Literally every single week we get calls from people passing through Omaha for any number of reasons, business or personal, who need a place for Shabbat. Of course we always ask for references, but the Jewish world is sufficiently small that in seven years of hosting every week I have never been more then one degree of separation from any shomer shabbat traveler.
Hosting these guests is always a great opportunity to make new and interesting friends, and in the past great things have happened to me as a result of these visitors. The first thing that comes to mind of course is that is exactly how I met my wife.
I got a call from a Shabbat observant woman who was here on business and needed a place for Shabbat. At the time I was single so I put her up by a family that lives nearby and I hosted them for a Friday night meal. I really enjoyed getting to know her over Shabbat and she told me that she had a beautiful daughter who had just moved to Phoenix. I thought, "hmm, attractive girl in a warm climate that is a direct flight - SOLD!" (my wife has a slightly different version: she heard from her mother, "i want to set you up with a divorced Orthodox Rabbi who lives in Nebraska." Not as appealing.)
Recently we had the great privilege of hosting Chaviva who was driving from my home town Teaneck, NJ to Denver. She stopped in Omaha for Shabbat. Chaviva is a social media guru, author of the blog kvetching editor. She was part of the impetus for me to start blogging. She also just wrote a very kind article about her shabbat here in Omaha.
So now that I am blogging regularly I have been thinking about fixing my blog up a bit and maybe even changing the name. Right now it is ameRABBIca which means "Rabbi in the middle of America" (get it?) but I am thinking of changing it to nowRABBIhere which I like better. now RABBI here is "rabbi in the middle of nowhere".
There are some people who don't like the self deprecation as it implies that Omaha is 'nowhere' and Omahans are very proud of their city.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am EXTREMELY proud to live in Omaha and the last thing that I would ever do is imply something negative about this fine city. But unfortunately, as far as jewish communities go, Omaha generally is a hidden secret - too hidden. Everyone in Omaha knows that when you introduce yourself as a Jew from Omaha the dreaded response is almost always, 'THERE ARE JEWS IN OMAHA????" Our Jewish community is so obscure that for some reason it evokes astonishment that any Jew would ever consider living here.
Since I arrived here one of my main objectives was to get Omaha on the map and move it from the middle of nowhere to the center of everything Jewish! "Now Rabbi Here" has that double meaning. As if to say, "hey, we used to be nowhere but don't worry. Now Rabbi Here!" Together with my congregation and community we are going to make an impact on North American Jewry and nobody will every ask if there are Jews in Omaha again!