November 06, 2011
If it’s Yom Kipppur, it Must be Antwerp
By Phyllis Koegel
Have you ever woken up in a panic wondering where you are and what day it is? You wake up and frantically look around at your surroundings trying to remember where you are and what you’re doing there – as if you should really be somewhere else!
October was a month like that for me. I know that the High Holidays can be stressful and a blur for many people, but compound that with traveling, both for business and pleasure, and you can find yourself completely disoriented.
I know, I know, I should be thankful that my job at OU Kosher as Marketing Director, allows me the opportunity to travel for work, attending both national and international food shows meeting potential clients, but indulge me as I share with you my whirlwind month-long adventure of traveling and preparations.
The planning and the packing were overwhelming! I began by emptying my entire closet on my bed trying to decide what I might need for every possible situation, including weather changes, holidays, work and leisure. My first stop would be Miami for Rosh Hashana, where I would visit with my children and grandchildren. Of course, in New York it was a beautiful 70 degrees so I packed my light Yom Tov clothes. Well wouldn’t you know it, the weather was 90 degrees all three days in Miami and walking to shul felt like a steambath. Thank goodness I brought two summer outfits, but who wants to arrive in shul on Rosh Hashana looking like a wet rag. I was grateful for the beginning of the New Year, but I was even more grateful for air conditioning.
From Miami, I flew home to New York for two days, giving me enough time to finish packing for my next trip to Belgium. I would be spending Yom Kippur, on Shabbat, in Antwerp as my business meetings were scheduled for the day after Yom Kippur in Cologne, Germany. Belgium in October was gray, cloudy and rainy. I arrived early in the morning the day before Erev Yom Kippur giving me just enough time to adjust to the time difference and scurrying to find a warmer coat than the one I’d brought from home. Everyone told me to layer clothing, but sometimes you just need a coat to keep you warm. I know what you’re thinking, any excuse to shop, but honestly, I was cold! Yom Kippur was rainy and gray, but the famous Chazan Miller of the Van der Ness shul, was extremely inspiring and moving.
Sunday arrived way too fast, and I was off to Germany, with my colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Hollander, who is based in Antwerp. We spent three days walking miles and miles of the world’s largest specialty food show, Anuga. This show was comprised of food and ingredient manufacturers from all over the world seeking distribution for their products. Many were already OU clients, and we were happy to meet with them to make sure their kosher program was running smoothly. But there were many manufacturers interested in meeting with us to discuss obtaining the OU symbol for their products. As always, companies are looking to expand their market share, and what better way to do so, than by having the world’s most recognized and accepted kosher symbol proudly displayed on their product!
Our advanced technology, OU Direct, allows companies to access everything they need online 24/7. Demonstrating this software was most effective in helping the companies realize their goals of ensuring an efficient kosher program and having the world’s leading kosher symbol to enhance the marketability of their products.
After three days in Germany, exhausted, but productive I was on to my final destination for Sukkot, Israel. My flight left Cologne at 10 p.m. and I arrived tired but happy in Tel Aviv at 2:30 a.m. I spent my three-and-a-half hours dozing in a chair waiting for my next flight. I had to change terminals to catch my 6 a.m. flight to Eilat, where I was meeting my relatives to celebrate the first days of the chag. Disoriented, weary and hungry, I took a cab from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 to meet my family and flight.
Paradise does not even begin to describe my stay in Eilat, in yet a third hotel on my trip thus far. The first night, I woke up abruptly at 1 a.m. and thought I was at home and that it was time to go to work. I jumped up and looked around realizing it was Sukkot and I was in Eilat and that I could happily go back to sleep. This is what happens when you are sleep deprived and time zone challenged. I had to tell myself that I was in Eilat and that it was not a work day, but Sukkot. The sun, the sea, the stars at night, I was truly in heaven after my busy work week in Germany. Enjoying the chag, my family and relaxation were definitely what I needed and exactly what I experienced.
From Eilat I traveled to Jerusalem on Chol Hamoed for the last leg of my three-week journey. What can I say, there is truly no place on earth like Jerusalem. The last days of Sukkot were spent with family and friends enjoying the spirituality of celebrating the chag at the Kotel and in Jerusalem.
I’m finally back home in my own bed, missing Israel, but enjoying the peace and tranquility of being home, happy not to be living out of a suitcase anymore, and waking up knowing exactly where I am, I’m home……..until my next trip, that is.
Phyllis Koegel serves as the Marketing Director of OU Kosher based in New York City. She received her MBA from Pace University and resides in Cedarhurst, NY on Long Island. To read more of her blog posts, please visit: OU's Kosher Blog
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