Photography of New York by Dave Beckerman

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From Yom Kippur to School Days

12 October, 2008 (20:22)

“Yom Kippur is the tenth and final day of the Ten Days of Repentance which begin with Rosh Hashanah. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a “book” on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict.  At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers himself absolved by God.” - Wikipedia

yom kipper ladies

group-yummy-kippor-4134 From Yom Kippur to School Days

Unfortunately - I will never be absolved.  You see, I grew up in a secular home.  It is true that I was sent after regular school to learn Yiddish, but I think this was just to keep me out of trouble when there were no parents around for supervision.  And I spent my time in the back of the classroom as biblical stories went in one ear and out the other.  At the end of one year of Yiddish, my father asked me, finally, what I had learned, and I was able to say, what is your name in Yiddish.  He called the Yiddish teacher to find out whether I had been attending school or not and was told that I hadn’t missed any classes.

School often had this effect on me.  If there was a window, I would always try to get a seat by it so I could stare out at the clouds.  Sometimes, someone would have to shake me when the class was over.

Well, my father pulled me out of Yiddish school, and I got to spend my late afternoons playing
stoopball or ringalevio.

But I have to admit - I look back on my school years and feel sorry for my parents.  Every term they had to go and have my home room teacher tell them that I wasn’t living up to my potential.  When I try to remember things about my early schooling, the images that come to mind are:

- The girl with red hair who sat in front of me in second and third grade

- Being elected to window monitor (I got to open the big windows with a pole that looked like a harpoon)

- The chalk cleaning room

- Playing “token football” in the lunchroom

- Playing “knucks” in the back of the classroom

- And day after day of faking my way through trombone playing in the school band.

Not much more comes to mind until about twenty years later when I wound up in film school.

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Comment from Lester
Time: October 13, 2008, 10:50 am

My parents forced me to go to a Yeshiva after school, too. I hated it, trudging back and forth in the darkness during the winter, getting extra homework, struggling with a whole new alphabet. But being the neurotic little perfectionist I was, I managed to get all As in Hebrew as well as Yiddish. After I was Bar Mitzvahed, I never set foot in a synagogue voluntarily again. As a consequence, I forgot almost everything I learned, which I regret now. When I spoke the Kaddish at my father’s funeral, I had to use a phonetic transliteration.

The one thing I did like about the Yeshiva was the music, those soulful Eastern European songs you had to learn for the holidays. Those songs conveyed more about the sadness and suffering of the Jews than any Bible lesson. Although I’m an atheist who married a shiksa and lost my cultural and linguistic roots, there is a part of me that wishes I had carried on some of the traditions.

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