I hope that with The Power of Hello, if each of us reaches out to one person and smiles and says “Hello,” we will create a better world.

A friend once shared a story about a time that she took her grandchildren to the beach. She sat alone and noticed a group of women chatting nearby. She decided to approach them. Her “Hello” led to a shidduch (match) between her daughter and the son of one of the women. Her motto: “The Power of Hello!”

I am an introvert by nature, often reticent to approach strangers. However, over the past week, I have stepped out of my comfort zone, only to make new connections and friendships.

Deborah Weiner-Solomont Times of Israel
Deborah Weiner-Solomont
Times of Israel

While walking on the Tayelet (promenade) in Teveria (Tiberias, on the Galilee) last week, my husband and I observed a couple struggling to take a selfie. We approached, said “Shalom,” took a photo and within five minutes discovered not only that the woman’s aunt was a very close friend of my mother in Brookline, Mass., but also that her brother-in-law is married to our friend’s daughter. The Power of Hello.

We spent this past Shabbat in Yerucham (in the Negev), as an end-of-the-year gathering of parents and the young men who completed five years of Hesder (combination yeshivah and army service). I recognized many of our son’s friends, who greeted us so warmly. Mothers, whose sons we have hosted over the years, came over to thank us for the hospitality.

We were seated in the dining room, and I noticed a woman staring at me. She looked vaguely familiar. My old self would have just spent the weekend guessing — but now I felt like a superwoman with this newfound power. I approached her and it turned out that we are “related” — her aunt was married to my uncle. We talked about our shared first cousins, our families.

I rarely speak publicly. Although we have been in Israel for 30 years, I still do not feel confident speaking in Hebrew. As Shabbat was coming to a close, parents, along with our sons, sat in a circle. We were asked to share a special experience from the years in yeshivah.

I was surprised that my son spoke up and shared a memory of mine of his first day. He, like me, is quiet and I could not believe he had spoken up. The story, though, wasn’t quite right, and I felt that I needed to tell it. And I did!

I shared as well how everyone in the group is family, how I connected with a relative and discovered that our 10th-grade Chumash teacher at Maimonides School in Brookline has a grandson studying with my son. Later, a woman approached me and said, “Maybe we have a connection as well” and it turned out her mother grew up with my aunt in Dorchester!

The connections continued at the small hotel in Yerucham. Saying hello to a woman at the pool watching a group of teenagers revealed she was from Boston. We reconnected with the coordinator of the group, also a Maimonides graduate. Hello!!

We recently experienced the period of heightened mourning leading up to Tisha b’Av,  the day the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed. The sages say the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred.

I hope that with The Power of Hello, if each of us reaches out to one person and smiles and says “Hello,” we will create a better world.  

Debra Weiner-Solomont is the coordinator of the Pardes Institute Community Education Program. She received her M.S.W. from Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Debra, along with her husband and sons, came on aliyah from Brookline, Mass., 27 years ago.

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