3-days. 654 miles. 90 people. We’ll try to share below some of the vibe and feeling and places we’ve been to during our pre-Purim alumni Mishloach-Manot road-trip.
This year (5779 / 2019) with Purim falling over UAlbany’s Spring Break we decided to take a few days to drive around in and around the Metro NYC area to try and visit as many alumni as we could, or at least drop off a Mishloach Manot package at their home or office. We also thought of including a package of Shmurah Matzah “to enliven two holidays with one dropoff”. See this post about the Rebbe on giving Shmurah Matzah.
Obviously, we could not get to everyone. It would be impossible! And unlike last time we did this, we didn’t set-up appointments or try to coordinate schedules. That would be too complicated for the short amount of time we had and all the travel times in between places. Instead, we reached out to people and/or posted online while we were in that general vicinity (and thanks to the alumni email we sent out, and FB postings, many alumni reached out to us as well) and tried to visit as many people and/or homes as we could. We couldn’t make it to all areas in this one trip and couldn’t even reach all the people within those areas that we did visit. G-d willing, we look forward to more of this quick-visit trips and alumni reunion get-togethers this summer, stay tuned for that!
Oh, the places you’ll go! We met an alumnus high up (literally and figuratively) in the Governors Office in NYC, saw another’s new and unusual home on Long Island, one visit was atop a liquor store on Bay Parkway. We met alumni struggling between jobs, one at new digs for their company’s office, and even randomly (nothing is random!) spotted an alumni walking down the street in Manhattan. We dropped off packages on apartment door-handles, tucked away behind fences, and left with doormen of tall buildings, or even at a hotel where an alumni family was displaced because of a fire. We met one alumnus in her “natural habitat” working inside the historic Eldridge Street Shul and Tenement Museum, another alumnus giving a nighttime EMT class to a bunch of yeshiva boys. We met an alumnus outside HUC where he works, another at his Brooklyn apartment situated between 3 Shuls. One alumnus had just come from his daily Talmud study before work, another had just come from her work riding different trains and buses.
We met grown-up children of alumni, and some of their parents! Some of our most meaningful stops were at parents of alumni from 15-20 years ago. We ate the freshest date we ever tasted, saw rugs with Jewish motifs woven in Persia/Iran, and surprised facetimed alumni from inside their own homes. Amazingly we found some alumni living down the block or around the corner from other alumni, some who already met each other but didn’t make the Albany connection and some who didn’t know of each other just a few blocks or houses away.
It was really nice to hear alumni good news in person: a promotion at work, having a baby, buying a new home. It was also very meaningful to spend a little time with beloved alumni friends facing some uncertainty or personal challenge. We did end up with some address duds, a reminder that we need to continually monitor and update our database. Thank G-d for GPS on the phone, not sure how we ever did trips like these before this amazing technology – though it did lead us on a few interesting and seemingly unnecessary rides…
At one point we needed more bags and more copies of the accompanying letters and figured we’d look for a Dollar Tree and a Staples, but didn’t want to veer too far off the road because time was of the essence and we wanted to maximize it. So it was really cool when we pulled up at a Dollar Tree and found it to be next door to a Staples!
And aside for the people we actually met in person, it was also very special to touch base with so many alumni along the way, whom we could not meet or even get to their towns and neighborhoods. The many texts and FB messages, voice-mails and phone calls were a virtual trip of their own! Some alumni were able to remotely see our dropoff at their door thanks to the video doorbells! The notes and posts, texts and calls back from alumni that we didn’t see in person were very beautiful. Thanks!
We didn’t take pictures at every stop, but see this album for some of the photos we took with alumni (and parents or kids) along the way.
We slept one night at Raizy’s parents in Brooklyn and the second night at Raizy’s sister in New Jersey. Very nice to spend time with family! Late on the third night we headed for home. Also along this trip we wished Mazal Tov to a Chabad on Campus colleague at the engagement party of their son, visited a beloved and respected Albany community friend suffering from an illness, and met and discussed wedding matters with an alumni couple. At the trip’s end we picked up Shmurah Matzah for the Seders and Pesach with the students back up in Albany. Our last few stops were in places in New Jersey, including one alumni who had since moved from NY to Jersey, and we got to drop it off there, too!