I met the Mayor of Jerusalem today. By accident.
After spending almost 8 hours in the study hall of the Shalom Hartman Institute I stepped outside to see if I could get decent cellphone reception. In the beautiful courtyard of the Institute they were busily setting up for a dedication ceremony (more about that later). Because everyone else was at a reception with free food and drink, I was alone at the entranceway. Into the courtyard strode the mayor, accompanied by three bodyguards. Looking at me as if he was puzzled over why such an ordinary looking fellow was there to greet him, he said, “Shalom, I’m Nir Barkat”. Somewhat startled to see the Mayor of Jerusalem standing in front of me, I said something impressive, like, “Hey, hi, huh, good to see you- how are you doing?” The Mayor once again peered at me in uncertainty, and I could tell he was thinking, “Who in heaven’s name is this guy and why is he here?” Being somewhat of a slick politician, he recovered quickly, smiled, and made his way to the dais, where he sat. The strange thing is that this is the second time I have bumped into the mayor of Jerusalem. Some years ago I was leading a group from my old synagogue onto our bus from the main doorway of the Inbal hotel, when who should be asking me to get out of his way then the late Mayor Teddy Kollek. We prevailed upon him for a group photo, which he obliged, saying “I’d be much happier to take a picture with you if you were moving here rather than leaving.”
The ceremony at the Institute was to honor Robert Kogod of Washington, who provided much of the funds to build the magnificent campus on which the Shalom Hartman Institute is located. A good reminder that for every great teacher and scholar like Rabbi Hartman, there also needs to be good and loyal and generous Jews to support Torah study, good works, and the State of Israel.