I was recently visiting a friend, drinking coffee and eating cookies. Everything was calm and peaceful, the sirens of the past few weeks temporarily forgotten, when the topic turned to travel. “You know,” she said, “on our last trip back to America we had the strangest experiences because of my husband’s beard. My husband’s long, white untrimmed specimen seemed to arouse curiosity wherever we went. “One of the places we visited was a small seaside town that was off the beaten track. We had been very busy, and had chosen the scenic location to rest and relax for a few days before continuing our itinerary. We were walking along the beach when a young man came jogging by. Suddenly he stopped, turned around and walked right back to us. ‘So, how old are you really?’ he asked my husband, in those exact words. Strange, don’t you think? Well, my husband told him and off he went, jogging away. I teased my husband and said, ‘You should have doubled your real age. That would have given him something to talk about!’ “Then I went into a gift shop to look for something to take back for the grandchildren. My husband, who doesn’t enjoy shopping, remained outside, gazing at the sea. “When I came out I found him talking to a man with long hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a beard as long and as white as his own. ‘Wow! Do you also do seasonal holiday work in December?’ he asked him. “‘No,’ my husband replied. ‘Is that what you do?’ “‘Yeah, it’s great. I make enough money working only six weeks out of the year that I can enjoy myself here the rest of the time.
Hey, do you want me to fix you up? I have a lot of connections. It’s a great job and you’ll make a lot of money.’ “The offer was turned down, with many thanks. We continued walking. It was the end of the season but the weather was balmy and the streets weren’t crowded. A large SUV went by. Suddenly it stopped and reversed.A middle-aged man got out, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. ‘Are you a rabbi?’ he shouted to my husband. “Now, my husband is a learned man but he never got semichah, so he said that he wasn’t. ‘But you’re a Jew?’ he persisted. “Well, the next thing we knew the man had parked his car and was sitting with my husband on a bench on the promenade, while I waited patiently a little further down the way. A few minutes later they parted company and my husband walked back to me, a sad look in his eyes. “‘The guy is Jewish,’ he told me. ‘He recently lost his wife. I don’t think she was Jewish but I didn’t ask any questions, just listened. Poor man, he needed a Jew to unburden his sorrows. I don’t think many Jews come here. Come to think of it, why did we choose to come here? Do you remember? I don’t.’”