Rabbi Story - Melbourne, AUS 2023 - Talon's Travels

Before I begin I would like to make the following clear:

- This story is my personal experience trying to practice my faith the past few days.

- It does have some relation to the I/P conflict, but I try to not comment directly on it and am not trying to make the situation “about me.”

- I am simply using my own story as an example, as many around the world might find themselves in similar situations.

- From the beginning, my writing has been about vulnerability, and this is me being vulnerable to you all.

- If for any reason my writing may anger you or you do not wish to view anything of the sort, feel free to swipe and skip my story.

- If you do happen to read it and feel the need to comment on something, please do.  I will not take offense.

- This story has taken many forms, and I have completely scrapped and rewritten this 4 different times from initially wanting to write on what was happening in the Middle East a week ago. I finally settled on this little story as the most useful thing for my audience to hear from me.

- I try my best to have a clear message with this one:

      Reach out to people who may need your support.

Thank you.

This week has been hard for many from all different walks of life. Myself, having some mental strain, felt the urge to seek out others in the Jewish community and practice my faith.

So I decided to attend an Erev Shabbat service, for the first time in many months.

As you may know, I am currently living in a rural area in Australia. First coming here, I had already noticed I was one of few black people in this area, but I still saw a few people who looked like me from time to time.  

When I googled the nearest Synagogue, I learned that it was an hour and a half away. That’s when it dawn on me that not only was a minority here because of the color of my skin, but I was also possibly the only Jew for miles.

I have been away from my home traveling for over a year straight. This was the first time that I have felt truly alone.

Willing to take the long journey into Melbourne just to feel like I was a part of a community, I started to call Synagogues to find out when they started services.

I called the closest once, and they told me that because of the situation in Israel, they were sadly not welcoming anyone who they were not familiar with to attend services.

I completely understood, as they had to make safety a priority in a time like this, so I simply asked if they would know another synagogue that would possibly welcome me. The answer was to simply just keep calling different temples and see which were open.

I ended up calling 10 different places. They either did not pick up the phone, or said the same things as the first: newcomers were not welcome due to security reasons.

I eventually called the main Chabad house in Melbourne, and the leader asked for me to provide the phone numbers of rabbis who knew me. I gave him two phone numbers for rabbis that I grew up around, but warned him that it was already midnight in the United States, so he might have difficulty reaching them.

Half an hour later, Chabad called me back saying that they were unable to reach the rabbis and that they would just require my passport photo instead to do a background check. I sent them my photo, but knowing that I did not exactly look "the most Jewish" I offered to send pictures of my Bar Mitzvah and me in Israel to support me. They simply said they will call me back with an answer.

An hour goes by so I call Chabad again. It goes straight to voicemail. They had blocked me.

There it was. I had to face the fact that I was alone in dealing with this. I would not be around other people of my faith that night. I would not be able to practice my religion.

Once again I was alone.

Just after I get a call from one of the synagogues that hadn't picked up. I explain my situation again, and state that if they were on high security I understood and would not attend. To my surprise, the rabbi on the other end of the phone said:

"This is the time for us to come together. Of course you are welcome."

He even went the extra mile to invite me to eat dinner with his family, in his own home.

After work, I took the long journey into the city to meet the Rabbi, attended the service, and had a great evening.

I could not be more grateful to that one kind soul that welcomed me as family that day.

Throughout all this, I felt terrible, but I was lucky enough to have someone come to my rescue. But others are not that fortunate.

I know that what I experienced last weekend, many others are experiencing all over the world.

After Shabbat, I contacted one of my friends who is also Jewish and is traveling in Australia and she confided in me about how she was too scared to go out to a service that evening.

And this is not limited to Jews either. Many people of Palestinian heritage or that are Muslim I know had fears or difficulties when worshiping and connecting with there people this week.

As much as I try to this platform to help others, I know that most of those that follow me reside outside of the directly affected area of this war. That is why this story is for YOU.

If you are feeling alone or not in the best state right now, please reach out to someone you trust and let them know.

And if you feel like you are in the place to support others, regardless of if you are public on your stance with the issues in the Middle East, reach out to your friends that might be having a hard time with what is happening now, whether they are posting on Instagram about it or not, or even if their views somehow differentiate from yours.

You never know when you can make this world feel a little less lonely.

All I know right now is the time to be there for one another, not to add to the fighting that is already happening.

Thanks if you have made it this far.

As I mentioned before, I am open to talking about this and what is happening with Israel and Palestine to almost anyone. Do not be shy to swipe up an let me know what you think about this story. If you think I could have communicated better, I am always open to communication and discussion.

Well, now I got to go milk some cows,

- Talon