In 1934 Yissachar Heller of Frankfurt, Germany met his friends at the neighborhood park for an afternoon of leisure. He was refused entry. His friends wandered off, embarrassed and unsure. The local policeman gave no explanation, just repeated himself over and over again. It was only after much pressure that he finally said it was because Yissachar was a Jew.

The young Mr. Heller immediately went to the shipping office to book passage. He did not care which language they spoke or the clothes they wore – he wanted a destination as far away from Germany as possible. The ship left the next day to Rio De Janeiro.

We knew that Gilberto Heller, an elderly wheelchair-bound Jew lived in the poussada (a Brazilian blend of a Motel Six and a B&B) near the beach, which he owned and managed. Bahia has hundreds of beaches and thousands of poussadas. We did not have much hope of meeting this man. His very name was mysterious; soft 'g's and muffled 'l's, rolling 'r's and long 'o's. We had heard of him from a young Jewish woman we had met, whose name we got from the local nightclub baron.

The concierge (read the local yokel who knows no more than the name of his hotel and whereabouts of the nearest pub) of our hotel actually had heard of such an individual living in Praiah Do Mundai, a beach four kilometers or so north of the town center. There is just one northbound bus that stops at all the beaches – we had merely to look out for the beach sign that is invariably half-fallen, mud-splattered and hidden by overgrown palm trees. We alighted at the said beach and started looking for Gilberto. The first poussada knew no English, the second poussada knew no Gilberto, and the third poussada directed us down an unpaved road toward another cluster of motels. Once, twice and thrice we were met with blank stares and apologetic shrugs. It was fourth time lucky when we walked up a long wooden ramp and were greeted by Gilberto himself.

He was of broken body but strong of spirit. His eyes sparkled with youth, despite his white hair and aged face. He laughed loud and often and maneuvered himself like any able bodied man. His wasted legs were no obstacle to him living life to its fullest. He apologized for his almost flawless English and we apologized for our mostly flawed Portuguese.

The conversation raced from our family histories (his – German and Portuguese, mine –German, Australian, Polish and Russian. Our grandfathers never met.) to our favorite music (his – The Beatles, mine – nothing) to our thoughts on German restitution (his – take what you can, mine – forgiveness can't be bought) to the importance of Tefillin (we both agreed). He drank thirstily of the words of Torah that we offered him and could not have been happier when he affixed a Mezuzah to his door.

The Hellers had traveled long and far; from the old world to the new; from streets that echoed the footsteps of the Chasam Sofer and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to dirt roads that softly echo the slap of thongs; from a center of Yiddishkeit to a stop on the Roving Rabbis itinerary, and still the Jewish pride did not die.