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Penny & Co. Events Adjusts to Wartime in Israel

(l-r): Ely Katz, Penny Rabinowitz and vendors at the bat mitzvah party for girls from Sderot.

October 22, 2023 should have been a big day for Penny Rabinowitz and her event planning business, Penny & Co. Events in Israel. A lovely young couple was supposed to get married. Their parents were flying in from the states, along with many friends and family members. It was going to be gorgeous, as all Penny’s events are. But then October 7 happened. The wedding was canceled; the groom had to fight for his country instead of starting a new life under the chuppah.

Since October 7, celebrations have been downsized, canceled or moved. Penny’s specialty is producing large, elegant custom American style weddings in Israel, with guests flying in from all over the world for celebrations. After October 7, the planes stopped coming, but Penny has kept going, arranging smaller, more intimate celebrations and volunteering where her creativity and style bring joy to people who sorely need it. With the ease of travel and communications, she is also planning events in the U.S.

The wedding that was supposed to take place in October was finally held in December. “The parents had to be willing to make the wedding and accept that most relatives wouldn’t want to fly in,” said Penny. “We weren’t sure until the last minute that the groom was going to get out of the army. But he did and it was beautiful. It was so leibadik and full of patriotism!”

Balloon maker at the bat mitzvah party.

Life is going on in Israel, as everyone who has gone to visit knows. There is some outward normalcy: most shops are open, people are going about their days. There are visitors coming on missions, but no influx of tourists. Weddings are continuing, but conducted around the bride’s or groom’s army service, and typically on a smaller scale. “Even if they’re fighting, or doing other jobs in the army, the weddings are taking place, sometimes even on the base,” said Penny. “These couples are eager to get married and build their lives together. To prove to our enemies that we will continue to grow families and grow as a nation! They killed so many of us and this is our answer to them!” Many of the celebrations with a mix of Israeli and American families are taking place in the States.

Penny has devoted much of her time to volunteering and chesed activities. One of the most meaningful and heartfelt celebrations during these difficult times was a bat mitzvah party for girls from Sderot now living temporarily in Jerusalem hotels. Ely Katz, CEO of Symphonia Productions, who lives in Israel and is originally from Teaneck, produced the party at one of the hotels, funded by the group “Thank You Hashem” based in Long Island. Penny arranged
the décor, brought in some vendors and got additional sponsors.

Setting up for the party in a hotel where many families are living due to the war was a different kind of experience. “Usually you go to these hotels and it’s quiet; there’s not a lot going on,” Penny said. “But this hotel was full of kids and toys with wheels. The children looked happy in their new temporary environment but I think the parents are having a much harder time. They’re all sleeping in the same room.” Seeing families trying to live in such an unnatural way deeply affected Penny. “I felt like I was doing something to help,” she said. She did her part in planning the party with her usual full speed ahead devotion. “I hired a balloon person and I designed what they did with the balloons. I brought flowers to liven it up a little more. It wasn’t like what I do for weddings at all. It was appropriate for a bat mitzvah. And I had a huge supply of giveaways from parties I’ve done in the past that I brought for the girls. There was a DJ motivator from America who was incredible; I don’t think the girls had ever seen anything like that before. They were so happy to get prizes and dance and sing.”

Penny & Co. Events gave the bat mitzvah party a festive look.

Once Penny gets her creative juices flowing, she likes to make things happen. She wanted to do a flower wreath making workshop for girls at the bat mitzvah so she made a Facebook post asking for sponsors. Several families from Englewood, where Penny lived before making aliyah, funded the project. Debbie Siegler, one of the sponsors, had plans to come to Israel and made it in time to attend the party. “We were coming to visit our son for a family weekend at his yeshiva, and to volunteer,” she explained. “Because we were there, we were able to attend the bat mitzvah. It was incredible. The hotel was full of displaced people. On the floor where the ballroom was, there were activities in the hallway and the mothers were so appreciative. When you walked in, the table was set up for the girls to make their own flower crowns. Inside, the room looked like any other bat mitzvah party here. Shimi Adar, a well- known dance motivator in the frum world, had the girls dancing away. The girls were so happy; it was pure joy.”

There is a postscript to the Sieglers’ relationship with Penny & Co. Events and the bat mitzvah event in Israel. In December, Penny was the wedding planner for the Siegler’s daughter’s wedding in the U.S. “Penny is the best, she’s amazing,” said Debbie. “The distance (with Penny living in Israel) didn’t make any difference. She was easily available for the months and weeks leading up to the wedding. She answered questions, worked with the vendors and helped with the floral design. She helped us make Tehillim cards that we gave to people who walked in to the chuppah, to have the hostages in their thoughts and prayers.” One of the kallah’s sisters had a dress for the event that was in a photo posted on Instagram. Someone who saw the photo liked the dress so much, she contacted the Sieglers and asked to borrow it. She came to try on the dress and bought it. Debbie’s two teenage daughters used the money to buy presents to bring to the Sderot bat mitzvah girls in Israel.

A wedding rescheduled from October to December when the groom could leave his army base.

When the war started, Penny posted on social media that if anyone was downsizing their wedding due to the war and needed someone to help, she was available and would do it at cost. Several families responded. “One wedding I did turned out that I knew the people, and I ended up knowing the house where they had the wedding; it belonged to a friend from Englewood. It was a nice, small, intimate wedding. It was beautiful. I did all the flowers and they really appreciated it.”

Penny’s calendar is starting to fill up with events in Israel in the near future. She has one in May and was just hired by a family from Dallas coming with a big group for a multi-day bar mitzvah in December. She is hopeful that by then, people will once again be flying to Israel for vacations and smachot. She is visiting Englewood now for a few weeks, and talking to people about planning their events here. If you would like help planning an upcoming simcha in the New Jersey/New York area or in Israel, reach out to Penny Rabinowitz at [email protected].

The happy couple at their rescheduled wedding.
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