September 17, 2019

Natalie Levine: Homeless and Jewish on Pico

On my way to meet a friend at Delice Bakery this morning, I walked by a homeless woman sleeping on the sidewalk. I was in a rush, so I didn’t pay much attention to her. But for some reason, when I met my friend, I couldn’t help mentioning that “I just saw this homeless woman on the sidewalk.” I think I blurted out something like: “She was probably an adorable little girl one day, with pony tails.”

About an hour later, as I headed back to my car, I saw her again. Now she was sitting up, her eyes squinting at the bright morning sun. I slowed down, wondering whether I should say something to her. But it was embarrassing– what could I say? My heart felt this urge to learn more about her, but my mind was urging me to just get in my car and start my day at the Jewish Journal.

As a kind of psychic compromise, I decided to pull out a dollar bill and give it to her. Nothing embarrassing about that. Giving money is a perfectly acceptable interaction to have with a homeless person.  But after she smiled and said “Oh, thank you,” my heart took over. I built up the courage to start a conversation with Natalie Levine, a homeless woman who attended New Haven Hebrew Day School until 4th grade.

She allowed me to film our conversation. I’m glad my heart won.