A Happy Reunion

by R. Wineberg - WILMETTE, IL

October 1, 2002

The last time Karen Guttman, 28, had contact with her father was 14 years ago. By a series of serendipitous events that brought her to Chabad for Yom Kippur services, Karen would meet up with her father, on the holiest day of the year.

Chabad emissaries working their respective corners of the globe have long known that a small action can, and often does, go a long way. Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein of Chabad of Wilmette, Illinois, a quiet suburb of Chicago, discovered this to be true on his own home turf, and all because he thought to let people know that they were invited to spend Yom Kippur with Chabad.

Several weeks before the holiday, relates Rabbi Flinkenstien, Chabad sent a press release to the local paper, the Pioneer Press, informing them of their High Holiday services and inviting the community to join. The item merited a small mention in the paper.

But the notice caught the attention of Karen Guttman, who realized she hadn’t made any arrangements for Yom Kippur. So Yom Kippur found Karen seated with 200 other worshipers at Chabad of Wilmette. During the Torah reading, Karen suddenly heard a voice coming from the bima that sounded oddly familiar to her. Karen saw that the voice belonged to the man reciting the blessing on the Torah.

Karen didn’t recognize the man, and would have left it at that. But she knew the voice, and turning to the woman seated behind her, she asked if she knew the man’s name. “That’s my husband,” said Annette Guttman. David and his second wife, Annette, were active members of Chabad of Wilmette, and close friends of Rabbi Flinkenstien.

Estranged from her father for so many years following her parents’ bitter divorce, Karen was finally reunited in a joyous reunion on Yom Kippur, bringing tears to many of the people at Chabad that day.

In his Neilah sermon at the closing of the holy day, Rabbi Flinkenstein compared the reunion of father and daughter to the idea of Teshuva, of a Jewish soul returning to G-d, his father in Heaven. No matter the circumstance, a Jew is always connected to G-d, he explained, as a child is connected to her father. Sometimes all it takes to reunite them is a little sign, a tiny reminder that could go unnoticed ... even a small, easily overlooked announcement in the local paper.

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