In “Kiwi Cool” (Jan. 28, Travel column) Hilary Larson writes that the Auckland, New Zealand, Orthodox community “makes a point of welcoming visitors: an airport greeting with car service, accommodations assistance and local Jewish contacts are all just an e-mail away from Jewish travelers.” We visited Auckland for a Shabbat last January, and that was not our experience at all. In advance, we e-mailed our travel plans and asked about home hospitality or the possibility of a meal for Shabbat, and were told flat out that neither was possible. The rabbi had no advice about where to stay; we were on our own.
Needless to say, there was no welcoming party for us at the airport. The Grey’s Avenue Deli was closed for summer vacation. There were all of 25 men in shul on Friday night, and perhaps 40 on Shabbat morning, and I was appropriately dressed. But other than one fellow who wished everyone “Good Shabbos” on Friday night, nobody took note of my existence at either service, other than to ask whether I’d be returning for Mincha (because they needed a minyan). No Kiddush followed services. My wife and daughter were acknowledged by one woman, a stranger like them.
On Shabbat we found the old Jewish cemetery and walked to a gorgeous, large public park. We saw no other Jews on the street. Auckland also has a wonderful zoo, and both an Australasian gannet colony and a primeval rain forest less than an hour from downtown. But next time, for Shabbat we’ll try Wellington instead.