Feb. 16, 2007
A Jewish connection
Wherever we travel, we recognize each other.
In December, my six-year-old nephew Alex was getting off the plane
in Arizona. His patience was running low and he was dreaming of
Grandma Tutti's chicken soup. The lady behind him in line said,
"You'd better be good, because Santa's watching."
Alex matter of factly responded, "Santa's not watching me,
So we might not have Santa, but we have "similaritude."
Never heard of similaritude? No worries that's because I
made the word up. It stands for "similar attitude."
For some reason, it often seems that Jewish people around the world
have a similar attitude about welcoming other Jewish people into
their community. Growing up, my home seemed to always be filled
with people from all over the world.
Maybe it's the Jewish karma that made its way back to me, but I
have often celebrated Shabbat with strangers, who soon became my
friends, in countries around the globe.
Sometimes Shabbat dinners surprise me and show up from out of the
clear blue sky. Twelve hours after landing in Auckland, New Zealand,
at the start of a solo three-month travel adventure, I simply said
hello to a blond woman in the hallway of the backpackers hostel
where I was staying. Truly, she had me at hello. I knew then and
there I was in the presence of an Israeli. We switched to chatting
in Hebrew. Before I knew it, I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen
and preparing the soup. Soon after, I was reciting Kiddush for our
Shabbat dinner in the garden.
Other stories come to mind. Several years ago, I was living in Paris
and, through a series of connections, I was invited to Shabbat dinner
by a French Moroccan family. I remember walking through the front
door the delicious aromas enveloped me. I immediately felt
at ease once we started lighting the candles and reciting Kiddush.
I was thousands of miles away from home, my French language skills
were not, shall we say, magnifique, but I was able to converse in
a mixture of French, Hebrew and English. The idea that people I
barely knew invited me into their home to share a meal and
a delicious one at that was incredibly memorable.
Another time similaritude came in handy was when I was wandering
around Paris after the French had just beaten Brazil during the
World Cup. People were partying in the streets and, as I was wandering
home on boulevard Montparnasse, I somehow ended up speaking with
a guy wearing a Jewish star around his neck. We instantly connected
and planned to meet up again. A few days later, I called my mom
in Arizona and told that I had met an interesting French Jewish
"Where did you meet him?" she wondered.
I answered matter of factly, "On a street corner."
"What?" she exclaimed.
"Mom, seriously he's fine, we're going out tonight."
"Where are you meeting him?" she inquired.
"He's picking me up in his car."
The line grew silent.
"Could you call me when you get home?"
"Mom, are you serious?"
Gislan Solomon came to pick me up a few hours later, in a beautiful
blue convertible. We had dinner in a fantastic restaurant in the
Marais area, otherwise known as the Jewish quarter of Paris. The
restaurant was right off rue de Rosiers (Street of Roses).
The warm summer Parisian wind blew through my hair as we drove up
the Champs Elysées. The stars seemed to twinkle in the velvety
blue night sky while we circled around the Arc du Triomphe. A few
moments later, we stopped the car and silently gazed up at the stunning
We spent hours driving around the magical city, eventually ending
up at Bar Fly, one of the hottest clubs in Paris. About three that
morning, he dropped me off in front of my building. As this was
BC (before cellphones), I stepped into the phone booth and called
"Hi Mom, I'm home and I can't believe I'm calling you from
Paris to let you know I got home from my date safely."
My mom breathed a sigh of relief into the phone and asked if I had
a nice time.
"Amazing, but it's really late and I'm on a payphone outside
my building and there are some scary people around and I don't feel
comfortable being outside."
Seconds later I was up in my room laughing.
Our beautiful evening turned into a friendship. A few weeks later,
I returned to the United States and he eventually left Paris and
made aliyah to Israel.
So while we might not have Santa watching us, we do have Jewish
mothers, similaritude and, usually, chicken soup waiting for us
Masada Siegel is a freelance writer living in Scottsdale,