June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I always became excited when I found money lying on the street, even if it was a penny. It just made me feel so lucky.

Then one day many years ago I saw an amazing video that was produced by NCSY and was mainly filmed in Toronto. The filming took place around the ice skating rink in front of the City Hall in Toronto on a cold day. The interviewer would go over to people who chanced to walk by him and he would ask them simply, “Excuse me, what’s a Jew?” One after the other, he stopped people and each gave their own answers: “Jews … Oh, they are doctors,” said one. “Jews are the bankers and lawyers,” said another, and one interesting person said something which I definitely had never heard of before. He said, “Jews; they are the ones that pick up pennies.”

I watched this and my reaction was, “Doesn’t everyone? And why not?” I couldn’t believe that anyone who saw a penny on the sidewalk would not pick it up.

Then the cameras continued to roll in Moscow with a film crew in the center of the city, and people were stopped and asked the same question. The response of one woman will always stay in my mind. She said, “You see me? I live here and if I wanted to leave this country no one would help me. But if I were Jewish I could go anywhere in the world and I would know that other Jews would be there to help me and support me.”

That thought has never left me. At the same time, when I pass a penny on the ground I am slightly more reluctant to bend down and pick it up. I am not sure if that is attributed to my age, but I do not think so, as I have asked many young people and it sounds like they would walk right by it.

A week ago on Friday night, erev Parshat Mishpatim, I walked together with many others returning from Congregation Beth Abraham to partake in their Shabbat seudah along the blackened street that I detest—Westminster Gate. Not a light to be found on the entire block. Many just stumbled along not noticing a crumpled bill lying toward the middle of the street, waiting for someone to pick it up. Lo and behold it was Shabbat and this bill, which at first was nondenominational to me, just stayed there, and everyone walked by it with some noticing it and others clued out. I started to wonder: If it wasn’t Shabbat, would others just keep walking as well? If money could talk, which some think it does, I am certain that this greenback must have been wondering why everyone passed it by without even bending down to see its denomination.

The next afternoon as I once again walked on Westminster Gate. There it was, and I once again thought that if money talked, this bill must be totally bewildered. At this point as I passed it I remarked to someone nearby that I wondered how much it was worth, and I was assured that good old George Washington was looking up from the street at all of us passersby. I think that if I was younger and had small children I would have returned with them on Motzei Shabbat for the adventure of seeing if it was still there. I don’t know if anyone did, or what happened to this tease lying on the street.

What it did was remind me of two things: One was the sanctity of Shabbat and how none of us would think of using our phones, stoves, computers, so we would never consider picking up this dollar bill from the ground. It also made me more aware of the differences in what was and what is. Little things that were appreciated years ago and brought so much pleasure to our lives in many ways are not considered as special anymore.

The first thing that comes to mind are birthdays. Whereas most of us had birthday parties as children at home and many of us continued to do similar parties for our children in our homes, today it seems as though a 1-year-old needs to have an entertainer for his birthday party. I did flip when one day when there was a posting on TeaneckShuls with the headline URGENT, asking for suggestions as the entertainer for a 1-year-old’s party had cancelled. I was tempted to respond by suggesting to stick the bottle in his mouth and he will be entertained.

No more do we scoop our own ice cream and have a sundae-making party. Today we need to have the ice cream truck pull up in front of our houses. No wonder bar and bat Mitzvahs have become major events. After all, it has to be better than the entertainment at baby’s first party. We will not even think further ahead to weddings.

Along came COVID and we are all managing to do everything in a much more simple style. A Carvel cake seems to do it for most, with family members making a child’s birthday party as special as it can be. I remember my brother’s bar mitzvah, where my mother and several of her friends cooked in the shul kitchen to make things very special for the luncheon following his first aliyah. I also remember our son Akiva’s brit, where women from our shul in Montreal got together in the shul and prepared a sumptuous breakfast. It was simple and it made them so happy to feel as though they had contributed to our simcha.

For many of us, certainly in our circumstance, the week goes from Shabbat to Shabbat without many days of consequence in between. Everything has become very simple. Maybe this is a reminder that the olden ways are to be reconsidered as not so bad after all; in which case I think that I will not hesitate the next time that I see a coin or dollar bill lying all alone on the sidewalk, on a non-Shabbat day, to bend down and pick it up! My gain.

By Nina Glick

 

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