A Coney Island Shabbat



If Shabbat is all about taking a divinely commanded breather from the work-a-day routine to celebrate God’s rest following creation, then surely this past Shabbat was nearly as good as it gets for me and a few of my friends.

We had longstanding plans for a visit to Coney Island (a first for all of us) and so, at the appointed hour, we assembled on a specific corner in midtown’s Herald Square, descended into the subway and boarded a train bound for the southernmost tip of Brooklyn. At the end of the line, we emerged from the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station to late summer sunshine, perfect boardwalk-strolling temperatures, a gentle breeze and the salty sea air–a magnificent day that only God could create.

Hungry from our journey, our first stop was the original Nathan’s for hot dogs and fries.  So smothered in sautéed onions and sauerkraut that they were barely visible in the buns, our dogs were grilled to perfection, and worthy of a photo.  Indeed, before we ate, we snapped pictures of our fare–a motzi and a Shehecheyanu all rolled up into one digital image of gratitude for both the mouth-watering food and the opportunity to enjoy it together in this famous place.

Our hunger satisfied, we continued with a leisurely jaunt through the Astroland Amusement Park, where only one of us was brave enough to ride the Cyclone, but all of us were more than willing to watch other visitors take on such attractions as the Break Dancer, the Tea Cups and the gravity-defying, stomach-churning Top Spin.

A stroll on the boardwalk led us to the pier, where, enveloped on all sides by churning green water, salty sea spray, brilliant sunshine and a refreshing breeze, we–individually and collectively–basked in the beauty of the day, savoring our surroundings and the many blessings in our lives.

As we headed back to the subway, a kosher hot dog vending machine caught our eye.  Because it was Shabbat, though, the machine’s electronic display pad indicated that it was “Temporarily out of service.”  Its service status mattered not at all to us, however; we continued to joyously celebrate Shabbat and, in our own way, to make it holy.

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JanetheWriter

About JanetheWriter

JanetheWriter writes and edits for the Union for Reform Judaism. She recently completed a master's degree in public administration (MPA) at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. When she's not writing and editing, JanetheWriter enjoys many of the usual pastimes of New Yorkers including hanging with friends, poking around the city, people watching, going to the movies, visiting museums, browsing in bookstores, dining out, and perusing the Sunday paper. She’s a regular worshipper at the Shabbat minyan at Temple Shaaray Tefila, New York, NY, where she also serves on several committees. Additional writings can be seen on her blog, JanetheWriter Writes.

4 Responses to “A Coney Island Shabbat”

  1. avatar

    I think that stories like this indicate the continued resistance to efforts at greater observance and respect for the mesorah within Reform Judaism. It also smacks of a smugness that explains to me why Jewish unity remains such a distant dream. The author here indicates her pride at violating the Shabbat and Kashrut all at once. I can understand driving to services, but taking the subway to go to an amusement park? Shabbat is intended to be a time of spiritual rejuvenation and a time to reconnect with family, friends, oneself, klal yisroel, and most importantly, Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu. I am from Brooklyn and still live here- how is going to Astroland even within the spirit of Shabbat, let alone the requirements of halacha? Shabbat should be a time for tefillah, talmud torah, rest, and leisurely activities that do not entail a lengthy trip or commercial transactions. What about kiddush? What about keeping the Shabbat in the way our ancestors have for millennia? What about eating kosher food on the Shabbat, at least?
    I can understand that these individuals may not come from backgrounds where Shabbat, Kashrut and mitzvos were integral, but I urge every Jew that they too can keep shabbos. You don’t have to be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or anything- torah is the heritage of the entire kehillas yaakov. Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu- How great is our lot and our inheritance as the bnei yisroel! I say to the author of this article- you too can keep shabbos! Start little by little, adding on additional observances as the weeks go on, and eventually, you will be shomer shabbos. Have kiddush lunch on Saturday afternoons. Avoid going to stores and restaurants. Don’t carry cash. Pray Minchah and enjoy a seudah shelishit. Consult with your local rabbi. There are also many books on the Lamed Tet melachos and the other observances of Shabbos Ha Kodesh. Be the change.

  2. avatar

    According to your name, R’ Daniel, God is your judge — but did She appoint you to judge the rest of us?
    I note that you are belatedly commenting on a post that’s almost nine months old — and if you will read forward on the blog, you’ll note that this particular blogger demonstrates a strong sense of Jewish values in everything she writes (and does).
    Is her recent post about joining a synagogue an example of mitzvah goreret mitzvah (one mitzvah leads to another)? You may construe it that way, but I believe that many people eschew observing Shabbat at all because they are put off by the stringencies that you would push on all of us — while others of us find our own ways of finding menucha and oneg (rest and joy).
    Jane, the next time you go to an amusement park on Shabbat, I ask only that you not ride the merrygoround — we are commanded not to have our horses working on Shabbat!

  3. avatar

    Larry,
    I, too, am seeing the comments from R’ Daniel just now, and I thank you for your response to him.
    In fact, as you correctly note and as I tried to convey in the post, that wonderful day in Coney Island embodied for me exactly what Shabbat is all about: awareness of God, blessings, time with friends, rest and joy. Indeed, that particular day had it all, and I always remember it as a most treasured Shabbat.
    I certainly meant no offense to those who choose to observe Shabbat in ways different than my own. As a Refom Jew, however, I have no desire to keep Shabbat in the way our ancestors did. Rather, I choose to observe the day in ways that are personally meaningful to me (and vary from week to week). Regardless of whether or not my choices conform to the rigors of halacha, they should be respected.
    Lastly, no worries about the merry-go-round. There’s no way I’d let my horse work on Shabbat! :)

  4. avatar

    I would be a bit more cautious than R’ Daniel in discussing this topic, since if by his own reasoning one need not be Orthodox or even Conservative, why bother urging Jews from less Ortho backgrounds to tack on the extra-Tanakh additions introduced by the Rabbis? For example, why burden oneself with a Minha service, 3 “obligatory” meals and even Qiddush, never mind the Rabbinic life hallmark of totally separating meat and dairy (or even abstaining from anything even remotely smacking of legumes on Pesah for that matter if you happen to be Ashkenazic)? None of these is demanded except in the so-called Oral Torah (or even subsequently), whatever it happens to be exactly (and opinions vary widely even among the Orthos…). So to some extent I would agree with the article’s author that keeping the Shabbat the way many but not all of our ancestors — since the Chinese Jews, some Indian Jews, the Ethiopian Jews and the Qaraites have not taken on all features of Rabbinic Shabbat observance — have for millennia is unimportant.
    So I tell Jews like R’ Daniel to *try* to temperate their enthusiasm by being factual in regards to what the true Torah demands. And if you encourage other Jews to avoid Melakha, don’t settle for the inadequate Lamed Tet definition that allows for loopholes that have already been created to enable Jews to circumvent the prohibitions on performing any sort of work on Shabbat, e.g. performing security guard duty.

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