The muse gets hold of us, sometimes when we are not ready to write, to search, to discover, to research. But after a visit by two friends I could no longer hold back, and I had to write soft stuff, as my big brother Avraham Van Riper characterizes my writings when its not purely research.
Andria Spindel and Judy Manelis, Canadian, and American respectively are old friends of mine. A few days ago, the 13th to the 15th of November to be specific, I was with Andria and Judy in Miami. They came all the way from their bases to see me. And we spent the three days reminiscing about correspondences exchanged over a decade, catching up on old times, discussing the Igbo and the Jewish connections, Torah, Israel, shopping, eating, and exploring Miami and neighboring towns. Went to Fort Lauderdale, and went on a boat cruise. Even got to see the house of Meyer Lansky whom I just read about his friendship with movie mogul Brett Ratner when the latter was twelve, in the Decider magazine.
Why did Andria and Judy visit me? They did because we believe that we are members of one family: the family of Israel, and we are friends. After they departed I got to thinking about how much the world would be a better place if more Jewish stories like this get or go out, to be processed, analyzed, and utilized by many who really want to make the world a better, friendlier place by bringing humanity closer.
The culture of Israel has both the custom and that instinct for kin looking out for kin. When I arrived Miami, 5777.5 miles away, and twenty three hours away by air, from my base in Nigeria, there were Judy and Andria, and Stella Utah, Igbo-Jew, resident in Philadelphia, fussing about, with questions like; ‘got a good room?’, ‘how close to the Campus’?, ‘what are you going to do about the food that is going to be strange to you?’, ‘got suitable clothes for the weather, and other necessaries?’.And the things that were not available they sent. Van Riper, Dean Draznin, Herman Storick, Rabbi Harry Rozenberg, Rabbi Gedaliah Gurfein, Jeremy Eliyahu Danzig, Bonita Nathan-Sussman, Ifeanyi Kingsley Obiakor, Tudor Parfitt, Dumisani Washington, Harriet Bograd, Dean Malik, Mitchell James Kaplan, Ruth Nicholson, Jeffrey Larit, Ijeoma Sopia Memeh, Nathan Katz, Ruth Marks, Patrick Villalonga and many others that I can’t mention also kept on fussing over me.
I am a beneficiary of Hebrew kindness, exercised by Jews and by non Jews who are interestingly very close friends and associates of Jews, and are very familiar with the traditions of the Jews. Are the young adequately aware of the tradition of ‘kol Yisrael chaverim?’ Are we doing enough to make sure that they know? I can say that among the Igbo, in Nigeria, ‘onye aghana nwanne ya’ (let no one abandon his kinsman), which is exactly the same thing with ‘kol Yisrael chaverim’, though somewhat dim presently, is still very much alive, but could use a dose of reinvigoration. As a beneficiary I decided to contribute to keeping this custom alive by writing about my experience of it in America.
I am fighting with the muse, struggling to redirect the power that it is supplying into my end of semester papers, and into the paper that I will present at the Jews and Color Symposium which is being organized by my school, the Florida International University, and which will hold on the 24th of January 2016.