Neighbor’s Ramadan gesture heals my heartbreak, for nowby jennie chabon
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An amazing thing happened to my family last week. We were in the kitchen cooking dinner when we heard a knock on the front door. When we opened it, we were surprised to find our neighbor from across the street standing on our front porch, in her hijab, with a plate of food in her hands. She and her family moved into the house a few years ago, but we have had almost no interactions with them aside from a passing hello. This was the first conversation we’d ever had.
She explained that they just broke their fast for the final day of Ramadan, the Muslim holiday, and wanted to share their food with us: a bag of candy for the boys, a plate of honey bread and dates for the adults. I was so overcome with emotion that I almost started to cry. We introduced ourselves and my 2-year-old son Judah came running up to say hello, naked as usual.
I believe it is no coincidence that she chose to bring us part of their Ramadan feast during this period of tragic conflict in Israel and Gaza. She of course made no mention of it, but I have no doubt that it was a peace offering of sorts, a small but powerful way of saying that at least here in Oakland, we can be kind and respectful to each other. And even more, we can share food on our most holy occasions.
Her presence on my doorstep gave me so much hope. I know it’s not rational to think that one woman’s kindness and generosity can extend to healing the world, but it most certainly healed a piece of me. I have felt paralyzed during this crisis, and her offering felt like a dewdrop descended from on high to bless our house. I closed the door and quietly thanked God for the miracle of her appearance.
We are a people who do not lose hope, even in the most impossible of situations. As my friend Rabbi Menachem Creditor noted, it’s even in the words of the national anthem of Israel: “Od Lo Avda Tikvateinu / We still have not lost hope.” We are heartbroken and angry and confused and yet, we hope. We continue to hope, day after day, and then, by the grace of God, our hope is affirmed in the hands of a beautiful woman bearing sweets.
Jennie Chabon is a Berkeley native and the cantor at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. She has a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from Columbia University and was invested by the Jewish Theological Seminary.