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The Face of America

Friday, 22 July, 2011 - 6:03 am

If you are not an American Citizen, you surely experienced the long wait on line to the passport control at the American immigration in New York, or any other big American city. I did many times, and every time it is a strange feeling. The meeting with the official immigration officer is a standard procedure. The officer is usually extremely unfriendly, and manages to give you the feeling that you are trying to hide something from them. Once I was even taken to a strange side room, just because the machine which takes the finger prints was not working, even though my fingers were working perfectly…

I always wanted to suggest them to take off the stickers which are on every corner: “We are the face of America…”, I truly think that America is much friendlier than you, dear officers. The citizens whom I meet outside are much more the “faces” of America to me.

The first time I really felt this difference was after I got married. Since Rivky is an American Citizen, I got the “honor” as a “family” to stand in the line of the American citizens. There, you get smiles and my wife even merited a “happy birthday”, which was a couple of days away.

On my last visit to New York, I had a special experience which surprised me a lot.

There was a very long line which was moving only slowly. After a long trip from Zurich, you just stand and stand and stand. The announcements keep reminding you that the use of mobile phones is forbidden in this area, so you have no choice, and after half an hour you start talking to those around you.

Next to me there was a group of youngsters, who were sitting not far from me on the plane. For 8 hours of the flight we didn’t even say one word to each other, and here within half an hour we became brothers is misery. The group was from… Luzern, and they were of course quite shocked that I live in Luzern as well (a Jewish Rabbi?!). It was their first visit to the USA, and I gave them a bunch of tips, which I gathered from my experiences.

After almost 2 hours, it was finally my turn. So I present myself tired but upright in front of the American immigration official. As I expected gave off cool vibes.

I had pictures taken with my hat on, without my hat, without glasses and without a trace of a smile… prints of my fingers, pointers and sides…, then comes the standard question: “What is the purpose of your visit?” I answered that I’m here for anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe...

Then she completely surprised me, I was actually shocked: “Oh, this morning there was a whole group from Buenos Aires, who came for the same purpose…” And she continues, “I remember the Rabbi, even though I’m not Jewish. Whenever they showed him on television I would watch and be very interested in what he was saying, he had something that calmed the soul…”

I was still shocked from the conversation, when she asked: “Where exactly is he buried? I heard people go there to pray for blessings of health and prosperity, and they were answered”.

I wrote down the address for her as well as the website, where she can find more information.

She stamped my passport and I said goodbye. I learned that there are some immigration officers who are not only friendly, but even “Chassidim” (followers of a Chassidic Rabbi)…

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim

Ps. For your information, this is the website of the Rebbe’s Ohel (resting place):

Comments on: The Face of America

Roxy Blumgart wrote...

We got stopped coming into Switzerland with my aunt from Israel last night. The Swiss Embassy in South Africa made a mistake on her Visa. We felt like criminals in that side room even though we had done nothing wrong. Branch Hashem the unfriendly official turned out to have a very good heart and corrected the error after a long wait. When Mashiach comes will we still need border control?? Shabbat Shalom.

anonymous wrote...

When the Messiah will come, the world will be peaceful without enemies or threats. the borders will be there without any control, (something like we have now in the EU countries...)

sigal shapira Blaauw wrote...

Well, i wish for THAT to be your biggest problem
but i believe that we should see the divine spark in the other but too often we project our own darkness unto others .

Peace,LIGHT and lots of love