By Phyllis J. Lubin
Sometimes you just need a break. Sometimes you just want to get away. This time of year, my husband and I try to take a few days for ourselves. A few days to replenish our minds and bodies with some rest and relaxation.
I tried to find a place that would be warm and relatively close by, somewhere we hadn’t been before. The added ingredient: it needed to be a place that offered daily minyanim and that would have a women’s section and be amenable to a woman reciting Kaddish. I had my work cut out for me. Not every resort destination offers daily minyanim in off seasons. Or they might offer a daily minyan for Shacharit, but Minchah/Maariv was not guaranteed.
And so we turned to the old reliable fallback: South Florida—specifically, Miami Beach. I e‑mailed Rabbi Bixon of Beth Israel Congregation and explained my situation to him. He assured me that there would be a mechitzah prepared for me in the beit midrash where the services are conducted during the week and guaranteed that there would always be someone in the men’s section saying Kaddish at any minyan we chose to go to in the morning so that I could join in.
To make things different, we chose to stay at a place we had never stayed before: the Fontainebleau Hotel. Don’t get me wrong; I had seen it before. I had even been in it a number of times, but never as a hotel guest. We decided to finally throw caution to the wind and splurge—within reason. We chose a bay-view room with a balcony, and the front desk was nice enough to find us a room with a view of both the bay and the ocean at no added cost. The hotel is extremely large and our room was, unfortunately, in a building relatively far from the hub of things, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless, with the added bonus of some extra exercise.
While on vacation I can never totally relax. I’m always trying to schedule activities into our restful days. I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that this time. I promised myself that we would just take these four days to just relax. But I don’t do well with too much time on my hands, and I never want to miss out on an activity!
And so on our first full day in Florida, after taking in some relaxation at the pool and the beach, we worked in a Segway tour around Fort Lauderdale (www.segwayfortlauderdale.com) in the afternoon. We had already dabbled on Segways when we were on vacation in California a few years ago, so it was time to try it again. We toured around a beautiful area chock-full of lovely homes owned by many famous sports stars (of special interest to my husband). Jeff, our tour guide, was informative and patient with my fears Segwaying down a bridge ramp.
We hadn’t anticipated so much traffic from Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale. And so, to be on the safe side, we called ahead to the Young Israel of Hollywood–Ft. Lauderdale and found out that they were having a Minchah/Maariv minyan at a perfect moment—in the main shul, with a beautiful mechitzah. I was even fortunate to share the women’s section with two other lovely women, one saying Kaddish too for a yahrzeit and one just there to daven Minchah. We managed to find a kosher Chinese restaurant a few blocks from there.
Tuesday morning we decided to take a bike ride. Leib had heard about renting bikes in Miami Beach through Citi Bike Miami, and that was chosen to be the activity of the day. And so we were off on our bikes to check out South Beach. I would guestimate about 6 miles of biking in total, along the lovely Miami Beach boardwalk and through the streets of Miami. In between we docked our bikes and walked Lincoln Road, taking in some of the charm of South Beach. We also checked out some Miami Beach pizza along 41st Street.
Between our Segway trip on Monday and our biking on Tuesday, we were exhausted!
Wednesday came and on my itinerary was a visit to the Fruit and Spice Farm in Homestead. About an hour away in our trusty rental car, I kept reassuring Leib that it would be a perfect restful outing. Online there was not one bad review. Everyone boasted about all the free fruits they were able to eat from the lavish produce in the park. So we didn’t bring lunch along, thinking that we would be able to partake of all the exotic fruits on the farm. But although the farm was indeed beautiful, because of Hurricane Irma there was virtually no fruit to be found. Yet it was interesting seeing how the trees knocked over by the storm were stood back up, and our guide was positive that the produce would again be lavish this time next year.
Our days away were idyllic. Each morning we would join the crew at Beth Israel for their 7 a.m. minyan, followed by a daily breakfast at the local kosher Dunkin’ Donuts. And each evening was spent again at Beth Israel for the 6:30 Minchah/Maariv, followed by a different restaurant experience nightly for dinner. It was certainly enjoyable not worrying about what to prepare for any meals each day.
We had our time away, but as always we are happy to be home!
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.