Less than a week before Passover, we received an urgent call from the Jewish community of Curaçao. They had arranged for a rabbi to visit the Caribbean island and lead their seder, but he had canceled at the last minute. Remembering the Chabad rabbinical students who had visited them the previous summer, they turned to them for help. So five days before the start of the holiday, He had suddenly canceled at the last minutewe set about shopping for Passover seder essentials.

When we arrived in Curaçao, we were greeted enthusiastically by Ivan, the community president. Like so many of the other people we met in Curaçao, he was warm and welcoming.

On Shabbat, we met other members of the community, including a Jew named Carlos who was visiting the synagogue for the first time in his life. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, Carlos had just found out he was Jewish. Carlos told us about his encounters with Jewish people as an employee in the prime minister’s office. When we discovered that he had never had a bar mitzvah, we decided to remedy the situation and Carlos agreed to put on tefillin Monday morning in his office. Moreover, he offered to help us set up a meeting with Prime Minister Ivar Asjes!

On Monday morning, we arrived at the parliament building together with Ivan. Mr. Asjes greeted us very warmly and inquired about the local Jewish community. We discussed the Mikveh Israel Temple in Curaçao, the oldest functioning synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, and thanked the prime minister for the financial aid he contributes annually for its upkeep.

He was delighted to receive the matzah weThe prime minister greeted us very warmly brought for him. Our conversations stretched on, and what had been scheduled as a five-minute photo-op soon became a half-hour discussion about Judaism.

After our meeting, we went to Carlos’s office, where he excitedly told his staff that he was about to have a bar mitzvah. When we explained the significance of the milestone, Carlos became very emotional. He put on the tefillin and was at a loss for words. So moving was the experience that he committed to start coming to shul regularly in his quest to explore the meaning of being Jewish. We gave him some shumurah matzah and danced “Mazal tov!