When I moved here from Ohio 30 years ago, the first friend I made was Yael, the daughter of a rabbi from Israel. She had grown up immersed in Judaism's rituals, but left orthodoxy behind when she came to Los Angeles, married a businessman and settled in suburbia.
Still, every fall, she would erect a sukkah (a makeshift shelter with wooden posts, canvas walls and leafy roof) next to the swimming pool in her backyard. For seven days, her family would eat every meal inside that shelter, in observance of the holiday Sukkot, considered in the Jewish faith "the season of our rejoicing."
So I felt blessed this week by an unexpected invitation to join a family celebrating Sukkot.
Rachel Malkin's offer was a "thank you," she said, for my Tuesday column about a group of women who repaired the crumbling home of an elderly, disabled woman and her seven adopted children.
Their story was "delightfully inspiring," she said. Malkin's story would inspire me, as well.
At this point, Banks provides a brief description of the holiday of Sukkot, and goes on to note
It's a holiday that passes unnoticed by non-Jews in most parts of this city, where there are no decorations or market specials. But in the Fairfax district (the heart of the Orthodox Jewish population in Los Angeles) the celebration is hard to miss.
At night, brightly lit sukkahs shine from driveways and front lawns, and families led by men in black suits and broad-brimmed hats crowd the sidewalks outside homes and synagogues.
I visited Malkin's home on Wednesday afternoon as she wrapped up her holiday preparations. She had jotted down a Sukkot primer on the back of an envelope for me. We talked on her patio shelter, fashioned from wooden blinds and a canopy of eucalyptus branches.
"We build a sukkah and 'dwell' in it 7 days," she had written. "It is a mitzvah to say the bracha 'blessing'â¦" She read aloud to me from the Machzor, the Sukkot prayer manual, tracing the Hebrew words with her finger as I followed. She had downloaded a worship schedule from a local rabbi for me and saved an advertisement for a "High End Complete Kosher Sukkah, from $399, best price in town."
She wanted me to understand the holiday, its context and conventions.
I wanted to understand Malkin, a mercurial actress now consigned by her own beliefs to covered hair and modest dress.
The rest of the article is concerned with Malkin's story, and you can read the article in its entirety by clicking here to head over to the LA Times website. And tell them that Congregation Adas Emuno sent you! Oh, and chag sameach!