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Lost And Found

Marcia Stark Meth / Emmy Stark Zitter / Miriam Stark Zakon

We all lose or misplace things: glasses, credit card, purse, keys, cell phone, written documents, digital files; time for our families, our friends, our communities, ourselves; opportunities to accomplish things, to perform mitzvos, to make a kiddush Hashem. Fortunately, we often recover missing items, both concrete and intangible — the keys turn up in a jacket pocket, we discover the glasses perched on top of our sheitels, find more time for our relationships, gain new opportunities for personal growth

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Ever leave something behind in a cab? Once upon a time, when the world was a safer place, I would have given you a great tip (Get it? Tip? Cab?) on one way to get it back: schmooze up your cab driver. Here’s a case in point. It’s a frigid Monday morning, and I’m traveling to San Diego on business. The taxi arrives on time, and we head to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. I use my tried-and-true icebreaker: offer the driver a piece of sugarless gum. One simple gesture, and we’re best friends. He recognizes that I’m Jewish (can’t imagine why!), mentions that he lives in my neighborhood, and asks if I know a Rabbi F., who lives on his block. Turns out Rabbi F. davens in our shul. So here I am, a white woman from Brooklyn playing Jewish Geography with a black man from the Dominican Republic. “The day we moved in,” he reminisces, “we’re unloading the truck, and this rabbi and a bunch of his kids show up with home-baked bread to welcome us.” I sit in the back seat, kvelling, thinking, You go, Rabbi F.! Major kiddush Hashem! “But that’s not the only reason I respect Jewish people,” he continues. He talks about when, years before, he first entered the United States to study agriculture. He was attending a university in Tucson, supporting himself with part-time odd jobs, and started as a stock boy in a grocery store owned by an Arab. “He made me work like a slave that first week,” he recalls. “Then, on payday, he stiffed me! He told me I couldn’t report him to anyone because I was on a student visa!” The driver contrasts this experience to his next job in a deli owned by an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor. The man treated him like a real “mentsh” (the driver’s word, not mine!), talked to him respectfully, even let him eat whatever he wanted during work hours. At the end of the first week, not only did he pay his wages, he gave him a huge tip. “Just to show you that not all people are like your first employer,” the old man explained. The driver informs me that to this day he sticks up for Jewish people whenever his fellow cab drivers — many from Iraq — make anti-Semitic remarks.

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