A Real Live Jew

A few years ago, my wife and I were staying at the Prima Kings Hotel in Jerusalem. While finishing up my morning prayers in the hotel’s small synagogue, I noticed a group of guests in their 60s or 70s coming off the elevator across the hall chatting in German. I briefly looked up and saw they were watching me in my tallis and tefillin and returned to my prayers. When I looked up again, I saw a handful of them by the synagogue door watching me more intently. One of them then entered the room smiling and asked if they could take pictures of a “real live Jew.”

The human mind is a fascinating thing. While technophiles tout the ability of computers to process large amounts of complex data in a short period of time, humans can do that while weighing that information against all sorts of social, moral, ethical, historical, and philosophical issues. So when a group of elderly Germans asked me if they could take a photo of a “real live Jew” in Jerusalem, my brain went into hyper-drive.

In that brief flash of time, I considered that it was quite possible that Germans born immediately after the war may have never actually seen or met “a real live Jew,” especially one openly displaying his Jewishness. I also considered that they were visiting Israel in order to see and learn about the country and its people first hand, and they were going to go back to Germany and share their stories and photographs with friends and family.

So a few seconds after being asked, I let them take pictures and wished them a wonderful trip. I hope they went home and said nice things about this real live Jew.

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