April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Most of us have something on the floor in front of the door to our home. Generally, they are there to ensure that when people enter through the front door they wipe their feet prior. These “welcome mats,” which have been their generic name, have patterns and designs and in the past usually just said “welcome.” We have begun to wonder what that really means and who exactly is welcome to come through that front door.

Recently, at the gym, an older woman in a passing discussion with Mordechai mentioned to him that she has been living in Teaneck for 35 years. Although she is Jewish her husband is not. She commented on how the neighborhood has changed. The emergence of so many Torah-observant Jews was a culture shock for her. When she moved to our area there were only a smattering of Jews and most of them were not observant. Obviously, the new neighbors over the years have drastically increased the prices of real estate in the neighborhood. She told him that her only interaction with the religious community has been when they ring her bell with offers to buy her property. She mentioned that as she walks along the street and greets her neighbors, no one responds to her. Her neighbors on either side of her house and directly across the street are all young, shomer-Shabbat families. No one has ever greeted her. In his natural fashion, Mordechai immediately invited her to come with her husband for a Friday night Shabbat meal. (First he asked his wife.) We are awaiting their visit.

Recently, we received a shana tova letter from a former neighbor in Montreal. Laura lived directly next door to our house and, in fact, our houses were called semi-detached, which means that the two houses were connected to each other. We had no idea who our new neighbors would be but our neighbors were “warned” that they would be living next door to an Orthodox rabbi and his family. In fact, two neighbors blended into one family and our children all grew up together.

We are quoting from the letter we received this past week from Laura.

“As you know, we have never been religious. We only attended synagogue if you were both going to be there and leading the service. That said, Judaism and being Jewish is unbelievably important to me and I feel lucky and blessed each day even though I don’t practice the religion strictly. Sounds weird but I breathe Judaism. I try to live graciously and follow as many Jewish values as possible. I am devoted to the culture and love the family values… Your open-mindedness and respect for others are (although you don’t know) two of the traits that I used to describe you. You will often find me saying, ‘Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick are two of the most special people I know.’ Why? ‘Because my family not being observant, they never, ever treated us with any less respect than their own family.’ We were a neighbor family; you are, simply put, what this religion is all about. Toronto has been tough for me. Jamie and Aiden are blessings, but a city where my family is not around the corner can be quite lonely. I live in a very Modern Orthodox area (I’m not in a skirt and my head is not covered) and I try to say hi to neighbors. Some say hi. Others don’t. But when someone engages Aiden or gives me a strong ‘shana tova’ I always tell Aiden that those are the Mordechai and Nina neighbors we will enjoy always.”

Obviously, this was a letter from Laura’s heart and we included it in our article because we want people to realize the impact that they can have on someone who is not totally committed to being shomer mitzvot and the hurt that can be felt by a person who reaches out and is rejected.

As Sukkot is around the corner and many of us are involved in building, decorating and inviting, might we suggest that this would be a great time to open the doors of our sukkah slightly wider. Look up your street to the person who does not have a sukkah. They may or may not welcome an invitation, and often the rejection of an invitation comes with the thought that the invitation is not meant sincerely. We know from experience the impact that these little acts can have on friends and neighbors. There is still time, and we hope that everyone will take advantage of the opportunity.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

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