By Getzy Markowitz
An interesting thing happens to me whenever I fly into the United States. Throughout the trip I tend to keep to myself. I usually stay uninterested in anyone other than the guy sitting next to me, and the friendly foreign flight attendant serving inedible Kosher food. However, my attitude changes before landing. As a stewardess passes through the cabin handing out official documents that are to be presented at disembarkation, I suddenly want to be noticed. When she inquires about my nationality, I proudly and loudly announce that I am American. Subsequently, I am handed one less piece of paperwork than my fellow travelers, kind of like the steward who makes it a point that those in coach notice he’s closing the partition which separates them from a higher class.
In the arrival hall, foreigners line up in the visitors lane. I smoothly and immodestly queue up in the designated line for American citizens. The customs agent may give me a suggestive glance, but my passport bears the face of an eagle, prompting my bold appearance.
This weekend, two seas of humanity will converge in two popular neighborhoods that are oceans apart. In Israel, thousands of Yeshivah students will leave their study halls for Hebron, a city where the Bible comes alive. There, they will stay close to the resting place of our matriarch Sara, on a Shabbos whose Torah section celebrates her life. In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, thousands of Rabbis will meet for the international conference of Chabad-Lubavicth emissaries. Men dedicated to promoting the heritage of our forefathers will convene for an annual gathering, which some would argue sets world Jewry’s policy for the coming year.
To me, these two assemblies strike a similar chord, highlighting the story of the congregation of Jacob. In Hebron, the visiting Jews’ experience will echo Abraham’s declaration when acquiring the city from its ancient landowners, “I am an immigrant and a resident among you.” There, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, these Jews will feel as in an enclave within a larger hostile populace. Though on the land endowed to them by G-d, legitimately purchased by His servant, they are aliens. They are strangers in a town that is rich in the history most familiar to them.
In Brooklyn, Jewish leaders will return to a neighborhood that has become the exporter of the finest Rabbis the world has ever seen. They come from the snowy slopes of Colorado and the freezing mountains of Siberia. Some are from shores on the Riviera, and others from the strands of the Great Lakes. But while they reside in those places, their hearts and minds inhabit a home far from their own. They could live in South America for decades, but are concentrated north, to a community in Brooklyn where Lubavitch has its organizational headquarters. This is the neighborhood where the Rebbe reorganized a fading Jewish life.
This weekend’s Hebron excursion demonstrates the Jewish journey through history. We are faithful residents and outstanding citizens, but made to feel like immigrants. In a strange way, the gentiles can be more in touch with our true-selves than we are. The Jew was placed here for a reason, chosen for a purpose. The Jewish objective is to expose the world to its own G-dly purpose. The Chabad emissary, yearning for home as he stands committed to his temporary one, is an example that we all must follow. While we are homesick for a life once lived, we have been charged to heal an ailing world. The longing is to be while not being, and to exist in one place while living in another