Piano Ties and Facial Hair (AKA Hebrew School)
When I was around 6 years old, my parents divorced, my grandmother died and my father remarried a shiksa (that’s a Christian lady, for you non Jewy people reading this).
What does all that have to do, you may wonder, with the title of this blog?
You see, my father felt guilty marrying a non-Jew right after his mother died (it’s doubtful she would have approved). Even though my stepmother may seem more Jewy than my real mom to the naked, non-Jewish eye (Stepmom studies Torah with a rabbi & had her daughter/my half-sister do a mikveh-conversion, whereas my real mother doesn’t even believe in God) – all that doesn’t matter; we Jews care more about maternal blood lines, overeating and guilt trips than we do about “Torah Study.” QED: My real mom > Jewy than my stepmom.
Gosh, this blog is getting so mathematical!
But I digress… because what I wanted to point out was that one of the wonderful side-effects of my father feeling guilty in the wake of his mother’s death & divorce & subsequent re-marriage to a non-Jew, was that he threw all three of us kids into Hebrew school for some quicky bar & batmitzvahs.
Which was awesome.
And I’m not just talking about the batmitzvah money. Which was AWESOME.
Or the fact that I wore a purple paisley suit with a white ruffled lace collared blouse, permed hair swept up on one side AND lip-synched at my after-party to “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Which was awesome.
No, I’m talking about the zany fun which was Temple Sinai – the place I had to go for a couple years before my batmitzvah, once a week after school and every Sunday. Not so much the ‘learning the Hebrew alphabet and Torah stories’ – that part was thuddingly boring (though I admit it helped me when I later decided to do the Kabbalah thing and found I remembered how to read the Hebrew letters).
It was the people I met there who made it fun – people like Josh, for example, who was about three feet shorter than me, wore a piano tie every single day, followed me and my friend Gaby around everywhere, and ultimately, years later, shocked me by showing up at Yale and being much cooler than I was. Who knew that piano ties were indicators of brilliance and hipness?
Josh was a cute boy, but there were other, cuter boys too, like Jimmy, whom I remember secretly making out with in my sleeping bag during one of the Hebrew School “camp out” nights. We fumbled and fondled, practically suffocating beneath the heavy zipped-up covers, as the rest of the campers around us sang songs like “Uno Candelita, Dos Candelitas.” (I think it’s the Spanish version of “Light the Manora.” No, none of us spoke Spanish. Don’t ask me.)
BTW, These occasional overnight “camp outs” were held INSIDE the Hebrew School auditorium, with nary a walk into something green like grass or even moss for the duration of the retreat. We were such wusses.
And then there were the teachers that made the whole Hebrew school thing awesome, too – people like my teacher Danny who never failed to make us laugh, or the overlarge woman with unruly facial hair and moles the size of a large country tick.
Plus I remember one teacher telling me that some Jews believed in angels, and even reincarnation. For my little Agnostic mind, she planted a seed that would grow years later, after reading Many Lives, Many Masters, Autobiography of a Yogi, and finally, The Way, as I found my way to the Kabbalah Centre.
Where… so far… I haven’t found anyone wearing a piano tie or female facial fuzz.
A girl can still hope, can’t she?
Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)