Sunday, September 15, 2013

OI VEY CHEESECAKE by Peter Nolan Smith


2013 AD or 5773 by Jewish reckoning has 18 high holidays scheduled throughout the year. Holydays such as Yom Kippur and Passover are familiar to gentiles, however a goodly number draw blanks from the goyim. As a young boy growing up outside of Boston, my classmates and I were jealous of the liberal closed-day policy of Beaver Country Day School. This predominantly Jewish school had more snow days per annum than any other institution south of the St. Lawrence River and the shuffle of holydays shortened their school year by weeks. My parents refused to transfer their second son to Beaver Country Day. The year was 1964.

"And I'm not sure that they let in gentiles." My mother dreamed about my becoming a priest. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was a non-believer.

"I sure if you gave them enough money I could get in." I had pitched Beaver Country day as the best school within the 128 Belt.

"No way I'm driving you 45 minutes to another school." My father's commute was in the opposite direction. He suspected I had ulterior motives.

"Please." My reasons were two to be exact. The short year and the rumor that Jewish girls were supposed to be easy. At 12 my body was going through changes and so were those of young girls.

"Not a chance." My father ended my early attempt to become the shabbos goy, although I attained that status after long years working for Manny in the Diamond District. I learned why rabbits are tref, girls shaved their heads, and why Jewish brides smiled going down the wedding aisle.

"Because they're thinking, "That's the last blow-job he gets."

Manny and his son, Richie Boy, are bacon Jews i.e. eating bacon isn't a sin.

The father and son team only observed the high holidays of Passaich and Yom Kippur. All the others were workable days for our firm, since the first rule of selling diamonds is 'nimmt geld' which is Yiddish for 'take money'.

So far this year they ignored Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Shushan Purim, Passover, Second Passover, Lag B'Omer, and on the verge of non-observing Shavuot.

Richie Boy is out of town, but I asked Manny, if we were closed for Shavuot. It was 50 days since Passaich.

"Closed for what?" Manny has been working steady since he was 15.

"To honor Yahweh's giving the Torah to his people." I once calculated that Manny had worked basically seventy-five years since his Bowery diamond store had remained open seven days a week from 1954 to 1989.

"Shavuot's not a real holiday." Manny would have worked Christmas if he had a chance.

"It is for the Hassidim."

"Well, I'm not a good Jew then. We're open tomorrow. Same as any other day." His work ethic was the complete opposite from Beaver Country Day.

"What about having some cheesecake?" Cheesecake and sweets are Shavuot traditions.

"If you want to, eat all you want." Manny was worried about putting his hand in his pocket. These were hard times and his family looked to the 80 year-old for sustenance.

"What if I buy you a piece?"

"Save your money. I'm good and stop trying to be such a good Jew. You're here to work not be a yenta."

"I know. Work makes you free." Manny was a tough guy. He was born in Brownsville. They would be no days-off until the 4th of July. The Diamond District closed for that week.

Manny was driving to Florida. His girlfriend was waiting in Miami Beach and being with her would be no cake walk for Manny, but he lived for his work. It kept him alive.

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