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The Musical Elks.
(C) Edward Ordman 1980
During much of his adult life
my father's father lived in Peabody, Massachusetts. He acted as Rabbi
of a synagogue there, although I believe his primary source of income was
a kosher butcher (these occupations were often combined; a Rabbi was trained
as a butcher since he had to know what imperfections in an animal made
it not kosher). He told my father the following story, and in my
adolescence my father actually introduced me to some of the principals
of the story.
Peabody in the early days
(the 1910's and 1920's) was a community of Jewish immigrants fresh off
the boat. They were trying to get "Americanized" as fast as possible.
To that end, they organized
themselves "an elks". (When it became connected to the formal
Elks organization I don't know, but it certainly was by the 1950's.)
They got organized, elected leaders, and began to raise the money for a
clubhouse. And soon there were committees - a committee on the landscaping
- a committee on the clubroom - a committee on the furnace, . . . and,
eventually, a committee on the men's room.
They gave reports at a meeting,
and the committee on the men's room recommended that, among other fixtures,
there should be two urinals. At this point, Brother Schmuel rose to his
feet. "Exhausted Ruler! Exhausted Ruler!" (After all,
once you'd been secretary, treasurer, sergeant-at-arms, and so on, wouldn't
you be exhausted?) "I em esking a qvestion. Before ve buy two
urinels, I em esking, is enyvun here knows how to play them?"
In due course it was explained
to Brother Schmuel what the objects in question were for, and that great
musical ability was not required. But just when they thought they
had him calmed down, he was on his feet again.
I em meking apologies. I did not unterstend the qvestion. Now I understend,
I em now vanting to second the moshul thet ve hef two urinals, end I em
also meking an amengment, thet ve also hef two arsenals."
This story, like many others of
this sort such as the Duvud Crockett Story,
I regard as a success story. It shows people learning to understand
a new language and culture, trying to communicate, and succeeding. It had
a great influence on my life, in my willingness to try new languages and
try new things generally. If you read "The
Turkish Police Story" after this, it may help to see what I mean.
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