Here is a true story that a colleague forwarded to me.  First the story, then a little bit about a bridge:




The new Rabbi and his wife were assigned to their first congregation, a synagogue to be reopened in Brooklyn.  They arrived in early February excited about their opportunities.  But when they saw the synagogue building, the found it in bad shape.  It was very run down and needed much work.  Their goal was to have everything rebuilt by late February to be ready to celebrate the holiday of Purim.  They worked hard, repairing aged pews, plastering walls and painting.  By February 17th they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.  Unfortunately, a blizzard struck two days later.  On the 21st, the Rabbi visited the building.  His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster to fall off the sanctuary’s front wall.  The Rabbi cleaned up the mess on the floor.  But he realized there was no way the building would be ready in time for the holiday. 

On his way home, the Rabbi noticed that a local business was having a flea market sale for charity, so he stopped in.  One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, crocheted tablecloth.  It was exquisite piece of work, with fine colors and a Magen David embroidered in the center.  Although it was a tablecloth, the Rabbi realized it was just the right size to cover the new hole in the front wall of his synagogue.  He bought it and headed back to the buiding. By this time it had started to snow again.   An older woman running in the opposite direction was trying to catch a bus but she missed it.  The Rabbi invited her to wait in the warm building for the next bus scheduled to arrive 45 minutes later.  She sat in a pew while the Rabbi climbed a ladder and hung the tablecloth on the wall, covering the water damage. 

The woman looked at the beautiful tablecloth and her face went ashen.   "Rabbi," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"   The woman asked him to check the lower right corner of the cloth. On it were embroidered the initials, “EBG”.  These were woman’s initials.  She had crocheted the tablecloth 35 years before, in her native Poland.

The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were lived in Poland. When the Nazis invaded, she was able to escape.  Her husband planned to follow her the next week. But he was captured, sent to a  concentration camp. The woman never saw her husband or her home again. 


The Rabbi wanted to give her the tablecloth, but the beautiful cloth looked like it belonged where it was, and she wished that the he keep it for the synagogue.  The Rabbi insisted on driving her home.  That was the least he could do.  She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had the evening of Purim.  The synagogue was almost full and the building came alive for the joyous holiday. At the end of the service, the Rabbi and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.  One older man, whom the Rabbi recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare at the wall.  The Rabbi wondered why he wasn't leaving.  The man asked the Rabbi where he got the tablecloth.  It looked identical to the one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Poland .  He told the Rabbi how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he how he planned to follow her.  But he was arrested and put in a camp.  He never saw his wife or his home again.  He was one of the few to survive the hellish conditions of the camp, and eventually he made his way to America.

The Rabbi asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride.  They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the Rabbi had taken the woman three days earlier.  He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Purim reunion he could ever imagine.

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In reading this story, it occurred to me that quietly enabling the proceedings, in the background was a bridge.  The Verrazano Bridge was built in the early 60’s and opened in November 1964.  The story of the tablecloth and the reunion took place about ten years after that.

It is the function (and fate) of our amazing bridges to quietly fade in the background and provide for physical connectivity that facilitates other connections in our lives.  For this story, the reunion may not have taken place without the ease and comfort of going back and forth between Brooklyn and Staten Island. 

At a time when many bridges are aging and their future service may be in jeopardy, it is good to remember that in some ways the bridging function they provide is more than just a physical connection.  We are called upon to engage in a great effort to rebuild the structures, so that they may continue to serve their quiet role supporting the connections of our lives.