I felt conspicuous at the post office, masking my face and wearing latex gloves long before the CDC recommended it. I was in no mood to expose myself to the coronavirus.
But my embarrassment soon dissipated. A longtime friend stood in line ahead of me; his face and hands, and those of the postal clerks and other patrons, also were covered. I asked Jack how he was feeling; his response was short. “Baruch Hashem,” thank God. I frowned.
How could he be so thankful? The value of our investments had declined dramatically and the bottom is nowhere in sight. There’s no vaccine to prevent or cure coronavirus and vital medical supplies are in short supply. A relative who is a mental health professional told me that her patients were in desperate need of emotional and medical support.
How am I able to justify my disappointment for missing my Sunday morning minyan with bagels and lox while fellow congregants are suffering the effects of the virus? Was it chutzpah of me to question Jack’s positive attitude?
My friend quickly changed the subject. “So how are the kids?” he asked. I told him about my children. I explained that one grandson had purchased his first home in Florida, my other is a junior in college, and that my granddaughter will graduate in May with her master’s degree. “Mazel tov,” Jack responded.
I then mentioned that the university cancelled a formal graduation ceremony this year. “So give her a nice gift,” was his response to me. “The value of her graduate degree doesn’t change without a ceremony. Besides, who wants to shlep to Manhattan on a hot afternoon to sit in a crowded auditorium anyway?” Come to think of it, Jack was right.
We are bound to overcome the pandemic, the stock market will rebound, and I’ll return to shul. Jews for centuries have overcome crises and, as in the past, we again will pull through. We have encountered and outlasted tyrants and angry Jew-haters. During Pesach we celebrate our miraculous march to freedom from the pharaohs. Didn’t that result in our giving the world the Ten Commandments? We also recently rejoiced at Purim, an annual celebration when the Megillah relates how Esther saved us from evil Haman.
Hitler failed to annihilate us. Six million of our people tragically perished in the Holocaust but we’re still here to rejoice over the accomplishments of our homeland, the Jewish State of Israel. Angry hordes of well-armed Arab soldiers attacked the Jewish state shortly after its creation and terrorists still threaten the country, but Israel remains victorious. Despite these battles, look at how far Israel has come in only 70 years.
While walking back to my car, I thought about my mother, of blessed memory, who continually mourned the loss of cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives in the gas chambers. When I arrived home from school each afternoon when I was a young boy, she played on the old Victrola a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” My mother was determined to convey to her only son her gratitude to be an American. She reminded me daily that Irving Berlin, a popular songwriter at the time, was a Jew. She would be extremely proud today. Of this I am certain.
Yes, dictators and other evil men have tried to rid the world of Jews but we have survived and prevailed. We have had the last word. Our strength, resourcefulness, experiences, quests for knowledge, and determination have made our world a better place in which to live, work, and play. We have contributed immeasurably to society.
So Jack, if you are reading this, I tip my kipa to you. I look forward to more interesting chats and to the opportunity to publicly thank God for good health, my family, and the blessing of living in freedom and being able to practice our faith as we see fit.
Here’s wishing you and your family a sweet Pesach. Let us rejoice. Let us all say as loudly as we can, “God bless America,” and above all, a hearty “Baruch Hashem.”
Manny Strumpf is president of Hadassah Associates of Monroe Township, where he resides.