YEHUDIS Fishman, teacher and scholar, is one of those rare individuals who has two birthdays.
Her physical birthday — she marked her 70th this year — fell most recently on Sukkot, which happened to coincide with a gathering planned by her own Boulder Jewish community, which had just emerged, damaged but undaunted, from the late summer floods that devastated the foothills city.
The broadly diverse Boulder Jewish community, ranging from Orthodox and chasidic to Renewal, with a generous portion of Conservative and Reform in between, opted to combine their flood observance with Fishman’s birthday.
After the traumatic flood experience, which witnessed Boulder Jewry coming together in a remarkable way, it was an entirely appropriate gesture, since Fishman not only teaches, but has cultivated many friendships at virtually every congregation and chavurah that calls Boulder home.
In the 14 years that she has been a popular, even beloved, teacher in Boulder, Fishman has become a link between the community’s divergent camps, a person who constitutes a human bond between them.
She also has what she calls a “spiritual birthday” — the 9th of Kislev — which she marks every year, but much more privately than her physical one.
That was the date when Fishman, as a young woman, met Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the fabled Lubavitcher Rebbe.
It was somewhere around 2 o’clock in the morning, she recalls, and there was a long line of Jews waiting to see him, all of them realizing that the spiritual leader would only have time to speak to each of them for a minute or two.
Fishman had compiled a fantasy list of spiritual questions she would love to ask the rebbe, knowing that it was unlikely to happen, but when her time came and they had exchanged a few words, he asked her, in Yiddish, whether she had any questions for him.
Yes, she replied, she did. And the rebbe provided answers to all of them. It was an hour later when she emerged from the room.
“When I came out,” she says today, the memory still fresh, “everybody was in awe.”
Especially Fishman herself.