Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feasting on Just Desserts

When I went for U.S. Army Basic Training at Ft. Ord, CA in 1960, there were only three Jews in the Company of 500. Schwartz, Stern and Wilson ended up (The Army did everything alphabetically) in my Squad of 12. When our Squad fell in at attention Sgt. Flores shouted in thickly accented English, “All who are Jew, raise hand.” 

In 1960 there was still far too much antisemitism and only Wilson (nervously) followed the command. Schwartz and I made eye contact and finally complied. We couldn't sacrifice Wilson. 

“All who are Jew report to base hospital chapel tomorrow night for Rosh Hashanah Services,” Flores continued in broken ingl├ęs. We went to services celebrating the Jewish New Year, followed by a fabulous feast served by the women of Hadassah in Monterrey, CA. 

Returning to the barracks, Bob Vittoria, who occupied the bunk above me, wanted to know why we were so happy. I told him about the services and the dinner. He wanted to know more about the food. So I gave him the details.

Four days later, Sgt. Flores repeated the command: “All who are Jew raise hand.” 

And now there were four. Schwartz, Stern, Wilson and Vittoria. We sat together at Yom Kippur Services (the Day of Atonement, the one day a year that Jews do what Catholics - including Bob Vittoria - do when they go to Confession).  

After a couple of hours, Vittoria began whispering in my ear. “So, when do we eat?” I kept telling him to be quiet until he kept repeating the same question a little bit louder each time. Finally I whispered back … “we don’t eat on Yom Kippur, we fast!!!"

Typical Yom Kippur Feast

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