We have become accustomed over the years to opening our home to guests for short or prolonged stays. It reached the point after many years that we would have the occasion to meet people who would remind us that they stayed at our house, and embarrassingly we would have no memory of them whatsoever. We thought it was novel that our children, relatively newly married, upon moving to Rochester immediately purchased a guest book. Every time a couple or individual would spend some time with them, be it for one night or for a Shabbat, they would suggest that they sign their book. Now, after many years have passed since they moved to Rochester, they are actually on their second book. Every once in awhile someone peruses the book and either says “Who was that?” or “I remember him, he was so nice!” Or, even “Remember him? He’s the one who forgot his clothes.”
Our communal eagerness to offer hospitality to people we do not know appears to be a trait that is foreign to many people outside of the Jewish religious world. Nina often would hear comments from people in her office that they could not believe that she would have people staying at her home that she had never met before. Many asked, “How can you trust them? Aren’t you afraid they might take something?” That was actually the last thing we ever worried about upon greeting strangers into our home.
In the communities that this paper caters to, readers are often asked to host guests attending events such as Yachad shabbatons, Project Extreme events, Chai Lifeline and Camp Simcha gatherings and multitudes of other well-deserving causes. Our policy in general has been “Of course! We would be happy to welcome these newcomers to our community.”
This past Shabbat at the Yachad shabbaton hosted by Congregation Beth Abraham, we welcomed into our home four young men. Two were official Yachad members and the other two were their advisers. One of our guests, we found out after much prodding and discussion, is a Puppa Chasid who lives in Boro Park. We realized immediately that we would steer him away from the Entenmann’s donuts waiting on the table to a piece of homemade chocolate cake. Nina immediately informed him that the Entenmann’s was not cholov Yisroel. He paced around the house at his own tune and slowly told us in a very hushed voice about his siblings, his age “he should be 14 but he is 39,” his therapies and many other things. He also knew the zman for sof zman kriat Shema for every week for the next year. As well, he told us upon arriving back from shul after Havdalah that he holds by Rabbeinu Tam. We loved him. He had so much charisma in his very own very quiet style. There is no question in our minds that most people would never have realized that they could actually converse with him. Our other guest was from a different mold. He quoted from TV programs, knew so many familiar songs that Nina remembered from zillions of years ago, and he told us in his very own joking fashion that he loves to eat vomit. When he started singing an old Dean Martin song, “That’s Amore,” he kvelled from the fact that Nina also knew that song from her childhood. He was another guest who brought us so much joy and happiness. In their own ways they shared with us who they really are and we gave them the opportunity to feel comfortable and safe in our home. The two young men who accompanied them were students at YU. They had both just several weeks ago returned from a half year of learning in Israel following the full year spent there last year. One was from Monsey, the other from Hendon in London. Believe us that there are many other possibilities of what they could have done this past Shabbat. Instead they chose to work with Yachad. It is not an easy task for young people to do. We have always held these young people in such high admiration. As we have always said about our daughter’s counselors at HASC, everyone who works there is a tzadeket or tzadik. We used to laugh when we were told that YU and Stern students were on waiting lists to go to Yachad shabbatons. Even funnier to us is when people chide that the reason they go is to meet a member of the other sex. We wish for everyone that their children meet a person who devotes his free time to working with young people with special needs. We are certain that there are parents out there who have no idea whatsoever of what their children do when they sign up to be a madrich or madricha at an event.
As we have said many times in the past, there is a period when a person with special needs is no longer cute. As a young child, a person with Down syndrome and/or a person with cerebral palsy can be considered cute by some. Nina used to cringe at Yachad programs when some high schoolers attending a program would look at a participant with special needs and say, “Oh, look, he’s so cute.” That is not what should be said to a 16-year-old who was born with different genes from her contemporaries. They need to be treated as young adults even if they do not have the same comprehension as a normal person their age.
We are grateful that we had the opportunity this past Shabbat to host such lovely guests. What they give to us can never be duplicated by what we can offer them. They are on a much higher madreiga.
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick