From the D’Agostino archives……….

#2 The Day We Made the Jewish People Cry

In my elementary schools in the 1950’s in Miami, a choral presentation was held just before the Christmas break with the traditional carols. Our teacher called us together to announce our participation as one of the performing groups and that we were selected to sing a special song. A Jewish song about a thing called Hanukkah. Letters were sent home allowing parents to withdraw their child from participating in this most controversial affair. There were none returned.

You must understand that this was a time when “No Colored Allowed,” “Curfew : All colored domestic workers must be off Miami Beach by 6 PM,” “Irish Need Not Apply,” and “No Jews Allowed,” were ever present and prominent signs.

Our sole prop was a large wooden window frame on a table with a menorah inside. The one Jewish girl, Judith, would light the candles as we started singing. The cafeteria was packed that day. It never was before. Several hundred Jewish people were in attendance for a school with a couple of dozen of their children at best. Strange, huh?

The teacher gave a 1,2,3 and we opened “Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah…” I have never heard such emotional and vocal wailing and crying in my life then or since. I did not understand why this was happening. We finished and left the stage and the room emptied before the rest of the recital ended.

I found out why the Jewish people were crying when I got to the 11th grade. Mr. Edge showed us the movie. The one with people being herded into cattle cars, the book burning, the ovens, the camps, and the piles and endless piles of bodies.

I flashed back a dozen years to that day of our singing and knew immediately why the Jewish people were crying. Their tears were a wonderful celebration of joy and praise to God for their ability to have life without ever present fear of death. To be accepted, recognized, and validated as fellow people of the human race was expressed in their acclamations of joy. And it was right there in the wide open venue at a public school . And that my friends is the most wonderful story of how we made the Jewish people cry.