Posted by David:
My friend and former business partner, Scott Stern, has always joked that wherever I am in the world I find someone from Skokie, my hometown outside of Chicago. Once the self proclaimed Largest Village in the World, it had a peak population of close to 70,000 people during the 60’s and 70’s there was a very high concentration of secular Jewish families like mine. Scott does exaggerate and it may be true that I have more than my fair share of chance meetings with folks with Skokie roots, or people with Wisconsin roots (where all of my mom’s family comes from), or folks who summered in Union Pier, Michigan (where my dad spent all his summers and our extended family had a home dating back to 1931). I don’t think I have any more connections with people than the next guy, I just ask an annoying amount of questions that bring me closer to the connection I hope to make. It’s a sport of sorts. I always ask people where they are from. My family finds it incredibly annoying and I can’t blame them. I just find it interesting and it helps me understand people better and more quickly than hoping these things will come up naturally in conversation. There’s also the Jewish factor about connecting with others….There’s a borscht-belt joke about this that my brother once told me. It goes something like this, ”There are really only 200 Jews in the world; the rest is done with mirrors.” It’s true that Jews are inherently more connected with one another based on all the shared experiences, our tendency to live in Jewish enclaves and attend Jewish camps and schools. So it was no surprise when we found ourselves, the only non-Thai people at an Elephant Show in Chaing Mai, Thailand where the elephants do all sorts of cool tricks including shoot baskets and paint with watercolors (seriously), when in walked another gringo family with two cute little girls. They came and sat down next to Amy and our girls. I had been taking pictures of the elephants and when I got back to our seats I asked them where they were from, not knowing that they had just told Amy that they live in Brooklyn. “Chicago,” said Amy Abrams…a girl who looked so familiar that she should be a cousin. “Okay,” I said, “I’m from Chicago too, but where IN Chicago are you really from?” “Well, Ronen is from Skokie and I’m from Highland Park,” Amy said. So there we were, minding our own business in northwestern Thailand, high-up in the mountains, attending an elephant show and we meet some fellow Skokian. Turns out that Ronen grew up about three blocks from me. We had fun talking about Skokie and Highland Park. Ronen grew up across the street from several of my friends on Trip and Grove, and Amy was a classmate of Rachel Holtzman-Cohen, a cousin from Highland Park, and on and on and on. Ronen and Amy and their girls Ruby and Noah who were spending three weeks traveling throughout Thailand and Laos. They both travelled extensively before kids and were now having the chance to bring their kids along on a great adventure. So, the sport of making connections with people continues and brings the word closer with every meeting.