Sidney Gross (1941-2016)
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews. It is a time of contrition and represents an annual opportunity to beg God to grant us a clean moral slate. If my attitude toward this holiday as a youngster was not cavalier, it was unappreciative. Sure I got the day off from school, but I wasn’t allowed to do anything in celebration such as go to the movies or play punch ball. Instead, if I presumed to show my face in the street, I had to be dressed up, which was something I hated. To make matters worse, New York was usually in the midst of an Indian summer during Yom Kippur and my good clothes were invariably tailored of durable wool. I usually managed to fast until ten or eleven in the morning, at which point my mother, the arbiter of all matters religious, decided that I had suffered enough. Even so, breaking the fast was done discretely behind the doors of our own apartment. One kid on the block, a Hungarian (and hence a bit nutty, we presumed) flaunted tradition by eating candy bars right out on the street on the holiday. All the adults and children on the block considered this scandalous and agreed that Tobias would come to no good. Today he is an optometrist who specializes in fitting contact lenses. Who knows what G…d has in store for him in the next life?
Note from Sue: These, of course, are Sidney’s childhood memories. My husband, as I knew him in adulthood, approached Yom Kippur with deep reverence, as a day for meditation and introspection. Sidney had MS and was in a wheelchair for many years. Although he never said as much to me, I sensed that he took to heart the idea that his fate–life or death–was being sealed for the coming year on Yom Kippur.