Thursday, November 22, 2007

Last night I walked out of the house I grew up in for the last time.

My parents, who have been splitting their time between Jerusalem and New York for the past seven years, have sold our house in New York and will now be spending all their time here. I went back to New York for a few days to help them dismantle and to settle all sorts of tangential issues arising from the loss of my U.S. address. And to part from the house and the neighborhood in which my siblings and I grew up.

We moved into that house 40 years ago. I've been in Israel for 27 of those years but it was still home. To be sure, the guys I played touch football with in the park every Friday afternoon and the gang that came over on Shabbos afternoon to play Risk, bull around and eat Stella D'Oro Swiss Fudge cookies have long ago dispersed to the four corners of the earth. Most of my parents' friends have moved on as well -- the lucky ones to the company of their descendants and the less lucky ones to the company of their ancestors.

The neighborhood has changed as well. The larger houses are being bought up by Russians, who immediately surround them with large walls. (It's a good thing state law forbids moats with alligators.) The only frum people moving in are yeshivaleit buying the houses in the area where the goyim used to live. In short, the supply of baalbatim is drying up quickly. The previous rabbi of the big shul, who was a talmid chakham and a scholar, has been succeeded by a sincere teller of Artscroll maaselech.

But still through all these years, I've always known that when I needed to or wanted to, I could go back to my old neighborhood, to my old house, to my old bed. To a place where people still add a -y to my first name. Home.

No more. The American era in my family history began when my parents arrived as refugees, my father in middle of the Shoah and my mother after it, tired and poor and yearning to breathe free. And since my siblings and I all live in Israel now, this era will end in a few weeks when my parents leave America not as refugees but as olim -- komemiyut le'artzeinu. The debt we owe the United States is too profound for words. It is truly a malkhus shel chessed, free and open in a manner unprecedented in the history of the world, and it is characterized by an unparalleled fundamental decency.

My family celebrates this Thanksgiving in Israel without turkey or cranberry sauce but with a great deal of gratitude. Thank you, America, for everything.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>The debt we owe the United States is too profound for words. It is truly a malkhus shel chessed, free and open in a manner unprecedented in the history of the world, and it is characterized by an unparalleled fundamental decency.

My family celebrates this Thanksgiving in Israel without turkey or cranberry sauce but with a great deal of gratitude. Thank you, America, for everything. <<

My sentiments exactly.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

very nicely done Moishy

1:27 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

Ah...

Stella D'Oro Swiss Fudge Cookies!

Bullseye.

Before the days of kosher Pepperide Farm, Duncan Hines and Paskes there were Stella D'Oro Swiss Fudge cookies. How many dozens of them did we eat back in the day?

Mazal Tov to your parents (and you) and may we all follow them soon.

(How long are you in town?)

4:09 PM  
Blogger treppenwitz said...

Who do you think you are... Me? Jessuz, somebody give me a kleenex!

1:09 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

MoC,
The best part is that they're pareve. (It was in and out. I've been back in Israel since Thursday.)

David,
I learned at the feet of the master...

1:26 AM  
Blogger my chariot wheels said...

Hit Home and Bullseye
Swiss fudge cookies and all
My Mom still lives in the house where I was born (well the one I came to from the hospital), so the old home is still there for me to visit.
I'm still a first generation:
Its a family tradition:
My grandfather Hy"d left Galicia Poland for Germany, more than 100 years ago.
My father z"l survived and left Germany 62 years ago
They had nothing left to go visit.
I left the US 27 Years ago Le Erez Hamuvtahat
I agree USA has to be the best old country we have ever had.
Maybe I will eat a Hod Hefer turkey
next thanksgiving

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents retired to Israel about 5 years ago.

I still occassionally use Google Earth for an aerial tour of the old stomping grounds - near the Stella D'Oro factory in the Bronx, where they baked all those Swiss Fudge cookies!

12:18 PM  
Anonymous zahava said...

I read this the day you posted but was too crazed to comment then. FYI, have been thinking about it since I read it! Kleenex alert is right! ....Right in the kishkas, this post!

3:19 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Good post. I appreciate it. The day my parents give up my house will be very hard indeed.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

Amen. Our family came after being expelled from EY by the Turks or running away from the Czar. We recently sold the house I grew up in and I signoff on every word.

Beautifully done.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous harrykann said...

Well said and articulately expressed. Even though your parents may have sold the house, they did not part with the "home" that they made for you and your siblings, as is evidenced by the warm memories that you retain.

Wishing your parents a k'lita n'imah.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Monty Wayland said...

Very nice. It seems there's not a dry eye among the entire Risk-playing, Stella-D'Oro-swiss- fudge-cookies-eating crowd.

Not long ago my *grandmother* made aliya . Talk about a house full of memories - last shabbat my cousins came over after mincha, all choked up because they had discovered a bookcase at Ramban shul in the German colony "that smells just like savta's basement".

...and if we never rediscover the Kurstemal (chas v'shalom, rachmana litzlan, tfu tfu tfu), a pair of Stella D'oro cookies could have you thinking the ge'ula was at hand. Ever try eating away all the "crust" first, then biting into the remaining disk of pure unadulterated fudge? (Admit it, you know you did). How could something that good be parve? How could something that good even be legal?!

11:37 PM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

stella d'oro cookies were almost as good as biting the ends off a stick of licorice and then using it as a straw.
later in life, we bagan calling stella d'oros 'streimel cookies'.

beautiful post

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Desperate Balabusta said...

Ben, your bedroom furniture lives on and you can visit it any time. It is well cared for and in a happy home, bh.

8:50 PM  
Blogger tnspr569 said...

Beautiful. Shtreimel cookies indeed! Those are incredible!

1:04 AM  

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