Shalom To All
Posted on 07/02/2013 @ 09:14 PM
Frequently, we look backwards during the final day of a program. We recall our journey behind us. We smile at our most rewarding moments, and we laugh at the moments gone horribly wrong. Following breakfast this morning, we spoke of "Shalom." It is a word so prevalent in so many of our lives as Jewish people, but at times we fail to realize when it can be most applicable. We say shalom to bid farewell, but also to greet a person or an experience. Though we bid a departing shalom as the trip comes to its conclusion, we recall our boldest memories with none other than a welcoming "Shalom."
Today we went to the only mosque in Sofia. One might wonder, why would a Jewish teen trip traveling through Bulgaria go to a mosque of all places? I suppose we can all interpret that question for ourselves. Yet as I looked around the old building, under construction due to earthquake damage, and as we were happily greeted by the leader of the institution, the best answer I could provide for myself was, "Why not?" The Jews and the Muslims in Bulgaria may both respectively be statistical minorities, but what I have now seen from both religions is the strength in which they protrude the sense of community. That's the beauty of it all. So to our fellow monotheists, our fellow semitics, our friends, I say shalom. May peace forever be bound to you.
We continued onwards, and we made our way to the orthodox synagogue of Sofia. The building was large and beautiful. We were given an explanation of the community of which it is part, and we were given a tour of the building. One portion was created into a Jewish Museum. Traditional Sephardic garments and art were all over the place, and we learned some of the history behind all of it. The history of the Jewish people of Bulgaria is strong, and without a doubt, so is the Jewish community. Never lose faith in the strength kehillah, no matter what city or what nation in which you seek it.
For the final major portion of the day, we made home visits to elderly Jews in small groups. My experience was nothing short of remarkable. My group, comprised of 3 Americans, 1 Bulgarian, and 1 Latvian, met with a 99 year old woman and her daughter. The daughter spoke English, but the woman we came to see did not. She did, however, know Bulgarian, Russian, and a decent amount of Spanish. Never did I think that my Spanish education would come in handy in Bulgaria. Yet instead of having her daughter translate everything I said in English to Bulgarian, I was able to speak directly to this woman in Spanish, as was one of our friends from Florida who made the fairly startling discover that he and this woman are distantly related. Not to mention, she was able to speak fluent Russian to our Latvian friend. To this woman, and to everyone who welcomed us into your homes, thank you for the experience.
So now, I head off to Israel tomorrow. Our journey here in Bulgaria comes to a close.
To you, whomever is reading this at home, to the many people that showed us around this country, to the very patient staff, and to the friends I have made along the way: Shalom.
- Ryan Dishell
Ambassador to Bulgaria
Spending time in Sofia, Bulgaria
Tikkun Olam Day
Ambassador to Bulgaria 2013