Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jewish Connections

On Friday morning as I was getting ready to leave for work the phone rang several times, but I couldn't hear anyone on the other side. Finally, they called again and I could hear, it was Vilhalmur, calling from Denmark. Earlier in the week, Jacob suggested that I email him, he has authored several articles about Jews in Iceland and in Scandinavian countries and ask him if he knows about any Jews in Reykjavik. He ended up getting our home number from the University Centre. We had a really nice conversation just introducing ourselves and he gave me the name of an American Jewish man from Chicago that has been living in Reykjavik for 20 years, Michael Levin. Apparently he was trained as a cantor and an opera singer and through some research we discovered that he runs a restaurant in the city. Apparently he has organized seders in the past so Vilhalmur gave us his number. He also shared with us that last year those who got together for a seder made their own matzah - wonderful.

The conversation with Vilhalmur was fascinating and we hope to meet him and his family in May and then again in the summer when they come to visit. He is an Icelandic Jews, but has been living in Denmark for his adult life as I can gather. As a matter of fact, I posted his blog, which is in Icelandic and which he says is sort of funny about Jews in Iceland. That said, he told me of a time when there were 2000 Jewish service men in Keflavik and another when there were 2 synagogues running in Reykjavik. All this took place in the 50's, when the US base here opened and when refugees from Germany and England found themselves here for a while.

His own father, from the Netherlands, was on his way to the United States on a boat that stopped in Iceland. While here he met with his "pen pal" and decided to stay and marry her. As you can imagine the connection tot he Netherlands interested me and I made sure to share with him some of my family history. Then he asked, do you know Renee van Wijngaarden. I laughed and said yes, we are friends on Facebook and chatted a bit about the Maduro clan. Vilhalmu's family on one side are DeCastro (but not the one's we know) and DeCosta. One day we will speak about this all in length I am sure. He will be coming to the Westfjords in May for some business and then will be bringing his family here on vacation. In the meantime he offered to help us order anything we might need from the kosher market in Copenhagen:) However, since Terri brought us matzah we are ok for now.

We are trying to get in touch with Michael but so far have been unsuccessful...but we will keep on trying.

I will post the links to Vilhalmur's papers...


Jake (dot mac mail) said...

hi! Just a note to say hello and compliment you on how much I enjoy reading your blog. I was in Isafjordur for a whale watch conference about a year ago and was amazed at what a beautiful area it is! Keep on blogging!