Our month-long trip visiting Jews scattered across Vietnam started in Ho Chi Minh City, a city with a growing Jewish community and its own Chabad House. Formerly known as Saigon, the city is home to 150 Jews and is also a hub for businesspeople and travelers.
In the Chabad House, we constantly heard incredulous visitors exclaiming how much the admire Rabbi and Mrs. Hartman who serve the needs of every Jew in this remote corner of the world. Even we, who thought we knew what this is all about, were blown away!
We headed to central Vietnam to visit Barry, formerly of Illinois, however now a long-time resident of Nha Trang on the central coast of Vietnam. In the tuna export business, he told us that, living in Vietnam, what he missed most was the great taste of pastrami on rye. Unfortunately we were unable to sustain his physical appetite, but spiritually he was left more than satisfied.
The small town of Hoi An is smack in the middle of the country. Haya, originally from Haifa, was thrilled to welcome us to her humble abode and was very excited to affix a mezuzah to her doorpost. Living in such a remote town, she eagerly stocked up on the Jewish books we had available and decided that she would begin to read from the book of Psalms daily.
In Danang, an hour's drive from Hoi An, Alan was glad to meet us and talk about his Jewish heritage. A Vietnam War veteran from Chicago, he came back to Vietnam on a war veterans healing tour. There, he saw a different side of the country and fell in love with the place. Following our lead, Alan took upon himself to find more Jews living in his city. Sure enough, just a few days later he called to tell us that he had found a fellow member of the tribe.