Shabbat Dinner in Mea Shearim

by Brad Jacobson (Columbia, MO)

Crossing the road, I see four phone cords dangling down from their hooks. Rabbi Seidel, whom we met at the Wall, told us to wait on the corner by the phones. Three of us–my two friends and I–are invited for Shabbat dinner in Mea Shearim, an ultra-orthodox neighborhood. An older Hasidic man greets us and introduces himself as Rabbi Weiss. I tell him my name is Brad. He asks me my last name and where my family is originally from. I tell him, “Jacobson” and that my grandparents were from Russia and Latvia. He tells me that in Israel, people pronounce the “J” as “Y,” so it is pronounced “Yacobson.”

He leads us up a narrow street. Bearded men with black suits and fur hats and women with covered hair stroll past. No cars or buses are on the roads at the beginning of Shabbat. It could be Poland two hundred years ago. When we arrive at his house, it is full of family and guests. We sit at the table, men on one side and women on the other. Rabbi Weiss says he came to this neighborhood from Romania in 1950. He asks many questions: “What am I doing in Israel? What are my plans? What do I do in America?” He talks gently trying to forge a connection. He makes a comment that will glue itself inside of me. He says, “I do not know what you know, but you do not know what I know.”

Brad Jacobson is a volunteer every summer in Israel in the SAREL program. He teaches TESOL at the Asian Affair Center at the University of Missouri, where he has an MEd in Literacy. In the summers he enjoys exploring places with his camera like the Old City of Jerusalem, Tzfat, and the Red Sea where he scuba dives. He has been published in Tikkun, Voices Israel, Poetica, Cyclamens and Swords, and the University of Missouri International News.

“Shabbat Dinner in Mea Shearim” is from Brad’s new book, “Lionfish: The Poetic Collection Of A Traveler’s Experiences In Israel,” and reprinted here with the kind permission of the author and publisher.

Visit the link to read more of Brad’s work:

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