Wednesday, October 12, 2016

OI VEY CHEESECAKE by Peter Nolan Smith

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. The 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. I begged my parents 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 and as the # 1 7th Grade student at Our Lady of the Foothills.

“No way I’m driving you 45 minutes to another school.” My father’s commute headed into downtown Boston. in the opposite direction.

“Please.” My reasons were two to be exact.

They had a short year and Jewish girls were rumored 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

2014 AD or 5774 by Jewish reckoning had eighteen high holidays scheduled throughout the year. High holydays such as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover were familiar to many gentiles in New York, however the significance of Succot, Sh'mini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Yom Hashoah, Yom Haatzmaut, Lag B'Omer, Shavuot, Tisha B'Av, and Purim draw blanks from the city's goyim., 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.

Manny never closed his store, except for Passaich and Yom Kippur.

Manny and his son, Richie Boy, were also bacon Jews i.e. eating bacon isn’t a sin.

So far this year they had ignored Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Shushan Purim, Passover, Second Passover, Lag B’Omer .All the others were workable days for their firm, since the first rule of selling diamonds is ‘nimmt geld’ which is Yiddish for ‘take money’. I no longer worked for them, but dropped by 47th Street to wish Manny a 'Happy Shavuot'.

"Happy for what? Business sucks."

"For Shavuot." Seven weeks had passed since Passover.

"Shavuot isn't a holiday. Today is a Wednesday. I'm open for business." 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 honors Yahweh’s giving the Torah to his people.”

"Like I said it's not a real holiday."

"It is for the Hassidim." And Beaver Country Day School

"Who cares what those gonifs think?" Manny would have worked Christmas if he had a chance.

"They believed in the Torah."

"All they care about is making money. Same as anyone else, so we’re open tomorrow. Same as any other day.” His work ethic rejected the holiday madness of Beaver Country Day.

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

“If you want cheesecake, 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 for your kinder in Thailand and stop trying to be such a good Jew. You’re a goy and not a yid."

"I had once been the Shabbos goy."

"Not anymore. You don't even have a job."

"That's true."

"So worry about yourself and not cheesecake." Manny was a tough guy from Brownsville. He would have no weekdays off until the 4th of July. The Diamond District was closed for that week and then Manny was driving to Florida. His girlfriend was waiting in Miami Beach and being with her was no cake walk for Manny.

She was a schitzah and those girls were trouble at any age.

"I'll see you around." I left the exchange.

The best cheesecake in New York was at Junior's. Flatbush Avenue was on my way home and nothing tasted better after a long bike ride than a slice of cheesecake.

Especially for the Shabbos Goy.

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