July 2




According to Jewish history, last week is when Noah's Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. 1,200 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem. They all stayed in the ark for 150 days until the waters receded. Noah sent out a dove; and when it returned with an olive leaf in its beak he knew that the waters had subsided and it would soon be safe to come out. Which they did seven days later.




I had a similar experience today. This afternoon I drove directly into the fiercest thunderstorm I've encountered in my two weeks in South Florida. Visibility was below zero and I could barely see to drive, so I was very relieved to make it home safely. I sat in my car for more than 20 minutes with the storm raging around me. So loud that I couldn't be heard on my cell phone. Realizing that it wasn't stopping anytime soon.




I called Nilda. Her cousin Eduardo became my Knight with Large Umbrella. After the storm subsided Nilda and I did a few errands together. Palm fronds clutter every street. Blue skies have now returned. Thank goodness we won't be needing the ark today.




July — was my granddaughter Alyssa's 16th birthday. She's attending College of the Siskiyous in Weed, Calif., for her second summer; on her path to becoming a doctor. She lives on their campus from Sunday through Thursday and works alongside the doctors at Mercy Medical Center in Mt. Shasta, where she was born. I'm very proud of her, and miss her and her sister Janelle beyond words.




July 2 was the 50th anniversary of the passing of my beloved grandmom Bessie Simmons Kauffman. Her yahrzeit (memorial) candle is burning brightly. I still feel her presence very strongly in my life. Every day.




Tuesday mornings have now become my weekly breakfast meeting with Rabbi Kalman Packouz at Bagel Time on Miami Beach. He's executive director of Aish HaTorah and writes for their Web site, Aish.com. The largest educational Web site in the Jewish world. Rabbi Packouz was born in Portland and in his youth he was a guide at Oregon Caves. Such a small world. Aish's world headquarters are in "Old City" Jerusalem. I've been reading his weekly column for nine years and he's someone I've been wanting to meet for a very long time. He and his wife, Shoshana, have invited me to stay in their guest house next weekend and share Shabbat with them &

all 26 hours of it. I'm so looking forward to it. I've introduced him to Rabbi David via e-mail.




As delightful as my current housing situation is, I realized that I really want to live on Miami Beach. My "people" live there. My Grandpop Morris lived there after Grandmom Bessie died and he moved to Miami Beach in 1958. My daughter Bonnie was born in Mt. Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach. My Grandpop Morris died there in December 1970. Ashland's Chabad Rabbi Avi Zweibel and his wife Faigy's daughter Baila was born there six years ago.




So I got back on Craigslist and did some exploring. I found a great place on South Miami Beach and phoned them. The Starlight Hotel at 750 Ocean Drive. Which is where my family lived in the summer of 1957, when we moved from Philly to Miami. Four of us in a one-bedroom efficiency. Until we moved into "the City" before school started in September. It's a family-owned hotel, owned by the same family for many years. I stayed there in January, 2008, and now it's a possibility that I may live there again. I'm meeting with the owner on Thursday.




Since Gianni Versache's murder in July, 1997, South Beach has become a "zoo," especially on the weekends &

with thousands of tourists enjoying the restaurants and clubs on the Strip. Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant was my ADP Miami client in 1968, and is world famous. I love their sweet potato fries. Stone Crabs may be delicious and they aren't Kosher, so I've never eaten one. South Beach is one of the two neighborhoods I'm considering. The Arthur Godfrey Road (41st and Alton) area is the other. I'm spending July Fourth with my son Jeff at South Beach. Free beachfront fireworks. It doesn't get better than that!




Back to Brian and Josie White &

the Duke and Duchess of Badam-Mazar, in northwest Afghanistan. Brian's story, which is way too complex to discuss in this space is totally incredible. He worked on a coffee plantation in Kenya when he was 19. Can you say, "Out of Africa."




Jomo Kenyatta (1894-1978) is considered to be the founding father of the Kenyan nation; serving as both their prime minister and first president. Brian showed me the scars where he was tortured by bamboo shoots put into his fingers by Kenyatta's soldiers in 1954. He wept at that remembrance all these years later. His great, great, great ... who's parents came to America on the Mayflower was the first white person born in the Pilgrim Colony in America. His memoir must be written. Josie, who's 83, totally delightful and Cuban-America, says only three things to me, over and over again: "I love Obama. He must win. I pray for him and his family every day."




Happy 232nd birthday, America!




Shelly Simmons is a volunteer for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, focusing on outreach to the South Florida Jewish community &

over 4,000 square miles, minus the swamps and alligators &

population over 5 million. She can be contacted at shellyinor@aim.com.