Reading an informative text over morning coffee, about “How People Change”, reminded me of how sweet it was to reminisce with some old friends at a wedding in Lakewood last Sunday. Friends that I hadn’t seen since TYP high school days, Isaac Leizerowski and David Gibber. Along with fellow Philadelphian Michael Bohm, we first recollected the other “Philly Boys” in our class: Myron Chaitovsky, Joseph Mogul, David Neuberg, George Sokolowski, Zuriel (“Zook”) Weiner, and Dan Wohlgelernter. And then the “out of town” crew of Naftali Bier, Elli Cohen, Dovid Elias, Naftali Horowitz, Moish Koenig, Drawing-a-blank-on-his-firstname Malinowitz, Yerachmiel Thav, Matis Weinberg, Yudi Rupp, and Yonah Weinrib.
There were others we weren’t certain of, and most likely could confirm only with a yearbook in front of us. As I recall, they started with us but were “separated from the class” at some point: Steve Klein (left for T.A. in ’67), Jackie Kohn (more interested in basketball than in Talmud at the time), Meir Kotler (may he Rest in Peace), Amiel Novoseller (graduated in ’70), and Josh Lichtenberg & Abby Ringelheim (Abbott & Costello). There was another short-term individual on whom I’m blanking by the name of Tresh or Thresh or something thereabouts. I recall how he always spoke to the Rebbe firsthand in the third person, and how odd that sounded at the time.
And then of course the teachers – Rabbis Kamenetsky, Svei, Kaplan, Taub, Stefansky, Mandelbaum and Sturman, and their secular counterparts Messrs. Chernoff, O’Rangers, Jacobs, Boris, Savitz, Ranft, Contini and Cantor. (And dare we forget Sunday afternoon Health Classes with Zook’s brother, Michael Wiener.)
On humid days of summer I can still recall the feeling of playing stick ball in the parking lot of the Merion Station across the street, home plate chalked on the wall, coming back inside the barely air-conditioned 6063 Drexel Rd. ex-mansion. Our Boys of Summer would head down the cellar stairs to the Canada Dry vending machine for a Mountain Dew, or a newly introduced bottle of Wink to cool off before heading back to class.
Certainly a good deal of learning occurred inside the classroom and its text pages, but my fondest memory of high school was the learning that occurred outside. From that Merion Station one snowy winter’s day I recall taking the train to Center City Philadelphia, walking to the incomparable public library, listening to Mama Cass Elliot belt out Words of Love. I was doing some research for a debate about the Kennedy assassination, having been assigned the position supporting a conspiracy theory, with the opposing point of view backing The Warren Commission represented by Daniel Wohlgelernter. I was holding my own until DW lacerated me with this line: “Your arguments remind me of a steer. A point here, and a point there, but in between there’s alot of bull”. To this day I thank him for sharpening my saw.
Dovid Gibber delineated the whereabouts of our classmates well-recognized as “Talmidei Chachomim”, literally Students of Wisdom. My talmudic career was comparatively short-lived because, as my “Chavrusa” (study buddy) Zook Wiener was fond of saying, when it came to talmudic texts I had the attention span of a fly. Nonetheless I have always remained respectful of the personal and career paths of TYP grads, and as Michael remarked, moments of nostalgia also remind us that our secular studies preparation was not too shabby. This includes the English chiseling of Martin Ranft, who encouraged a few of us to take the Advanced Placement Test, and instilled a lifelong love of language.