This morning, I read in the paper of the death of singer Eydie Gorme. Ms. Gorme was a very popular singer who, along with her husband and singing partner Steve Lawrence delighted audiences for many decades. But, this post is not about her singing.
The fact is that every time I hear her name, it brings back a memory that is one of my favorite stories from all of my times traveling in Israel.
In 1991, I was leading a group to Israel and one of our stops was at Bet Hatefutsot, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv. I had been in the museum several times before, so after giving an introduction to the museum and walking around a bit with members of the group, I decided to grab some time sit in the coffee shop and rest.
As I was sitting there, one of the security guards came up to me and started a conversation with me in Hebrew. He noted very quickly that I was from the US but continued the discussion in Hebrew, chatting with me about the weather and all sorts of things. Then, he pointed to the name on his ID badge and asked me if I recognized it. His name was “Gormezano”.
When I said no, he proceeded to tell me a little of his life story and ended with the proud bit of information, that he was, in fact Eydie Gorme’s cousin. He asked if I knew of her saying, in a cadence I will never forget: “Hee sharah eem haSteve hazeh”. Loosely translated: “She sings with that guy Steve”.
Then, he went on to ask me if I would do him a favor which only an American could do. In the interest of confidentiality, I won’t say what it was. It was certainly legal, but it was clearly in the realm of chutzpah. I told him I couldn’t do it and he pressed me a bit saying: “But you’re the only American I know”.
I couldn’t resist. I said to him, in Hebrew, “Why not ask Eydie Gorme?”
His answer: “Anee lo rotzeh lihafreea otah bidavar kazeh”. I don’t want to bother her with this kind of thing.
So, I said in response: “You don’t want to bother her? But, you just met me and you don’t even know me and you’re asking me?”
He said: “You have a kind face and besides kulanu yehudim”.
Those last two words say it all: “Kulanu Yehudim”. We’re all Jews. The phrase used so often in Israel in situations of this kind. In other words, we’re all family, so why wouldn’t you help me?
He insisted I reconsider and I told him I would think about his request. He gave me his name and address and I never heard from him again.
But, every time, I hear Eydie Gorme’s name, I think of Mr. Gormezano in Tel Aviv. I’m not sorry I didn’t help him. His request was really “over the top”. But, I thank him for a charming moment of connection, the likes of which any Jew who travels to Israel seems to have every trip we take.
Reading about Eydie Gorme’s death this morning reminded me once again, it’s been too long since I traveled to Israel. God willing, I’ll go back this coming year.