Trauma-rama, Hebrew School Style

I Was Candle No. 4 in a Hanukkah Play — Top That!

Forward Montage

By Lenore Skenazy

Published February 11, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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If you went to Hebrew school, you probably have one of these.

No, not a prayer book given to you by the sisterhood — though of course you have one of those, too (with the program from your bat mitzvah still stuck inside). I’m talking about something else: a story about a Hebrew school moment you’ll never forget. For some, it was a moment that made you love Judaism and all it stands for. Right?

Anyone?

Okay, for most of us it was pretty much the opposite. For me, in fact, it was the day I realized the real joy of finding a friend with whom to study a whole new language. Not Hebrew. “Pretzel-etzel,” a language wherein Susan Cohn and I inserted “etzel” into any word to make it harder for anyone else, especially the tetzel-eacher, to understand what we were setzel-aying.

And you? After asking around for folks’ most embarrassing moments at Hebrew school, here’s what we heard.(Some names have been omitted to protect the mortified):

I went to a reform temple for preschool and remember being cast as “Miriam” in the Passover play, and being so shy, I tossed baby Moses (a doll) into a basket and just ran off the stage. After that — maybe because of that — I was Candle No. 4 in the Hanukkah play.

— Rachel Sokol Slavin, Education Writer, New York City

According to my mother, when I was six, my teacher (the evil Mrs. Schlifkin) was telling us that God made the world and all of us. I insisted that God did NOT make me — my mommy and daddy did. My parents were then asked to remove me. And there went my formal Jewish education. A postscript: When high school rolled around, Mrs. Schlifkin used to substitute teach there, and she remembered me. Not fondly.

— C.L.L.


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