By Phyllis J. Lubin

Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. by Rochel’s bedside: “I just got a call. They have room for you on tonight’s flight!”

“I’m so tired . . . I don’t want to go anywhere now . . .”

“No, Rochel, I am telling you that there is room for you on the trip!”

When the initial shock wore off, as Rochel was actually waking up, we realized that there was much to do in a short amount of time.

Rochel had applied for this Birthright trip months ago, only to find out that there was no room for her, and that sadly she would be waitlisted. Every so often, she would get her hopes up when another trip was offered to her: one went out of Philadelphia (which not going to work); one was a trip which involved everything “extreme,” like hiking, and so on; and the most recent offer had been for a trip that left last Saturday night out of Newark, a mere two hours after Shabbos. Rochel had surely lost hope of getting on another trip, when the call came in with a spot on the trip she originally had applied for. What were the chances?

“I’m going to work while you start packing. First, you’d better find your passport.”

Rochel had applied for her passport while away at school in Albany, and it came in the mail sometime in November. The fun part was trying to find it. Without the passport, she was going nowhere that evening. And so began our texting frenzy:

8:44 a.m.: “I can’t find it anywhere!”

“It might be stuck behind stuff in the server . . . in other words, behind the drawers. But you had the passport when you entered the info online?”

“For fun, check your pocketbook/wallet.”

“I never actually had the passport. You sent me a picture of it!”

9:22 a.m.: I arrived at home base with Lea, whom I’d picked up from school with a stomach bug. The doctor had checked her out and she came home to ride out the virus while watching Rochel pack. As I entered the house, I pulled the drawer out of the server and, lo and behold, I found the passport! One problem solved.

10:15 a.m.: Rochel and Grandma Esther left to search for sneakers. Apparently, her three pairs had been left behind in Albany, since she didn’t think she would need them over vacation.

In the interim I received a slew of e-mails that concerned Rochel’s trip.

11:15 a.m.: “Please confirm and respond to all the e-mails right now.”

I did.

“The medical e-mail too? And confirming the trip?”

1:41 p.m.: “Yes, and I got return flight info . . . we need to call credit card.”

Apparently, credit-card companies will randomly deny use of a credit card if they suspect possible fraudulent activity. I remember when Rochel and I went on our Hartford University road trip last year and we were stuck in Connecticut due to a snowstorm, we were denied the use of my credit card at Target. We didn’t want Rochel encountering such a problem again–and in another country, no less.

“Super . . . you should call American Express since you have that number.”

“I’m swamped with the packing project . . . and laundry.”

3:34 p.m.: “Are we gonna call Citibank?”

“Slash MasterCard–because that’s my debit.”

“Ok, let’s do that now.”

The credit cards were all warned. After a quick trip to Conway with Rochel and a couple of her sisters (Lea was feeling better and ready for an outing), Rochel was all ready to pack up her new and freshly laundered clothes, along with her new sneakers (courtesy of Grandma Esther). The trip was becoming a reality!

While Rochel packed, my eldest daughter and I picked up dinner. Upon Leib’s return from work, and Yussie’s return from bowling (thanks to our treasured Chava R.) we feasted on our chicken sandwiches and then we were off to the airport by 7:30 p.m.

We found the gate easily enough, and found her group waiting to go through security, which seemed simple enough as well. And then the games began! Apparently, they were all supposed to meet up at 7:45 (which is when we arrived), but the woman from Birthright with the list of participants was not there. Apparently there had been some problem with the “train to the plane” and instead she had hopped on a bus, which was caught in traffic. The kids were getting antsy–and the parents even antsier. Although Rochel was confident everything would be OK, I wasn’t going to leave her there without being assured that she was actually on the Birthright list. The woman finally arrived at about 9:15, and Rochel’s name was on the list. Feeling calmer, we said our goodbyes and Rochel and her friends proceeded to go through security. The flight was scheduled to leave at 11:50 p.m.

And now our texting conversation resumed, determining if she was at the gate, with the group, time of departure . . . and seat assignment.

“My ticket is standby though . . .”

“Interesting . . . Sara already has a seat?” (Sara is her high-school friend who was with her on the trip.) “When is it supposed to board?”

“Yes everyone else on the trip does.”

Oy! My baby was stranded in JFK with no seat. I should be driving right over there now–but how could I get through security? Better yet, how did she get through security without an actual seat on the plane?

“Wouldn’t you just be taking the missing guy’s seat?” Alas, the only way there was room for Rochel on this trip was because, at the last minute, early Monday morning, Birthright was informed that one of the participants wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to make the flight.

“I don’t know.”

“Can you Google it?”

“What does that even mean? What should I Google?”

“I think if you go to the desk at the gate they should be able to give you a seat now.”

“OK, I’m working on it.”

It is marvelous that we have cellular phone communication these days. When I was Rochel’s age, no such thing existed. We wouldn’t have been privy to this entire ordeal. We would have said goodbye before security and that would have been that. To call home from the airport would have involved a long-distance call on a pay phone. So now things are better. We have practically constant communication. But sometimes we seem to have too much information.

“Can you explain to me what happened? I thought you were confirmed! Whom should I call?”

“I am on the flight. Just looking for seat.”

“What happened to the seat the other kid had? Do they understand that you are replacing him?”

“No clue! Another Birthright on flight has four kids on standby–it’s not because of that.”

“What will they do with you if they have no seats? You were never told that you were flying standby!”

“I don’t know what happened.”

“Where is the rep that was with you?”

“I’m with him”

“They checked your luggage didn’t they?”


“Can you please call me so I can understand what’s going on?”

11:31 p.m.: “On plane. Calm down.”

“I’m calm, how about you? I was very worried for you after all of this. Where did they put you? Did the other four standbys get seats too?”


“I was supposed to be 40A but me and another guy have same on ticket so I just took 40B.”

“Please text me when you land safe and sound.”

Since this was an extremely last-minute trip we had to rush to figure out the phone situation. I had spoken with the phone company that services Birthright trips, and was assured that she would get a phone once in Israel, but I wasn’t taking chances. We decided to add on 50 texts from her iPhone through AT&T for $10. We thought having those texts would get her by if the phone never materialized. Now, after the whole seat fiasco, I was glad she wouldn’t have to depend on getting the phone.

“I’m so thankful this happened.”

“Are you thankful that you were traumatized or that you found a seat?”

“I’m thankful that I’m actually sitting on this airplane and I’m going on my trip.”

“Baruch Hashem!”

And so began my daughter’s last-minute trip to Israel. It was a stress-filled Monday, but fortunately it had a wonderful outcome and brought my daughter to the Holy Land. I am so proud that she was able to handle the stressful seat situation all on her own. My baby is growing up! v

Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children–Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea–and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at


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