meaningful way.
In the spirit of the Olympics, the group also will make a donation to the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled, helping Israeli children who are physically disabled. Berman said, “I love the fact that we raise so much for several worthy charities, honor those who have been friends of and/or defend Israel, and learn about the holiday of Passover in such a wonderful setting.”
The host for the evening was Rabbi Nissan Antine of the Beth Sholom Congregation. He said, “This event is an amazing opportunity for men to come together and rethink their values, expand their Jewish knowledge and practices and gain some new ideas concerning their Passover Seder. I will be discussing how to make this important holiday meaningful to them as well as to their families. Seder is a ‘home holiday.’ The primary mitzvah is to teach your children about the Passover story — the story of our people and their values. We were slaves in Egypt and now God has set us free. The Seder helps to make us feel like we are there and to understand what Jews have gone through. We eat the matzah, the bread of slavery and taste the bitter root so we know what it tastes like and feels like.
“The specific message is that children should be able to look to their parents as role models — not teachers — but people who are living their values — and living life as they want their children to see it lived. We can’t ask kids to ‘do as we say and not as we do’ — we have to ask them to do what we do. We need to teach them that acts of kindness are important — as important as living life with strong values.”
Those who listened to his message were inspired to make their Passover Seders more meaningful for their families. Bassin said, “My personal take-away from this event is that it is the enjoyment of family and inquisitive learning, not rigid adherence to specific language and custom, that makes the Passover holiday a deep and cherished personal experience.”
Jules Polonetsky said, “Rabbi Antine's presentation at the end of the evening is what sticks with me. I have attended for a few years, and each year I have something to take away that adds to my Passover Seder. This year the message I took with me is to really focus beyond the details of the text and to deliver on the priority goals of the Seder, such as actions that really get children to ask questions and engage with the issues of Passover.”
And Berman said, “Rabbi Antine’s speech was especially enlightening as to putting to rest the myth that every word of the Haggadah (story told at the Seder) does not have to be recited. His statement that there are certain things which are required but every word and (approximately) all 50 pages do not have to be read. This is something that I imagine many people did not realize. The real purpose of the Seder is to have the children ask questions. Now my dilemma is whether I share that information with my family ….”
Leaving the event also had its reward as Berman explains, “In addition to bumping into people that you have not seen in a while, the best part of the evening is when you remember that you ordered a ‘to go’ bag and you get to also take home the best beef ribs, spicy hot dogs, and coleslaw south of Brooklyn.”