Posts Tagged ‘sandwich’
You never know what event will spark a person’s desire to return to Judaism. Art Sherman was an assimilated Jew married to a Polish Catholic woman. He owned a non-kosher Italian “hero sandwich shop” and an unbelievable comment, one day by his Rastafarian employee, sent him on a life-changing journey.
After their wedding in 1973, Art and Karen moved from place to place, first to Philadelphia and then to Brooklyn. There, he decided to open a small sandwich store. He made all types of sandwiches, from five different kinds of cheese steaks to Italian hoagies stacked high with ham, pork-salami and provolone cheese. Customers loved the sandwiches and business was great.
Over time, he started noticed specific groups of people who would not eat particular sandwiches. He had lots of Jamaican, Seventh Day Adventist and Muslim customers who said they didn’t eat pork because it was prohibited in the Old Testament.
Art continued to devour his non-kosher sandwiches, but over time he began to sense the irony of his non-Jewish customers attempting to follow religious dietary laws, which he ignored completely.
“The Muslims would make me wipe off the slicing machine before I cut roast beef or corned beef for their sandwiches. For myself, I couldn’t care less,” Art said. “I could eat so much pork it would make the Pope sick. I had all these non-Jewish people coming in who had more respect for where I came from than I did.”
One of his employees, who was a Rastafarian, refused to eat meat altogether. He was a vegetarian, because as he told Art, “the Bible forbids the consumption of blood.” Rastafarians take this Biblical statement to further prohibit the consumption of any animal flesh.
Art continued to consume away. One day in his store, he had a craving for a huge hoagie, with everything on it.
“I wanted a ‘Marciano’ Italian Hot Ham and Provolone cheese. The sandwich had to have perfect balance. It was my place. I could put on as much meat or cheese as I deemed appropriate. But too much meat, not enough cheese, and the balance would be thrown off. I had to have room for the lettuce, tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, hot peppers, oil and oregano,” Art said. “I was in Alpha concentration. Totally focused on the task at hand when the Rastafarian guy walks up behind me and says in a deep voice, ‘you know Art, you really shouldn’t eat ham.’”
Something about the Rastafarian’s statement caused Art to stop and think about what he was doing.
“I felt like I had been slapped in the face! Shot in the heart! It woke me up,” Art said.
“I knew I really shouldn’t eat ham. I went to Hebrew school. But the last person I expected to call me on it was this guy. What could I say? He was right.”
Art made a commitment at that moment to keep what he called “Arab Kosher.” He decided to stop eating all pork and shellfish products. “It was a big step for me and I was proud to take it.”
Art came home that night and told his wife about his epiphany. She immediately agreed to join him. Although it created tension with her family, Karen remained steadfast in her determination. In the past, every other little Jewish activity, such as having a Passover Seder, had seemed to bring them closer together, and this action was no different.
The commitment to cut out pork and shellfish from their lives launched the Shermans on a journey of growth and exploration. Soon, Art closed his store and he and his family moved to his hometown, a small Jewish neighborhood in Margate, outside Atlantic City. Art and Karen, along with their two daughters, began going to a synagogue around the corner from their house, and he and his wife began taking Jewish classes. Over time they began keeping kosher and took on more mitzvot.
“I felt like there was something really familiar about it,” Karen said. “When the teacher talked about Sinai, I knew clearly that that’s where my soul had been. I finally began to understand the identity of my soul.”
With this newfound realization and excitement, Karen continued learning. She and her daughters eventually converted. Years later Karen learned that several of her ancestors had actually been Jewish.
Art and Karen say they still look back in astonishment at the extraordinary source that launched them on their growth. That one comment from the Rastafarian employee, of all people, sent them on an incredible life journey. But the fact that it came from such an unexpected source was a major reason it had the impact that it did.
“Sometimes you’re all ready to defend yourself from a religious Jew, but you’re not ready to defend yourself against a Gentile telling you things that the rabbis taught,” Art said. “I was like a tank. I was fortified, heavily reinforced from the front for a frontal attack, but my armor was not as thick on the side. When you get hit on the side, sometimes – boom – the rounds go through. The Rastafarian caught me in the ribs.”
Hashem has lots of quills of all different types in His quiver, depending on who He is trying to reach. And you just never know what quill He will use next.
Today Art Sherman makes Kosher Hoagies while speaking to Jewish groups about his journey. In early 2009 he will be opening a new kosher meat restaurant in Manalapan, NJ called “Just Good Food!” that will offer hoagies as well as Middle Eastern and Italian dishes. He can be reached at 347-581-4411 or Asher26593@aol.com.
Michael Gros is the Chief Operating Officer of the outreach organization The Atlanta Scholars’ Kollel. The Teshuva Journey is a monthly column chronicling amazing teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; to receive the column via e-mail or see back issues, visit http://www.michaelgros.com
Letter #1: ‘Poor Little Rich Children’
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I have a feeling that you will be inundated with endless letters and stories relating to those shared in your article entitled “Where Are The Moms And Dads?” I am compelled to share two of my own experiences with you.
I was recently a camp counselor in the Five Towns. All of the staff were “Agudah” types, but the community generally consisted of affluent modern Orthodox Jews. This circle of people was very new to me. I really had had contact only with the “Yeshivish” world or secular Jews.
My new group of four year old campers were coming in and I was using every ounce of my mental and emotional capacity to try to remember their names and those of their parents as well as “very important” information” that some mothers didn’t think pertinent enough to write down. Then, something very strange happened. A young mother firmly grabbed my arm and very anxiously said, “You must come with me now!”
She took me over to a Hispanic woman and stated rather strongly and nervously, “This is my child’s care- taker. Her name is Maria. If there is any emergency with my daughter “Sarah,” she is who you will contact. She doesn’t speak any English, but don’t worry, I taught her how to walk to the camp if she has to pick up Sarah.”
Rebbetzin, I must tell you I let out a silent prayer, “Please, please Ribbono Shel Olam, Almighty G-d, don’t let there ever be an emergency with “Sarah.” Please don’t make me ever have to call the non-English speaking gentile caretaker for this holy Jewish child.”
The second story happened a few years later at the same camp. I had a lovely, well-behaved four year old in my group. It was several weeks into camp, so by now I knew the children well. “Baruch” always ate his lunch very well and generally was a pleasure to have in my group. One day, we noticed that “Baruch” wasn’t eating his lunch. We asked if he felt O.K. He stated, “Yes”. We asked him why he wasn’t eating his sandwich, and he stated, “I don’t like salami and BUTTER.”
We were rather shocked at this statement. We knew that the boy’s parents were observant Jews and had a strictly kosher home. We tried to speak with him to find out what was going on, but to no avail. We really thought he must be mistaken and just wasn’t hungry that day. Well, the next day, the same thing happened. “Baruch” wasn’t eating, when we asked why, he stated that he didn’t like “bologna and butter sandwiches.”
By this point, we were wondering what was going on. We took the sandwich and examined it. The sandwich really did look like cold cuts and butter, but we thought, “Perhaps it’s soy meat. Perhaps it’s soy butter.” I tried to call the house, but there was no answer. Then I called the father at work stating that I was Baruch’s camp counselor, and was told that the father was in a very important meeting and couldn’t be disturbed. Then I called the emergency number, but there too there was no answer. Baruch Hashem, it was the last day of the week.
On Monday, I saw “Baruch’s” mother dropping him off at camp. I told her the whole story and her face turned white as a ghost. She kept saying, “Oh my G-d, Oh my G-d. I don’t believe it!” Finally, when she calmed down, she told me that she had gone on a short vacation and left the children with a secular Jewish girl who swore she would only give the kids kosher food, and she must have intentionally given the children meat and dairy sandwiches. The family had to kasher the whole house and throw out many things that couldn’t be made kosher.
May Hashem have rachmanut on His Jewish children.
Second Letter: “A Father’s Confession”
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
Thank you for the very compelling and insightful analysis of derech eretz. It touches upon a subject that has also troubled me for some time – even before I became a father. I have always advocated that children learn and do what they see and hear. If they experienced physical and emotional abuse or neglect between parents or siblings in the home, then they too will tend to behave in like manner as adults – sometimes long before reaching adulthood.
I believe that parents should even avoid something as innocent looking as arguing with each other in front of children, especially if their arguments tend to become emotional or hurtful. This is for two very cogent reasons: (1) Such arguments tend to undermine their parental authority, and (2) children, especially younger ones, can actually develop an unwarranted sense of guilt as a result of seeing constant parental disputes. They tend to feel that somehow they did something wrong and that this time, Abba and Eema are fighting about it and that is their fault.
My very first reaction after my ex-wife informed me that she was leaving me for someone else was to gather my four children around me in order to attempt to explain to them that what was
happening was not their fault, and that Mommy and Daddy still love them and always will.
I realize that this issue is separate from that which you discussed in your response, but it is nevertheless related to it because it is rooted in the very same cause – parents setting poor examples for their children’s behavior, unwittingly or otherwise.
Regarding the use of baby sitters, may I tell you that I cannot ever recall my parents having a hired baby-sitter watch over us while I was growing up. Occasionally, when aunts and uncles visited us, they did take care of us, however, my parents always avoided having strangers watch us for two reasons: (1) they did not trust placing us in the care of strangers, and (2) their unanimous attitude was that they would simply not go anywhere that they could not bring their kids - an attitude that is perhaps not very popular today.
Finally, before I conclude this letter, if I may, I wish to offer you a confession. It would be improper and hypocritical for me to address these important issues without sharing with you my own guilt, my own terrible mistakes concerning my absence from my children - in itself a vicious form of neglect. I shall undoubtedly have to deal with the pain and guilt of the indirect effects of my actions on my children for the rest of my life. I have been attempting to make up for this absence, if indeed, this is even possible.
Baruch Hashem, my children have responded positively and appear to genuinely wish to include me in their lives. I intend to do everything within my power to promote that goal and to enrich my relationship with all of them. I have taken this opportunity to write in the hope that others will learn from my experience.
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