When you meet in the street

When you meet in the street

This happens. Serendipitously. In this vast world, you bump into someone unexpectedly. The timing is so perfect that you know that if you had arranged the meeting, it could not have worked. Sometimes I feel like a chess piece, being moved in a certain direction just so I will meet someone I know, precisely at a particular time and place.

Here’s what I mean!

You walk on the street, anywhere in the world, and suddenly, in a flash of confusion, there is someone you know, from somewhere else.

Let me say that for reasons unknown, it seems to happen more in Jerusalem than anywhere else. I don’t know why. Sure, we’re probably all Jewish English speakers. But so are all my friends and acquaintances at home in West Orange, and I hardly ever bump into someone I know, even in the Shop-Rite, a short drive from home.

Does this happen to you? I’m betting that it does.

And so it was with Liat, a beautiful young woman from West Orange, whom I bumped into twice in recent years, both times in Jerusalem, not West Orange. We’re more than 50 years apart in age, so it wasn’t as if we were socializing at the same party. Both times it was completely unexpected, a delightful surprise. Just a few days ago my husband and I were eating a delicious meal in the Mahane Yehuda shuk. We were in a quiet corner at a small outdoor place; we had heard that the food was exceptional, and it was. Sitting there, inhaling and imbibing, and raving about the outstanding sweet and sour meat borscht, like my mother used to make, I glanced up — and there was Liat. Just like that! She was giving a foodie tour to some tourists. Olam katan — small world.

That was just a day or two before Liat announced her engagement. Her fiancé, Reuven, is a mighty lucky guy! And so I want to wish them both a hearty mazal tov here.

And just a bit further into serendipity, Reuven is a former roommate of our grandson in Jerusalem, Josh. Is all this even possible?

But that was not the only surprise meeting we had with Liat. A couple of years earlier, we were celebrating the new year at a Jerusalem synagogue, which was packed for Rosh Hashanah. Standing a few rows in front of me, there was Liat, in a sanctuary packed with unfamiliar faces. The words and melodies were sacred and familiar but seeing Liat there was totally out of context. And it was very special.

Meetings in shul are usually unlikely in far-flung places. Like Krakow, for instance. I read my husband’s lips as he peeked into the women’s section and mouthed, “Connie is here.” Connie has been a friend of my sister’s for many years, and we know her well. To meet her in the synagogue, which was packed with a touring Israeli youth group, was extraordinary. And then to be invited to the tiny home she shares with her husband, a renowned British historian, for cholent was simply unprecedented. Their other guest was a Jewish author, a lifelong resident of Krakow who filled the afternoon with fascinating stories about his life in the city.

Back to Jerusalem, a few days after we met Liat at the shuk, we were strolling on the famous Emek Refaim when we bumped into Jean. These meetings have become so common that it feels dishonest to label them as serendipitous. Jean and Richard, her husband, a long-time philanthropist who has spent his life supporting worthy Jewish causes, now live in Jerusalem, where they followed their two sons who’ve provided them with loads of grandchildren and do more than their share to earn the title Yerushalmi — that is, as a Jerusalemite. Both young men did army service and are a tremendous source of pride to the community we lived in and to their shul, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark.

Jean is an energetic walker and we have accidentally crossed paths with her three times in the past year. I kid you not. Three times in a large urban city where we are mere visitors. How is that even possible?

But as we left Jean, marveling at the coincidences, and literally less than a minute later, Amos greeted us with a cheery hello. Amos is the young adult nephew of one of our daughters, and for sure he’ll be famous one day as he pursues the American dream (or is it an Israeli dream?) of founding a start-up company with his training from the University of Chicago. We wound up crossing the street at the corner of Emek Refaim and Rehov Rachel Imeinu simultaneously with Amos, whom we’ve hosted in New Jersey and have known since his childhood. But this was an unplanned and very pleasant surprise. A few days later we broke matzah together at a Baka family seder. That was no surprise.

And then let me tell you about Ira. We met Ira a few years ago on a plane heading toward Israel. He and his family had been living in Jerusalem for many years, and he is, among many other things, a talented Shakespeare lover who acts and does many other theater production activities. Jerusalem is known for the extraordinary talent of its Anglo expats, and Ira is a star. Of course, sitting on the original plane ride, where I had the aisle and Ira the window, we barely acknowledged one another as I argued my way across the ocean and continents with a fierce Trumpist who sat between us. It wasn’t until the final few minutes of flight that Ira and we discovered a common acquaintance, our daughter, who could write this blog with a blindfold since this is something that often happens to her. So Ira and I exchanged Facebook invitations and went our separate ways. Until last night! We were out on Rehov Betzalel sharing a birthday dinner when Ira passed by and recognized everyone else at our table. And then he realized he knew us as well.

Unlikely, yes. But maybe less unlikely in Jerusalem.

As I write these anecdotes I realize that I’ve got many more similar tales to share. And I’ll bet you do too. I’ll write more soon. In an insane world with horrors of war, disease and political insanity, it’s nice to have some fun so feel free to tell me who you’ve met in the street. Email me at rosanne.skopp@gmail.com

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!