The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 26 July 2003 / 26 Tammuz 5763

The T-Shirt Did It

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Every student at Ohr Somayach has his own special story of how Divine Providence led him back to his roots. The story of J. G. revolves around a T-shirt with some Yiddish letters on it.

It all goes back to a Jew in Massachusetts who watched with pain as refugees who had arrived in the U.S. after World War II daily threw away Yiddish newspapers and books as they stopped speaking and reading Yiddish in order to assimilate into the American culture. Appalled by this abandonment of Jewish culture he began collecting the material left on the curb by his neighbors, and eventually established the International Yiddish Book Library in Boston.

J. G.s parents had little knowledge of Orthodox Judaism but were curious to see what went on at the book fair hosted by this library. For their toddler they bought a souvenir size 8 T-shirt, with the librarys name and logo imprinted on it in Yiddish.

Years later, he begrudgingly attended a Sunday morning class in a Conservative Hebrew School in the southern community to which they had moved. The class was taught by the wife of the rabbi of the local Orthodox synagogue, whose curiosity about the reason for his wearing such a T-shirt led to a relationship with the family which eventually resulted in the entire family becoming observant and sending their son to Ohr Somayach.

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