It really is a small Jewish world after all


Amy Fenster Brown and Renne Ross. Leo and Davis Brown.

Amy Fenster Brown, Special to the Jewish Light

There’s a song kids sing at Jewish summer camp with the lyrics, “Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish.”

My husband and I lived that last week when we traveled to San Diego, where both kids played in the JCC Maccabi Games. Of course, it is no surprise that there were a ton of Jewish people there, given that 1,500 kids participated, many of their parents made the trip and local host families housed the athletes.

But I had never been in a situation with that many Jews in one place.

We went a few days early, made a vacation of it and then dropped the boys at San Diego’s fantastic Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. It was there that we met our first Canadian Jews, the Ross family. Haimisheh.

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Their son Sam would be playing baseball on Team St. Louis because his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, didn’t have its own Maccabi delegation. Leo and Sam hit it off immediately, and Jeff and I hit it off Renee and Jonathan Ross. Bashert.

We spent a good chunk of time together in the stands, talking about baseball, our kids and a lot about what Jewish life is like where we live. We cheered for our kids until we were all given the nonverbal cues to pipe down and not be “so embarrassing.” Chalk up one similarity for farshtunkene American and Canadian teenagers.

As one kid made a giant X shape with arms, another was sliding his finger across his throat to signify what would happen if Mom and Dad didn’t ixnay the eeringchay (is it kosher to use pig Latin in an article in the Jewish Light?).

I discovered a difference between regular league baseball and Maccabi baseball. When there is a foul ball flying toward the stands in regular baseball, you hear one or two loud “heads up!” calls. When there is a foul ball flying toward the stands at Maccabi baseball, you hear 20 loud moms scream, “Heads! Heads! Heads!” 50 times at the top of their collective worried lungs.

At Maccabi’s opening ceremonies, Jeff and I stood up to shoot video of the St. Louis delegation’s entrance. When we sat down, the people next to us told us they were from St. Louis and had moved to San Diego many years ago. As we schmoozed, we learned that they are the aunt and uncle of a friend of ours. Small Jewish world.

Jeff and I also learned lessons about the power of the T-shirt. On one of our walks on the beach, we saw a few kids in their Maccabi delegation city T-shirts, so we stopped to chat. Jeff was wearing a shirt featuring a Star of David with a Superman symbol, which always gets a few comments. In this case, the commenters were Cleveland Jews and French-Canadian Jews, all of whom were there for Maccabi. Small Jewish world.

Later that night we went to dinner and sat next to a couple in their 70s who immediately commented on Jeff’s Super Jew shirt. While they ate and we ate, we kibitzed across the tables. They asked us three questions most Jewish people want to know about other Jewish people:

Are you Reform or Conservative? (They knew we weren’t Orthodox when we ordered the sausage pizza.)

Have you been to Israel? Are you a doctor? (I’m 100% serious, that’s what they asked.)

Once we established that Jeff did good for himself even though he didn’t go to medical school, we learned that the lovely couple came to California from Iran many, many years ago, raised three children and have six grandchildren. And their son the cardiologist works for the same hospital that our friend in San Diego works for. Small Jewish world.

Being around so many Jewish people felt comfortable in a way that is hard to explain. Like everyone looked familiar even though I had never met them before. All the kids looked like the kids my kids go to school with. Every time I said the names Jonah, Max or Eli, no fewer than five boys would turn their heads.

It’s just like that adorable song says: “So when you’re not home and you’re somewhere kind of newish, the odds are, don’t look far, cause they’re Jewish, too.”

Small Jewish world.