We arrived in Zhmerinka, Ukraine, in an old beat-up minivan. The next day we were up bright and early, ready to tackle a foreign country speaking a foreign language. We set out to find Dmitry—the Rosh Hakahal—the head of the Jewish community—who would help us connect with fellow Jews.

Our phone conversation sounded like this:

Us: Dmitry?
He: Dah.
Us: Shalom!
Us: Yiddish?
He: Nyet.
Us: Hebrew, English, Spanish?

With the help of Mr. Berlitz and his pocket dictionary (for very big pockets), I managed to give him my phone number and we made up to meet later that day.

Then, armed with a list of all the Jewish residents of the town, we started trekking through the streets, trying to find someone Jewish.

We finally found a Jewish woman of about sixty living in an old tiny apartment. We asked her if she spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, or English, to which she replied, "nyet." We assured her that her English is better than our Russian, but she probably didn't understand. Feeling a bit discouraged, we gave her some Shabbat candles to light, and continued on our way.

Then, after another beautiful but non-communicative visit, we headed toward an internet café, hoping to find some more clues.

On the way, someone stopped us and gave us a small speech in Russian. We were a bit alarmed, but then he said the magic word, "Dmitry." We both said, "What?" "I Dmitry brother," said the Russian man. He signaled for us to follow him, and we arrived at Dmitry's house, where we put tefillin on with both of them.

Dmitry then communicated to us, between his broken Hebrew and English and a lot of gesturing, that he would take us to Uncle Fima, who speaks Yiddish.

On the way, a car honked at us, obviously Dimitri's friend. "Ivrie?" we shouted. "Da." "Oh, tefillin!" So together with Dmitry's friend, we headed to the synagogue to put tefillin on him. We then went to Uncle Fima's house, where we put tefillin on him and another of Dmitry's friends.

After a full day, we are beginning to feel that even if we can't always verbally communicate, our souls and their souls are conversing, because, in truth, we are all one.

We are starting to find our bearings.

Do svidaniya!

With Uncle Fima who speaks Yiddish.
With Uncle Fima who speaks Yiddish.