Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
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.
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Everyone is always looking for cute yet simple and inexpensive ideas to enhance their table at special occasions. Here are some attractive ways to create that festive look. Whether you use china or plastic, your guests will surely be delighted with your charming setup.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a chavrusa working with you, guiding and helping you in your work environment?
What made an M.I.T. scholarship student, taking time off from his doctorate in medicine, to backpack, and then decide to backtrack, chuck it all… and get a haircut? Perhaps it is easier to understand a Harvard law student becoming enamored with the logic of Gemara and settling down to struggle with the intellectual challenges of Aramaic acrobatics.
JetBlue flew an empty aircraft from Boston to JFK to assist us. The care and concern of the flight attendants was amazing. They were astounded by our group, so much so that at the end of the flight, the captain related for all to hear that he was truly impressed by the care that the HASC counselors provided for the special-needs campers – all of whom have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. We did our best to demonstrate a true kiddush Hashem.
Q: What does twice exceptional or 2e mean?
The battle over partnership minyans is just the latest scuffle in the war over women’s roles in the Orthodox community.
Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.
According to Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, “Gifts for the poor [matanot l’evyonim] deserve more attention than the seudah and mishloach manot because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”
Having everyone home on a snow day can be a lot of fun – the first few times it happens. Once snow day number six hits, perhaps not so much and the real creativity has to come out.
Imich was born in 1903 in Poland, where he later earned his Ph.D. in 1927, despite the best efforts of anti-Semitic professors to sabotage his thesis
Never sacrifice the people who matter for anything of lesser importance…
Hannah believed that one must learn about the evils of the past so that they aren’t repeated.
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.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/sister-giovanna/2012/12/28/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.