In the work we are privileged to do, there isn’t always one outstanding event. Sometimes, there are a series of small, meaningful encounters with our fellow Jews, which we’d like to believe create a ripple effect of good deeds, light, and joy.

We met Sam during our stopover in the Amsterdam airport on the Thursday morning before Passover. I was praying in the lounge when he approached and asked to borrow my tefillin when I was done.He shared that he was Jewish and had celebrated his bar mitzvah back in his hometown of Santa Monica, but it had been quite a while since he’d last done the mitzvah of tefillin. When he saw me, he said, it reminded him of his Jewish roots, and he felt compelled to ask for the opportunity to do the mitzvah as well.

A few hours later, we boarded the plane for our flight to Bucharest. Noting my religious attire, the gentleman next to me introduced himself as a Jewish atheist. He pointed at the wing of the plane and commented, “It’s shaky, isn’t it? But since I believe in science, I know that statistically we are safe.” I replied that whenever I travel I begin with a prayer for a safe journey and therefore I am at ease. I continued to explain that we believe in science as well, since G‑d created the laws of nature, but we do not believe that science can deny the existence of G‑d. I was surprised when he didn’t try to argue, and we spoke about a number of other topics in religion, with a very respectful give and take. As we neared the completion of the flight, he thanked me a number of times for what he described as an elucidating discussion.

We spent the weekend in Bucharest, helping at the Chabad center there, before driving the three hours to Brasov on Sunday night, where we would be leading the community Seder. The community had come together to prepare the Seder, so with the bulk of the work done, we had the luxury of strolling through town in search of Jews who would like to attend our Seder.

It was a beautiful day and the streets were full and bustling. We met a number of people, mostly Israelis, and spoke with them about the upcoming holiday. One of the Israelis agreed to put on tefillin while several of his friends looked on. When he had finished reciting the prayers, we started singing “Am Yisrael Chai,” and his friends joined in, swept into this poignant, powerful moment.

The Seder took place at the synagogue, a magnificent 200-year-old structure, with a diverse crowd. Young Israeli backpackers and elderly survivors of the Holocaust sitting side by side, participating in the 15 steps of the Seder exactly the way their grandparents did. It was a true affirmation of Jewish life, a resounding echo of the earlier “Am Yisroel Chai” in the streets of Brasov.