As was said in one of the previous essays, in order to meet the ends which are to short to meet just from my touring activity I travel around the west and selling some beautiful merchandise.
One Wednesday evening, I came with my product to some gift shop located in the valley somewhere close to the west coast of our country. Shop was selling stuff which didn't match anything what I have to offer but the company which product I sell, sold already in this place for few hundred dollars so I was hoping that maybe this time also they will buy enough to cover cost of my lodging or gas.
I entered the store and introduced myself to the older lady which she later told me she was born in NY in the family of Italian immigrants. The man who was helping her in the store was half Native American and descendant of the famous and proud chief Joseph.
I walked out of the store to bring my merchandise and when I was schlepping it in to the store some young fellows parked their small car at the front and entered with few cardboard boxes which were giving glassy noise. When I came to the store the husky blond fellow was presenting his product to the owner of the store. He was selling glass pipes which are smilingly popular in certain milieu as I saw it in many stores around the country. The young fellow claimed to manufacture pipes by himself.
The lady, owner of the store, apologized to them and asked if they can wait as I was first who came to the store. Seeing that the other guy has some two small boxes of pipes I proposed that she may go ached with picking his merchandise as my needs more attention i.e. time. We all agreed.
While the lady was picking glass pipes from the guy and his friend I began to converse with the salesman of the store, the grand son of Chief Joseph. At certain moment he asked me loud: Are you Jewish?
- Sure - I answered short and equally loud with my big smile on the face.
When I travel alone I usually hide my payos under the yarmulke and black cowboy heat, but I know that even if I would stay there whit my curled payos on the side of my face and wearing my lange rekel (long Hasidic coat) still such question may be asked in most of the places of this country. Most of the people are identifying us as kind of Amish rather than Jews.
When my identity became clear in the crowded back room of the store, the young guy who was selling pipes left the business to his friend and began to tell me the story of his family.
- You know – he said- my family escaped
during the communist revolution and via China
came her to America.
I’m the fourth generation American but I don’t know anything about my heritage.
Listening to him I was not sure what heritage is he talking about, is it Russian heritage which he is referring to, as I reviled somewhere during the conversation that I came from east part of
and I speak Russian, or is he referring to different heritage?
I asked him straight forward if his great grandparents were Jewish. He said almost the way as I did it before:
- Sure they were Jewish; they are coming from my mother side.
I asked if his mother was Jewish which I told him it would mean that he is also Jewish.
He answered – I’m hundred percent Jewish but as I told you, I don’t know anything about our heritage. I wanted to know something but I don’t know anybody and there is no Jewish community in my town so I don’t know where to turn for information – he explained.
In further conversation I advised him to look for Jewish community in the capital of the state which I knew has few synagogues and even Kolel. Told him to try in Bays Chabad explaining to him that particularly this community is helping people like himself to rediscover lost treasure of belonging to spiritual elite of humanity.
His friend concluded his sell and they were leaving, so quickly that I forgot to ask my new friend of his name. It was Halloween night and his other friends dressed accordingly were already inpatient with his prolonging conversation.
They left and I began my sell.
The sell went the way that the next morning I asked the office of the company which I working for not to send anybody ever to this place. Took hours of picking and re picking and than triple selection, so by the end, the sell didn't even cover gas which my car burned to come to this place. More than that, while I looked around the store I found that our merchandise completely doesn't match to what the store is selling otherwise.
The very next morning I have to drive four hours trough the mountains to the town located on the beautiful Pacific coast. I knew this part of the coast from our trips with my family in the past but it is always exiting to came one more time and scream the bruche ‘Oseh Maseh Bereishis’ (blessing for the Creator) trying to be louder than mighty waves of the Ocean.
On appointed time I parked my car on the front of up class antique store. While I was preparing to exit my car some SUV parked in the front of me. I noticed four or so inches big star of David above registration plate. It is not common view in this part of the country but I have met already some Jews working in remote places like this in the past and I wouldn't wonder if this would be the case one more time.
Indeed the owner of the store was a Jew. Few minutes later to our conversation, while my merchandise was laying already on the table he began to tell me his family story.
- My grand parents – he told me – escape the Bolsheviks revolution in 1917. First they came to
and than they settled her on the west coast of United
Hearing this I scratched my yarmulke and told him:
- Interesting, you know just last evening, four hours of drive from her, I met a young fellow who told me very similar story of his family escape.
- O! Really? - He asked.
- Yeah, he was selling glass pipes in the store where I have had my last appointment yesterday.
- I have a nephew who is making glass pipes but could it be it was him? - He asked.
- I don’t know… but I wonder how many Jewish kids with this kind of family story is making and selling glass pipes in entire country?
After I gave more description of the young fellow, his uncle didn't have any more doubts that indeed it was his nephew Nate whom I met night before.
This was not the end of Jewish topics in our few hours’ conversation while selling my beautiful merchandise.
But it was not the end of ‘coincident’ which experienced in this week.
Thursday afternoon I got the email with the address of the place where my office made arrangement for me to spent Shabes.
I was surprised that in this town there was Jewish community, and more surprised that Jewish population in the town is estimated for few thousand neshumois.
Unfortunately two orthodox shuls in town are struggling for minian and only chance to daven with minian is Shabes morning.
I was sitting in the Bays medrysh in my usual shabes attire together with my fellow Jews of mostly rather older age. Without surprise I was a major attraction for them and with few of them I have longer conversations after the services, including ex NY Times journalist who settled there on the west coast after writing articles for the paper including tree interviews of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shnerson – the last Lubavicher rebbe. I got some insights of those interviews which dint go to the press.
Later at local rabbi’s house we sated to eat the seauda when other older Jew came to the room invited by rebetzin to taste at least the some of the delicious salad.
He sat across the table from me and unsurprisingly began to ask me the questions. Everything from the way how I dress to the bestial murder of Layby Kletzky who was a grandson of my friend and accountant.
I have to explain that murderer was not Chasidic Jew as some of the press have described him including not so sympathetic to Chasidim Jewish magazines.
I learned that the Jew whom I talking to, was attending afternoon Cheder in his youth but quitted yidishkeit soon after his bar Mitzva after traumatic experience of how he described it, being suffocated by his rebbe who himself, he learned it after the event, was Auschwitz survivor.
Nevertheless most of his life he spent leaving as not Jewish only now getting interest in Yidishkeit. After being turned off by lack of knowledge in reform institution in his town he began to attend orthodox synagogue and ask orthodox rabbi the questions which was turned away by reform clergy person.
At certain moment during our interesting discussion he mentioned Heidegger and was surprised that I know who was Heidegger. He almost jumped out of his shoes when I told him about his teacher Huserl and his phenomenology branch of existentialism. We spoke about his works, Edith Stein, Heidegger membership in NSDAP and hidden anti-Semitism of Huserl and Karl Joung.
I learned from him that he is working on the book on phenomenology and later from the rabbi that our fellow Jew is recognized psychologist.
At the end of our ‘accidental’ meeting he reviled to me that he tried in the other places to learn about his lost Judaism but only her he was allowed to ask the questions but more than that he was happy with the answers. Which I answered to him, that what I saying to him is only what I learned from my leaving and past away rabbis, and with my very limited knowledge and skills, just trying to share with him.