Mama Went to Church—Once

We four Kutner boys were raised in a strictly Orthodox Jewish home.  After moving from a Jewish neighborhood in The Bronx in 1937 to the chicken farm a mile away from Baptistown, New Jersey and eight miles west of Flemington, the neighborhood changed.  It was called Baptistown because there was a Baptist Church in addition to the gasoline station, tavern and general store that doubled as the post office.  Our one room school borrowed from the church a curtain for the annual December play. 

Papa crossed the street when he saw a man or woman cloaked in black with a tight collar.  It meant bad luck.  This was carried over from his days in Poland.  For us boys it meant that we were the only Jewish boys in high school and had no close friends.  We never went to anyone’s house to play. In school, all we had was each other and “acquaintances.”

We were constantly reminded that, “A shikse may be sweet, but she ain’t kosher meat.”  Needless to say, we all married nice Jewish girls.

Things really changed after Papa died in 1977.  Oh, no, Mama still kept a strictly kosher home and never ate treyf even outside of the home, but when one of her granddaughters converted and was married in a church, Mama went.  She even used the term bashert (predestined).  I could not.  Mama accepted the situation and visited the couple, but the rest of the family could not for many years--although, today there is a “normal” relationship.