Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Arlene L. Mandell
At twelve my firstborn and only grandchild, out of the blue, as they say, announces he wants to be bar mitzvahed. My daughter, so secular a Jew that her son had never even tasted a knish, though they live only five blocks from Zabarʼs, races around the Upper West Side the day before school begins, searching for a Hebrew school that will accept children of "mixed" marriages. The Reconstructionists welcome him.
We, the California grandparents, are mystified. Had the other boys in summer camp talked about the parties and the gifts? So we fly to New York and ask him.
"My Momʼs family is Jewish," he says. "Youʼre Jewish, arenʼt you, Grandma?"
What a remarkable boy! We take him to the Lower East Side. First we buy him a sour pickle from the famous store where Amy Irving fell in love with the pickle man in "Crossing Delancey." A Chinese woman fishes the pickle out of a plastic barrel. Whatever happened to wood? Sheʼs obviously not one of the original owners. Nevertheless, the pickle is delicious. Sour enough to make your mouth pucker.
Then we find the tenement where my grandfather, Louis Kostick, his great great-grandfather, lived in 1899. We take his picture, holding the naturalization papers. This Iʼll send to all relatives living in the U.S. and maybe to a few in London.
Of course we have to go to Katzʼs Delicatessen, famous for their overstuffed sandwiches and World War II slogan: "Send a salami to your boy in the Army." I slice his knish in half and spread it with mustard. He takes a bite, chews, and announces: "I love knishes."
"Later, darling," I tell him, "weʼll stop at Zabarʼs for some rugelach."
"Iʼve never had rugelach, Grandma."
"I know, darling."
"I think Iʼm going to love rugelach."
What a boy! But hereʼs a dilemma. The boy has no Hebrew name. "The synagogue will give him one," my daughter says.
Where did I go wrong? "His family gives him the name, to honor those who have passed on, to remember them," I explain.
"Whatever," she says. Smart, beautiful, talented, but she prefers dancercize class to Friday night services. Not that I blame her. But itʼs important to set an example . . . well, maybe I didnʼt do such a good job. But thatʼs water over the bridge, as they say. Or is it under the bridge?
The important thing, the reason Iʼm telling you all this, Sophie, is that the boy is going to be bar mitzvahed on June 7th. The weather should be perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Iʼll have plenty of time to find the perfect outfit. Maybe you should mark your calendar now. Of course youʼre invited. After all, youʼre my best friend from first grade. Do you know if Naomi is still living in Boca Raton?
Arlene L. Mandell, a New Yorker living in Santa Rosa, CA, misses rugelach and her grandson, Derek, who did a splendid job at his bar mitzvah.
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