Living and thriving within a Jewish community has always been an important part of my life. I was fortunate to be raised in that environment, and the deep-rooted sense of belonging has continued to nurture my faith and values.

When I grew up and moved away from my childhood community in Connecticut, I sought out and found that kinship in other Jewish communities, wherever life and destiny chose to take me.

It was essential that the community I chose fit well with my personality and comfort zone. I would always begin my search by attending services and connecting with local synagogues, talking with others, and listening to recommendations from family and friends. I was led to wonderful communities, which continued to enrich my life and brought me great comfort and purpose over the years.

Which brings me to how I found Chabad of Cary, North Carolina, 10 years ago.

Having just moved from Maryland to Cary one month before, I was already searching for that special place when I received a rather surprising phone call from Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar. When I asked how he had found me, Rabbi Cotlar explained that he had heard of me through my cousin living in Florida, who had mentioned my move to his own Chabad rabbi, who had a connection with Rabbi Cotlar.

He invited me to attend services for the upcoming Shabbat. I was unsure at first, so I mentioned my Conservative upbringing, which I knew was quite different from Chabad. Rabbi Cotlar assured me that most of the attendees were actually from diverse backgrounds. Hearing this, I felt a strong and admittedly curious compulsion to accept the rabbi’s invitation.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the small congregation, not as a stranger just passing through, but as one of the mishpachah (family). I felt very comfortable with the service, and prior to the Kiddush many approached me and introduced themselves. On my way home, I contemplated my experience, and the familiar sense of belonging settled well within my heart again. I knew that my quest to find a Jewish community was over.

I became a regular each Shabbat thereafter, and became part of a growing Jewish community. Through the twists and turns of fate, Chabad had actually found me. Through the years, I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful people who have joined our community, and enjoy friendships which have continued to grow.

One of the many advantages of becoming a “regular” at shul is how interconnected you become with everyone else’s lives. Their simchahs become your simchah. A tragedy, G‑d forbid, becomes your loss.

And then there are the mitzvot that happen through always seeing one another. When we know someone who needs a job, we network together. If we know someone is traveling out of town, we wish them a safe trip and a safe return. And if someone, for whatever reason, isn’t at shul for a few weeks, we reach out, as only a friend can, to check up on them and make sure everything is OK.

As a regular each week, this is something that is important to me. And as it turned out, it saved my life.

In my retirement, I work part time as a tax preparer for a local H&R Block. Aside from tax season, I work alone in the office. I rarely go out to lunch, choosing instead to snack at my desk.

But when a good friend from shul called to remind me that we once discussed going to lunch, I told him to just choose the day and time, and I would be there to pick him up. We arranged to have lunch on October 7, 2021, and he chose 1:00 p.m. We enjoyed our lunch, had a great conversation, and forty-five minutes later, we were back in the car, feeling good about our visit.

As I was driving my friend home, the owner of H&R Block called. He had just received a call from an employee of the business next door, who informed him that a car had crashed through the plate glass windows of our office!

When I arrived, the parking lot was filled with emergency vehicles. I was shocked to see an SUV sitting completely inside the office. A police officer explained that after slamming through the windows, the vehicle had actually continued to accelerate. I saw that the full impact of the crash was absorbed by my cubicle, which was crushed. The car continued further into the wall, partially entering the chiropractor’s office next door. I was informed that had I not gone out for lunch and had been sitting at my desk as usual, the end results would have been deadly.

There are many reasons why I am still here to tell this story. My wife assures me that it was Divine intervention. One of my friends called it luck, another said that “Someone” was watching out for me, and another said that it was “not yet my time.”

Whatever you choose to believe, my mind immediately went to how fortunate I am to have developed a friendship with someone over the years, from the time I was so graciously welcomed into the Chabad community. I believe that our friendship saved my life. It serves as a reminder to me that miracles happen, and that being part of this community has continued to be a blessing in so many ways.