Two unrelated Jews from different walks of life meet in an unlikely place and discover they are connected. You've heard that story before in Jewish folklore. Well, it happened to me recently.
It was a few days before Passover. I had three hours to kill after leaving a meeting on West 57th Street in Manhattan before joining my wife and friends for dinner followed by a show at Lincoln Center. It was a gorgeous sunny day, rare for the miserable winter we were experiencing. So I walked over to the new plaza at Lincoln Center. While I was taking in the sun in front of Avery Fisher Hall, a young Hasid approached me. "Are you Jewish?" he asked. "Yes," I answered. He then asked me to put on tefillin and say a prayer.
It's been a long time since I put on tefillin and I was not keen on doing it right there on the plaza of Lincoln Center. I tried to squirm out. "I've got an appointment and have to leave," I told him. He persisted. And he seemed so sincere and eager to perform this mitzvah, persuading someone he probably perceived as a wayward son of Israel to perform a Jewish ritual, that I caved. "OK. I'll do it."
I removed my jacket and rolled up my shirt sleeve as he began winding the tefillin around my arm. I pointed to the leather box and said, "Oh, that has scripture from Deuteronomy and Exodus."
He was surprised that I knew that.
"Well, I've taken Torah classes with Rabbi Simon Jacobson," I told him, hoping he would realize that I wasn't a total idiot about Judaism. "Do you know him?"
"Oh, yes," he responded. "He's a brilliant speaker and he has a newspaper."
"Yes, I know: The Algemeiner Journal. I write for it."
He couldn't have been more shocked that this apparent apostate contributed to this prominent Jewish newspaper. "Do you know Dovid Efune?"
"Of course," I said. "He's the editor and I speak to him from time to time." Again an astonished reaction.
In an excited tone, he spilled out, "He's my brother-in-law. He married my sister last year."
"Isn't that interesting," I said. "At Rabbi Jacobson's Rosh Hashanah dinner this past year I sat next to your sister and brother-in-law."
He almost fell over. "You know, nothing happens by accident." For him, it was a divine intervention, too unlikely to be an accident. Perhaps he was right.
That being said, what's the chance of running into two Jews at Buckingham Palace and discovering that they are the King and Queen of England? Farfetched you say. Some curious emerging facts suggest that it could happen.
When the Royal Wedding uniting Kate Middleton and Prince William was announced, genealogy sleuths got to work. At first, the buzz indicated that Kate's mother, Carole Goldsmith (maiden name), had Jewish ancestry. If Carole Goldsmith were Jewish then, according to Jewish law, her daughter Kate Middleton would be considered Jewish -- and could become the first Jewish Queen (Consort) of England. But alas, investigators still believing that there was a Jewish heritage in Kate's lineage found that the last five generations of her family were married in churches. Of course, that doesn't rule out that some may have been secret Jews, which was true for many Jews during the Inquisition. Other sources still suspect Jewish lineage for Kate. And according to an Orthodox Sephardic Rabbi in Israel, both parents of Kate's mother were Jewish. So the question of Jew or not a Jew for Kate is still open.