In this day between Shavuot and Shabbat, I wanted to share with you three anecdotes from a trip I took right before Shavuot. I spent nine days in South Africa visiting my son who is studying at the University of Capetown this semester. Three Jewish experiences stand out for me from this trip.
1. We planned the trip using the internet and were able to rent a car, find places to stay and arrange for kosher food via the internet. The kosher caterer/restaurateur who provided for us deserves mention here because he was so helpful in our planning. I was able to order food in advance from his menu and he delivered it to our hotel so that it was waiting in our room upon arrival. Avron of Avron’s Place made us feel welcomed and cared for as we planned to spend Shabbat in Capetown. He did not ask for any money in advance and this feeling of trust was very heartwarming.
2. We went to shul at the Marais Road Shul (known as the Marera shul) on Shabbat morning and were welcomed by the guard who knew my son from his past visits there. We entered a shul more than 7500 miles from our home and, in addition, to feeling at home in the company of the community and inspired by the beautiful choir- we ran into a friend of ours who lives in Englewood, New Jersey. That familiar face in a place which was so familiar yet so far from our home made us all smile and added a special feeling to that Shabbat for us.
3. Before leaving Capetown we visited the Herzliya School of Capetown. Our son had done some volunteer work there and wanted us to see this amazing school. We walked into the school office and David introduced himself and spoke of his last visit there and an administrator got up from her desk and spent the next hour showing us around the school. The school is a magnificent example of a Jewish day school which serves almost the entire Jewish community of Capetown. 80% of the Jewish children of Capetown attend this beautiful school. My son said it best in his blog so I’ll quote him:
The school had a great vibe to it, as kids were busy engaging in afterschool activities, including everything from basketball to water-polo. Wandering around the school, I saw signs of everything you would expect from a good Jewish day school: science contraptions, art projects in memory of the holocaust, and posters discussing Jewish values. It’s nice to travel half way around the world and up a mountain, and see that Jews everywhere are pretty much doing the same thing: using Jewish education to pass on to their children a lifestyle and tradition of community, knowledge, values, and of course, fun.
I, too, felt the power and strength of Jewish education as I walked through the halls and grounds of this school.
All three of these anecdotes reminded me of the closeness and uniqueness of the Jewish community and greatly enhanced our trip.