I was in Israel for my junior year of college (1975-76). I was in the summer ulpan at Haifa University (as were all the kids from California) and planned a few days stay in Jerusalem, so that I could take care of some business at Hebrew University, where our group was to study after completing ulpan. I was told about a youth hostel in the center of Jerusalem, and had planned to stay there from Thursday through Sunday.\n
I got off the bus at the bus station and Rabbi Schuster approached me. I don’t remember his opening question but I do remember him asking if I would like to spend Shabbos with a religious family. I said that I had plans to stay at the youth hostel. I don’t remember feeling he was pushy but somehow he convinced me to agree to go to a family.
I was wearing a sleeveless, short summer dress. I was not religious, but having spent about two months in Israel, I had learned that religious people dress more modestly. I remember protesting to Rabbi Schuster that I couldn’t go to a religous family dressed as I was. He must have asked if I had any other clothing, and I remember he suggested that I could change in the ladies’ restroom, located in the nearby underground passageway. I changed into my short sleeved college t-shirt and pants.
Rabbi Schuster took the bus with me to Ma’alot Dafna. He introduced me to the Dolgin family. I’m almost positive that the wife’s name was Chava. The family was very welcoming. Rabbi Schuster did not stay long, but he made sure I was settled. I don’t remember too much about my stay at the Dolgins, except that Shoshana helped me with netilat yedayim and the bracha.
What I do remember is a side story, which I will share with you. On Thursday, after I spent some time at the Dolgins, I went off to Hebrew U and to see a little of Jerusalem. Before leaving, I wrote the Dolgins’ address on my map of Jerusalem. I put it into my back pack and off I went.
In those days everything was closed from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. During that time I was wandering down King George Street. As I was crossing a street, I saw a man who looked very familiar. He caught my eye, and asked if we knew each other. We established that we really did not know each other. However, he said that he was on his way to a Shlomo Carlebach wedding at the Knesset, and would I like to join him?
I told him that I couldn’t go to a wedding dressed as I was, and I wasn’t even invited! He said that everyone was invited, and I could go just as I was.
I am (was) usually a cautious person, but there was really nothing to do with all of Jerusalem shut down, and this young man seemed like he was just a nice, friendly sort, so I agreed.
The wedding was … well, a real Shlomo event – fun, joyous, beautiful. I had a great time. And that fellow was right – no one seemed to care what I was wearing. Shlomo sang with his guitar, praising the holy chassan and the holy kalla. Unfortunately, before the festivities were really over, Henry Kissinger was scheduled to land by helicopter at the Knesset, and we all had to leave.
It was summertime, and the sun was beginning to set. I took out my map to find where exactly I had to go to get back to my host family. You can imagine my horror when I realized that I had brought the wrong map. (I had two.) I panicked. I tried to remember where they were. I did know they were on Shmuel HaNavi, and I remembered they were near a yeshiva with a large sign. Someone told me to take the #4 bus to Shmuel HaNavi. I asked the bus driver to let me off near the yeshiva. Which yeshiva? There are loads of them on Shmuel HaNavi! I had no idea.
A nice Israeli man got off the bus with me and went with me to two different yeshivot. Of course, I was asked, “What’s the address? What’s the name of the nearby yeshiva? What’s the name of the family?” I did not know the answers to any of the questions. The nice man had to get home, and left. It was dark. And cold. I was scared. I walked farther down the street and came to the Chafetz Chaim yeshiva. I knocked on the door. No one answered. I imagined the boys thought, “What could a girl dressed in short sleeves and pants want here?”
I opened the door. A group of boys stared at me. I replayed the scene I’d gone through at the previous yeshivot. “Please help me find the family I’m staying with,” I asked, in tears. Again, I could not give them any information. Finally, a tall, curly-haired boy came to the front. He heard my story. “Is the yeshiva Ohr Somayach?” he asked. “No,” I responded. Well, it actually was Ohr Somayach, but I only remembered the large sign saying, “Tannenbaum Center.” The boy continued, “Is the name of the family Dolgin?” Yes!!! “How did you know?” I asked. “They’re my cousins,” the boy (Josh Bienenfeld) responded. Josh got permission from the Rosh Yeshiva to walk me to the Dolgins. I truly saw hasgacha pratis that evening.
I didn’t go to the Dolgins again, but during that year I made the commitment to become religious. I came back to Israel after I graduated university and studied at Michlelet Bruria (now “Lindenbaum”). Later I made aliyah. I think that some years after my Shabbas with the Dolgins, I did see Shoshana Dolgin once again. I’m not sure if she remembered me, but I surely remembered her and her husband and two young children.
I now live in Ramat Beit Shemesh with my husband and two children. I feel a real sense of hakarat ha-tov to Rabbi Schuster. I wish him strength and health and the ability to continue to do mitzvot in the service of HaShem and clal Yisrael. I will continue to daven for him. Refuah shleima.