Shari Alter and her oncologist husband Robert have five kids and live in Englewood. You would think that would keep her busy with no time for so much as a bubble bath or an “Oprah” break, since everyone knows that five kids means lots of car pooling, hockey and assorted craziness. So multi- tasking, including checking the dinner in the ovens while being interviewed, is par for the course.
But wait, there’s more. Four years ago, the family wanted their son’s bar mitzvah to take place in Israel. She, her mother, and son Kevin traveled there to put beginnings of the party together and met Harvey Tannenbaum, an American born party- and event – planner who had made aliyah 10 years earlier. It took a year to make Kevin’s bar mitzvah happen, and then serendipity took over. There were unintended consequences. Namely, a new career for Alter. In her previous life (before the kids) she had been an interior designer for a commercial firm in Manhattan. So good taste was a given.
In planning Kevin’s bar mitzvah, Alter learned about what it’s like to put an event together from 5000 miles away. On that first trip, the family visited different venues, created an itinerary for a family tour across Israel, figured out a way to put the mitzvah back into the bar with acts of chesed, and organized the writing of a Sefer Torah in honor of the event. They took only that one trip for the preplanning and came back with everyone else in tow exactly one year later. Everything was waiting for them, perfectly conceived and executed.
There was a bit of everything – florists, rabbis, tour guides, music, food , photographers, videographers, clowns and entertainment, camels and plane rides. Every details was covered, from the hospitality baskets in each guest’s room, to pre-printed programs, siddurim, place cards for each meal and much more, The bar mitzvah lasted a full week, and 100 people attended from all over the world, including Australia. The main event tool place in Jerusalem at the Kotel, with a party later that night at a venue that overlooked the Old City walls and the Temple Mount.
The rest of the week was spent touring Israel and spending the following Shabbat at the King David Hotel and the Great Synagogue. It was a learning experience and when it was all over, Tannenbaum said to Alter, “I want you to work for me.”
She agreed to become his “American partner,” and three years ago, joined Protexia Plus, Tannenbaum’s firm. She spends most of her time in Englewood, putting plans together for people from across America who want meaningful, memorable events in Israel. Though she cut her teeth on her own son’s bar mitzvah, she’s also planned Passover programs in Herzliyah, events at orphanages, army bases, the Israel museum, winery tours, spa tours, weddings (she’s now planning one on the beach in Caesarea, near the Roman ruins), and VIP tours that are very personal and not like typical “missions to Israel’”.
Sometime they arrange offbeat activities – rock climbing, rappelling off mountains, racketing around the desert at night in a jeep, and taking part at a shooting range – in addition to chopper rides, parasailing, swimming with dolphins and spending nights in Bedouin tents.
Alter says” The best part for the hosts and hostess is that what we do for them is hassle-free. When we did our own party, my husband said it was fantastic because he was able to enjoy himself as if he were a guest not a host. That sensibility is what I bring to everything I plan. I want it to be a personal, happy experience for everyone, including the party-planners. There’s no joy in grief.”
Since that first bar mitzvah, Alter has commuted back and forth and across this country and that country more than 50 times, in order to accommodate her clients. The most interesting event she planned was a bar mitzvah at King Solomon’s copper mines in Timna, near Eilat. Imagine 100 Manhattan West Siders gathered in a tent in the desert, eating and drinking and partying until all hours of the night. “There was no Zabar’s in sight, and they still had a good time,” she says, laughingly.
Alter says that no party is too big or too small for her and her partners to handle, from 1000 guests to two people. One about-to-be-engaged couple took a chopper ride to the top of Masada, all decked out in their finest – ties and tails for him, elegant gown for her. When they got their, the iced champagne was waiting, he proposed on one knee, she accepted and all the people on top to the mountain, all strangers, wished them well.
Written by Jeanette Friedman
Protexsia Plus+ goes beyond the familiar to the extraordinary. We specialize in creating breathtaking events and unique journeys throughout the land of Israel. We invite you to visit our website so you can see for yourself what sets us apart from the rest…