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Strong Stock

At one point, my mother asked me what I planned to do “when I grow up.” I was taken aback by her question. Wasn’t it obvious?


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have always felt especially blessed coming from “strong stock.” My Bubby Shirley a”h was born in the United States over 100 years ago. Her father (my great-grandfather Yaakov Yoel) was one of those Jews who left the Old Country but didn’t throw off the old ways. For him, America was not different. Long before it became fashionable, he kept his beard and remained a shomer Shabbos Yid in a time many Jews were taking off their beards and working on Shabbos. Throughout his life, Great-Grandfather Yaakov Yoel was his family’s rock and foundation.

My father’s father, Zeidy Jack z”l, arrived on the shores of the Goldeneh Medinah as a teenager prior to World War I. His parents were not frum, but his father’s brother, my great-grandfather Yaakov Yoel, was. Despite their differences, the brothers stayed close, and Jack even married his cousin Shirley, one of Yaakov Yoel’s daughters. In a time when the modern-day usage had yet to be coined, Jack became a true baal teshuvah to win Shirley’s hand in marriage.

Jack and Shirley were blessed with three children. He supported his family as a painter, and nothing was more important to him than making sure his children received a proper Jewish education. His tuition payments sometimes took the form of painting the walls of the yeshivah.

Over the years, the noxious paint fumes got to him. As he lay dying in the oxygen tent in the hospital, his son, my father — lovingly called Sonny back then — assured his father that he didn’t have to worry, if anything happened to him, he would be there to support the family.

Upon hearing that, from under the oxygen tent, my zeidy told my father that the effects of the paint wouldn’t kill him, but his son leaving yeshivah would.

With those words, my zeidy assured us of generations of Torah-true Jews.  

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 699)

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