For Week 21, the assignment is to describe a group you belong to. I chose to write about the Jewish community of Kearny and North Arlington. Lately I’ve been thinking about how the synagogue proved to be the center of my childhood. Like so many other families in the tiny Jewish community of Kearny and North Arlington, we lived within walking distance of the shul. I don’t know if that was a deciding factor when my parents bought our house in Kearny in 1959 or whether it was because it was just a block away from my paternal grandfather who didn’t drive. Our street, Clinton Avenue, was home to many Jewish families. We kids took to playing kickball and other games in the street until the streetlights came on and moving to the side when a car cut through the street to get to the Belleville Turnpike.
This week I wrote about most of my friends during my elementary school years were Jewish. I hadn’t really thought about that. Having these friends taught me how different my 1925 house in the town’s Fairlawn Manor section was from other homes. How my family was different from other families.
I wrote about events and celebrations at the shul, including making a ring-toss game for the Purim Carnival, the Chanukah menorah-lighting ceremony with all us kids from the Hebrew School climbing up the stairs to the lobby outside the sanctuary, kissing the Torah during Simchat Torah, twirling our groggers when the Megillah (Book of Esther) was read for Purim, hanging out on the terrace on the High Holy Days and watching non-Jewish classmates walking home from Roosevelt School.
I wrote about 300 words, but I think this piece needs more rumination. I suspect there are more revelations here. It could also possibly become a poem.
Who are your people? Write about them and what belonging to the collective means to you.