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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It's a small [Jewish] world!

Zahava and I get a call every month or two from the folks who run an American high school semester abroad program in Jerusalem asking if we can host a couple of their girls for Shabbat.  Unless we already have a full house, we almost always say yes, since the girls are always very nice and, well, we enjoy having a house full of guests for Shabbat.

A few weeks ago we got such a call and quickly agreed to host a couple of girls.  But within a few minutes they called back with a follow-up request.  It seems that another couple of their students were also going to be visiting (a different family in) Efrat for Shabbat and they were stuck for a ride... would I be able to pick them up when I went into Jerusalem to get 'our' girls.

Of course I said 'no problem'.

Fast forward to that Friday afternoon.  I pulled up in front of their campus and the four girls got into the car with their back-packs.  On the drive to Efrat we started playing Jewish Geography; 'Where are you from?'... 'who do you know?'... etc.

It turns out one of the girls who was going to be staying with the other Efrat family was from Florida... but when she heard we had made aliyah from Connecticut she volunteered that her family had lived in New Haven when she was much younger.  I told her we had lived in Fairfield before moving to Israel.

After a couple of seconds of silence the girl from Florida/New Haven said, "This is going to sound crazy, but do you have a daughter whose birthday is January 4th".

I answered in the affirmative and asked her how she could possible know such a thing. 

She explained that her best friend in four-year-old nursery had been a girl named Ariella who lived in Fairfield and shared the same birthday with her.  She and Ari had gone to different elementary schools and then, of course, she and her family had moved to Florida.  Other than hearing a rumor from one of her old classmates that we had made aliyah, she had completely lost track of Ariella.

This was too good not to share with Ariella, so as we entered Efrat I started dialing her cell phone number.  The girl in the car stopped me because she said she was sure Ariella wouldn't remember her.  I told her she might be right, but assured her there would be no harm in checking.

So I called Ariella and told her to come out and wait for us in front of the house... but didn't tell her why.

As we pulled into our street, the girl behind me squealed with delight, "Oh my G-d, that's her!"

When I parked the car, Ariella came over and I explained to her that there was a girl in the car who thought she knew her from when we lived in the states... and she and Ariella shared the same birthday.

Without missing a beat Ariella screamed, "Oh my G-d... Miriam?!", followed by much hugging and general happy girl noises. 

Although Miriam and her friend were staying with another family at the other end of town, the girls managed to get together for much of Shabbat, and this past week we managed to host Miriam at our house for a proper visit.  She and Ariella stayed up late into the night catching up on old times.

While I'll admit this wasn't exactly the meeting of David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, I never cease to be amazed by how we Jews seem to stumble over friends and acquaintances over and over throughout our lives.

May all our meetings be happy ones.

Posted by David Bogner on May 4, 2010 | Permalink

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Love it!

Posted by: SaraK | May 4, 2010 8:46:07 PM

I'm grinning!

You can bet on them being best buddies now and having babies in the same hospital and raising their kids to be friends together etc etc.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | May 4, 2010 10:01:59 PM

That is such a cool story. You'd think there were only a couple of thousand of us, the way we all seem to constantly bump into each other. What a wonderful way to renew a friendship!

Posted by: Alissa | May 4, 2010 10:55:44 PM

As I recently explained to someone who was treating me to lunch in a kosher restaurant in Oakland, CA, we have 2 degrees of separation. After that, someone I spent my year in Israel with and haven't seen since then walked into the restaurant.

Posted by: TRS | May 5, 2010 3:55:05 AM

Great story :)

Posted by: zemirah | May 5, 2010 11:35:40 AM

Excellent! I bet the girls were really amazed at finding each other again after so many years.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 5, 2010 2:11:23 PM

You tell the most lovely stories.

Posted by: Erica | May 5, 2010 4:30:06 PM

Fun!

Over Pesach in a hotel in CA I was sitting next to someone who was not observant and, it seemed, only minimally affiliated Jewishly. I don't remember why, exactly, but I was explaining to her the phenomenon of Jewish Geography and the "two degrees of separation" rule among observant Jews in particular. She thought the concept was cool but didn't seem to completely get it. A few minutes later the young rabbinical student who was leading the seder sat down at our table and we started chatting. I knew he was at YU so I asked him if he knew a particular person, a very close friend of mine. The answer? "Of course!" I turned to the woman and said, "See?"

Posted by: Alisha | May 5, 2010 8:55:35 PM

What a great story!!!


Posted by: RivkA | May 7, 2010 1:15:33 PM

I have experienced the opposite a few times.Against all odds,(I should beat such odds in a lottery) meeting someone I would normaly chose to avoid at all costs.

Posted by: Ed | May 7, 2010 9:59:36 PM

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