Memories of Purim in the shteibl
by Yankee Stadium.
Special to AppleTree
megillah back into its case. Letters
and history glide past ... small rips
and discoloring indicate both years
One day, it will be my turn. "But
how will I follow the reading without
It's March 1990. Pop is gone. I take
his megillah to an early morning read-
ing at Manhattan's Garment Center
Congregation. I am among friends
with whom I have recited Kaddish in
his memory. I remove the megillah
from its brass cover, sharing its wrin-
he makeshift traffic signal
flips to green and the chaos
Groggers flail in the
hands of children accompanied by the
foot stomping of their elders, who are
equally committed to drowning out
I am oblivious to the mayhem
around me, concentrating instead on
a 19th century scroll
that I call "Pop's
Megillah." Pop is gone
now, but that Purim; 35
years ago; we sit side by
side in a shteibl
shul) near Yankee
Fussing • uncomfort-
ably on a splintered
bench, I listen as the
bearded chazzan (can-
tor) chants The Story of
Esther from beneath a
Pop's eyes move
rhythmically from right
to left, so as not to miss Len Blaifeder reads the megillah.
a word. I do nothing to
disturb him, for he,
kles and smells. They listen - as I speak
too, is a traveler.
of the previous owners.
Is he in the land of Shushan, along
"Vayihi Bemai Achashveros" (It was
with other Jews, on a pilgrimage of
the time of Ahaseurus). -
hope? Perhaps, but more likely he is
takes all the concentration that I
in the Warsaw suburb of Pelcowizna,
can muster, but I am following along
where, as an 8-year-old, he sat with
without vowels. I forego a grogger, for
his father, a scholarly craftsman who
paid dearly for his megillah so that on if my eyes leave the megillah, even
momentarily, I will surely lose my
Purim he could bask in the luxury of
My place is back in the Bronx next
Does his father, my Grandpa
my pop. We share this exact
Mendel, realize that his pride would
moment every year, when our eyes
one day find its way to America and a
focus on the same small letters, our
grandson whom he would never
hands hold onto the same weathered
meet? He very well might have,
parchment, and our children under-
because he molded a sturdy brass
stand the importance of it all.
cover for his megillah that has served
My place is in a long line of Jews in
as its protection across the many miles
times, our survival, con-
it has traveled.
stantly at stake. My place is in this
- The traffic signal lies dormant as
line behind Pop and Graniclpa Mendel
the reader ends the chanting with the
and in front of my sons for whom the
words rchol zaroh (to all his off-
three of us pray daily.
Hope lives on as I hold onto some
I return to the shteibl alongside my
and I smile. El
pop as we begin the task of rolling the
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RENOVAT I ONS