Tuesday, September 7, marked the observance of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish New Year, 5782.
Shanah Tovah! (Good Year!). Kenahorah! (Keep the evil eye away!)
Last year, Jewish New Years, 5702, was an auspicious traditional Jewish New Year for me, a Gentile youth with a “goyish kuph” (Gentile mindset). To a few perceptive parents, I was also a “faygola,” a “little bird.
At 13, I attended Hutchins Intermediate School, located on Woodrow Wilson and Blaine in Detroit’s strong Jewish neighborhood. I was assigned to Jefferson Intermediate School, but my mother thought it was too rough. She successfully made the change — thankfully.
I received an excellent cursive writing, Hutchins Handbook education, learned to typewrite, speak a little Spanish and became contest editor/writer for the Hutchins Star.
Some now-remembered Jewish classmates were Lenore Abramowitz, Judith Berkowitz, Saul and Marvin Wassernen, Sarah Rosenberg and Harold Karbal. Some of my Black classmates were Ella Maxwell, Lois Carmichel and Rodney Harvey.
In 5719, another auspicious Hebraic New Year for me, I met my first partner, Ernest Gilbert. He was five years older than me, played classical piano, had ballet training and a degree in journalism from Wayne University.
Ernie mentored my art, music, and writing talents. His parents nicknamed me “longuh lutch” (Yiddish for “long noodle”). Ernie took me to my first foreign films, introduced me to classical LPs and encouraged me to start college.
On my own, I picked up a few Yiddish humorous expressions: “Nishkuh douggah dud” (You should live so), “Kub dier I’m budh” (Saw you in the bathtub), “Goyim” (gentile), and “Shicksuh” (Female gentile).
Examples of traditional Yiddish wisdom include these are just a few translated “Oy Veys” — “If he were twice as smart, he’d be an idiot!” “The eggs think they’re smarter than the chickens.” “When children are young, their parents talk about how smart they are. When parents are old, their children talk how stupid they are.” “The pen stings worse than an arrow.”
And, let’s not forget, “Why did Adam and Eve cover their business with a leaf if there was nobody to see them?” and “Empty barrels make the most noise!”
Ernie and I were together for five years; he died at 85 about ten years ago.
During the current Covid 19 pandemic with its forced isolation of both straight and LGBTQ+ communities alike, the time-honored, centuries-old observation “Out of sight; out of mind” has become almost a daily fact of human existence..
I’ve found it most helpful to keep a list of names, places and things so I won’t forget that as a community, we are perhaps being isolated — more than a bit — right out of existence.
We’re getting used to forgetting names of friends we haven’t seen in awhile. We forget the bars and clubs we used to attend and LGBTQ+ organizations of the recent past. Association of Suburban People, Motor City Business Forum, Dignity, Ten Percent, Cruise Magazine, Pittman Puckett Art Gallery, Ties Like Us, The Diplomat, Ten-Eleven, Forum Foundation…
We begin to forget leaders in our common struggle. Marvin P. Marks. John L. Kavanaugh. Episcopal Father James Tripency, Dr. Henry Messer. Lola Lola. Bobby Johns. Harvey Milk…
So it goes. Make your own list. Fill in your own blanks. Make damn sure that “Outta Sight” doesn’t become “Outta Mind.”
Mazel tov! 5087! Or, as you may no doubt prefer it: LGBTQ+, Out and Proud: 2021!