When I started writing the title of this blog, I actually had no clue what I'd discuss today. Then, suddenly the date seemed familiar to me, and I quickly recalled I "became a man" on April 13th. After a quick calculation, I realized it was actually 20 years ago today that I was finally relieved of all my Jewish duties.
I fucking hated Hebrew school, Bar Mitzvahs, and everything that came along with the responsibility of my family's religion. But like all good Jews, my parents bartered: If I completed my Bar Mitzvah, I'd never have to step foot inside a temple again...and, for all intents and purposes, I haven't. (for accuracy purposes, my father, the wonderful communist, athiest he is, never gave half a shit. It just wasn't worth the fight with my Mom, and I don't blame him).
But when I think back to my days at Hebrew school (which, in actuality, wasn't a terribly long commitment...twice a week for a couple of hours for a few years...wait, nevermind, that's a long time), there are only a few memories which stick out.
1) - I was a fucking terror: Which is ironic because I was scared to even get in the slightest bit of trouble at normal school. I was somehow convinced that if I even took one wrong step in elementary school, it would somehow ruin my life. For some reason, this absurd logic didn't carry over to Hebrew school, where I'd do my absolute best to be the world's great pain in the ass. By the time I was 11, teachers refused to hand me textbooks when all the other kids were provided them. Why? Because they feared I'd color in them. And they were probably right. As punishment, they'd sometimes send me to the back of the room, but that only encouraged me to fling my shoe towards the front of the class. I'll never forget the time my shoe actually fell into the garbage and a classmate screamed "three pointer!!" Lulz a plenty. Then there was the time some hassidic Rabbi came to speak to our class and kept proclaiming that his mentor was the greatest Rabbi of all time (and brought a video of his accomplishments as "proof"). Not that I cared, but I felt the need to question this assertion, and wondered why the Rabbi of the school's temple wouldn't be considered for the lofty honor (yes, the foot fetish one (little did I know). The guest speaker got frustrated very quickly as he couldn't, for the life of him, understand why I'd question his word. He just didn't realize I was being my normal dickhole self. But I think my "proudest" moment in Hebrew school was when I somehow convinced all the boys in class to not pay attention for a week leading up to a "major test," to see who could do best without any knowledge of the material. Somehow, I actually did score best with a 35. Hooray for me. I'd sometimes get sent to the principal's office where they'd threaten to take away my Bar Mitzvah. But it only further annoyed them when I considered that a bonus. In actuality, I'm sure I was quiet most of the time, but I had my moments of extreme brattiness.
2) - Mrs. Bobis: By the time I was 13, I qualified for the, I don't know how to put this, more "grown up" Hebrew school classes. One of them was, of course, about the Holocaust. Because even though it was an unspeakable tragedy, Jewish people love to talk about it. But if you want an in-depth history lesson on the Holocaust, there are better places to take classes than a Jewish Sunday school. This is how 75 percent of our classes started..no joke.
Our perma-scowled teacher, Mrs. Bobis, would stand in front of us and say in her thick Brooklyn accent:
"Hitluh was a loosuh. Hitluh was a lonuh. He was a bum. And he got a bunch of othuh bums togethuh, and they ruled a country."
It was top notch, in depth teaching at Temple Beth Torah, let me tell you. The other memory I have of Mrs. Bobis was the time my classmate, Brian, accidentally called her, to her face, what everyone called her behind her back: Mrs. Boobies, naturally. She didn't even have to say a word, the look of death caused him to leave the room voluntarily.
3) The Actual Bar Mitzvah - I often claim this was one of the hardest tasks of my life, which may speak more to my charmed years than anything. But remember, I didn't give a shit about learning Hebrew, never paid much attention in class, and suddenly had to learn how to speak a new language in about three months. There was just too much to memorize, so it was easier to actually learn how to read it. And study, I did. Mostly because I didn't want to be embarrassed in front of everyone during the actual Bar Mitzvah. If I recall, I did pretty good up there, made minimal mistakes, and got through it without any embarrassment. And that was that. After the ceremony, my mother asked me if I was "proud" of myself for the accomplishment. I remember telling her, "No, I'm just relieved it's over and I never have to do it again."
And 20 years later, I feel the same way (and 20 years later, that thought still annoys my Mom.)
Have a great weekend, all!