Some Jews Drink

July 27th, 2018 § 1 comment

After dinner and until bedtime, HG sips happily Canadian whiskey and Scotch whisky. One semi large shot glass is enough. The Canadian booze is J.B. Wiser and Crown Royal. Glenfiddich is the scotch. When BSK’s worldly grandmother learned that BSK was marrying a Jew, she consoled BSK about the intermarriage preventing country club membership. “Jews make good husbands. They’re good with money. They never hit their wives. They don’t drink.” Well, Sharon is batting .666. Obviously canny granny didn’t realize that alcohol was part of HG’s heritage and always present when HG was growing up. For many decades in Belorussia, HG’s paternal ancestors operated a flour mill and distilled vodka. HG’s late father’s youthful chore was driving the horse and wagon with threshed wheat. The young guy (nicknamed “Grisha”) also delivered vodka to taverns. (During World War Two the mill was destroyed and HG’s family was among the hundreds of thousands of Jews murdered by the Germans and Ukrainians). Growing up in The Bronx, HG recalls his father coming home from work and drinking a shot of rye whisky (Park & Tilford was a favorite) followed my a munch of pumpernickel or rye bread with “schmaltz” (chicken fat) and coarse salt. Little HG always joined Father in the ritual with a few drops of the booze. Father home brewed “visniak” (cherry brandy). Powerful stuff. Only drunk with friends or relatives and accompanied by cake or cookies. A byproduct was tasty, sweet, alcoholic cherries. (Little HG HG stole some at one dinner and at age seven experienced a mini-drunk). Mom and Father were socialists and did not keep a kosher home. Nevertheless, they observed Jewish high holy days and HG had a Bar Mitzvah. In the basement of Kingsbridge Heights Jewish Center on Eames Place in The Bronx, HG received Bar Mitzvah instructions. In order to leave the synagogue, HG had to pass through a room where old, white bearded Jewish men studied the Talmud (and disputed with each other). On the study table was a platter of salty herring, sliced onions and pumpernickel bread. Plus bottles of rye whiskey. The old guys invited the Bar Mitzvah “bucher” (young boy) to join them in “ah brumfen” (shot of booze) and a snack. HG enjoyed this and when finished, said “nuch ah mul” (again). With merry shouts of “shikker” (drunkard) the Talmudists complied. HG arrived home for dinner in a happy,woozy condition. Since those days, HG, a devoted vodka drinker, has mused why HG’s father never drank vodka. No vodka on the Talmudist table. Possibly, vodka carried unhappy connotations of pogroms and tragic memories of “the old country”.

§ One Response to Some Jews Drink

  • Dear HG–
    Granted you are a superb scribner with a bear-trap memory for entertaining and evocative details from way more than a half century ago. BUT…you ain’t worth a damn as an arithmetician: By fulfilling three out of four of the “canny granny’s” qualities of a Jewish husband, you are batting not .666 but .750! Even Ted Williams (not an admirer of those of us of the Hebraic persuasion) didn’t close to that batting average!

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