I was not prepared to explain to a Macomb County District Court clerk the finer points of observing Jewish holidays for one day or two, albeit starting the night before. Interpet “not prepared” as you see fit — I guess that’s why they call it practice (Judaism and Law).
Just days later, I identified the key legal precedent, at least in this jurisdiction, for why we gather on consecutive nights with most of the same people to eat most of the same brisket:
Frankie Paul & His Orchestra
Why the second night? Because on the second night, the conversation wanders from the evening’s desserts…
…to all that dessert everyone baked because the Needle Test said we were having another boy and then came Phoebe…
…to the surplus desserts we donated to the Detroit City Football Club after Judah’s bar mitzvah and whether professional soccer players prefer brownies or rice krispie treats…
…to the last family bar mitzvah celebrated in Detroit proper, when young Jack Rosenzweig became a man:
On October 17, 1953, following services at Congregation Beth Abraham, Mr. and Mrs. Rosenzweig hosted a reception at their home, 18315 Ardmore Street, a few blocks from M-10 (a few years before it was built, which was a few decades before it was named after Mayor Lodge).
Built just five years earlier, the brick home was 948 square feet with one bathroom. In order to manage the volume of guests, they invited different groups at different times spread over the course of the day. The plan worked in terms of staggered arrivals, but most attendees declined to depart at their designated time, excited as they were to see the new shift of partygoers show up.
This was not the first time any of us had heard the story of Papa’s bar mitzvah. Telling stories everyone has heard before is what sustains us as a people and spares us Detroit sports debates. Family and friends — his parents’ friends, not his — filled every corner of the house and spilled out onto the lawn on that unseasonably warm day.
What I didn’t know, until five layers into the seven layer cake, was that the real hero of the day was not the young many who would go on to become pater familias presiding over seders some 70 years later — but rather Frank the Accordion Player.
Frankie Paul and his Accordion regaled the guests with one-man-band renditions of the standards, a few Yiddish songs and whatever the over-capacity crowd requested to sing along to. It made a big impression on everyone and paid off for Frankie and his accordion. Jack’s bar mitzvah may have been the Italian-American musician's first Jewish gig — "I still don't know where my mom found her" — but it would be far from his last.
After headlining the basement of 18315 Ardmore Street, Frankie and his accordion became Frank Paul & His Orchestra, an ensemble that provided the soundtrack to countless celebrations at the Mayfair Ballroom on Dexter, Holiday Manor on Wyoming, The Raleigh House in Southfield and beyond — including Jack’s cousin Debbie Schram’s wedding, which I know because no one can remember Frank’s last name until we call Cousin Debbie to confirm, at which point we find over 500 appearances in the Jewish News Archive from 1955:
Hanukah Good Cheer
Frank Paul & His Orchestra
Good Music for Your Parties
Generation to Generation
it's always Frank Paul and his music
Solos, combos or orchestra
I could not reach Frank Paul at either of those phone numbers, but if I could, I would say thank you. Thank you, Frankie, for reminding us why Jewish holidays command us to come together for a second night. And Phoebe’s bar mitzvah is coming up if you are interested in putting the band back together.