Recently one of my high school buddies, Rabbi Stephen Einstein, with whom I maintain continued contact (though less frequent than either of us would like), wrote an email to me and a couple of other friends who attended the same synagogue in LA's San Fernando Valley as kids 50 years ago. Steve included a beautiful tribute he had written to Rabbi Sampson Levey who led our modest congregation. It was there also that my uncle Felix Groveman served as the cantor and most of the rest of my family, my Mom, her older sister Lil and Uncle Phil's wife Lee, sang in the choir. Steve, the Lucks twins, Jeff Berkowitz (who would later be my college roommate) and I all belonged to the Temple Beth Torah Youth Group, and also sang in the youth choir, led by my cousin Nickie, uncle Phil's daughter, which got to perform a couple of times a year as relief to the adult choir. Our parents all belonged to the temple sisterhood and men's club (and its bowling league) which also helped tie the Jewish community together in our area of the Valley, known alternatively as either Pacoima or Arleta (depending on whether you had problems with being identified with the former, which had such a bad reputation that it was used as a biker heaven in a Cheech and Chong movie.)
But my friends and I went to Pacoima Junior High School, most known for its best known alumnus, Richie Valens of "La Bamba" fame, and a plane crash that killed three students on the school grounds, one of whom was Jewish and for whom we named the new Temple Beth Torah social hall. Anyway, today TBT, as we called it, is a synagogue for the hearing impaired and no longer plays the role as a local community magnet. But, then again, I am sure that Pacoima and the Valley in general is no longer what it was in our youth, the land of milk and honey, at least for our parents, many of whom had moved to sunny, palm treed California from New York in the 1950s.
In response to Steve's email, Irv Lucks wrote to me saying he had called Steve and had said that 2010 is the year that we are all going to get together again, jokingly said that his twin brother Ed had added "...at least for an early bird dinner." I do not know whether Irv was serious or not, but for me, I would be happy to make the trip to California for a real reunion. It is impossible to imagine the kinds of common experiences and bonds that we had in our junior high and high school years. We practically created our own language and set of stories to express our view of the world around us, from our teachers, to the good looking girls at school and to our very own relationships (like when Steve went berserk when he was "attacked" by a bee at school during lunch or his endless avocado sandwiches; or when I talked all the boys into paying for my glasses when they were broken during an orange throwing fight at the Lucks'., asking plaintively, "Well, what do you expect me to do?, for which they will never forgive me. Then their was the time when I drove all of them to the beach in Santa Monica for the first time in our old '56 Murcury, only to get my first ticket, when, missing a vital turn on the way home, someone yelled "Turn, turn!," and I crossed over four lanes to make that turn right in front of a police car. (No, I did not manage to get the boys to pay for that one.)
I hate to get mushy, but listening to a ton of Holiday music, the one that has stuck in my mind has been Auld Lang Syne, which some consider to be the most famous song in the world, as it is sung all around the world (and its score was even once used for the Korean National Anthem!). So just for the good old times, here is the text of the original Robert Burns poem containing the lyrics:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’dsin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,for auld lang syne.