In the Apocrypha, the sage Ben-Sira writes, “Whoever finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure” (6:14). Childhood friends constitute part of the building blocks of our life that shape our character and enable us to become who we are. Because of the vicissitudes of existence, we eventually lose contact with most of them and they are stored away in our memories. But if we want to know ourselves better, we need to reconnect with them, to find out what they are up to, and to share happy and sad stories.
Like many of you, I too lost contact with most of my elementary, high school and college friends. I left Turkey in 1961, studied abroad, traveled extensively, moved often, and finally settled in the Boston area where I have lived for the last 30 plus years. I am now ready and eager to make contact again with those who influenced me in my youth. And I have been successful up to a point. Some of my friends sadly passed away, and I am sorry I did not communicate with them while they were alive. Others simply disappeared from the radar and I cannot locate them. But a few precious ones have surfaced, and I was able to reconnect.
First, I attempted to locate some of my elementary and high school friends. I had already been in touch with just a few, but now many more appeared in Facebook and elsewhere. We are now in the process of exchanging class pictures and family episodes. My high school in Istanbul (“The Jewish High School”), a private educational institution that was led for many years by my father, organizes every year a get together in March, and graduates flock from Israel, Europe and other places. One year I plan to attend as well.
I have been able to keep in touch with a few friends in Law School (Istanbul) and Rabbinic Seminary (HUC-JIR), but recently I have attempted to locate my colleagues in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, but have had very little success. But this past week, I hit the correct button. I heard that there will be a gathering in Philadelphia of some of my classmates at the house of my Arabic professor, but regrettably I cannot attend this time. Maybe, in the future.
A few days ago I found my American pen pal whom I had met in Turkey, about 50 years ago. While serving in the Turkish army, I wrote to SE often, inquiring about life in America. She represented for me my ultimate goal of coming to the States. In fact, when I came to Cincinnati, I met SE again, even attended her wedding. But after ordination, I went one way, she another. But this week, I located her in Facebook and contacted her. I learned she became a prominent physician, has three daughters and is still active, though retired from her profession. It was wonderful closing the gap again.
Have you tried to reconnect with your childhood friends? The book of Proverbs calls a good friend an oheb ,a loving person; that is one “who sticks closer than a brother” (18: 24). Good friends are part of our life, and you should never forget them. I did not, and I am glad for it.