By Chedva Silver
I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I know I’ve dreamed of it. Who hasn’t? White, sandy beaches, gorgeous scenery…. and sometimes spectacular volcanoes! I spoke to Rochel Laya Schusterman, 6, about what it’s like to live in Hawaii. She was born on Maui, an island of Hawaii, and has lived there her entire life, along with her parents, who moved there 10 years ago, an older and younger brother, and little twin sisters.
CS: So, you don’t really find very many Jews in Hawaii, although it’s said to be a great vacation place! What brings you there? Do you know any other Jewish families in Hawaii?
RL: We came here because we are Chabad Shluchim. There are a lot Jews on Maui, but not too many Jewish families. We do get hundreds of Jewish tourists all year round, though.
CS: How and where do you go to school and socialize with other Jewish kids your age?
RL: I go to the Shluchim Online School, and my mommy teaches me. I have some Jewish friends here and also from around the United States in my online classes.
CS: Is the weather in Hawaii as great as the rumors say it is? How about the landscape? Do you ever get earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes or other natural disasters?
RL: The weather is perfect – not too hot, not humid. The landscape consists of mountains, oceans, and rainforest, and we actually live on a volcano! We get a lot of warnings, but Baruch Hashem, never the real thing.
CS: What are Hawaiian winters like?
RL: Hawaiian winters are like Hawaiian summers, except sometimes I need to wear socks at night ’cause my feet get cold.
CS: Do you ever go to the beach?
RL: Well, the beach is only ten minutes from our house, we can even see it from our kitchen windows!
Sometimes when my aunts comes to visit, we take our snorkels and see the fish under the water. I also build sandcastles with my brothers and sisters. One time, we went on a hike and swam under a waterfall. It was fun!
CS: How often do you leave Hawaii, if ever? What other exotic places have you been to?
RL: I only leave once a year or when someone’s getting married in New York. The only exotic place I’ve been to is Maui. I’ve been to New York, but that’s not exotic. It has kosher bakeries, which is much better, I think.
CS: Is Hawaiian culture very different from American culture? Is a lot of Hawaiian spoken there and can you speak it?
RL: The culture is very different, very tribal, but since it’s part of America, we have all the stores and pay in dollars. Hawaiian is actually a dying language and isn’t spoken much. I only know a few words like aloha (hi, bye, peace), mahalo (thank you), and keiki (child).
CS: What would you say about Hawaiian food?
RL: Well, we have our own garden and grow lots of fruits and vegetables. I love guavas, avocados, and papaya, which we grow on our own trees.
CS: Yum! Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
RL: Lots of people think we are lucky to live on a beautiful island, but sometimes I wish we had kosher bakeries like the ones in New York.
Laya with friends Chloe and Izzy
Laya with friend Mussie who lives in Honolulu on Oahu (another island)
Laya swimming under a waterfall with friend Jessica