What a Mensch!

Since it is already a bit late tonight, I just wanted to take the time to give overdue credit where overdue credit is due. As the reflective Days of Awe are now in our rearview, I would like to thank my mother. Please don’t get the wrong idea here. This is not an ultimate “thank you for everything, mom” post. That would be a much longer, heavier, and thoughtful undertaking. 

I would like to thank my mother for being so persistent in the face of insurmountable odds. What am I talking about? Well…raising children Jewishly in my area of Upstate New York was an interesting experience. By interesting I mean that there really weren’t very many Jews at all. I remember many grade school conversations that went something like this:

Classmate: So, do you speak Jewish?

Me: Jewish isn’t a language. I think you mean Hebrew? 

Classmate: What is that?

Me: It’s the language that you thought was called “Jewish.”

Classmate: Oh, do you speak that during Jewish Christmas, Chanukah, right?

Me: Well, we say prayers on the holid…I have to go.

Classmate: Well, Merry Christmas!

There were many conversations similar to this. Life in the Diaspora, am I right?! Kids were actually always (for the most part) nice, and wanted to find out more information. But, back to mom.

“They better not assign any new work on the High Holy Days this year.” 

This was a sentence that my mother recited verbatim every year right before Rosh Hashanah. She was speaking of some unwritten holy school-wide policy wherein all of the teachers would magically realize that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur existed, take them into account, and refrain from assigning new work on the days that Jewish people went to schul. Now, for the yearly follow-up quote:

“I can’t believe they are assigning new work on the High Holy Days. I am going to have to call the school.”

And call the school she did–every year without fail. She would complain, and I think she would get some sort of canned answer, and things would never change. As I look back, I find a certain beauty in her sisyphean task of yore. She could have just stopped calling, but she never did. There’s a lesson there somewhere, and something that seems very Jewish about her resolve. 

Just an FYI: my cousins lived about an hour south, and their schools closed for the High Holy Days. 

Anyway, todah rabah mom!

Ho ho ho! Meeerrrry Sukkot…Wait…



Published by Joshua Gray

I am Joshua Gray. I am a husband, father, not-for-profit-worker by day, and a former professional actor/singer. I am very active in the Jewish community in my area, helping to teach at religious school on Sundays, while also serving on the board of trustees at my local temple. My relationship with Judaism is a joy of mine, and I find great pleasure in studying texts and learning more and more Hebrew. I still enjoy warbling tunes, and I even got to sing the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, which was a definite highlight. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for topics, conversations, or general inquiries. Shalom!

2 thoughts on “What a Mensch!

  1. As your Grandma and your Mom’s Mom I was very much aware of her futile phone calls. I grew up in a little town in Connecticut, sometimes the only Jewish child in the class….not easy!!B

    Liked by 1 person

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