More on the way Torah in America is alive and moving forward.
Texas has broad spaces, is flat, and the feeling is that there is no feeling of rushing around.
Houston was new to me. I hadn’t been to Houston before, but I had heard a great deal about it from Eva Lou Chapman. She visited Israel on occasion, always bringing with her as many packages of clothes for distribution as possible. She and her husband were real pioneers of Torah in a time a place where there was so little Torah that the word desert fit like a glove. They built a mikveh in their garage and somehow made everything they touched resonate with Judaism. I had no idea of how much was going on there today. Out of town is a relative term. Houston has the warmth and simplicity that makes out of town life appealing, but there is a surprising amount of ambition for more Torah and more quality expression of everything Jewish. Dallas was even more of a surprise. DATA is a kollel and a movement that has made the desrt bloom. It touches everything. The last thing you would expect is a Bais Yaakov that is on the level of any “in-town” Bais Yaakov. The secretary Mrs. Rich, is a mechanes by her example as well as any teacher does! On to San Diego!
Wednesday night was a campus get together. Front line kiruv is a real battle for the minds and most of all hearts of the kids who don’t know how much they want Torah. What I saw at the house was mind-boggling. The room was full of students, and also full of trays of Chinese food were on the table. They had already finished their weekly challah bake. Communal life is also on the plate in San Diego. When you walk into the Adat shul, you discover a community that didn’t exist until Rabbi Wohlgelernter made it happen 30 years ago. The religious level varies from people who could pass for residents of Har Nof, to people who are just getting their feet wet. They have an extraordinary level of unity and tolerance for uneven levels of growth. The secret it seems is the combination of amazingly numerous shiurim (since the Torah speaks for itself) and his wife, Shoshi who is one of the warmest and most emotionally safe people I have ever met. I had an amazing time watching her in the kitchen. There were four women there (I kept a safe distance) making tortillas. This involved soaking corn stalks, making corn mush, stuffing them in two flavors and cooking them over night in special steamers. I was reading in the other room while most of the action was happening. It finally dawned on me that when she is doing all of this, she really isn’t just pursuing a hobby or making a statement. She’s the real deal. She wants her Shabbos guests to have an unforgettable experience, one that shows a high level of caring. In my own life, I can get myself to stay up late Thursday night making salad after salad for Shabbos. I can’t honestly say that I think that much about the people who eat it, as Shabbos itself. She brought another dimension into the picture.
I was ready to head out for Las Vegas Friday morning. Baruch Hashem, it seemed like I did everything right. I was on a relatively early flight, had a ride to the airport and was at the gate early enough to check out Starbucks, where you can always count on soy milk being available.
Hashem had other plans. There was a spate of mechanical difficulties on the plane, a foiled attempt to find another flight that would get me to Vegas before Shabbos and a wonderful Shabbos in San Diego as a result.
The last leg of trip will have to wait until next week. I’m off to Shushan HaBirah, otherwise known as Greatneck for a get together with Naz and the Meshadi kehillah (and whoever else comes).