Rumble at the Hebrew School

           by Jack Rothstein

          On a late Autumn evening in 1959 at Hebrew School…in Mrs. Bitterbaum's class...Chaim Viniar regaled us with the greatness and superiority of the Jets  ...honky gang in Bernstein's Romeo and Juliet...Solomon chose to react to Chaim's persistent tirade...telling him straight and clear...the Sharks won the day...seized the moment...and stole the show....he was immediately challenged to a rumble 10 days later after class....a rumble at the Hebrew School....

          Acting out his fantasy to look good in front of his friends…Solomon had to stand tall for his neck of the woods...Queens Boulevard the borderline...closest he ever came to being in a gang...a Jewish gang…hahahahaha...the day came... Solomon scared to death....a rumble not what he wanted...no no no...made every effort to use words …to gently back away from the fray…hoped Chaim would forget....Solomon stressed and in dire desperate anxiety…nauseating worry ...fretting...sweating...Chaim the bully would not let up...As it turned out, it was Chaim the sissy...

          It was raining that afternoon...a chilly late December day... the weather foul... hard cold bone chilling December rain...strong winds cutting across the avenues of Sunnyside...1959...when Ike was still liked...and...JFK on the way....change in the air…

          Modern day romance inspired Solomon’s first authentic fight in the street with one stupid little coward Chaim Viniar...who danced around a puddle formed by the hard rain....right in front of the school...Solomon's boys on one side cheering fiercely... Chaim's gang on the other ripping and roaring...

          Solomon at the end of his wits and wigging out had no choice but take the hit... wrestling Chaim to the ground in the puddle...smashing Chaim with his clenched fists...one two one two...in the face head body balls...punishing him... in the middle of the sidewalk…in front of the Temple where the Jewish men met to say  evening prayers...such a commotion...such a tumult...adults running from all exits...to witness  Chaim Viniar…beaten to a pulp...his navy blue trousers split right down the middle...his white jockey shorts out for all to see… dragged through the puddle...soaking wet.

          Solomon simply kicked Chaim’s ass…won his respect… After that Chaim tried hard to be Solomon’s friend….Solomon showed little interest....Chaim eventually moved on to another state far far away...

Jack Rothstein, a native New Yorker, spent his formative years in Sunnyside Queens. He attended PS 199,  JHS 125 and graduated from Long Island City High School in 1968. He earned a BS degree from NYU.   Jack spends his retirement in the Philippines with his lovely wife and 5 year old daughter.