New Beginnings: The Krissmans find a long lost relative - upstairs

David and Abbe Krissman did not expect that their neighbor would turn out to be a long lost relative.

krissman 298 88 (photo credit: )
krissman 298 88
(photo credit: )
For David and Abbe Krissman the adage "it's a small world when you are Jewish" could not be more true. Buying their Jerusalem apartment while on vacation here last year, the Krissmans did not expect that their upstairs neighbor would turn out to be a long lost relative. "It was a very strange occurrence," exclaims Abbe, during our interview. "We were enjoying a seudah shlishit [afternoon meal] with our new neighbors and the name 'Havlin' came up in conversation. My neighbor did a double take and we worked out together that either his greatgrandfather and David's great-grandfather were the same person or they were brothers." Abbe says that one of the amazing aspects of living in the Jewish homeland is the chance to track down long lost family members and search for her roots. "The Havlins are a large family and I know we have many more relatives here," she says. Putting together a family tree is not, however, the main priority for the Krissmans at this juncture on their path to absorption in their new homeland. "We are growing more and more frustrated by our lack of Hebrew," admits Abbe, adding that she hopes the couple will be able to finally start an ulpan within the next two weeks. "That is really our biggest challenge," agrees David. "Especially when you are rebuilding an apartment." Now retired, David and Abbe have taken it upon themselves to re-decorate and restore their new home in the historic Nahlaot neighborhood. While most people have been incredibly kind and helpful, say the couple, they have also experienced their fair share of curt shop staff, a not so pleasant introduction to Israeli culture at its worst. "Especially at one specific chain of hardware stores," complains David. "When I was in high school, I worked as a sales person and if I let a person walk out of the store unhappy, I would have lost my job." While most veteran olim will, by now, be nodding their heads in sympathy, David says he is still surprised when Israeli abruptness comes into play. "Most people have been gracious but some have been downright rude," adds Abbe, giving the example of shopkeepers trying to sell them products they do not need. "They have the assumption that if we don't speak the language, we must be dumb." Abbe says one of the couple's most memorable 'rude' moments was at the bank. "The clerk there actually said to us 'you need to learn to speak Hebrew,'" recalls Abbe. "I told her that we'd only been in the country seven weeks and that we were working on it but she just got up and walked away before we'd even finished our business. "Next time we go in to that bank we definitely won't deal with her again." It seems that as well as learning the language, the Krissmans perhaps need to heed the golden advice this reporter was given as a new oleh: "Never set foot in the actual bank, do all your banking by phone or online."