In Jerusalem there’s a stall in the shuk where they sell good cappuccinos and delicious cucumber tomato salads and the owner gave me free shots of Arak. I went there every day during the summer when I visited.I would sit in the front with my cappuccino for a few hours each morning, watching the world swirl by, waiting for Suzie to get done with her program.
The baristas were friendly and would chat with me in English when there were no other customers.
“So you are new here?”
“I’m just visiting. I live in the United States.”
“So when will you move here?”
“I can’t move here, I have a job and a life back home.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“I’m married to a rabbinical student, and it’s part of the program to spend time in Israel.”
“Oh yes of course. Is he religious? Reformi?”
How should I explain my Suzie to the world? I decided to be as brief as possible, to see where the conversation would take us.
“She. And, let’s go with Reformi.”
A pause.
“Yes, a woman.”
“And a rabbi? And, with you, you are, married?”
Another pause.
“Oh my got, this is so COOL! And this is possible, in the United States? Wow, tell me more, where is she studying, how did you meet?”
I had this exact same conversation almost word for word twice in two days, once with the young woman who worked on Mondays and Wednesdays, and once with the young man who worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each time I was anxious that I might encounter homophobia and sexism and that I would lose my favorite little coffee spot, but each time the barista turned out to be lovely and the conversation gave us an opportunity to discuss politics and religion in friendly ways. (Apparently a lot of secular Israelis dislike Haredim and are critical of the way the government treats Palestinians. Who knew?) I got free shots of espresso and Arak and good conversation, and that stall in the shuk remains my favorite spot in Jerusalem.
And when Suzie would come by to get me after her morning program was finished, the baristas greeted her as though they knew her already. “You must be Suzie! Of course, you are Suzie, the rabbi.”
Of course. She is Suzie, the rabbi.