“Last week I was invited to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner, which observant Jews hold every Friday night,” Sally Quinn, the long-time Washington Post columnist, begins her latest. “After three enlightening years of moderating The Post’s online feature ‘On Faith,’ you would think, I should be totally comfortable going to any religious event. But to tell the truth, I was nervous.” Actually, what you would think is that Quinn, a Beltway hobnobber for decades (she’s been married to legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee for 30 years), would have been to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner before. Or would at least be able to discuss the experience with some sophistication.
But the column is notable for its astonishing naivete. “I used my phone-a-friend lifeline. Should I bring something to cover my head? ‘Not necessary,‘ he said. Would a nice set of lavender soap be an appropriate gift? ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘They’re not going to eat it.’” Honestly: how did Quinn not know that lavender soap is consumed only on Shemeni Atzeret? Shabbat (Sabbath) is for rose-scented bars. “I knew enough not to wear red and green,” she boasts. Is that because of Christmas, or because of the Palestinian flag? Because either way, it’s probably not a big deal. Finally, “I was also told by another Jewish friend not to expect any wine. ‘Drink before you go,‘ he advised.” So what she is telling us is she arrived hammered. That would explain her column.
“The dinner turned out to be delightful,” Quinn concludes (and who would have guessed?). “There was plenty of delicious California kosher wine, red and white … The food was spectacular—the best matzoh-ball soup I ever ate. And the conversation was lively and spirited, to say the least: We debated whether this was a Christian nation!” More than we thought, apparently.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.