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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While my parents were getting divorced, my dad used to drop my twin brothers off at Hebrew school. After he left, they walked home to our house. My mom never told my dad. As for me: My friend Miriam used to bring Chinese food for a Hebrew school snack — the little spare ribs. I asked my mom to let me start bringing ribs, too, instead of a plum. So Hebrew school taught me about new foods.

— Wendy Wax, Children’s book author, N.Y.

Each Sunday morning a school bus would take me and my classmates to downtown Chicago to the College of Jewish Studies. For an entire year I got off the bus, hung around inside for a few minutes and then walked over to the Field Museum of Natural History, where I spent the next two hours. Then I caught the school bus back home. They never even took attendance — it’s impossible to flunk out of Hebrew school. Short of accosting the teacher, there’s nothing you can do. And they automatically assume you’re never going to be proficient in Hebrew, which takes the pressure off. So I passed the course. And almost became a paleontologist.

— David Brimm, Publicist, Deerfield, Ill.

When I was young and in Hebrew school in the Lakewood area of New Jersey, my older rabbi had less than good hygiene. One day I told him that his beard smelled like my fishbowl at home when my fish and turtles died.

— Anonymous, N.J.

Oy. I’ve never really shared this, but here goes: I attended an after-school Hebrew school three times a week! Most kids got to stop once they had their bar or bat mitzvahs, but my parents made me do an extra year. I was 13 and in a class of eight boys — no other girls. A rabbi with a long beard sat at the head of a long, rectangular table. One day I sat right next to the rabbi and directly across from a cute boy I’d been flirting with. At one point we started playing “footsie” under the table (more like jokingly kicking one another), and when I kicked him back he didn’t flinch one bit. So I kicked again and again… until the kindly old rabbi stopped his lecture, looked straight ahead, cleared his throat and said, “Some things are inappropriate while learning Torah.” That’s how I realized who I’d been kicking — about a dozen times.

— E. A.


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