We tried. We really tried to get away. But even at the southernmost tip of the Dominican Republic we ran into people who know someone who knows someone who probably knows us.
The “we” in question includes me, my husband and six friends who planned to lounge on the beach together for seven glorious worry-free days.
The people who probably know someone who knows us not only spoke Russian, but they are also Jewish and almost from Chicago. Well actually, they live in Milwaukee, but it’s close enough considering that the clientele at the resort included what seemed like the entire population of a small Serbian town, some snarky Irish kids and about a zillion honeymooners from all over the world. The Russian-speakers were Masha (a leggy blonde) and Dima (the bearer of a prominent eagle-beak nose) and they chose Dreams Punta Cana for their destination wedding.
The sunset ceremony at the marble rotunda must have been beautiful. But we were at dinner and at the moment weren’t even aware of Dima and Masha’s existence. Our ears perked up when Russian-language pop music suddenly began blasting from a second-floor ballroom balcony. The group – seven of us were born in the former Soviet Union – couldn’t believe that we had run into a bit of our own lives in this remote location.
We got even more excited when we spotted a kippah and realized the rabbi must have come from Milwaukee to officiate at this wedding. Yeah, I admit it, we’re Jewish nerds. After all, our hotel wasn’t exactly the JCC’s Perlstein resort. No mezuzahs on the doorposts and definitely no kosher food. Not that the group really cared all that much – the relaxing atmosphere and whole days spent in the water were enough.
(On a side note, turns out, Masha and Dima could have hired a rabbi from the Dominican Jewish community. About 400 Jews live on the Dominican half of the island, worshipping at three synagogues in two cities.)
In any case, what could we do but join the happy couple for a bit of their celebration? The temptation was simply too much. We weren’t quite in full-on wedding crasher mode– with only 20 guests at this wedding, we decided we wouldn’t be able to blend in. So we didn’t drink their champagne or eat their cake or loudly toast to long years of marriage and a bunch of kids. But we did briefly meet the bride and groom, wish them all the best and dance to the Russian pop.
This vacation was everything we wanted – peace, quiet, the ocean. Turns out, it left us with more memories than we expected. The instant sense of kinship we felt with the just-marrieds made it even more memorable. We don’t know much about them except their names, that they speak the language we speak with our families and that they made sure to include some Jewish ritual into their celebration. And yet, here I am, recalling this one episode from among the many exciting moments of our week in Dominican.