Tossing his Judaism into a dumpster

When my ex-wife’s mother died, the executors gathered up much of what she had accumulated in nine decades, tossing it into a dumpster.  Included in the disposals was a Sheraton love seat, probably worth tens of thousands of dollars.

That came to mind this week as I read a blog piece on the web site of the Reform Jewish movement.  Entitled “How I Found New Views in Israel,” it is by a 78 year old retired New York teacher and newspaper editor, Howard Schwach.

To Schwach,  Israel “was a far-away, exotic, and strange land that, as a Jewish homeland, demanded some monetary donations and the planting of some trees, even though few in my community in Rockaway, Queens, had any real religious ties to the local synagogue or to the nation itself.”

“Sure, I became bar mitzvah at 13 and attended High Holiday services, but even now, at 78, I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times I visited a synagogue after my bar mitzvah for funerals, special occasions, and other b’nei mitzvah

The link is here https://reformjudaism.org/…/23/how-i-found-new-views-israel…

I have always had religious ties to the local synagogue, and have always felt the Nation of Israel to be a part of me, of my family, of my people. I was raised in a Conservative household, and have belonged over the years to Reform and Conservative synagogues, and have attended an Orthodox minyan, albeit only on Shabbat.

My ex-wife, whose family is Reform, has become unaffiliated, and swears she will never visit Israel, describing it as “a horrible country.”

My maternal family comes from a village in Western Lithuania. My mother’s cousin, Gershon Young, told me once of standing on a wagon, baling hay to the animals, as local toughs taunted him to go “to Palestine. That is your homeland and this is ours.”

Gershon was one of a handful of Jewish survivors of the 200,000 who lived in Lithuania before the war. His story was recounted by the Steven Spielberg Foundation. That link is here https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kvedarna/kve-young.html

For 65 years, from age 13 to age 78, Howard Schwach tossed his Judaism into the dumpster.  His perspective mirrors that of another New Yorker, Shaarey Tefila member Robert Schurz, who self described as “proudly, secularly Jewish… We were Seinfeld Jews, not Solomon Jews.”  Schwach’s daughter is the executive director of Schurz’s temple.

Schurz’s piece is here https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2018/07/30/how-becoming-parent-spurred-my-own-jewish-awakening

Schwach concludes, “The trip truly was an eye-opener, showing me not only the historical sites I had come to see, but also new and different political views, a closer look at the religion into which I was born, and, perhaps most poignantly, more of myself, including new perspectives and levels of understanding. Looking back, I have to admit I liked what I saw.

For much of his life, Howard Schwach stood to inherit a household of priceless antiques but tossed them aside as if they were worthless.  Missing from his blog piece is acceptance of any responsibility for having done so.

About the Author
A resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, I hold BA and MA degrees in economics, and spent the first decade after graduate school in journalism. I have worked on Wall Street, met a payroll, won a wire service award, and served on three boards. With a partner, I am involved in a litigation funding business.
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