Greatest Disappointment

Mama was convinced that her Fishele would grow up to be a great rabbi.  She had good reason to believe it, as you will soon see.

Mama had four boys—no girls and Fishl was her eldest.  All of her friends and relatives wanted their boys to grow up and be rich doctors and lawyers, but not Mama.  Being strictly Orthodox, the rabbinate was the highest calling.

All of her hopes began to fade in 1937 when Papa took the family out to Hunterdon County, New Jersey to an abandoned chicken farm.  It completely faded when her Fishl, at the age of sixteen, went off to Rutgers University in New Brunswick to major in Poultry Husbandry and was graduated at twenty.

Even when his bride, Sally and he had left the farm (caused by the great flood of l955 when 10,000 breeders drowned and 100 crates of eggs had to be discarded) and was president of the regional teachers association, it still didn’t change her mind. 

Matters were no better when he became President of Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative Congregation in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and president and founder of a successful Israeli Investment Club as well as being on the ZOA Board.

So what was it that had convinced Mama that her Fishl was going to be a great rabbi?

Mama used the phrase nisht ahin un nisht aher (not there and not here) often with Papa, for few matters were important to her except her boys, money, yidishkayt (Judaism), and President Roosevelt.  On the other hand Papa had strong opinions on everything.

It seems that when Fishl was six years old.  He asked Mama, “Why do you say, nisht ahin un nisht aher, while in English we say not here and not there?”

Fishl came up with the answer to why in Yiddish we say not there and not here while in English we say not here and not there.  Fishl’s brilliant analysis of this conundrum (at the age of six) was that in Yiddish we write and read from right to left and in English it’s the other way.

Fishl becoming a rabbi was Mama’s greatest hope and her greatest disappointment.