09 October 2010


Just a quick note to say that today, as ever, was a busy day.  After dropping the kids at Yachad, I went to daven with Altshul, who was celebrating its fifth anniversary as a minyan in Brooklyn and besides the excitement at reaching this milestone of Jewish spiritual self-organization with low overhead, their prayers were particularly spirited in no small part to it being Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, and since this Hebrew months offers precious little to celebrate besides several Shabbatot with profoundly evocative Torah and Haftarah portions, the Hallel and generally musical expression was rich and enjoyable.  An afternoon break, lunch, a nap, a walk with Nathan and a quick cup of coffee and it was back to Shul for an afternoon Bar Mitzvah, a smart lad, a skeptic with an incisive mind for Torah and Tradition.  And now I'm in the JetBlue Terminal at JFK, having just eaten a spicy sardine sandwich, washed down by a Jamaican beer (it's Queens, after all) waiting to take off.

I was driven to JFK by a Yemenite man, who was behind the wheel of the car that picked me up to shuttle me here to the airport as I await a flight to North Carolina to officiate at the wedding of a former student.  How did I know he was Yemeni, you might ask?  His cellphone rang and it played an Arabic song.  "Where's the song from?" I asked.  "It's from Arabia," he said.  "That's a big place," I said.  "Which part?"  "Saudi Arabia," he said.  "Where are you from?"  I asked.  "I'm Arabic," he said.  "Dude," I countered.  "I'm okay here.  What country do you come from?"  "Yemen," he finally said and since Shabbat had just ended and we sang Yedid Nefesh last night, I thought I'd tell him about the Yemenite melodies we sometimes use at the synagogue, and besides Yedid Nefesh I told him about Dror Yikra and if you really want to know the truth, he wasn't very impressed.  Language remained a barrier, or so I realized about 15 minutes into the drive after listening to him tell me all about how "Jews are big shots" in New York and Jewish women are moral and Jewish children do well in school and finally he said, "So what are you?"  "Jewish," I told him.  And a rabbi, too.

"So let me ask you," he says.  "Why do the Jews have to live in Palestine?"  And so I told him about Abraham (see above, the smart lad's minchah bar mitzvah portion was Lech Lecha and the call) and how Jews have always lived in the land and I told him about the Babylonian Exile and the Roman Exile and about the Turks and the British and how there's enough land for two people and you know what he said?  "I got a Jewish friend from Yemen and he says the white European Jews have all the good jobs in Israel so my friend went back to Yemen."  And then he invited me to visit Yemen.

I said, "I'm going to North Carolina tonight but I'll consider it."

He told me about the gas station he works at in Flint, Michigan; how he drives cab in Brooklyn; and about his family, who he sent back home to Yemen.  "Flint and Brooklyn are not good places to live if you don't have a job or you don't have money."  I didn't argue.

My flight is boarding.  Just thought you'd want the update.

No comments: