Papa Can You Hear Me?
We would run into their home always overflowing with the smells of Shabbos on the stove, cookies in the oven and ripped toilet paper in a box, next to the toilet bowl. Symbolic of a Jewish Home on the week-ends. Zada sat on his over-stuffed chair surrounded by prayer books. We would fall into his smile , his warmth. He particularly cuddled my sister Roberta. She was the youngest and so curly haired adorable. We watched him read, we observed him in prayer. Our backs were covered as G-d had to be listening, he did it so well.
Rabbi Irving Gottlieb presided over a congregation in a shul in the Canarsie section in Brooklyn. In the 50’s, early 60’s it was a predominantly Jewish and Italian “good” neighborhood. He also owned a rabbinical artifacts shop on Rivington Street, The Lower Eastside. We would visit him on Sundays and once again was greeted with a big smile. He couldn’t wait to hand us a hard candy from a dish he had on the counter. What fun we had. In our early days growing up we were traditionally observant. My mother kept a kosher home. Her father was a kosher butcher. We were frum, Devout and pious Jewish people. On Passover mom koshered the kitchen from head to toe. She changed the dishes and utensils.She lined the refrigerator and cabinet shelves with oak tag. The food strictly kosher for Passover. Matzoh Brei our favorite, was our biggest request. All we knew is that the dishes were not as pretty as our every other day dishes. Green glass was just not my taste.
My memories are of very long Seders where we were so hungry that eggs dipped in salt water tasted so good. I cherish those days.
And then it all changed. Our taste of orthodoxy, our world as we knew it was over. We moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey and our affiliation to strong observation paled. My father was the only son of an orthodox Rabbi. He had 5 sisters.
We moved from our solid roots and he radically decided to join a reformed temple. Our lives would change forever in how we observed Judaism. Somehow we followed his lead, as we respected our father. We all stayed strong to tradition. Holidays and their loveliness have resonated throughout our lives.We came together for dinners, we worshipped and practiced our faith in a different format.
What is the “chosen” people in G-d’s eyes? We sang and we prayed to him in our own hearts, albeit in a different format but not in a different way.
As fate unfolded I am blessed to have 8 grandchildren. They are orthodox and very observant. I have moved much closer to my very observant roots now. We live life sequentially. Fate brings us to situations at different times in our lives. There are no coincidences. I strongly believe in G-d and a divine order. I feel my faith so intensely thru the blessings of grandchildren who run into my house threaded with familiar smells and traditions. They fall into our smiles, our warmth – as I did on Rabbi Gottlieb’s lap in 1958. Zada I smile big as I hand them candy sitting prominently on my counter. I wish this on everyone.