Moshe – not a common name in Mississippi!

We were in our hotel room in Jackson, MS. We had just had a very hard day and were relaxing and makings some phone calls for the next day’s appointments. One of the names on our list was Doctor Moshe R.

After introducing ourselves and exchanging pleasantries, we asked about scheduling an appointment. "Sure,” he said, “why don't you come over now?"

Pulling up to a ranch style house about fifteen miles out of Jackson, we parked in the driveway and knocked on the door. Moshe opened the door and with a sweeping hand gesture cordially invited us in.

"Would you like to make a l'chaim (toast)?" he asked. "Sure," we replied. A warm conversation ensued. Turns out he is a South African Jew. In 1973, after things began to heat up in Johannesburg, he moved to Mississippi.

He reminisced about his South African Jewish childhood, going to a cheder (Hebrew School) where his teachers were all Lituanian shtetel Jews. His memories of Yom Kippur, seeing the men weeping and praying for forgiveness, left an indelible impression on him. He spoke with a genuine fondness and warmth for Judaism.

Meeting Jews in Mississippi is exciting. Meeting a Russian Jew who speaks Yiddish is even more refreshing. We met David at a hotel near his office. Walking up to the hotel lobby, he welcomed us with a warm Shalom Aleichem and a firm handshake.

We were mesmerized as he told us about Jewish life in Moscow back in the fifties and sixties. He told us about the famous Archipova Synagogue and about the Shabbats of his youth. We told him about the Jewish renaissance that is taking place there today.

He told us how much he appreciates Chabad's work. "It's like what my Aunt Frieda would do back in Russia, she would call us together and make sure we met with this cousin and that relative, always making sure that the family stays close."