Matt Slocum, AP
On a trip to visit our children near New York City, my wife and I changed planes in Dallas. We boarded the plane to La Guardia Airport and took the last seats in the airplane. My wife sat next to the window and I took the middle seat.
Then a bearded man in a dark suit and white shirt sat next to me, on the aisle. I noticed he was wearing a yarmulke. I whispered to Barbara, my wife, that I was sitting next to a Jewish rabbi. She immediately said, "Talk to him."
I stuck my nose back into the magazine I was reading. We taxied out to the runway and took off. After climbing to our altitude the pilot announced we would be arriving at La Guardia on time at 4:30 p.m. and to sit back and enjoy the trip. I returned to my reading.
Then I got a sharp elbow from Barbara, "Talk to him," she said.
So after a moment I said to the rabbi, "what do you do in Dallas?"
He replied in a strong rough brogue, "Succor."
I thought for a moment and said, "What do you mean succor?"
The Rabbi explained, "I help, at the synagogue, for Rosh Hashanah. I sing and teach."
I asked, "Where are you from?"
He answered, "Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem."
I said, "Do you have a family?"
He replied, "Yes, I have a wife and three children."
I asked, "Where are you going?" He replied, "I am going to Brooklyn to our church headquarters." I inquired what he would be doing there. He said, "I am applying for a job at the synagogue in Dallas. I want to bring my family to America and freedom."
Then he asked, "What church you?" I replied, "I'm a Mormon."
He thought and said, "What is Mormon. I don't know Mormon."
I said, "Have you heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?"
He said, "Oh that Mormon," and we laughed.
Then he asked, "Do you believe in God?" I replied, "Yes, I believe in God, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses."
He said, "Ah, Moses! You area man of God!" That really touched me.
The stewardess passed us pretzels and drinks. We were quiet for a while until I said, "I know a Jewish song."
He said, sounding surprised, "You know a Jewish song?" I replied, "Well, it's an American Jewish song."
He asked, "What Jewish song do you know?"
So I began singing Tevye's song from "Fiddler on the Roof." "If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. All day long I'd biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man." Then he joined in, "I wouldn't have to work hard. Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. If I were a biddy biddy rich, Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man." We were both singing aloud.
Barbara began to laugh as did the flight attendants and passengers. Here we were, a Jewish rabbi and a Mormon high priest singing a song from "Fiddler" on our way to New York City!
The pilot announced that the fasten seatbelt sign would be coming on and that our plane would be landing in 10 minutes. Our plane flew over the Statue of Liberty, the infamous site of 9/11, up Manhattan over the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings and Central Park before we landed at La Guardia Airport.
As soon as we landed, all the passengers jumped up to get their bags from the overhead compartments and started to exit the plane. The rabbi retrieved his bag and headed for the door.
Then he stopped and returned to where Barbra and I were getting our things together. He put his hand out to shake it and said, "God bless you, man of God." I squeezed his hand and replied, "Shalom, God bless you."
We parted ways that day but I hope to meet this wonderful gentleman again and his family someday.
Russell T. Fjeldsted is from Logan, Utah.
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