The Revolving Door
For students studying in Israel, Aleeza Lebowitz’s animated table is the place to be.
We live the lives of teenagers!” Aleeza tells me wryly.
“Students for meals and Yom Tovim, girls dropping in and hanging out, my husband and his students cooking midnight barbeques. It’s young and lively and busy.”
Aleeza teaches in an Israeli seminary for American girls, is an administrator for a special-needs school, and the wife of a rebbi in a yeshiva for American boys. The Lebowitz home in Ramat Beit Shemesh is an open house for the many yeshiva and
seminary students that spend the year studying in Israel. Aside for her own growing family, ages 10 and under, the Lebowitz Shabbos and Yom Tov table usually include 10 or more guests for each meal.
When they were newlyweds living and teaching on a moshav, Rabbi Lebowitz regularly brought home handfuls of students for Shabbos. “Right off, I learned how to cook for a crowd. One day, when my kids grow up I’d love to go to culinary school and really learn technique. But right now my focus is on making a lot of food that tastes good and getting it to the table.”
Aleeza’s challahs are always well-received, made with a sweet streusel topping and shaped for the season, such as hamantashen-shaped for Purim. Aleeza enjoys themed menus. During the week of Parshas Bereishis, her dessert is a cake, shaped and decorated as a globe. Specially decorated cupcakes and molten cake desserts also commemorate each season. At last year’s Chanukah party, she went Mexican with a grill full of chicken and vegetables, salads, refried beans, and tortillas for everyone to build their own special meal.
Aleeza teaches a class in her home every week and makes sure to supply the kinds of food that will make her students excited to be there, including chips and dips, smores, fondues, and peanut butter chocolate chip bars. “I want them to feel good about being in my home and at my table,” she says.
Aleeza’s family helps out a lot. The kids serve, entertain, and adopt their guests, while her husband often mans the grill. “I love having a house full of guests and of course, I enjoy when people compliment my food and are happy at my table.
But what’s more important about my cooking is that it creates the setting where my guests can sit and talk and be inspired. When everyone is sitting around my Shabbos table and the conversations are spiritual and stimulating, I know I’ve really