I met Adele Rodriguez earlier this year, when I wrote about her and her book, “The Way to Happiness: My Journey.” We spoke over the phone and the tone of her voice told me that she was a warm and generous person — someone I would like to meet.
After the story ran, Adele, 83, and I talked about meeting in person. The first two or three times we set a date we had schedule conflicts. Then, one day she sent me a text, inviting me to her home for a family gathering. I texted her back: I’d love to come. And we made plans to meet.
I was impressed with Adele the first time I spoke with her. I liked her warm, slightly southern, Cuban tone of her voice. (She was born in Tampa to Cuban parents.) Already, over the phone, I knew that she loved her husband of more than 66 years and their children and grandchildren and great-grands. I could hardly wait to meet them in person.
Last Saturday, we finally got the opportunity. As she took me around the house in Southwest Miami, introducing me to her husband Jay and their children, in-laws and grandchildren, whatever feelings I might have had of being an outsider soon vanished, and I felt at home among friends.
I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was doing exactly what I have been advocating for years: Get to know people who are different from you. People of a different background or nationality or color. When you do, you will be doing a little more to bring our community together in unity.
I have always been happy about having friends from many different ethnic backgrounds. I thank God and my years as a Miami Herald reporter for that. This profession has afforded me the opportunity to meet people I never would have met otherwise. I learned about their homes and the kinds of foods they eat. I learned about their faiths and got to know their families.
The experience has given me a broader perspective of people. And the best part is that I have learned over the years that we are more alike that not.
So Saturday, as Jay showed me around his garden, pointing out the milkweed and explaining its importance to the butterflies that we both love, I thought: This is called — in the words of Michelle Obama — doing what we say.
While I wasn’t aware of living out my words at the time, as the day grew late, I thought, “This is one of the best days of my life.” At Adele and Jay’s home I was just one of them. When it was time to eat, Adele said, “We’re having beef stew — Cuban style — and black beans and rice. Nothing fancy.”
Adele sold herself short. The food might not have been fancy, as she said, but it certainly was wonderful. She cooked the stew and her son-in-law Stan, cooked the black beans, while his wife Adele, Jr., made a beautiful and delicious cake for dessert.
All too soon, it was time for me to leave. Jay loaded my new milkweed plant into my car, while I carried my dessert, and I made my way back to the turnpike and home.
I looked at the clock as I was leaving. It was just after 8 p.m. The drive home took just under 30 minutes. We live at opposite ends of Dade County. Yet the drive didn’t seem long at all. I guess that is because when friends and family gather, the distance doesn’t matter.
LEARNING ABOUT JEWISH-INDIAN TIES
Although it is not widely known, India has a long history as one of the most hospitable nations to Jews in the Jewish diaspora. For centuries, Jews found a haven in which their traditions flourished, said Nathan Katz, an authority and an award-winning author on Indian Jewish life.
If you would like to learn more about Jewish/Indian ties, Katz will be leading a tour, “India: My Second Home,” Jan. 11-23. If this interests you, registration is being taken, with an early bird discount available through Aug. 31.
The tour will feature visits to the Taj Mahal, Elephanta Caves and more. You will also learn new traditions at Shabbat services and dinners in Mumbai and New Delhi.
Participants stay at five-star hotels and will also tour Kochi (Cochin)and Kolkata’s (Calcutta) historic synagogues with local members of the Jewish community, see Kerala’s scenic backwaters by boat while exploring rural Jewish settlements.
Katz is a distinguished professor, emeritus at Florida International University,where he was director of Jewish Studies and founding director of the Program in the Study of Spiritually. He is the author of 15 books, including “The Last Jews of Cochin” and “Who Are the Jews of India?”
The fully escorted tour costs $7,195 per person, double occupancy and includes all meals (kosher or strictly vegetarian), concierge service and three English-speaking guides.
NEW PRESIDENT FOR TEMPLE ISRAEL
Warm congratulations to Howard D. Goldstein, recently elected president of Temple Israel of Greater Miami, 137 NE 19th St.
Goldstein is a longtime member of the synagogue and has served on the Board of Trustees in many capacities. He said he is “excited and pumped up” to lead the temple towards its centennial in 2022.
A graduate of the University of Miami, Goldstein is an insurance executive. He said he recognized the need to make a positive difference in the community early in life and has consistently volunteered and mentored to make a difference since he was a student at the university.
The Temple Israel of Greater Miami is the city’s oldest reform synagogue. It will celebrate its 95th birthday in May.
BACKPACKS AND SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Early this month the congregants at Riviera Presbyterian Church at 5275 Sunset Dr. in South Miami will receive backpacks and a list of school supplies needed for the children at Francis Tucker Elementary School.
Once the backpacks are filled, they will be brought to the altar and blessed during worship service on Aug. 21.
This is a wonderful gesture and one that can be copied around the county. If you just want to help the folks at Riviera fill their backpacks, call the Rev. Martha M. Shiverick at 305-666-8586.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.