It was already after 3 PM, and we’d been standing outside the Maharal’s Altneu Synagogue for hours, but Leibel and I decided to stay a few extra minutes at our Judaism booth this past Friday afternoon.

We saw a couple and asked if they were Jewish. They responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” We invited the young man to don tefillin. He told us that it’s been years since he last wore tefillin, but he was happy to do so now.

As I was wrapping him up, his friend asked us where we were from. Leibel answered that he’s from Canada and I’m from Long Island, New York.

Their faces lit up. The girl told us that they’re both from L.I. as well! She asked what town, and Leibel told them I was from Jericho. She told me that the person I was wrapping tefillin with was also from Jericho. (Until then I had a large smile on my face, but now I started to laugh.) He asked which street I grew up on, and then told me his street name. We grew up less than three blocks away from each other.

After finishing the Shema prayer, he asked my full name. After hearing my family name, he told me my sister’s name and said, “That’s not your sister, is it?!” I responded in the affirmative. Apparently he and my sister knew each other quite well. Both I and the couple I had just met recognized the hashgacha pratit (divine providence) involved. We spent the next few minutes chatting about all kinds of things, including Shabbat, Jewish dress, and the role Jews play in this world.

And then we hastily ran off to prepare for Shabbat.

Simcha Evan Finkelstein