Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Remembering Rosh Hashanah in Chicago in the 50’s…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman © August 17, 2017

Remembering when Rosh Hashanah in the 50’s

Emptied out the South Side of Chicago

Creating a sea of frozen steel

On the northbound Chicago Highways

Racing the setting sun

To celebrate the

Jewish New Year

In September or October 


With extended family

Including the living immigrants 

Our “Boat People”

From Eastern Europe

Skokie, Northbrook, 

Highland Park & Glencoe

Tolerantly received their poorer relations

From south of Madison Street 

Always a dark drama


Being with the relatives I liked

–a few–

To the relatives who disapproved of me


Except the food was astounding

And worth the pain

Of the awkward social gathering


For the longest time

I was the youngest

Watching the older layers of family

Die off

Year by year

Now, I’m the oldest


How is that possible? 
I see the ghosts of the dead:

My Grandparents,

My Father, my Mother,

My Aunts, my Uncles,

My cousins,

And damn-it, 

My older sister


But fortunately 

I can’t hear them

No, the food is not the same

But my grown children and their families

Are very loving people

Nice to me and to each other

And all the cousins seem equal

Screaming, laughing 

Tearing around the house


Our Jewishness in America 

Has made it through

To the 5th generation!

With the hot blood of

Fifteen different nations

Racing through their veins

None of my unfriendly relatives

Would have expected

Such a cultural accomplishment 

From me

But then 

They expected nothing of note

From me, as it was


I am less lonely now

Without all of them

Than I was when they were

All crowded into rooms 

Too small to hold them.

Be careful whom you judge

They may very well 

Have the last word.  

L’Shanah Tovah,

Happy New Year to all

Especially to my wife, Joy,

Her ashes scattered

Atop Masada in Israel’s

Southern Negev Desert

Who was kinder 

To everyone

Than they were

Initially, to her

The (Oh my God!!)

Former Lutheran.


I miss you

My evaporated love

Dust in Israel

More than you 

Could possibly imagine

Except now

As part of the Universe

Maybe you can


You may also want to read:

An Older Man’s Perspective on Yom Kippur 


Yom Kippur, Oslo Norway and The Man of Mystery: https://www.differentslants.com/?p=5255

1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance and a Jewish Boy’s revenge:



Comment by Brad Dechter

September 27, 2019 @ 3:06 pm

Well done- it could have been my family in the first part of your poem. I relived it with you up to your oldest sister- who I replaced with my younger brother. It’s a true testiment to you that those living beyond you in your family are Jews. None of my sons or their families have maintained that distinction, nor have my brothers or sisters kids.
Well done and well said Bob.
L’Shana Tovah!

Comment by Jim Payne

September 28, 2019 @ 4:22 am

With the living the memories go on.

Comment by Bradley Bliss

September 28, 2019 @ 5:01 am

“I am less lonely now, without all of them.”

Comment by David Griesemer

September 17, 2020 @ 11:41 pm

50’s Rosh Hashanah…a dark drama…except the food…worth the pain…

How to know your American Jewishness has made it through to the 5th generation:
“…my grown children and their families
Are very loving people…
And all the cousins seem equal”
Leviticus 19: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

And Joy – the woman who said, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Bob’s pining for her was matched only by the sky to which she’d flown.
These days, he’s remembering how to celebrate.

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