I have been in about 50 countries, always visiting with the same Harley Davidson. This trip was Germany through Poland to Belarus, south through the Ukraine, west through Transnistria, Moldova, and Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and back to Germany.
Not the best, nor smartest hobby for a Jewish boy from New York, but since 9/11 I decided to see the world with my very reliable Harley. Prior to that assault on New York my life was dedicated to work.
Moldova is not known for much, and is not normally a tourist destination. After several hours in Chisinau, I felt I had seen most of the historical sights, including a monument to the murdered Jews, and decided to see the local synagogue – curious if any Jews remained. I have visited synagogues in most of the countries where Jews were victims of Nazi slaughter (my grandparents became USA citizens from Poland in the late 1930’s, and lost almost all of the family which had remained in Poland.
As it was a Friday, the synagogue was open and I met Rabbi Zushe Abelsky. He helped me with the blessing with Tefillin (I was brought up very Zionist, but not at all religious). I was also invited to attend the Shabbat services and dinner.
I was a bit unsure. My grandparents were orthodox, and a great grandfather was a Rabbi in Poland. These services can sometimes last hours and hours and without knowing Hebrew or Russian it can get tedious. The Rabbi convinced me to attend…and I did.
I was given a prayer book in English and met two other native English speakers, as well as a German-speaker (I live in Germany, and am fluent in German). The dinner afterwards was great, I was introduced to Jews not only from Moldova, but from the USA, South Africa, Israel, Russia and Austria. I learned a few customs I had never before seen. I also learned my phone number has an ending with Lubavitcher roots (ending in 770). It was truly one of the highlights of my travels and I am very happy I attended. I will do the same next time I pass through a country on Shabbat.
In the attachment are a few photos from Chisinau, and a few others from my travels abroad with an old Harley.
Victor Starr, Frankfurt, Germany (formerly from Long Beach, New York)