The theme of unity and kindness spread throughout Toco Hills as locals gathered at Congregation Beth Jacob on Friday, Sept. 15, to celebrate the bris of Joseph and Adina Landsberg’s son, Jesse Gabriel Landsberg, amid the recovery from Hurricane Irma.
When forecasts predicted the hurricane would hit Florida, Adina Landsberg posted a message on Facebook inquiring whether any families would be willing to host a 37 weeks’ pregnant woman, her charming English husband, Joseph, and a pet dog in South Carolina or Georgia.
Her request was answered by Yoni and Davida Graber of Toco Hills, who knew the Landsbergs after meeting the couple a few years ago at a kosher restaurant in Italy during the Landsbergs’ honeymoon.
“I noticed there were a few comments under the post from people inviting the Landsbergs to come, but no one from the area she was looking for,” Davida Graber said. “I had only met the Landsbergs for a few hours years ago but asked them to come on up.”
The connection was part of a community effort to accommodate more than 1,000 Florida evacuees starting before Shabbat on Sept. 8. After slicing through Florida, Irma hit Atlanta as a tropical storm Sept. 11, toppling trees and leaving much of Toco Hills in the dark.
Although the Landsbergs had planned to deliver the baby at a hospital in Boca Raton, their arrangements were canceled when they evacuated to Georgia.
While driving toward Atlanta, the Landsbergs stopped in Jacksonville. No sooner had they begun to travel than Adina started feeling contractions.
“We didn’t expect the baby to come so soon,” Joseph said.
Upon arriving in Toco Hills, Davida recommended her own OB-GYN, Joseph Tate, to see Adina. He concluded that she was dilated but had time.
“We were informed that the baby could arrive in a few days or a couple of weeks; however, the joke was on us,” said Joseph, who added that Adina’s water broke the next day while they were at Sublime Doughnuts.
The couple checked into Emory University Hospital in Midtown and soon welcomed their son, Jesse, three weeks early.
“The hospital staff was amazing and did a great job,” Joseph said.
The Landsbergs had no idea how they would schedule the bris or find a mohel.
“We didn’t know how to plan anything and felt like a fish out of water, but Davida and Yoni were very instrumental in helping us,” Joseph said.
The family contacted Rabbi Yitzchok Tendler, the executive director at Beth Jacob, to schedule the bris, which was held at the synagogue with around 50 guests. Young Israel of Toco Hills Rabbi Adam Starr and Beth Jacob Senior Rabbi Ilan Feldman led the ceremony.
The bris left the couple with mixed emotions. “We were overwhelmed with everything and a bit saddened that our Boca family couldn’t be there to celebrate with us until the last day when a few did fly in,” Joseph said. “However, at the end of the day we are also very grateful for the help the Toco Hills community has given us and felt honored to celebrate with them. We were totally blown away with the community’s kindness.”
He said Rabbi Starr helped in any way he could, and Tzippy Teller from the Spicy Peach helped prepare the food for the meal after the ceremony.
The Grabers were named Jesse’s godparents.
Davida said Lactation consultant Katherine Morrison helped set up the bris and connected the Landsbergs with a doctor who usually puts people on a waiting list for months.
“It was extremely meaningful to have the bris at Beth Jacob,” Rabbi Tendler said. “Our community has always been built on hospitality, and this was a meaningful representation of that and what the community stood for.”
He added, “To have a lifecycle event such as this happen in our synagogue with the presence of our community leaders was very moving and the capstone to the entire week of coming together, opening our homes, being hospitable and doing the best we can for our fellow Jews.”
Rabbi Starr said, “It was a very special conclusion to the week as the people became a family and built a Florida-Atlanta connection. They came as strangers and left as an extended family.