After arriving in Monticello, we spent a day with Rabbi Chanowitz, who, together with his wife, directs Chabad of Monticello. He showed us around town, and discussed some upcoming events which we will be promoting, as well as the material we will be distributing.

Monticello is a town (actually considered a village) with 900 full-time Jews, and over 5,000 summer Jews who vacation in bungalow colonies. Around half of the summer Jews are Orthodox Brooklynites.

Packed with the summer edition of Think Jewish (a print publication), Jewish books, Shabbos candles, tefillin and mezuzot, we set out.

Our first stop seemed to be a bungalow colony like all others. But, we were in for a real surprise: the lingua franca of the elderly, secular residents was…Yiddish! Mostly from Europe, they found commonality with each other (and us!), in Mamaloshen (Yiddish for 'mother tongue'), a sense of kinship and Jewish identity.

The ladies eagerly accepted our Shabbos candle kits. The cute matchbox "to match" made a good conversation opener and will hopefully be used for many Friday nights to come.

Here are some vignettes from their stories:

"…As World War II was drawing nearer, my husband was summoned to report to an office. He was aked to fill out a long form. Among other details, he was asked to record our religion. He wrote an ambiguous answer; hoping that our Jewishness would go undetected. I told him "you go right back there and tell them that we are proud Jews!"..."

"…After the Holocaust, I made my way to Brooklyn and settled in Crown Heights. I got a job in Albany Bakery for 32 years and used to cut the lekach honey cake which the Rebbe would distribute before Yom Kippur. I received two dollar bills from him twenty years ago and cherish them until today..."

"…We lived in the East New York section of Brooklyn and went to Rabbi J.J. Hecht's shul. Although he was an ardent supported of strict Orthodoxy, he would often say "This shul is open for all." We really loved his typical Lubavitch openness. We loved his speeches on Shabbos and wish that there would have been some way to record them …"

Some proofs of how small the world actually is:

One of the ladies has a grandchild who will be studying in SUNY Albany, where, my co-rover Efraim's brother runs the Chabad Student Center. Small world indeed!

On Friday afternoon, Mrs. Chanowitz asked me to look up someone who came to the Shul last year. (He comes once a year and she remembers each time!) Boy was I in for a surprise; it turnes out that we went to public school together in Brooklyn and may have even been in the same class!

Stay tuned for the next few day's adventures,

Shlomo Leib