Posted on October 7th, 2015 by Rachel
Fifty years ago this week there were only two topics at Rodfei Zedek Hebrew School in Chicago (where I spent many hours of my childhood).
For half the kids the topic was Sandy Koufax who had just refused to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur. In Koufax’s absence, Don Drysdale pitched a losing game and then the next day when Koufax came back to the mound he lost as well. At 0-2 it did not seem that Koufax had induced a divine blessing on the Dodgers.
For the other half the topic was the new hit single by the Beatles, a song called “Yesterday”. It reached the top of the charts this week and would stay there for the rest of October.
I didn’t find myself in either half:
- Because (aside from Ernie Banks) I had almost no interest in baseball, either watching it or playing it.
- Because I was so turned off by the crowds of screaming teens that followed the Beatles, that I decided that I must also dislike the Fab Four – even if there songs now ended with something other than “yeah, yeah, yeah”.
- But most importantly because I was rather preoccupied with an event coming up that Saturday – my Bar Mitzvah.
An announcement for the big day!
Yes, this week marks the 50th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah (October 9, 1965). In honor of the occasion I pulled out my Bar Mitzvah book to try to aid my somewhat foggy memory of that day.
Not pictured: the lyrics to “Mazeltov, Mazeltov,” a clever rewrite of “Matchmaker – Matchmaker.”
Like many, my memories of preparing for the day are stronger than the day itself. My haftorah reading for Ha’azinu seemed particularly long and difficult, but I suspect that had more to do with the pupil than with the parsha. I can still smell the decomposing reel-to-reel magnetic tape as it passed up and back through the recorder – month after month delivering a trope that I truly could not sing. I think that I might have mentioned in a previous blog post that singing was not my strong point to start with – Cantor Goldberg asked me to leave the choir… at about the same time he made my cousin the star. In this program from our 1965 Hebrew School commencement, you’ll see that I was assigned a speaking part (in English) while cousin Mandy followed in a Hebrew duet. He was headed for Broadway… I was on the road to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Check out that line-up!
My Bar Mitzvah speech was the first time I ever addressed a public audience and the first and ONLY time I asked my father for speech-writing advice. Don’t get me wrong, dad was a great manager and engineer, but not much of a public speaker. My speech included the line “today my cup runneth over” – which when delivered by a 13 year old boy becomes a gag line for the rest of your life.
The Bar Mitzvah “party” was very subdued by today’s standards, just a lunch in the synagogue auditorium. The party was my mother’s domain, she had the reputation within the family for making clever lyrical adaptations for special occasions. My luncheon songs were sung to melodies from the new musical Fiddler on the Roof (e.g. Matchmaker, Matchmaker became “Mazel tov, mazel tov, Pinkerts and Drays, Marvin’s Haftorah merits our praise” – trust me, you don’t want to know the rest).
The Bar Mitzvah Book also contains lists of gifts received. Most of these possessions have long ago been abandoned as we moved from Chicago to DC to Korea to Hawaii to Boston to Chicago to Maryland over the past five decades. I think the three “dicky”s I received did not even make it to my junior year of high school. The exceptions to the rule are the Lucien Piccard watch from my grandparents (almost never worn, but a treasured keepsake) and the five historical atlases that have travelled thousands of miles with me. At age 13 I think I already had a reputation as a historic geek and I especially appreciated the aunts and cousins who recognized my passion.
A list that includes atlases and dickeys, oh my!
So my Bar Mitzvah week came to a happy conclusion. I had come out of my shell (just a little bit). Sandy Koufax went on to win his next two games – leading the Dodgers to victory in the World Series. The Beatles kept innovating, though it would be a decade before I would finally admit I liked the Beatles. But in that October, I was actually attracted to a new song on the radio– not a song for screaming teens – but a song that sounded like it belonged to quiet kids like me – it was called the “Sound of Silence”. Little did I know…
A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.
Posted on March 19th, 2013 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or email@example.com.
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: January 18, 2013
PastPerfect Accession #: 1985.58.7
Status: Dr. Samuel Neistadt’s 60th birthday celebration: Identified! Left to Right: 1. _________ Cohen (president of Baker’s Union – Anyone know his first name?) 2. Henry Turk, Editor of The Forward 3. Jessie Turk, wife of Henry 4. Augusta “Gussie” Neistadt, wife of Dr. Samuel Neistadt 5. Dr. Samuel Neistadt
Special Thanks To: Sol Goldstein, Rosalie Wolfson