As the sun begins to set on Yom Kippur 2016, my thoughts quietly turn to the holiday observances of my childhood. I can smell the sweetness of simmering pot roast through out the house making my belly ache with hunger. We never did entirely fast, my mother always said she couldn’t for health reasons so a small meal, the occasional nosh, the sips of broth was allowed. We attended service to have our sins forgiven and usually broke the fast with a shared holiday dinner with my parents closest friends. Solemn at first, always joyful by nights end. I don’t remember at what age we stopped attending Temple on Yom Kippur to miraculously have our sins forgiven, but I do have a vivid memory I took it very seriously. I must give forgiveness to get forgiveness, I must right the wrongs of the past year. It was quite simple what was required. How the meaning of Yom Kippur in our home went from observed as the highest of holiest holidays to virtually non existent before I left home has given me much to think about through the years. I have always clinged to some thread of what I consider my childhood Jewishness.
This year I am reminded of a memory of something my mother instilled in me, whether truly or through the retelling of the story over and over but it went something like this…. the year must have been abt 1960/1 or 62 and I was 7, maybe I was 8, I think in about 2nd/3rd grade. Prayer was still said in school. We stood, we folded our hands, we bowed our heads and said something…a prayer to Jesus, to God, I am not sure but I do know this was a pre curser to
Engel v Vitale, the Supreme Court case brought by a group of parents in the New Hyde Park School District, Long Island, New York that ruled it unconstitutional to require a state required prayer. My mother supported this crusade and was very involved in it. She must have prepped me because I do remember getting into trouble and ending up in the principals office with my parents being called. On this fateful morning when it was time to bow our heads and pray I refused and boldly told the teacher when she demand why I wouldn’t that ‘my mom told me we don’t have to bow our heads and fold our hands to pray, we can just look up into the sky and talk to G-d whenever we wanted to.
This evening as I sit home on this 2016 Yom Kippur I am thinking about all those that came before me, their hearts bowed preparing for the Kol Nidrei, the procession of the Torah scroll, my great grandfathers Samuel Haimowitz and Benjamin LIpshitz , I think about my great great grandfather Selig Rosen, his whole life a Hebrew School Teacher…reflecting, cleansing their souls in preparation to face the coming new year.