You never know what you'll learn when you go to minyan.....
I went to evening minyan today--a quick mincha/maarive combo--to help ensure that attendance would get to the 10 required for those who need to say kaddish. We ended up with a nice group of 15, including the four Russian men who are the mainstay of our evening minyan--Simian, Meyer, Sam, and Yitzchak. These men have become dear to me, and I greeted each one with a handshake, a smile, and a hearty "Happy New Year." Each one smiled and returned the greeting with a hand squeeze and in the case of Sam, a kiss for "his dear Malkah."
Elayne Grossbard called me over to the hallway on the other side of the room and proceded to teach me "S'novom Godom," Happy New Year in Russian. I went back to my friends and greeted them again, this time with "S'novom Godom." The smiles on their faces grew wider, and Simian proclaimed that sometime soon, all people in San Francisco will greet each other this way on New Year's Day. We all laughed.
I then began to share the only other foreign language New Year's Day greeting I know, "Akemashtai Omedeto Gozaimas," Happy New Year in Japanese. Just as these words were coming out of my mouth, in walks Keiko Golden. Realizing that she is Japanese, I repeated the words to her. She smiled with appreciation, and told me that it was the first time today someone had said that to her.
We began minyan with these greetings--S'novom Godom; Akemashtai Omedeto Gozaimas; Happy New Year! What better way for all to feel included as we started to daven the first evening minyan of 2007.