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Six Thousand Miles (Part III)

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         Part I of this series introduced the 6,000-mile driving tour to the Canadian Rockies that my wife, Barbara, and I took in the van driven by my brother, Avi, and our sister-in-law, Martha. It detailed the challenge of obtaining kosher food on a driving tour. Part II discussed the Shabbat hospitality we received in three of the four stops we made.

 

         Our fourth Shabbat was observed in Toronto. My former Chabad chavrusah, Yosef Baruch Spielman, had arranged Shabbat hospitality for us at the home of his niece and nephew, Elisheva and Rabbi Chaim Weinman. This was a very special treat for us because we had never been hosted by a streimel (fur hat)-wearing Chassid. While we were a bit hesitant, we were pleasantly and warmly received (with our knitted kipot); thus all four of us felt comfortable and enjoyed Shabbat. Additionally we were graciously received for sleeping arrangements by Dafne and Ralph Zachs, and Esther and Yussie Gerstl. We ate our Shabbat meals at Rabbi Weinman’s home.

 

         On Erev Shabbat we davened in the “Shif” Shul, where our two white-knitted kipot blended in nicely with the streimels and black hats worn by all of the other men. Several members of the shul greeted us with “Gut Shabbos,” making us feel welcome. Rabbi Weinman “arranged” a special treat for Shabbat morning by taking us to the shul he usually attended – at the elegant home of Moshe Reichman. The tefillah was special because the Reichman family was celebrating the recent wedding of one of their relatives.

 

         By 10:30 a.m. we had finished davening, and returned to the Weinman home. During the recitation of Kiddush and for the next two hours, many of the Weinmans’s friends and neighbors dropped by to join us for Kiddush and schmooze a bit. We were introduced to each new couple that came in and, along with “Jewish geography,” we discussed Israel, Florida and Toronto. Everyone seemed to know someone who we also knew. Another topic of conversation was the sheitel-making business Elisheva Weinman owned, with some discussion revolving around the Indian hair controversy. Lunch lasted for several enjoyable hours – with great food and interesting dialogue on the menu.

 

         After Ma’ariv we went back to the Weinman home, where Shabbat was extended with more delightful conversation. Havdalah was recited close to midnight.

 

         Prior to our trip we searched the Internet for Jewish communities in our upcoming travels, and I contacted each of them to offer a weekday evening discussion about Israel. Several non-Orthodox synagogues responded positively, and they usually offered us home hospitality.

 

         Rapid City, South Dakota has a small Jewish community. The synagogue administrator, Jo Benn, notified the members of the “Synagogue in the Hills” about our plans to visit. Art Janklow, a member, insisted that we be his guests at his lovely motel, Mystery Mountain Resort – near Mount Rushmore. We were a bit surprised to learn that the name of Art’s son (the resort’s manager) was also Art. When I asked Art senior if he was Sephardic, he replied no – but that his father started the idea, and that his son is actually Art III. During a conversation with Art III, he mentioned that since his mother was Catholic he was not born Jewish. In his 20′s he became disenchanted with his Catholic upbringing, attended conversion classes and converted to Judaism.

 

         A young couple attending the evening discussion about Israel mentioned that they were planning to move to Israel. Accordingly they asked many interesting questions. After the discussion, we suggested that they contact Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that does the best job of helping potential American olim.

 

         We were also invited to speak, and offered home hospitality, in Great Falls, Montana. This non-Orthodox community also invited a young Chabad rabbi, Chaim Bruk, who had recently moved to Bozeman, Montana and was coming to meet with several community members. Before we began our Israel discussion, Rabbi Bruk – who had traveled some 186 miles to join us for the evening – held a half-hour Pirkei Avot reading and explanation session with the nice-sized group that had come to the home of our hosts, Jerry and Nadine Weissman. The community honored the Chabad rabbi (and maybe us, too) by purchasing a large selection of OU products, paper plates, etc. The great respect they had for Rabbi Bruk was very obvious.

 

         During our stay we learned that our host, Jerry Weissman, was the AIPAC representative in Montana. He was a pilot and businessman, and very active in the Jewish community. We schmoozed almost until midnight with the Weissmans and with some of the community members who remained behind.

 

         PART IV: Saving Money On The Tour.

 

         Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

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