In our years as roving rabbis we have traveled to places as far-flung as Cusco, Peru; Pucon, Chile; and Rosarito, Mexico; and have witnessed many a heartwarming moment. This Passover, we made the long trip from Brooklyn to Chengdu, China, where we were privy to the following encounter, arguably the most touching yet.

We arrived several weeks before the holiday to prepare. We were expecting 150 people at our Seder, and were directing all the cooking ourselves. In China, cooking is much more labor intensive, since all fruits and vegetables must be scrubbed well before using. Luckily, we had many volunteers—community members and tourists—helping out in the kitchen. We were all in the holiday spirit, eagerly anticipating the Seder at the culmination of our efforts.

A few days before Passover, Annette strolled into the kitchen of the Chabad House. She had seen the advertisements for the Seder and wanted to take part in the preparations. We directed her to a huge bucket of potatoes that needed to be peeled.

Amidst the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, we heard the unmistakable sound of sobbing. It was Annette, peeling potatoes, tears streaming down her face.

“Annette, what happened? Is everything alright?”

For a few endless moments, Annette could not compose herself, as if the cries were coming from the very depths of her soul.

“I’m living in Chengdu for twenty years now. I made a life for myself here; I’m busy, working all the time. My mother, my father—I left them, I left their life with all the beautiful traditions behind. I made myself forget that I am a Jew. But now, I’m sitting here peeling potatoes before Passover, and oh how I long for those simple days, sitting with my mother and my grandmother, peeling potatoes together...”