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March 28, 2003 - Image 69

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

N /

N J

CELEBRATE!

Can You Chant
On The Bimah?

PEARL SALKIN
Special to the Jewish News

hen I entered the
rabbi's study, I hoped
for the best, but didn't
really expect much.
I was there for a parent-teacher con-
ference with Rabbi Ira Grussgott, spir-
itual leader of my shul, Congregation
Anshe Emeth in South River, N.J. The
rabbi, lead teacher of my seventh-
grader's bar mitzvah preparation team,
smiled as he greeted me, then pro-
claimed, "Will isn't the kind of kid
who sings in the shower."
I was amazed. How did he know
that? Was he moonlighting as a clair-
voyant for a psychic hot line? Then he
told me that my son was practicing his
Haftorah at home, but not every day.
"Am I right?" he asked.
Although Will wanted me to cover
for him on this subject, I wouldn't. If
you can't fool Mother Nature, there
was no way I would fry to put one
over on a rabbi. "Right again, Rabbi, "
I said.
He went on to tell me things about
my son that I thought only a parent
could know and others that were news
to me. And when I-answered his ques-
tions about Will's interests, motiva-
tions and study habits, he seemed to
know the answers before I could give
them.
I have been trying to figure out my
kid for 13 years, and as any parent
knows, it's not easy. But the more the
rabbi spoke, the more I was convinced
that a special bond had developed
between student and rabbi, a bond
between one Jew and all those who
preceded him and those who will fol-
low.
_
I still saw my son as the wisecrack-
ing little boy who had trouble distin-
guishing between a gimel and a dalet;
the rabbi saw him as a serious young
man about to ascend the bimah and
take his place in the Jewish communi-
ty.

Growing Up

There are daily revelations of who my
son is and glimpses into the future of
who he will become. Gone is the
grumbling that greeted me on
Shabbat mornings when I had to drag
Will away from the TV cartoons and
the comfort of his bed so we could
arrive at junior congregation before
Aleinu.
I can't honestly say that in the
'months prior to the bar mitzvah cere-
mony Will enjoyed waking up early
on Saturday and was eager to put on a
suit and tie and go to shut. But he
was committed to fulfilling his
requirements and only expressed the
complaints that are entitled to anyone
who just completed a week of rising
before the sun.
The three members of the teaching
team, which also included Miriam
Grussgott and Rabbi Gershon
Steinberg, helped Will with the
Haftorah, the parsha, the Mussaf and
the other prayers. But my son also
learned what it means to be a Jew
when he's outside the synagogue.
Although it wasn't "Bring your kid
to work day," I brought Will with me
when I had a business appointment at
the Westwood Hebrew Nursing
Center in Long Branch. We were run-
fling late, and I had other stops to
make.
But as we were leaving, one of the
residents called me over and started to
talk. She seemed desperate to have a
conversation with someone, anyone,
and I chatted with her for a few min-
utes.
After we got back in the car, Will
said I was nuts for wasting my time
with a person who was clearly out of
touch with the world. But as we dis-
cussed this on the way home, I think
he finally got the point that being
Jewish involves more than going to
shul and saying the Shema.
Will's a good kid and a proud Jew,
and that's all that we can ask for. ❑

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