Playing Jewish geography

nadiia morris et al

“Lone soldier” Nadia, second from right, had a chance meeting with a friend of her father’s, Avrom Caplan, second from left, also from Liverpool, and his children, Nathan and Lily.

Sometimes when you cover a story for a newspaper, it’s the story behind the story that can really make your day.

I was covering a small dessert gathering at which Nadia, who had recently completed her stint in the Israeli army, and Tatiana, with eight months to go, were telling their story of making aliyah to Israel, choosing to go into the army, and how the Jewish Agency for Israel, and by extension, Jewish Federations of North America supports them.

Nadia, it turns out, is from Liverpool, England. So is my husband, Avrom. In her early 20s, I figured at the very least, I should ask if she knows my nephew, Michael Cowan, who lives in London. I figured she had to have passing knowledge of him. They both attended King David, the Jewish school in Liverpool.

And of course, she did know Michael. My kids, who came to hear the girls speak were excited that this stranger before them knew their cousin.

I asked Nadia her last name, which for security reasons, I cannot print in the paper. I then asked her parents’ name. I don’t know what my face looked like, but when she said, “Mike and Mazal,” all my husband’s stories of growing up in Jewish Liverpool unspooled in my head.

“Your dad’s nickname is Mol,” I said. Nadia looked at me like I was a little crazy. Then recognition spread across her face.

“I think you’re right.”

“My husband grew up with him.”

We began tossing out names, “Ben, Sue, Sandy…” Good thing I had paid attention over the years. The synagogue that Avrom’s grandfathers both help found, Childwall Hebrew Congregation, is the one Nadia attended. The story Naida told the crowd about how her parents met when her father, Mike, missed a plane back to England, and the cab driver brought him home where Mike met the cabbie’s daughter, Mazal, is one well known to Avrom. He’s stayed in that cab driver’s house himself! It seems that every Jewish boy and girl from Liverpool who found themselves in Israel, has made their way to Mazal’s parents’ home.

I had to get pictures. In the Facebook ready universe, we could post them and her dad and mom could see immediately that she’d come to America and run into old friends from home.

What really amazed me about the whole experience isn’t how small the Jewish world is, but that the Jewish Agency, which claims as part of its mission to connect Jews in Israel to those in the Diaspora, did such a very good job of doing so that day, providing a link between New City, Liverpool and our Jewish homeland.

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