I found a Tehillim in 770 which, on the front piece, was inscribed, “The
gematria of Beis Moshiach is 770.” I showed it to the Rebbe who laughed
One Shabbos, Yossi (6) and Mendy (4 ½) were standing at the doorway of 770
when the Rebbe arrived. He said “Good Shabbos” to Mendy, who gave the Rebbe
his hand to shake whilst answering “Good Shabbos.” The Rebbe also shook
hands with Yossi. A large argument and debate ensued on whether the Rebbe had
given his hand first or if the boys were rude and had stuck out their hands. Was
it correct or was it wrong, and so on. Well, the following day we had just
returned to 770; we were all standing at the doorway of 770 when the Rebbe
happened to be coming along. The Rebbe touched his hat, smiled at Roselyn and
me, and firmly and smartly shook hands with Mendy and Yossi. (Near the end of
Chapter Eight, I have included a unique picture of the Rebbe shaking my grandson
Yossi Lew’s hand two years ago.)
One afternoon we took Yossi and Mendy with us to Utica Avenue. I went to a
bank to cash a traveler’s check. What a performance! I thought I was going to
be arrested! The bank manager said that he had never seen an English traveler’s
check and I should go to Wall Street. I told him a few home truths: that even in
the most primitive parts of India, I have been able to cash English banker’s
checks; but here in New York, the so-called center of commercial civilization,
when every hour or less we could hear on the radio the temperature, humidity and
degree of air pollution, we were taken for forgers and thieves! When he
explained the troubles he faced in Brooklyn with gangsters, with racial problems
and slum conditions (even in the better areas, rubbish lined the streets every
day of the week), I had to sympathize with him - as long as he gave me the
It was getting late for mincha. I didn’t want to miss the Rebbe’s mincha
at 770, but my foot was giving me trouble. So we all dashed down into the subway
and caught a train, just in time! It was the express train. (In New York, the
slow, or “local,” trains, stop at every station but the “express” trains
skip some stations.) Unfortunately, this train went flying right past Kingston
Avenue - the whole station vibrating and the train screeching - to the great
delight and amusement of Yossi and Mendy.
Ultimately it stopped at Franklin Avenue, the third station, and we had to
wait twenty minutes for a train back. We were late for mincha!
On the subject of trains in New York, one day Berel Futerfas invited me to
accompany him to see a client somewhere near Jamaica, in Queens, New York. His
friend promised to take us by car, but then let us down.
We arrived at station “P”, and it was like a country village. Quiet,
silent and dead. Even the station booking office was closed. No one was about
anywhere. The town was miles away. Mind you, it was a glorious summer day.
Ah, civilization, a telephone! And just for us, a card advertising a taxi
service stuck on the wall. We phoned the number and were told that there was no
taxi at this moment, but we should be getting one in twenty minutes. After half
an hour we phoned again, and were assured that within ten minutes he would be
there, we should wait. Wait? Nebach, where could we go?
Within half an hour the taxi arrived. The driver was very indignant that we
called him, and where did we get his name? We explained about the card. He told
us that he’d come from miles away and it would cost us double the ordinary
taxi fare. Now we were mad!
When we returned to the station we boarded a lovely train back to Brooklyn,
all air-conditioning and modern. Berel and I were traveling very nicely and
relaxed, except when the conductor would be shrieking “blarty, blarty, blah.”
I remarked to Berel that one could never understand a word these people said.
Pity, because we should have changed for Brooklyn at the next stop, instead of
which we arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan!