Shelly Levy and Ken Lebowitz had planned to bake their own challah for Shabbat on Friday, but then came the lockdown.
As residents of Watertown, Mass., ground zero for the citywide manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, they weren’t able to get out of the house to buy the necessary ingredients.
Levy was woken during the night by multiple explosions and gunfire down their street. Only later did they find out that the shootout that led to the death of the first suspect had occurred just a few blocks from their home.
Levy and Lebowitz, who first met as overseas students at Hebrew University, later lived in Israel for several years.
“This is nothing like Israel,” said Lebowitz, who was holed up with his wife and teenage son, Noah. “Can you imagine Israel shutting down a whole city looking for one 19-year kid?”
They had no indication when the lockdown would end. Their neighborhood had grown quieter than it had been overnight, when hundreds of law enforcement had swarmed the area.
“It looked like a war zone,” Levy said, with armored carriers plowing down their street.
At about 9 A.M., a member of the National Guard in full battle fatigues knocked on their door, Levy said. He searched their basement and wanted to make sure they were safe and weren’t being held against their will.
Levy, director of support services for the upper school of Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, and Lebowitz, a software engineer, were spending the time fielding phone calls from friends and family and posting updates on Facebook.
One friend from Israel posted on their page that the Israeli news interviewed Boston’s consul general, who had likened the deserted streets of Boston to what the streets in Israel look like on Yom Kippur, when few cars or people venture out.
As for Shabbat preparations, the family wasn’t going to let a lockdown get in the way of their Shabbat meal, which had become a sacred family tradition. They may not have the ingredients to bake their own challah, but Levy said she's making matzah ball soup, which “I think of as comfort food.”
Noting that they bless their children each Shabbat (an older daughter is away at college), Levy said, “blessing Noah this Shabbat will take on even more meaning given the events of last night and today in Watertown and the bombings on Monday at the Marathon. “When we kiss and hug Noah this evening, it will be a little tighter and longer,” she said.
And, she remembered, “we have half a challah left over from during the week. We’ll use that.“
(This JTA story first appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)