By: Bernard Starr, Professor emeritus, CUNY
Two unrelated Jews from different walks of life meet in an unlikely place and discover they are connected. You’ve heard that story before in Jewish folklore. Well, it happened to me recently.
It was a few days before Passover. I had three hours to kill after leaving a meeting on West 57th Street in Manhattan before joining my wife and friends for dinner followed by a show at Lincoln Center. It was a gorgeous sunny day, rare for the miserable winter we were experiencing. So I walked over to the new plaza at Lincoln Center. While I was taking in the sun in front of Avery Fisher Hall, a young Hasid approached me. “Are you Jewish?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered. He then asked me to put on tefillin and say a prayer.
It’s been a long time since I put on tefillin and I was not keen on doing it right there on the plaza of Lincoln Center. I tried to squirm out. “I’ve got an appointment and have to leave,” I told him. He persisted. And he seemed so sincere and eager to perform this mitzvah, persuading someone he probably perceived as a wayward son of Israel to perform a Jewish ritual, that I caved. “OK. I’ll do it.”