Friday, Dec 3, 1943
Whatever the chaos in the world around them, nothing interfered with my grandparents’ Friday night Sabbath dinner. There is a special sweet serenity to this evening because my parents and I are with them. My grandmother comes home early from the store to prepare. She picks up a challah at a kosher bakery and cooks the chicken. First course will be soup. Note: a fresh salad is not part of the meal but my grandmother will serve the carrots she cooked with the chicken and soup. She will light the candles at sundown. After the meal, while tea and cake are served, my grandfather will read and interpret a chapter from the Pentateuch (Old Testament). He would always remind us that the Sabbath is the oldest and most important observance required of Jews. All the Abrahamic religions honor the Sabbath – and, lest we forget today, that includes Islam, founded by Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar. This ritual of reading and interpretation will prevail even decades later when my grandfather is a widower and comes to live with us, thus reversing the generational order prevailing in 1943. What’s unusual, though, is that my grandfather is observant but not really religious. He has come a long way from the strict household he grew up in. He has come a long way from the stern and vigilant supervision of his father, a cantor in Poland. His story is the quintessential story of the Old World immigrant coming to the New World. More on that tomorrow.