Way back in the days when kosher food was scarcely available outside the home, I went to the circus. I remember the excitement, the fun, the flying trapeze, the lions and tigers and the elephants, but what is most memorable is the smell of all the non-kosher food. The cotton-candy, the buttered popcorn, the snow-cones and the hot-dogs.
Years later I went with day camp to the Orange County Fair. The smashing car derby, the rides, the animals, the races - all remain seared in my memory. But perhaps the most powerful memory that lingers is the smell of the shish-ke-bob as it barbecued on the grill.
Fast forward to this past week, and those aromas were once again filling my nostrils. I had taken the opportunity of the mini-vacation that avails itself during when school ends and camp begins. Central Park was the destination, and those olfactory senses were reawakened as I passed the Victorian Gardens amusement park, which doubles as the Wollman Skating Rink during the winter.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the entire park had been rented out by some Chai Lifeline philanthropists to mark the Yahrtzeit of one of their donors, Shlomo (Solomon) Obstfeld ZTL.
Instead of tragically marking the year since his passing in a doleful way, the family and business of Shlomo paid for the entire park to be reserved for families of sick children. All the rides were free, snow cones were distributed, cotton candy was available, an entire array of barbecued food was provided, a Dee-Jay played all the current Jewish tunes, drinks flowed freely, popcorn popped, street vendor salted pretzels were available with all the amenities and hundreds of children forgot for a day that they were sick.
As I viewed this spectacle from a distance, I couldn't help but think Mi KiAmcha Yisrael! - How great are the People of Israel!