This week I met someone for the first time, and he returned something to me that I had not lost. Chip walked into my office, introduced himself, and asked, “Rabbi, do you believe in omens?” To me the word “omen” evoked images of black cats and tea leaves, so I replied, “Not really.” “Well, Rabbi,” he said, “you might now. I search for objects with a metal detector as a hobby.
A few years ago, I found myself on the property right off exit 59 and directly across from your planned synagogue. They were dismantling an old farmhouse to prepare for the industrial park that now sits on the site. I received permission to search the grounds along with a few people looking for old arrowheads and other relics. On the left side of the farmhouse I found something buried beneath the surface. I’ve held onto it for these years, but now I think it belongs to you.” And with that, he handed me a coin.
The image you see is a polished version of Chip’s coin. One side of the coin displays an elderly Jewish woman and man. The inscription reads, “Help us and G-d will help you” and “Contribution one dollar.”
I turned it over in wonder to see the other side: a building in the center, surrounded by the words, “Help us build a home for the sons and daughters of Israel” and “The great drive for a home for the aged, 232 E. 10th Street.”
A coin lay buried in a Guilford farmyard until the right time arrived for it to surface, pass into Chip’s hands, and then into mine. In the midst of our efforts to obtain permission to build a spiritual “home for the sons and daughters of Israel” in Guilford, we have received a Divine delivery of
I thanked Chip profusely not just for the gift, but for the accompanying encouragement and inspiration. This is not an omen, but clear Divine Providence, a message from on high. This, I told him, I believe in without a doubt. He refused to accept any remuneration for his efforts. “Rabbi, he said, “I enjoy returning lost objects to their owners or their descendants. Besides, I have been following your story in the papers, and I think it’s just sad what a hard time people are giving you. I am happy to give this coin to you—I believe you are the rightful owner.”
After Chip left, I Googled the coin and discovered it was part of a fundraising campaign for a Jewish home for the aged in New York that was formed in 1909 and dedicated in 1911. Exactly 100 years ago. Turning the coin over and over, I marveled at the providence that has led us to this site.
That night I received an email: “I hope you can use it to show that there was an interest in Jewish life and culture in Guilford way before most of us were even born. Peace and blessings on your project.—Chip Viel.”