The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught that every Jew is a precious and vital part of the Jewish nation. This message has been ingrained in us from our earliest youth, so it was only natural for us to make the 150 mile trip from Seoul to Daegu, South Korea, to visit two Jewish souls currently living there. Yoav from Canada works for a tech company, while Renee from America is an English teacher.
We headed out early, but navigating the Korean public transport network was confusing to say the least! It was late afternoon by the time we arrived in Daegu, and we immediately set out to our meeting with Yoav. Yoav was thrilled to see us. As the only Jew in his company, he really has no contact with other Jews, and gets his Judaism “fix” via the World Wide Web--Chabad.org is among his favorites. After a lively conversation, we helped him put on tefillin, and soon it was time to say goodbye; we still wanted to catch Renee that evening.
When we arrived at our hotel to make the arrangements, we discovered that Renee actually lived in another city, 90 miles north. We would have to push off our visit for the following morning.
Bright and early the next day we found ourselves waiting for the bus in the thick Asian smog to begin the first leg of our journey. We then took a train to the picturesque mountainous region where Renee lives, followed by lots of running around in her neighborhood to find her apartment, but finally we arrived!
At first, Renee was rendered speechless by the sight of two Chassidic Jews at her front door, but she recovered quickly and greeted us warmly. She couldn’t fathom how we had found her place, and quite frankly, neither could we! Knowing she had to go to work, we were expecting a short visit. That short visit quickly turned into a two-hour chat covering numerous topics ranging from her memories of her grandfather to her current life in South Korea. “I am probably the only person in this city lighting the Shabbat candles,” she told us proudly.
When we said our goodbyes, we felt like we were parting from a long lost friend, a fact that the two of us marveled at while on the train back to Seoul. Sometimes, you have to travel to Eastern Asia to realize that we truly are one family. We had never met Renee and Yoav, yet they welcomed us with open arms, fully cognizant of the special bond we share. We hope to extend that same warmth to our brothers and sisters, in Korea and back home.