Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Play Jewish Geography in the Midwest…Again

As though playing Jewish geography with Rabbi Jason Miller wasn’t enough, I also got to play the game with Fox Run residents Rhoda and Hank Fleischer, when they came to my Aunt Claire’s for tea one afternoon during my visit.

The story of how Aunt Claire connected with them is itself a Jewish geography story extraordinaire.

Gregarious, warm, and outgoing, Aunt Claire readily introduces herself to anyone she doesn’t recognize. When she did so with the Fleischers, new to Fox Run, a conversation along these lines ensued:
Aunt Claire: “Where are you from?”

Rhoda: “I’m originally from the Bronx.”

Aunt Claire: “I am too! We lived off the Grand Concourse.”

Rhoda: “So did we. Where did you go to school?”

Aunt Claire: “P.S. 70.”

Rhoda: “I did too!”

Aunt Claire: “What’s your maiden name?”
Rhoda: “Brotman.”

Aunt Claire: “Rhoda Brotman! We were in the same class from kindergarten through junior high school!”

Rhoda: “Claire Skaletzky! You played the violin!”
A few days later, Rhoda produced a copy of her sixth grade class photo with none other than my Aunt Claire sitting a few seats away!

Although my Jewish geography encounter isn’t nearly as exciting, it deserves a spot on this blog nonetheless.

When I met them, the Fleishers asked where I worked, When I told them, Rhoda said her father’s sister, Lenore, had married a rabbi, Howard Greenstein, z’l. Although I didn’t know him personally, I do know that his son, Micah, is the rabbi in the Reform congregation in Memphis.

Yes, they told me, but they’d lost touch with the family a number of years ago. I was able to give them contact information for Micah, and they are eager to reconnect and, most of all, see how Lenore is doing.

Ah, Jewish geography….

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to Play Jewish Geography in the Midwest

I know four people in the Detroit area: my Aunt Claire, who lives at Fox Run in Novi; West Bloomfielders Judy and Allan Tushman, part of my URJ family from the old days; and Rabbi Jason Miller, a two-time faculty member from Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing at Kenyon, who lives in Farmington Hills.

I’ve been visiting with my Aunt Claire here in the Great Lakes state since Sunday. On Tuesday, we had lunch with Judy and Allan at a scenic spot overlooking Union Lake. It was great to catch up with them and play a little Jewish geography.

But it was nothing like the Jewish geography we played today.

Today, Jason stopped by for a quick visit. When he came into Aunt Claire’s apartment, he said it looked just like the one in which his wife’s grandmother had lived here at Fox Run. Further in, he perused the array of family pictures in the living room, asking me who was who.

“This is my cousin Marc,” I said, pointing to a wedding photo of Marc and his wife Susan.

“What’s his last name?”

“Glasser,” I said, “Same as my aunt.”

“I know him,” Jason said. “He’s my congregant.”

“I thought you don’t have a congregation…”

As it turns out, my friend has a part-time position as the visiting rabbi at B’nai Israel in Sylvania, Ohio, about an hour south of this area, where my cousin and his family live. Jason’s there every fifth or sixth Shabbat, for the High Holidays, and other festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

Examining the photos further, he identified Marc’s kids, Carolyn and Brian, and before long Jason and Aunt Claire were talking about Feige, the congregation’s b’nai mitzvah tutor.

I’ve no doubt that their conversation will continue – either here in Novi or at B’nai Israel in Sylvania.

Ah, Jewish geography…