I have written previously that the majority of Crown Heights Lubavitchers have guests staying with them most of the time. During Shavuos and other yomim tovim, most homes have at least a few visitors. Although we are privileged to occupy an apartment during our stay (it belongs to the Rebbe), friends and acquaintances are continuously inundating us with pressing invitations to join them for meals.

We always have at least one meal during yom tov at the home of our dear friends Sarah and Mendel Shemtov. They were our first hosts in Crown Heights (in 1959) and we stayed with them for many years, whenever we came to see the Rebbe.

The Baumgartens invited us for dinner for the first night of yom tov. From previous experience we knew we could anticipate good company, delicious food, plenty to drink and all in a congenial atmosphere, plus the best entertainment in town. We accepted with much pleasure and alacrity.

We davened maariv with the Rebbe at 770, but when we arrived at the Baumgartens, we found that our host, Rabbi Mendel, had been home for sometime already. He davened in a small shul next door to his home. This rather surprised me. Surely, he should have taken every opportunity to daven together with the Rebbe at 770.

I then learned that it was not Mendel’s choice. The Rebbe had given specific instructions to some of the Crown Heights chassidim to daven at the various shuls scattered throughout the neighborhood. This would help ensure that these local synagogues continued to thrive, keeping up amenities and services for the entire district. These learned men would also be in contact with many of the local Crown Height residents, who were able to study and learn from them.

The presence of the young men at these shuls was more vital than to join the many thousands at 770. However, it was a great personal sacrifice for them not to be able to daven with the Rebbe.

Nechama, our gracious hostess, made us all very welcome. This year her house was comparatively empty. Close to twenty guests were staying with her, including my daughter Hindy and her three youngest children. Additional guests were invited for the meal so that nearly thirty of us sat down to dinner.

Our host, Mendel, sat at the head of the table, but not alone, as every available space had to be used for the maximum advantage. He was surrounded by his sons and the men. His charming wife Nechama graced the other end of the table with the girls and ladies.

In between sat their son Yossi with his kallah, Liba.

Liba’s parents, Hinda and Bentzion (Hilda and Bernard) Rader from London, were also present, as was their son, Hershel. A girl of twenty and a boy of eleven, who were boarding at the Baumgartens to “study and learn about yiddishkeit,” were also present at this meal. Another set of mechutonim, a son-in-law, a couple of invited girls, plus Roselyn and me, made up the party. There were also a few babies here and there.

After kiddush and hamotzie we settled down to the serious business of eating and drinking.

Mendel repeated a sicha from the Rebbe which was much appreciated. It was then my turn to provide entertainment, not a sicha. The audience must have enjoyed my singing efforts, for they requested an encore. After the second encore, I decided enough was enough and I pressed the Baumgarten boys into active service, who, after a little persuasion, sang individually and collectively. They really excelled in harmonizing most beautifully. It did not take too long before they were competing with each other to show off their prowess.

Mendel had just returned from San Francisco where he had taken part, together with Jan Peerce, in a most successful concert in aid of Lubavitch. He also decided to join in and he sang many lovely pieces from his diverse repertoire.

We also managed to attract the attention of the choson, Yossi. (Most of the time he and his kallah seemed impervious to everything that was going on around them.) We even prevailed upon him to sing for us, to the great astonishment and satisfaction of Liba and the benign approval of both sets of mechutonim. As they say in Yiddish, “Zei hobben geklibben nachas” (they derived nachas). All in all, it was a most pleasurable and beautiful yom tov meal and we immensely enjoyed it.

We felt very pleased and gratified when a further invitation was extended to us for the following Friday evening.