May 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Nearly every kiddush has the quintessential kibbitzer, an uber loquacious people-person who will talk to animate and sometimes even inanimate objects. The “kiddush kibbitzer” usually is personality plus, an unstoppable and indefatigable force who can carry on a riveting conversation with the most unsocial among us. The kiddush kibbitzer gregariously patrols the room, actively seeking out visitors, newcomers and the bashert-less.

The kiddush kibbitzer is not a paid or an elected position and the role is not even formally recognized by the congregation. Yet, the kiddush kibbitzer serves one of the most important functions in shul: the kibbitzer is constantly performing the mitzvah of menschlichkeit. When someone is standing by their lonesome at kiddush, the kibbitzer does not internally debate whether it would be socially advantageous to publicly chat with the unaccompanied. The kiddush kibbitzer throws caution (and social climbing) to the wind and selflessly strikes up conversations with those who seem to need it most:

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “I see that you’re wearing a mask, hood and plastic face shield. Is all of that gear Covid-related? Are you immuno-compromised?”

Congregant: “No, not at all. I actually suffer from extreme halitosis.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “How extreme?”

Congregant: “So extreme that my mother refused to breastfeed me.”

The kiddush kibbitzer sometimes will expertly interrogate someone with the intensity and relentlessness of a prosecutorial yenta on steroids:

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Hello there. You look a bit lost.”

Congregant: “Well, we actually are new to the community and this is our first shabbos here in Teaneck. We don’t really know anyone, not a single soul.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “You don’t know anyone? Are you out on parole? Are you in a witness protection program? Were you run out of town? Are you in cherem?

Congregant: “No, we moved here from California. We were living in Malibu.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “You moved from Malibu to Teaneck?… That’s even more suspicious!”

The kiddush kibbitzer will dive into any conversation as fearlessly as a skydiver dives out of an airplane or a trapeze artist dives from a high-wire, except the kibbitzer has no parachute or net. When the kibbitzer fails or misses the mark, the impact can be devastating:

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Are you new to the community? Did you just move in?”

Congregant: “No, I’ve been living here for fifteen years.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Oh my goodness, forgive me. But, I don’t think that we have ever met.”

Congregant: “Think a little harder because we actually had this exact same conversation last year. And you told me that I was unforgettable.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Was that on Purim? Were you wearing a mask at the time? That would explain it.”

Congregant: “No, I was not wearing a mask. Last Purim, I was sitting shiva for my mother. But thanks for bringing that up; it was only one of the most difficult episodes of my life… I must say that if you are the welcoming committee, then it should be disbanded immediately.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Now I’m afraid to say anything to you.”

Congregant: “Good, let’s keep it that way.”

Of course, sometimes the kiddush kibbitzer is simply on autopilot, aimlessly starting up conversations with anyone in earshot:

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Welcome to our community.”

Rabbi: “Thank you. After serving as the rabbi here for thirty years, it’s nice to finally be welcomed.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “I’m so sorry, Rabbi. Please forgive me. I guess it’s just force of habit.”

Rabbi: “No apologies necessary. If I had a shekel for every time I greeted a congregant during the week with “Good Shabbos,” I’d own Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Mamilla Mall.”

Most impressively, the kiddush kibbitzer is the master of the smooth segue and thus is able to expertly transition from topic to topic:

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “What’s your name?”

Congregant: “I’m Noam.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Noam? That’s perfect! We have a yeshiva named Noam. Where do you plan to send your kids to school?”

Congregant: “We only have a 6-month old so we have no idea.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “No idea? That’s perfect! We have a high school called The Idea School. So, if you send your kids there, you will have an idea.”

Congregant: “Right now, I’m just focusing on opening my practice. I’m an ENT… ears, nose and throat.”

Kiddush Kibbitzer: “Ears? That’s perfect! We have a summer camp called Moshava Ba’ir!”

Congregant: “Oy vey.”

Final thought: For a kiddush kibbitzer, small talk can be big business just like, for an oil tanker, shallow water can be deep trouble.


Send comments or criticism to [email protected].

By Jon Kranz

 

 

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