When I was in Jr. High we had Religious Ed on Wednesdays.
There were churches of all denominations within walking distance of the school and they would let us out at one o’clock and we’d return to catch the bus at three something.
The Catholic Church, where I went, was the farthest away and I hated walking there in the winter.
My friend Brad, who sat beside me in the class from which we were dismissed , went to the synagogue that was right across the street from the school. So one cold blistery winter day when they let us out to go to our religious ed., I asked Brad if I could go to his church. He said “sure.” So, away we went.
We got inside and were greeted by Rabbi Schoenberg. I will never forget him as long as I live. Brad introduced us and when he heard my name I could see his eyebrows rise up and he got the funniest look on his face for a second. So, he slapped a beanie on my and Brad’s head and we went into a room where there were about five other kids.
I have never had so much fun in a religious setting. The good and bearded Rabbi regaled us with tales from the Old Testament and I was rapt at the way he related the stories. He treated the characters in the Old Testament as our close relatives, our heritage. I was enthralled!
I went back the next Wednesday, he slaps the beanie on me and he told us that we are all like little Israels; we make mistakes and pay the consequences, but we must move on and do well for our family and friends. I loved that message.
It was a few days later and my Father called me into his den. He was sitting behind that big desk of his, piled with books and stuff and he had set “the chair” beside the desk. I knew from previous experience when that leather wing back chair was arranged in that manner there was going to be some sort of serious discussion.
He motioned to the chair and I sat down. He said, “I hear you’re converting to Judaism.”
I said, “I..ahhh..er..well……where did you hear that?”
He burst out laughing. My Dad wasn’t a big laugher so when he did get a charge out of something it’d catch you by surprise. He had a dry and wily sense of humor so his laughing got me to laughing too.
He went on, “Rabbi Schoenberg and I have been friends for many years.” So…I got busted by the Rabbi.
Dad was in law enforcement and he had sponsored many programs for prisoners and such and the Rabbi had been involved in many of them over the years.
Actually, it came as no surprise that the Ol’ Man told me that he thought it a good thing that I took the initiative to check out other faiths. I took credit for that initiative since I didn’t want to admit that I only did it to get out of walking to our church in the nasty weather………….