A coincidence of place

Sometime during Doris’s childhood, she related many times, she broke a rule and didn’t tell anyone. She peeked through a window into a small Hasidic worship space in Brooklyn, only to see her grandfather, Nathan, dancing with other men, in some mysterious ecstatic devotion, all with their eyes closed, so nobody detected her spying. No other females were present. She recalled leaning down; the space may have been below the ground floor, with a short window just above ground level.

I asked what sect such men could have belonged to. “The Kobriner Rebbe” she answered. Who was that? This is not a simple question. But I will say this: Kobrin was in the neighborhood of my father’s family. Not my mother’s. Kobrin, now in Belarus, was 400 miles away from Felstyn, then part of Austro-Hungaria. This man, Nathan, perhaps he just coincidentally stumbled into and embraced a nearby congregation that happened to be the Brooklyn home of a community that had fled violence in the old country. Or perhaps back in Austro Hungaria he or his own father had heard of a sage in the pale of settlement and made the pilgrimmage; then deliberately lived near their outpost in the new world. Hard to say.

But whatever happened, it is uncanny that Doris’s grandpa Nathan befriended a community that came from hundreds of miles away from his own country; a community that’s associated with the family of Doris’s husband Bernie; and that all this occurred decades before Doris met Bernie.

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