The last time Shira Shlesinger saw Shlomo Molla was in the mid-1980s, when she was working with the Jewish Agency for Israel, helping Ethiopian immigrants acclimate to their new homes.
Now, Shlesinger is living in New Jersey while her husband, Rabbi Barry Shlesinger, works as the interim rabbi at Teaneck’s Cong. Beth Sholom. Shira Shlesinger and Molla reunited last Friday at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford.
“It was wonderful,” Shlesinger said after seeing Molla for the first time in decades. “I was proud to have known him then and to know him now.”
Shlesinger spent a year and a half with the Ethiopian group, teaching them the basics of modern Israeli life, from how to pay bills to how to use electricity.
“They had to learn to go shopping, turn on lights, pay bills, how to clean their house,” Shlesinger said. “All those things were new to them.”
Molla was a popular teenager, she recalled, and he was among the first to volunteer when there was a need. The immigrants, Shlesinger recalled, would call her Ima, mother.
Molla remembered that Shlesinger was the first woman he met in Israel.
“When I landed in Israel I had no address, no language,” he said. “She supported me when I was sick, when I was very, very confused.”
Shlesinger had called Molla when he won his Knesset seat, but this was their first reunion. The Shlesingers will return to Israel next year and she plans to stay in touch with Molla, she said.
“I was so excited [when he was elected].” She said. “I knew him when….”