I was sure that it was a joke.
One of those internet gags that spring up hourly on the web. The e-mail said: I am a Jew who lives in China and I just wanted to tell you how much Seraphic Secret means to me.
Before hitting the delete button, something prompted me to read the note again, this time more carefully. I abruptly realized that it was genuine. This was a sincere note from a fellow Jew living a world, several time zones away. His name is Dan Halevi Bloom and he is a most unique Seraphic Friend.
Dan has been living in China for many years. An accomplished journalist, Dan writes popular traveler’s guides to China and like Walt Whitman, Dan travels the country by bicycle and peddles his popular series in town and village markets. Apparently, Dan is quite well known in China and his books are, by Chinese standards, best sellers. I wish I could review his books, but I do not read Mandarin. Dan is fluent in the dialect and like so many Jews in history, Dan has sucessfully immersed himself in an alien land; he has managed to penetrate the deep cultural divides.
What strikes me about Dan, more than anything else, is his deep and abiding connection to the Jewish people. His e-mails brim with “ahavat Yisroel” the love of Judaism. It is no small accomplishment to live in a society that has no Jewish presence at all and yet manage to maintain this profound connection. It is far easier to go native and forget your roots. Dan works hard at maintaing his connections. Witness this story published in the NY Times several days ago:
THE NEW YORK TIMES
December 2, 2004
“Bubbie and Zadie”
by Lisa Napoli, NY Times reporter,
Jewish children have no Santa Claus, but thanks to a man in Taiwan,
they have Bubbie and Zadie (bubbieandzadie.blogspot.com).
Who? Daniel Halevi Bloom, a freelance editor and reporter, invented
these Jewish grandparents (the names are Yiddish for Grandma and
Grandpa) in 1983 to bring Hanukkah alive for children, particularly
those without living grandparents. Back then the medium was snail
mail, but Mr. Bloom reckons that today’s Bubbie and Zadie are e-mail
With Hanukkah days away, Mr. Bloom has been busy corresponding with visitors to his site. Zipporeh Cohen, 13, wrote: “My own bubbie and zadie passed away last year, and I am very sad. I live in Cleveland. Did you by any chance know my bubbie and zadie, Hannah and Joe Freedman? They were so sweet and kind, and I miss them terribly.”
It is not just children who are inspired to write. Mr. Bloom shared a
letter from a 45-year-old New Yorker who wrote, “Thank you from a
grown-up child who has never forgotten his own bubbie and zadie.”
Mr. Bloom, 55, a Boston native who has lived in Taiwan since 1996,
says he has received 10,000 letters from children over the last 21
years. He claims to have answered every one.
Knowing Dan as I do, I am certain that he has answered every single letter. How many of us can claim ten-thousand mitzvah?
Karen and I hope that all our Seraphic friends have a happy Chanukah and a most meaningful Shabbos.