STORIES FROM STEVE: RITES OF PASSAGE

RITES OF PASSAGE

by Steve Goldfinger

I spent about two months learning to chant strange sounds in a way that would meet with the rabbi’s approval. It was my Torah rendition for my bar mitzvah at temple Pri Eitz Chaim, the ultra-orthodox synagogue on Ocean Avenue. The chant came off well enough, but my grandfather was not in the congregation to hear it.  He was in an oxygen tent set up on his bed in his small apartment.

My grandfather Emil Goldfinger was a pillar among the elders of Pri Eitz Chaim and the reason for my six years of Hebrew school torture in its airless, foul-smelling basement four afternoons a week plus Friday nights and Sunday mornings.  My parents only entered the synagogue on high holy days. The rest of the year, they never so much as lit candles on Friday night.  But for my grandfather’s sake, they sent me to Hebrew school.

My resentment was evident in the classroom.

I was painfully slow in speed reading Hebrew during competitions. I never even tried to understand Mr. Ben-Ezra’s instructions to the class, spoken in Hebrew–except perhaps shev ba kiseh, which meant “sit down in your seat.” I sometimes confused the holidays and never understood Tisha b’av.   Plus, I gave Hadassah Cohen murderous looks when she ripped out the page with the nude picture of Adam and Eve before passing out new textbooks.

My Hebrew name, Simcha, means “Joy,” and there were quizzical looks on my teachers’ faces when they called upon “Simcha” to answer their questions.

My parents remembered me sometimes sitting on the curb outside the synagogue with a forlorn look just before going inside for my ninety minutes of confinement. Little did they know that I had 40 cents in my pocket for a pastrami sandwich at Ruby’s which I would bolt down before arriving at Pri Eitz Chaim.

A tiny victory came at last, in my final year, when Rabbi Turk called me into his office and suggested I take off one day a week.

I did manage to graduate…with a 29% average. Recently, I chanced upon a faded copy of the graduation program, which said it all. Of the eleven of us at that crowning ceremony, ten received prizes of one sort or another.

However, they did spell my name correctly.

But surely it was the bar mitzvah, not the graduation, that was my rite of passage.

Emil Goldfinger’s rite of passage came five days later with his final breath…

Chanting was again heard.

 

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

WHAT’S DONNA’S STORY? A RANT…

METEOROLOGISTS

by Donna Johns

They’re at it again.

Hunkered in my recliner, I was cheerfully wasting an hour immersed in General Hospital. Will Sonny and Carly’s baby be all right, or does it have birth defects? When will they discover that baby Wiley, adopted by Brad and Dylan, is actually Michael’s son? And who pushed Liesel off the boat during Liz and Franco’s wedding?

Then it starts. Frantic Breaking News music. The meteorologist on duty quivers in excitement, his voice an octave higher than normal. “We are interrupting this broadcast to warn you of a string of thunderstorms bearing down on us.”

No kidding. It’s 90 degrees out, and you can cut the humidity with a knife. Of course there are going to be thunderstorms. That’s why I ran my errands early and planned on a quiet hour in Port Charles, watching characters with big problems to be unraveled and solved in six months.

Anyone who’s been on the planet for a few years knows from personal experience that heat and humidity mean that thunderstorms will follow.  So, pray tell, what new information do you have to impart to me,  Mr. Meteorologist?

“The storms are forming in Western Massachusetts.”  Yep. They usually do.

“Strong winds, torrential downpours, thunder, and lightning.”  Sounds like a thunderstorm to me.

“The storms will move east through Worcester and Central Massachusetts. They should arrive in the Boston area by four o’clock.”  Marginally useful information. So I should be able to finish General Hospital before the storms hits and the power fails. Candle, lighter, and flashlight are on the table, just in case.

“There may be power outages. Prepare with candles and flashlights.”  Duh.  Can I watch my soap opera now?

Mr. Meteorologist’s voice begins to shake slightly.  I swear his upper lip is trembling. “There is a chance of flash flooding. Also tornadoes.”  He looks anxiously at his radar screen.  Despite my abundant common sense, I quickly check to make sure I have sufficient toilet paper, milk, and bread to survive the coming apocalypse.

“We will update you as the situation warrants.  And now, we return you to our regular programming.” Finally! After four commercials designed for the elderly (reverse mortgages, laxatives, life insurance, compression stockings), General Hospital resumes.

Ten minutes later, at 2:30, the thunderstorm moves into Waltham.  Mr. Meteorologist reappears as thunder shakes the windows and lightning illuminates the living room. “The storms should reach the greater Boston area by 4:00.”

I turn the TV off.

I long for the good old days when Don Kent would check his barometer, poke his head out the door to scan the skies, and deliver a calm and mostly accurate weather forecast.  Those days, alas, are gone for good. Now we have computer models, hysterical meteorologists, and wildly inaccurate forecasts.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.