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Transcript of interview with Rabbi Felipe Goodman by Barbara Tabach, March 9, 2015






Rabbi Felipé Goodman was born in 1967 and raised in an established Conservative Jewish community in Mexico City. This community would financially and emotionally support his seminary education was in New York City at the Jewish Theological Seminary. As a young rabbi eager for his own congregation, he became restless in 1998 and began his search for options which lead him to a listing for a rabbi at Las Vegas’s oldest synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom. During this oral history, Rabbi Goodman weaves a fascinating story of chance and good fortune of his interview process and visit to Las Vegas—including the generous parting gift of Snapple—and his surprising decision to take the position. Now, almost two decades later, he reflects on several of his accomplishments in addition to being Temple Beth Sholom’s longest serving rabbi to date. He mentions the opening of the synagogue’s move to a beautiful new building in Summerlin, where they were able to include a mikvah for conversions. He shares how he and Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, formerly of Midbar Kodesh Temple, worked together to establish chevra kadisha for burying Jewish people. As a member of the Rabbinical Assembly he was especially please to help host the 2011 annual conference in Las Vegas after years of persuasion. Israeli political leader Tzipi Livni was the keynote speaker. Rabbi also speaks about his passion for Israel, AIPAC and the Conservative Movement in Judaism.

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[Transcript of interview with Rabbi Felipe Goodman by Barbara Tabach, March 9, 2015]. Goodman, Felipe Interview, 2015 March 9. OH-02283. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Rabbi Felipe Goodman An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ©Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV - University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tab ach, Claytee D. White Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans 11 The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first- person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas in Preface Rabbi Felipe Goodman was born in 1967 and raised in an established Conservative Jewish community in Mexico City. This community would financially and emotionally support his seminary education was in New York City at the Jewish Theological Seminary. As a young rabbi eager for his own congregation, he became restless in 1998 and began his search for options which lead him to a listing for a rabbi at Las Vegas’s oldest synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom. During this oral history, Rabbi Goodman weaves a fascinating story of chance and good fortune of his interview process and visit to Las Vegas—including the generous parting gift of Snapple—and his surprising decision to take the position. Now, almost two decades later, he reflects on several of his accomplishments in addition to being Temple Beth Sholom’s longest serving rabbi to date. He mentions the opening of the synagogue’s move to a beautiful new building in Summerlin, where they were able to include a mikvah for conversions. He shares how he and Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhom, formerly of Midbar Kodesh Temple, worked together to establish chevra kadisha for burying Jewish people. As a member of the Rabbinical Assembly he was especially please to help host the 2011 annual conference in Las Vegas after years of persuasion. Israeli political leader Tzipi Livni was the keynote speaker. Rabbi also speaks about his passion for Israel, AIPAC and the Conservative Movement in Judaism. IV Table of Contents Interview with Rabbi Felipe Goodman March 9, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Barbara Tabach Preface....................................................................................iv Explains being a second generation Mexican Jew, bom (1967) and raised in Mexico City; paternal lineage from Ukraine, though his grandfather immigrated in early 1900s and served in US Army during WWI, he settled in Mexico; maternal roots are from Portugal and Lebanon. Talks about his Jewish upbringing and identity growing up in Mexico City; how it differs from American experiences. Having dual citizenship; his home congregation sponsored his attendance at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City; living with threats of kidnappings that occur in Mexico which is also a serene country to live in.....................................1-6 His search for a rabbi position outside of Mexico; Rabbinical Assembly leads; story of his applying and being offered the position of Temple Beth Sholom’s rabbi in 1998; describes his dilemma in reaching a decision to take the job, the people and places he visited; the final step of telling his family and his current congregation.........................................7-17 Compares Jewish temple affiliations between Las Vegas and Mexico City; how Conservative Judaism differs in US from Mexico. Talks about availability of kosher foods locally and how that has improved with help from Rabbi Harlig and Chabad; Board of Rabbis and other establish congregations here; friendship with Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhom with whom he started a chevra kadisha for burying the dead............................................................18-22 Talks about what he feels are highlights of his nearly twenty years at Temple Beth Sholom, including the building of the new synagogue with a mikvah for conversions; bringing the Rabbinical Assembly Convention to Las Vegas with Tzipi Livni as speaker. AIPAC participation is talked about; importance to community; future of local Jewish community and perspectives about Jewish Community Centers..........................................................23-27 Topic of anti-Semitism. Tells about where his family first lived; cultural influences of being Mexican-Jewish; Jewish philanthropy and fundraising; raising his children in Las Vegas; book he would like to write; his wife’s career. Mentions that he had a great-grandfather who was a rabbi...................................................................................28-35 v Today is March 9th, 2015. This is Barbara Tabach and I am sitting with Rabbi Goodman. If you would spell your name for the transcriber. Sure. My name is Felipe, F as in Frank, E-L-I-P, as in Peter, E. Last name is Goodman; G-O-O-D-M-A-N. Let’s start is with your genealogical heritage. Your family is from Mexico—you were raised in Mexico. Right. I was raised—yes, my family was from Mexico. And how did they get to Mexico? My grandfather on my father's side came to Mexico in the 1920s. My grandfather was from— actually, both of them, they were from the Ukraine, from a little town called Boguslav, next to Kiev. You want the whole story? If s a long story. I know the whole story. Oh, that's great. Oh, he told me. Listen, this is what I do for a living. Right, okay. Well, give me at least the ten-minute version. You can do that. Quickly, my grandfather left the Ukraine in the early 1900s and he came to the United States. He was drafted to go to the First World War. So when he got back to Europe and he saw what was happening, he didn't want to fight and he basically took off his uniform and went back to Ukraine. Then from the Ukraine, he went to Siberia and he went to Japan where he learned how to be an oral surgeon and a prosthetic dentist. He spoke perfect Japanese. Then he went to Mexico because he couldn't make it back to the United States. He was MIA. So he was in which army, then? The American Army. But he left the American Army. He left it because he believed that he didn't leave Europe just to die senselessly. 1 I see. And he had been in the States for five years. So it really didn't mean to him it's my country. It's that generation of people where there wasn't a real country; they were just trying to stay alive and trying to go to work. So once he got to Mexico, he got established. He brought my grandmother and he brought his twelve sisters. That's his story. On my mother's side, it's a little bit different story. My mother's family comes from Portugal and from Lebanon. They got to Mexico also in the 1910s. That's the end of the story. It's not a complicated story. My parents married late in their lives. My mother was married before, and so I have two sisters from a different marriage from my mother. My parents got married in 1964,1 believe. That's the story. So I am basically the second generation of Jews in my family bom in Mexico. And you were born in Mexico City? I was bom in Mexico City. I was bom the fourth of January of 1967, which in biographical data is an interesting day because it's the only day that Mexico City had shut down for a snowstorm in a hundred years. It's an interesting day. It was a weird day for Mexico. They never have snow. My mother and my father tell the story that I was bom in a hospital across the street from my house. I still own that house and the hospital is still there. So it's one of those things. So it's always a reminder. What was it like to grow up Jewish in Mexico? Now that I'm a rabbi in America and I understand American Judaism, it was a very different experience. I always talk about American Jewish life as American Jewish life and then the rest 2 of the diaspora. I don't think American Jews really get a grasp of what the rest of the diaspora is like; I mean outside of Israel that's not in the United States or Canada. It's very different. For us it was very clear; we were not permanently there. That idea that you were not part of the fabric of the country permeated in every single day of my life. I'll tell you a quick story. I would go on a school bus. I went to a private school. Most kids in Mexico, most Jewish kids go to Jewish day schools. I actually went to an American school. I was on the bus and one of kids says to me, “Well, if there's a war in Mexico against Israel, who would you fight for?” And I would say, “Israel.” And they looked at me like I was crazy, like, how can this guy have two countries? This issue of Jewish identity whether we are a religion or we are a people—what are we?—it was the forefront of my life from day one. To me there was no question I was part of a people. I happened to be bom in Mexico, but I was really Jewish; that's my real nationality somehow. When you're bom in America that's not entirely the conclusion you come to because it's a very different type of country. But if you're bom in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay, you name it, this is the feeling that you get; that we're not a permanent part of the fabric of our country. There's a racial difference. There's a socioeconomic difference. There is many differences. They play out in different ways during your life. So now it turns out I've been here for half my life. It's a very interesting life. It's a completely different paradigm of Jewish life than I experienced in Mexico. So do you maintain a dual citizenship? I have a dual citizenship. Actually, just for biographical purpose, very interesting, my daughters, Daniela and Arielle were number one and two registered as Mexican citizens in the Mexican 3 consulate in Las Vegas because when we came here there was no Mexican consulate and we kept trying to register our children as Mexicans. Yoshua was bom in Mexico. I spent two years in Mexico after I finished the seminary. See, the idea was that I was going to go back to Mexico and stay there forever and become the rabbi of the community where I grew up, which is one of the largest, if not the largest today conservative synagogue in Latin America. It's 1,500 families. And I know everybody. I know where all the bodies are buried. I mean I grew up there. But when we went back from the seminary to Mexico, Mexico was not the same. It was a very changed country. There was a lot of crime. We were living in the States and we were spoiled. You could actually go on the street any time of day you wanted and nothing happened to you. So we were having a very hard time and that's why we decided to leave. So I was there for two years as an assistant rabbi in my home congregation. So Yoshua was bom when we were there. He was actually supposed to be bom in New York. We were supposed to go back to New York to have him there. He was a month ahead of schedule, so he was bom in Mexico. But Daniela and Arielle were bom here. We kept trying to go to consulate in [Los Angeles] and they wouldn't register them because we needed witnesses that actually knew us. Tried to schlep two people from Las Vegas to go to Los Angeles to the consulate. Then we tried San Bernardino; same story. Tried Mexico City; it was impossible. So finally a couple of years, after they were bom, we were able to register them in Las Vegas when they opened the consulate in Las Vegas. It's an interesting story. That is. For me—now I can tell you—after all these years of thinking about Jewish identity and who I am, my Mexican identity is a very important part of who I am because it is a country who makes 4 me who I am. Had it not been for the prosperity that I experienced in Mexico, I would have never been able to go to the seminary in New York. When I went there, there was no financial aid for foreign students. So basically, we had to pay for everything and it was not cheap. Between my congregation and my father, we did it. Also, going to university in Mexico, I met my wife in Mexico. So basically it gave me my life. So I began to understand what an important part of my life it is. Mexico is one of these countries where you are not always in good terms with because what happens—the corruption, the politics. But it's a very important thing for me. So I wanted my children to have Mexican citizenship and they do. That's interesting. By the way, Mexico didn't allow dual citizenship until 1999. So that's another interesting story. We were some of the first people who were able to take advantage of that with my kids. I became a U.S. citizen eight years ago. So you went to seminary— In New York City, the Jewish Theological Seminary. In New York City, okay—and you said something about you were afforded that because of your family but also the congregation? Right. So my congregation in Mexico was paying for my education. Again, I was supposed to go back and be the rabbi for the rest of my life. A couple of things happened. The rabbi in Mexico City, the Conservative Rabbi Marcelo Rittner is really a dear friend of mine. He's my mentor. It was clear to me I was going to be the assistant rabbi forever. And that combined with what was happening in the country then—the social unrest and the kidnappings— I went to minyan every day and we had to do a different prayer for somebody who was 5 kidnapped. So it’s not a fun place to be. I realized if I didn't leave I was going to be always in the shadow of my mentor and always with the uncertainty of what's going to happen in Mexico. So how do we get to Las Vegas? That's an incredible story. But maybe you have more questions before that. First I'm going to ask (about) living with the idea of potential kidnapping, people being kidnapped. I can't imagine that kind of culture of existence. No, you can't. We have a member of our congregation here, who is Mexican too, who was kidnapped twice. It is horrible. It is really, really terrifying. When you're a rabbi you know a little bit more than the average person because you know the names and you know who's not telling whose family is in jeopardy and stuff like that. We had a cousin; they kidnapped his partner. The partner was released six months later. He tells the story he thought they were kidnaping my wife's cousin; they just got the wrong guy. So he immediately moved out of the country. It's like one of those things; when they get you they make you give a list of names so they can actually know where to go. The Mexican Jewish community, when you go on Facebook, none of them have their full names on Facebook. They have like half the name or modified so that people don't know who they really are. I mean it's not only the Jews. It is also the French or the Spanish. Mexico is very, very polarized when it comes to social status. So you have different ethnic groups in their own silos. That's what happens. I see. So it isn't just a religious thing. It's an ethnic thing. So next get me to Las Vegas. So in 1998,1 wake up one morning and I had this nightmare that my senior rabbi in Mexico had a heart attack. What? And I said to my wife, Liz, “This is horrible. I can't live like this, waiting 6 for something to happen to him so I can become the head rabbi.” It's really so nice to be here. Listen, we were with all our family, right? Now when we see them...if s horrible not to be with them, still, the separation. It's only three hours away by plane, but the separation is horrible. My kids, all their cousins are in Mexico. Everybody is in Mexico. Because I'll tell you the truth, there's no country to grow up like in Mexico. Everybody knows everybody and it's a very nice way of life—what used to be. You get used to everything, right, because the trade-off is that it's a very serene country if you can imagine that on the other hand, right? Right. So the Rabbinical Assembly, which is my rabbinical organization in the Conservative movement, publishes at least every month. In those days it was something you actually got in the mail; now it's on the computer, right. But I remember it was a yellow paper with all of these congregations looking for Conservative rabbis and it's a closed placement because only congregations that are members of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism can look for rabbis who are members of the Rabbinical Assembly and vice versa. So I looked at the list and there were all these congregations on it. I said, “I have to go somewhere. So where are we going to go?” Of course, applying to one congregation doesn't mean they're going to take you, right? There were congregations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. And Liz and I decided we didn't want to go to another huge city. I was bom in a city of thirty million people with traffic jams, with crime. We wanted a city that was big, but not so big that you spend your life in the car and things like that. So we saw Las Vegas and they were actually paying very well. It was actually the same 7 as I was getting in Mexico—but you know what; it was in dollars. I asked the Rabbinical Assembly to forward my resume. Something incredible happened. That was in November. November of 1997. I didn't hear back from anyone. In February of 1998, Liz and I took a trip to New York and I had completely forgotten about [the Las Vegas position]. We went to the Office of the Rabbinical Assembly to say hello to my friends at the seminary and some of the rabbis I had started with. And I went to the Placement Office to talk to the rabbi who is the head of placement to see where should I apply because I never heard back from Las Vegas. The first thing he says to me is, “Listen, if you want to really find work”—because they kept telling me—“You really want to leave, but you don't really want to leave.” I was bom there, so it's hard. So he says, “If you really want to do this seriously, submit more than one resume.” So he gave me a list of five congregations and one of them was in Montreal. He says, “Going to Canada, culturally it's easier.” So I'm sitting in his office and we're having this conversation. A secretary comes in and says, “Excuse me, there is a call for you.” This is for Rabbi Schaumberg. “But they're trying to find Rabbi Goodman—from Las Vegas. Apparently, he wrote his phone number on the resume wrong and they haven't been able to get in touch with him, and so they want us to release his information, but he's sitting here.” Oh, how serendipity. Can you imagine this? So I go to the phone. This is the way it happened. And I said, “Hi, this is Rabbi Goodman.” It was Sandy Mallin on the phone and she could not [believe it]. She says, “What? I was just going to get your information.” I said, “Listen, I happen to be here.” I'm never going to forget that day as long as I live. We talked for about five minutes. I 8 said, “I have to go, but can we talk more tomorrow?” She says, “Sure.” I said, “We're going to New Jersey. We're going to Menlo Park Mall.” She goes, “Oh, my god, I've been there. It's huge.” I said, “I love that mall.” When you're from Mexico and you come here, you make all your shopping in the United States. “So we're going to go to the mall and can I call you when my wife is shopping? I have nothing to do. I'll call you.” So I called Sandy and we spoke on the phone for about an hour. It's funny because those were the days of the public phones. I didn't have an American cell phone. So I spoke for an hour on a public phone. It was very funny. She then said, “Well, it's great hearing your voice. It's a good conversation.” I said, “Thank you for calling.” She said, “If you are in touch, we'll call you next week.” I land in Mexico the next week and there's already a message for me to call back. I called Sandy and she says, “Listen, one of our members of our board”—they had a search committee; it was Gene Greenberg—’’Would like to speak with you.” Fine. So I didn't understand what was happening; it was too many people. I speak with Gene on the phone and it was great. But at that point I was convinced I was not coming to Las Vegas. So instead of having rehearsed answers, I just really gave them a piece of my mind. Whenever they asked me a question, I really answered what I had to answer. It's one of those things. I didn't know it then, but Gene, before he spoke with me, he didn't want to interview me because I was from Mexico and he thought he had a rabbi once from Argentina who couldn't speak English and it was a horrible experience. Somehow, I don't know how my resume got to the top of the pile. It's almost like a miracle. I end up coming to an interview in Las Vegas the weekend of the 23rd of March of 1998. I remember that date because I went to my senior rabbi—and I was never shorting my contract 9 from Mexico City; my contract was solved. I remember going to my rabbi and saying, “Listen, I'm going to go to this interview.” He was not expecting this. And he says, “Okay.” I said, “Should I tell the president of the synagogue?” He says, “You have to because if you don't then they're going to blame you that you didn't do things in a kosher way and it's going to come back to haunt you. So you have to disclose it.” He says to me, “I know it's going to be hard and painful”—especially because they had paid for my schooling. “But you have to do it.” So we had a negotiation meeting for my contract. In that meeting I was just. . .it's incredible. I was asking for five hundred dollars more a month. I was asking for six thousand dollars more a year. One of these guys says to me, “How do I know that you're worth another five hundred dollars a month?” I got so upset and at the end of that meeting I said, “Listen, I just want to let you know I have an interview in Las Vegas.” And they all laughed. First of all, I think they thought I was bluffing. Second, when I said, “I have an interview in Las Vegas,” they laughed. They really were like, who goes there, right? Who wants to be a rabbi in Las Vegas? One of them said, “Oh, bring me back a chip from the Mirage for good luck.” And I go, “Okay.” I don't think they believed I was coming. I'm telling you, I think they thought I was making it up. Then, of course, we have to tell our families. My father was, “Go. Don't even think about it twice.” My father-in-law was like, “Oh, I don't want you guys to go.” We get on the plane. We come to Las Vegas. Sandy picked us up at the airport, Sandy Mallin. I have to tell you I just saw Sandy and I remembered thinking, wow, this is an unsual place, right? Look at this woman; she's gorgeous; she's so bright and so outgoing. And I don't know many congregations where the president is like that. I was trying to understand what was happening. It was a Friday. I fell in love with her. She was amazing. Anything I ever wanted 10 to hear from a congregational president she was saying. So I don't know if she realizes to this day, she was interviewing me, but I was actually interviewing her. I really was not sure I wanted to leave Mexico at that time. We stayed at the Treasure Island for some reason. It was the Treasure Island. Now, this is 1998. Treasure Island was a very nice hotel. We had Shabbat dinner at Faye and Leon Steinberg's house. I can tell you we had meatballs and roast chicken and potatoes. I don't forget. I have these persons in my mind because it's the day that really changed my life. Who else was there at that dinner? It was Sandy and her husband [Stan] and Faye and Leon. I think that was it. I don't think there were any more people there. Maybe there were, but I can't remember. Mona Silverman and Charles Silverman, but I don't think so. I'm not entirely sure. Oh, maybe Leon's brother, Irv, and his wife, Elaine. Then we went to synagogue Friday night to the Hebrew Academy. I walked in there. It was in the gym, Tamar Lubin Auditorium. Remember that one? I remember seeing the ark. It was a portable ark and it was a little crooked and one of the feet of the arc was like uneven and they had a Frisbee holding it up. Here I was; I came from this humungous wealthy synagogue where everything was perfect and immaculate. I said to myself, “Oh, my god, I could never come here.” Then, of course, it was a whole experience with Cantor Bergman who had been here for all these years. It was an interesting experience; that's what I'm going to say. So after Shabbat services were over—my secretary put the wrong sermon for me in my bag and I just realized it when I got here. In those days I used a full script of a sermon to preach; 11 now I don't. I had been a rabbi for two years. I had to preach like off the cuff in English, which I hadn't spoken English in two years. So it was very interesting. I loved the people that I met. They were really nice people, very different from the Mexican laypeople, very different. Oh, really? How? Well, in Mexico I think they saw me [as] one of the children that grew up in the congregation. I think that for me was never clear until I started talking to people here. So they saw you more as an adult. They saw me as a rabbi. Fresh eyes, yes. In Mexico they saw me as a kid that went to rabbinical school. So we would go back to the hotel on Friday night and I remember saying to my wife, “I can't come here; I can't. The people are super nice, but I don't know.” She says, “Let's keep an open mind.” So then come Saturday morning, Saturday services, also at the Hebrew Academy. Oh, no, Saturday morning services we went to the temple at Oakey; we still had it. They took me there so I could see what the temple was like. They were having Saturday morning services there. I thought it was a very interesting place. I thought it was falling apart, also. From an outsider's perspective it was interesting to see what was happening. The old-timers—and I could figure this out in ten seconds—were so attached to that building and here you had all these new lay leaders trying to raise money, sadly trying to raise money to build this new synagogue to save the congregation literally. There was this dichotomy going on at play the whole time. I said to my wife, “I'm not going to be able to deal with this.” I kept saying the same thing. Saturday night they took us to Mystere. I had the time of my life. Then we went to 12 dinner at a restaurant at Treasure Island and it was fantastic. On Sunday I had a meeting with the full board and they were asking me questions that I had no idea where they were coming from. Now that I understand the history of the community, I know why they were asking me these questions. Like Milton Schwartz asked me what I thought about a day school where they have non-Jewish children. And I couldn't understand why somebody was asking me that question, but now I get it. Now I understand what happened with the Einstein School and they moved to the Hebrew Academy and all the fights, but I had no context. So I answered what I answered and that partly was okay. It was interesting. It was in the board room of the old synagogue. I also taught a class, which I really liked doing. I really thought that there were a lot of very committed people. We always complain here we don't have enough lay leadership. I remember my old congregation; they wouldn't even come to services. I haven't talked a lot about that because it's an affront to them. I'm not here to criticize it. But I think people here are fabulous. So Sunday night we went to Jerry Turk's home. He still lived in Las Vegas. They took Liz into a separate room and they took me into a separate room. I had no idea what was happening. Oh, sorry. Let me backtrack. Sunday we were taken out to lunch by Gene Greenberg and we went to the Jerusalem restaurant, which was very close to Las Vegas Country Club at the time. I don't know if you remember that. No, I don't. I've heard about it, though. Oh, no. We went to Haifa. When Gene went to the restroom, I remember saying to Liz, “I can't let this man pay for the check. I'm not coming here. I cannot let them pay for one more thing.” 13 So I asked for the check. I paid for the check. When Gene realized this he's like white; he doesn't know what to do. One of the things we don't have in Mexico City, we don't have Snapple iced tea. Liz ordered an iced tea. They didn't have it. They brought it—they did have it and Liz told Gene the story of how we don't have Snapple in Mexico. Then when he dropped us off at the airport the last day, he gave us a case of Snapple to take to Mexico. And you could still take it on the airplane. Yes, yes. So that's something I had. But going back to that that night they took us to Jerry Turk's house. I think Gene realized that by me paying the check that meant... That was a signal. Well, I think it's very disingenuous and I was sitting in a place with the Rabbinical Assembly, ironically. I see congregations complain when they bring rabbis out to interviews and the rabbis...they just live it up for the weekend, knowing that they're not going to come. So even then I knew this was not the right thing to do. Get to Jerry Turk's home and there's a lot of people there convincing me of what a beautiful place this is to come. We're going to build this great synagogue. And also, they kept talking about this huge synagogue they're going to build. They actually brought me here to this site and there was nothing here. I mean there was nothing. I think it was Sahara and Fort Apache where the whole [development] ended. In Mexico when you say we're going to build a new synagogue, you're thinking ten years. In my old congregation we bought land in the year 2000 to build a new synagogue. They still haven't started because of permits and problems. So in my context of my life, I never imagined that they're going to build a shul in one year. So I kept thinking, ah, this is not it; they're pulling my leg here. 14 I'm at Jerry Turk's home; I'm in a room with Jerry Turk, Mel Wolzinger, Charles Silverman, Gene Greenberg and Sandy [Mallin], Mel takes out a napkin and says, “Rabbi, we want to keep you here. Here is this napkin; write down your price.” I'm like, where am I? Who knows this? You’re in Las Vegas, writing on a napkin. Of course, I didn't understand this, right? I didn't want to come. So I said, “You know what? I really need to talk to my wife about this. I can't do this. Let me think about it. I don't want to put a number on a napkin; that's not the way I do things.” And there's another funny story with Mel later on. This is great. Oh, my god, Mel is one of the most incredible people I've ever met in my life. So the next day, they take me to the airport. Gene gives me the Snapple. From the weekend we became friendly. He knew that I loved Seinfeld, so he gave me a Seinfeld poster signed by the whole cast. He was the manager of Channel 3. We get back to Mexico City and we don't speak the whole plane ride. Liz and I are like staring at the seat in front of us. There's clearly too many things on our minds. And I'm plain thinking, there's no way. I kept thinking about the couple of things that happened. There's no real synagogue and the clergy that I have to work with I'm not entirely thrilled about. So I have a great thing in Me