Michael Kanner, M.D., was finishing his ophthalmology residency in Philly when we last spoke, and he headed for the lush land of Boca Raton with his wife, Ora Lee and their family. We spend some time in that areas these days, our son and his family having relocated to Boynton Beach. Life has a way of evolving unpredictably, and as we made arrangements for our kids and grandkids to have a 21 salute (the sum total of adults and children in the immediate) we visited an institution in Boca, Ben’s Deli, that I’ll tell you more about in a minute. Coincidentally, another name from the past popped up along with Kanner. Turns out that Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, a strong influence in our New Jersey community, initiated a Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton in 1997 that proved to be highly successful and was Mrs. Kanner’s mentor. Here she gives a wonderful tribute to him upon his departure from Boca last year, to become the ED of Beren Academy in Houston, Texas:
Ain’t Jewish Geography grand? Back to Ben’s. Turns out the Deli has an unusual hybrid identity. You know that ancient ritual wherein Jews sell chometz to non-Jews prior to Passover? A Rav Hamachshir, or local ceritfying Rabbi, provides Ben’s a similar provision in a letter prominently displayed in the store, selling the restaurant to a non-Jew before every Shabbat and Festival. Might sound a little fishy to the letter-of-the-law observant, but it hasn’t prevented Ben’s from becoming a local institution to many patrons who wander in for dessert and more to honor their forefathers who wandered in the desert.
In fact, one of the many beautiful signs that adorns Ben’s makes reference to the Jews having wandered in the desert for thousands of years before discovering their mecca in Boca. Okay, so perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly is a culinary mecca of sorts, with a drop-dead gorgeous design to boot.