Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Accidental Hostess

Chany Rosengarten

It started with one secular student whom her husband met in the Rebbe’s anteroom. It snowballed into a kiruv initiative that has touched thousands of lives.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Walking up the wooden, slatted stairs to the Baum* home, you smell Shabbos even if you aren’t aware of its imminent arrival. A thick chicken soup is bubbling on the stove next to a tall pot stacked with saucy ribs. On the opposite counter, a large, bathtub-like Crock-Pot puffs that bean-potato-meat aroma that we’ve all come to love. On the floor is a delivery from the local grocery; cases of chips, sodas, plastic goods, and bags and bags of chocolate chips, all waiting to be put to use.

It’s a regular Thursday night at the Baum home.

“I used to fret when my baalei teshuvah walked in on Thursday night,” admits Leah Baum. “I wanted them to arrive an hour before Shabbos, when the table was set, the Shabbos clothes were donned, and the house looking like we were ready to greet the Shabbos Queen with grace.”

But her company enjoyed coming precisely when the challah dough was rising. The guests wanted to be there when the pile of Costco’s best fresh fruit arrived in stunning arrays and were laid on the counter. They wanted to be part of the “Yanky, did you come out of the bath yet? Shlomo, it’s your turn now” cheerleading.

“I learned a lot about hosting. I came to understand the benefit of showing baalei teshuvah the regular hectic parts of our lives, and not just times we like to showcase, like Friday night. They get to see behind the scenes: How much food does a family need for Shabbos? How does a family juggle five children under the age of ten? Who prepares the Shabbos candles; how much does the husband participate in domestic matters; how do you cook ten courses in one day; what do you do after Havdalah; are frum families really normal? These are all important questions for a person who has never lived this life. I’m happy to let people find out.”

Leah used to be afraid to let people see her children fight. Today she knows it’s perfectly okay to be comfortable and relaxed. Yes, her children squabble. Yes, she takes time out for herself after a taxing Shabbos. Yes, her house looks the part when she has just made twenty-two dozen chocolate-chip cookies, brownies, potato kugels, cabbage salad, tomato dip, teriyaki salmon, gefilte fish, challos, chicken, farfel, meat, pecan pie … and she still has a couple of recipes lined up on the counter. It’s all part of the waxing and waning of life. A mess happens, you clean it up. A fight erupts, you forgive each other. A shidduch doesn’t work out, and life moves on.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"