My Very Own Jew!

The line is from the musical Company; Amy, who’s Catholic, recalls that when she first met Paul, she imagined falling in love with him and having “my very own Jew!” (Though, in the bang-up 2008 revival, doesn’t Paul (Robert Cunningham) look as Mormon as Mitt Romney, while Amy [Heather Laws] could be your quirky cousin Sophie?)

Anyway, it turns out that I also have my very own Jew.  His name is Yisroel, and he’s from Australia.  Our courtship, however, has been a bit fraught.

Yisroel is a Lubavitch orthodox Jew.  He spends his Fridays (pre-sundown, natch) roaming through our office building, asking in each office whether any Jews work there.  Because I travel so often, I missed him for several weeks.  However, a few weeks ago (at least, in the version of the story I prefer), when I was away, Yisroel cornered my office-mate Jeff Weinstein and asked him whether, by any chance, Weinstein might be a Jew.  His response? “Not me!  Now, Sheldon over there.  HE’S a Jew!”

Yisroel, ever the patient swain, then arrived every Friday afternoon and asked to see me.  Every Friday afternoon, he was turned away.  Perhaps, he saw us as the Law Office of Laban, and gritted his payess for seven years of courtship.

I, meanwhile, heard about Yisroel’s visits, and wondered what I would say to him once we met.  I knew that the Lubavitch are committed to bringing secular Jews like me into orthodox Jewish practice – but how? I assumed he would come well-prepared with some probing questions and polemic points.  Of course, I could have told him just to go away; but talking to him promised to be more interesting than writing another coverage opinion for AIG.

Finally, I was in the office when Yisroel visited.  He turned out to be a young rabbinical student, as meek and pliant as the Barbra Streisand character in Yentl.

He made some polite small talk, told me he is studying at the rabbinic school in Morristown, and asked me if I happened to want to put on some tefiliin.  Well, no.  I guess even orthodox boys want to get right to third base….no candy, no flowers.  Then, after ten minutes, he was gone, leaving me with his weekly copy of Rabbi Schneerson’s newsletter.

I haven’t seen Yisroel since.  However, he got me thinking about Judaism and about the Lubavitch and Satmar sects in our area.  More in a separate post….



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