Yehuda Amichai, Israel’s best known poet, wrote:
Advice for good love: Don’t love those from far away, Take yourself one from nearby. The way a sensible house will take local stones for its building, stones which have suffered in the same cold and were scorched by the same sun.
Jerusalem has been my home for all of my adult life and it is the home of my people. Nonetheless, I enjoy a certain comfort and kinship from people who came to Israel from Southern New Jersey where I grew up. We share a certain familiarity with shared culture, people, places and experiences. Living thousands of miles away from where we grew up, we become an extended family for each other. We share our lives with each other as those who ” have suffered in the same cold and were scorched by the same sun.”
My synagogue, Kehillat Moreshet Avraham, which has about 100 families and is located in East Talpiot, Jerusalem has three members who grew up at Temple Beth Shalom in Cherry Hill (although at that time it was in Haddon Heights). In addition this year, we have several members of TBS attending long-term programs in Jerusalem who have been attending our shul. Over the holidays it was nice to have a core of people from the synaggoue in which I grew up in New Jersey attending the congregation I have helped to build in Jerusalem.
For Rosh HaShanah this year two TBS members, Michelle Hasit who is attending USY’s year program in Israel and her brother Arie who is attending the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, attended our synagogue. The first day they were lunch guests of another TBS family who belongs to Moreshet Avraham, Orah and Shimon Lipsky (Orah is the daughter of TBS’ Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Al Lewis), and the second day my family hosted them. Although Michelle and Arie are thousands of miles away from their parents, they were hosted in homes of families who know their familiy and who grew up in the same synagogue that they did. They enjoyed the holiday in a home away from home.
Marti Dembowitz, a Cherry Hill native, was one of our adopted students two years ago when she was in Israel for the semester with Akiba Hebrew Academy. Now that she has graduated, Marti has returned to spend a year at a girl’s seminary, Midreshet Lindenbaum which is just down the street from us. She has already been our guest for Shabbatot, the last time bringing two other former Akiba students, one from Lower Marion and one from Wilmington, Delaware, all enjoying a taste of home at our Shabbat table.
Not only is it nice for us to surround ourselves with people who come from our hometown, but as we continue to be part of each other’s community, our lives and the lives of our families develop. We come to know each other’s extended families and as they come and visit, we celebrate during the times of joy, and act as each other’s support in times of need.
Over the holidays we enjoyed the company of Chana and Joe Magun who are long-time members of TBS, Chana having taught Hebrew school for many years and Joe always ready with an anecdote, a story or a joke. I look forward to their annual pilgrimages as they visit their family here in Israel which extends beyond the immediate family of their daughter Rena, also a member of our East Talpiot congregation. This year, Chana and Joe came to celebrate their granddaughter’s bat mitzvah. It is one of those special occassions when my communities in New Jersey and Jerusalem overlap.
Sometimes such occassions are not so joyous. Rabbi Lewis was recently hospitalized and Orah flew to the States to be with him. While there, we hosted her family in our Sukkah and kept up-to-date with what was happening. At times like this, the bonds that stretch between our communities across the oceans also become especially important.
Whether for a Shabbat meal, a holiday celebration, a time of transition or joy, familiar faces from my hometown bring me a sense of continuity and support bridging the distance from Cherry Hill to Jerusalem. The ability to share something familiar with someone else who shares my knowledge of a place thousands of miles away and the same sense of belonging to both that place and to Jerusalem creates a special bond and kinship between us. As newcomers arrive ,whether for a short stay, a semester, a year or on aliyah, I enjoy extending my hosptality to my landsmanshaft, opening a door into my Jerusalem community for them, as part of a bridge that extends between my two homes.