It was Sunday, January 12, 1969.
It was a clear cold day in the low thirties, typical for New York in January.
Normally my brother and I would do whatever we did on Sundays–watch a football game and or even play football OUTSIDE.
This particular Sunday would be different, and why would THIS Sunday be different from ALL other Sundays?:
An incongruous pairing, for sure, but here is the story:
a few years earlier, my parents, joined a Landsmanshaft.
Nu, so what IS a Landsmanshaft, you may ask?
A landsmanshaft is a mutual aid society, benefit society, or hometown society of Jewish immigrants from the same European town or region.
“Toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, a landsmanshaft helped immigrants learn English and find a place to live and work.” (Wikipedia)
Despite joining a landsmanshaft, ironically, NONE of the above-mentioned needs applied to my parents.
Neither of my folks was born in Europe. My mother was born in the Bronx and had no need for a landsmanshaft; My father, born in Yerushalayim, certainly had no connection to any landsmanshaft.
Adding to the mystery of their joining a landsmanshaft later in their married life, the landsmanshaft they joined was nowhere near my mother’s mother’s shtetl in Russia.
Why then did they join, and what’s the connection to January 12, 1969?
They joined as an investment.
Many of these landsmanshafts were quite well endowed. Over the years, the members who paid dues had gone to their eternal rest or to the Scarsdales of the area and did not need any financial assistance from the landsmanshaft.
Often, the landsmanshaft were at a loss about what to do with their money.
A friend of my parents informed them that a certain landsmanshaft was looking for new members. The two foundational pillars of this landsmanshaft were Jewish Education and Israel. This landsmanschaft was hoping to identify parents of yeshiva students interested in having their children continue their Jewish education post-high-school in Israel, and to help support these studies from its large endowment.
As Jewish Education and Israel were also two foundational pillars of the Eisenman household, and my parents knew how much I would want in a few years to continue my learning post-high school in Israel which led them to join the landsmanshaft, to help defray yeshiva costs in the future if such would be the need.
Indeed, their investment delivered important dividends.
When I decided to learn in Eretz Yisroel over ten years later, and my father was on disability payments, my parent’s decision to join the landsmanshaft proved prescient. The generous grant from the landsmanshaft facilitated my learning.
However, I am getting way ahead of myself.
Part of the deal with the landsmanshaft was that my parents had to attend the group’s meetings. And on this particular day, the 12th of January, 1969, a critical landsmanshaft meeting was being held. Attendance was required.
These meetings were about as exciting and as important as deciding who to invite for a party in Flat, Alaska. (Population 0, according to the 2010 census, down from a bustling 4 in the 2000 census.)
Despite few important decisions or issues at these landsmanshaft meetings, this meeting was mandatory, nevertheless, we HAD to go.
I think the agenda of that day’s meeting was circular in nature: Whether only to buy plain bagels for future meetings or buy a mix of plain, onion, garlic, and “everything bagels.”
If I remember correctly, after a heated two-hour debate, by a vote of 11-9, a compromise was reached: “To wit, future bagel purchases were to follow the following guidelines: no more than 7 seven plain bagels; at least two bialys, one onion, one garlic, and one everything bagel; under no conditions can landsmanshaft funds be used to purchase a pumpernickel bagel.”
Moishe Bialastein resigned as first secretary in protest; Hymie Leibowitz took his place.
Both Laibel Glickman and Yanky Katz claimed the “plain bagel” faction stole the election, and for a brief time, they stormed the front of the room, scattering papers and declaring the vote invalid. What’s worse, NO ONE had the presence of mind to include cream cheese or lox in directives for future meetings.
Eventually, order was restored, and the proceedings proceeded.
My family suffered through these important meetings as they were infrequent and provided comic relief to our sometimes boring Sundays.
Now, back to our original question of why was THIS Sunday, the 12th of January, 1969 different from ALL other Sundays?
The answer is the New York Jets appearing in Super Bowl III to play against the heavily-favored Colts, who at that time were still in Baltimore. (Author’s Note: This truly was a UNIQUE Sunday for the Jets, as it remains their ONLY appearance in a Super Bowl).
My brother and I begged, pleaded, petitioned, prayed, and appealed to our parent’s good side to allow us to stay home and watch the Game of the Century.
Broadway Joe Namath had guaranteed that the 18½-point underdog Jets would take down the mighty Colts.
Namath’s swagger and bluster ignited excitement in us New York kids not seen since Jackie Robinson stole home plate in the 1955 World Series.
Could the junior-league Jets from the upstart AFL tame the establishment Colts from the NFL?
All eyes of an excited Nation would be glued to the TV screen on this Sunday, the 12th of January 12, 1969–that is, except for my brother and me.
We’d be watching the landsmanshaft triumvirate of Bialastein, Glickman, and Katz argue about bagels.
Is there NO justice in the world?
My parents felt our pain and sympathized with us. However, they had invested their hard-earned money in what could (and indeed did) make the difference in their sons continuing their Torah learning. The meetings were three times a year, and it was not worth jeopardizing learning Torah in Eretz Yisroel by skipping the meeting–even at the cost of missing the Super Bowl.
Of course, nothing could justify missing the Super Bowl to my pre-Bar Mitzvah mind.
As we were getting in the car, just when it seemed we were leaving the game behind, my father and mother announced an unexpected, unbelievable, inconceivable, unthinkable, outlandish, incredible idea:
If the boys could not go to the television, the television would come to, or should I say with, us.
My father reasoned that the small kitchen television was portable, and he was willing to place it in the car and provided the landsmanshaft did not mind, we could plug the TV in at the corner of the room and discreetly watch the game.
My brother and I were beyond ourselves in joy and happiness.
An idea so simple yet so ingenious. An a solution worthy of the great King Solomon himself.
Whoever heard of transporting a television with you to another place?
Who knows, perhaps one day in the future, people could even carry their phones to other places?
We loaded the TV into the car and drove from Brooklyn to Queens, where the meeting was.
My father unloaded the television and set it up in the corner of the room.
As mentioned, the meeting started, and the bickering over the bagels began.
My brother and I sat quietly as the game began.
And then it happened; at first, it began as a trickle, and then it exploded in a tidal wave and climaxed into a tsunami of excitement, happiness, and joy.
As soon as the bagel debacle was deliberated, debated, and decided, one man sauntered over to where my brother and I were seated and said, “Hey, you’re watching the game? How’d you get a tv here?” “Our parents brought it for us,” we answered. “You have some nice parents!”
Soon a few more people came over.
“You have a television? Wow! That’s great! I was so upset to miss the game!”
In a manner of minutes, the entire landsmanshaft had forgotten about the bagels and remembered what their true original purpose was, to be where place where Jews could sit together, laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company in peace and for a few hours forget about their tzoras–(Hineh Ma Tov UManayin?)
Everyone crowded around our little television; and everyone cheered and celebrated when Joe Namath did the impossible by guiding the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Colts.
–If the Jets could do it, the Jews could do it.
–If the Jets could beat all the odds, the Jews could beat all the odds.
–It was a day for celebrating miracles.
–It was a day of making a grand L’Chaim as everyone celebrated the victory of the weak against the mighty.
For a few hours on that freezing Sunday afternoon in Queens, New York, a group of Jews were able to forget their personal peckels and laugh and smile and cheer.
When it was time to go home, and everyone was still celebrating the victory, I saw my father pick up the television and begin to walk out.
While everyone was thankful for the game; I was grateful for something much greater:
I was full of gratitude to Hashem for giving me a father who could juggle his commitments to others with his love for his children.
I swelled with thanks to Hashem for blessing me with a father who did not rest until he kept his word while still showing his love for me.
As I followed my father out the door, I heard one man say, “We have to thank Hashem for the Jet’s win!”
To myself, I said quietly; I have to thank Hashem for I am the real winner.
Though it was great seeing the game and it was wonderful sharing the excitement with others, none of that could match how I felt. The Jets may be Number 1 in the world of football but my brother and I were Number 1 in our father’s world.
Tonight, about the same time as the kickoff for Super Bowl LVI, the 13th of Adar Aleph will start. And so too will begin the twenty-third Yahrtzeit of the man who kept his integrity and honesty while being the best father in the world.
May the Neshama of my father, Yoel Moshe ben Yosef Nosson Notta Z” L, have an aliyah.
I miss him.