web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Sister Giovanna


Share Button

Each time I chose the quickest way out: I nodded and tried my hardest to look suitably contrite and apologetic that I was incapable of maintaining the family tradition.

Indeed, these were the very words she tried to use when my mother made an appointment to see her after my brother and I mentioned that we had been to church despite my mother’s express wishes that we be excused. When I was much older, my mother relished telling me how she had faced Sister Giovanna.

“Devorah and Ian will not attend Mass. They will not eat your crackers and drink your wine. If it happens again, you will lose them.”

Sister Giovanna probably considered us lost already. But she was quiet for only a moment, before her good training helped her find a different approach. “Tell me, how do you think our Savior was born?” she asked my mother.

“In the same way that Devorah and Ian were born,” my mother answered.

After that Sister Giovanna excused me from Religion class. My mother was told to provide for my soul herself. Since I could not wander through the school corridors alone for one lesson a day, I was to read a book in the back of the class. My father found me The Holy Land, a traveler’s guide to Israel, in The Catholic Bookshop on Koinange Street in the city centre and that became my syllabus for the year.

One day Sister Giovanna smiled at the morning assembly; then she announced that the school would be putting on a performance at the National Conference Centre. Rehearsals were to start immediately.

I was so excited. I was uninhibited and had no fears of performing. I was sure that I would shine. Alas, from the moment the school was divided into five groups representing the five continents, from the moment I was put into Europe and expected to memorize the simple dance routine, from that very moment I incurred Sister Giovanna’s wrath. Each time I joined the row of dancers and fluttered about the stage weaving my way in and out the wrong way round, Sister Giovanna’s ire increased.

“Salame (salami),” she whispered in Italian at me and pinched the top of my arm between her right thumb and forefinger. I was skinny; she was determined. The first pinch was a semi-failure; by the third she could hone in on the tender underside of my upper arm and tweak with ease. I don’t know if I was more upset by the pinch or by the insult: as a Jewish child, a salami I was not.

I tried hard to master the simple steps. But when even I realized there was no chance I would ever co-ordinate my feet, hands and smile, my smile left me. My excitement evaporated faster than the rain of the tropical outburst that fell on to the hot earth precisely at 4.00 pm every afternoon of the rainy season. Inhibition and fear moved in. All my emotional energy was directed at self-preservation. I longed to be excused, but this time, unlike Religion class, there was no dispensation. Despite my poor performance, I was needed in the show. In our multi-racial school, there was simply a dearth of white faces for Europe and, despite Sister Giovanna’s misgivings, I had to be included.

I have a vague recollection of arriving at the National Conference Centre, which, until now, I had seen only on my way to school. The two buildings, the tall tower and the cone shaped conference chamber, were foreboding in their cloaks of grey stone. Of the performance I had so anticipated, I recall nothing.

It was shortly after this performance that my parents moved me to another school. We had driven past Hillcrest many times, always wondering what lay behind the tall wire fences of this private school. On the first day, I discovered that there was no Religion class. But every morning, all of the students, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Born-Again Christians, Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs and the teachers would join together in a prayer addressed to the “Friend of all children.” We asked God to help us at school and to bless us, our parents and our teachers. This solidified the tentative stirrings of longing for a spiritual connection that I felt whenever I walked into the Nairobi shul. It was the beginning of a personal relationship with a God who I knew cared what happened to me.

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Sister Giovanna”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Abbas and Hanieyh on poster, next to a picture of Arafat.
Kerry’s Talks Achieve Peace Between Hamas and Fatah
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Devorah Samuel

The blade of the penknife sliced cleanly into my thumb and a thin stream of crimson blood appeared immediately, getting thicker by the second. I dropped the penknife onto my lap and reached for the green hem of my school skirt. I pressed it tightly against my thumb. Only then did I glance up at Sister Giovanna who was standing, as usual, slightly to the right of the black board. I raised my hand and hoped that she would call on me soon.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/sister-giovanna/2012/12/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: