When we first arrived in CA for the Dec holidays it was cold and rainy. So we went to several movies, including “True Grit” and “The King’s Speech,” both of which were excellent. I also spent a lot of time with my son bonding and buying electronic equipment. For the first Shabbat dinner we were invited to the home/shool of the local Tri-Valley area Chabad Rabbi Rayleigh Resnick, who is an extremely warm, larger than life, charismatic personality who is friendly with Simon. He is so different from the usual haredi people one meets in Israel, who are cold to Jews of any persuasion other than their own and do not regard Reform Jews as genuine Jews. Rayleigh follows the Chabad dictum that is inclusive of all Jews. We greatly enjoyed the genuine hospitality and ample food that they provided and it was a special Shabbat to remember.
As we were arriving at the dock in LA port (San Pedro) to take the cruise, I saw a tall American guy standing in the middle with rolled up sleeves and a blue tie and he looked like an official, so I asked him for directions, where to take our luggage? He turned out not to be an official, but he asked us where we were from, and when we said Israel, he started burbling about how great Israel was. Then he asked me if I would help him, see he wanted to send a floral bouquet to his girl friend on board the ship, but he was not allowed to, so could he send it to us, if we gave him our cabin number, and then we could transfer it to her. Sounded very suspicious to me, so I said “sorry, but no.” Naomi was surprised that I wouldn’t do a favor for such an obviously nice, friendly guy. But, the whole thing seemed strange, and I didn’t want to get involved in drug smuggling.
When we got to Mazatlan, as we were leaving the ship another friendly laid-back American appeared next to us, who I thought had come off the ship, but maybe not, and he offered to share a taxi ride into the old part of town, which he said he knew very well. We agreed and soon we were speeding into the old town. When we got there we got off by the big covered market, and although I paid, it seemed to me that he didn’t pay, but pretended to. Then he said, ‘wait here a minute I have to do an errand, but I’ll be back.’ Once he had gone I said to Naomi “there’s no way we are waiting for him, let’s go” and we walked straight thru the market and out the other side. Nearby was the Cathedral so we went in there and then walked a while to the coast and then took a taxi to the “Golden zone” which was a tourist trap. I have no idea if this second guy was for real but I didn’t trust him. Mazatlan is notorious for drug smuggling, as the largest city in the State of Sonora, which is run by gangs of “Sonora cowboys.” Unlike other Mexicans they don’t wear sombreros, but cowboy hats, and they are currently waging a war against other drug gangs for control of the Mexican-US border area. I heard that cruise ships have stopped going there recently because of shootings.
Of course, the main reason we went to California in the winter was for the batmitzvah of our grand-daughter Shoshana. After the cruise and a stay with friends in LA, we went back to Livermore in the Bay area for the festive weekend. We had a great time, the whole affair was so well organized, mainly by our daughter-in-law Sharon (Simon helped and paid the bills). On Shabbat, Shoshana read the whole Torah portion in Beth Emek Synagogue, and she was perfect, as you might expect since her mother is an expert in teaching the trope. I should note that in Reform Judaism no distinction is made beween boys and girls and so she did her Torah reading at age 13. In the Orthodox Jewish tradition girls are batmitzvah at age 12, and are not allowed to read the Torah, but read a short piece from the women’s gallery and then have a small party. Quite a difference. After the ceremony there was a wonderful luncheon, and then in the evening an amazing party. There will be postings of the photos from these events, so I will pass them on later. All I can say is that it was a privilege to be there and to share this unique event with family and friends.