Several years ago I rode my bike down Kent Street to Williamsburg. Scores of Hassidim were flocking out of the Brooklyn shtel. They congregated by the East River to atone for their sins and the Expulsion from Eden. Men and women were separated by a fence and I thought about taking a photo, but realized this was a private moment and continued my trip to the metal shop, where a check was waiting for me.

After all ‘nimmt geld’ was one of the most important tenets of 47th Street.

On the way back the gathering by the small inlet next to old Brooklyn Navy Yard had grown by the hundreds. Police were setting up barricades in expectation of a larger throng in the early evening.

Today I called up Manny to wish him ‘Gmar chatimah tovah’.

My old boss answered the phone and asked who was this.

“Your shabbas goy and not someone you owe money.”

“Thank the stars for that.”

“Are you open tomorrow?” I had some gold to sell as scrap.

“No, the religious people closed the exchange, but if it was up to me, I’d be open all day.” The ancient Brownsville native lived to work as many hours as there were left in his waking days.

“Aren’t you going to temple tomorrow?”

“Feh, I’m going to Hudson’s Bar.” It was his local.

“What about a fast?”

“Not a chance. At my age I don’t give up any meals, plus I have a medical condition. I need a drink to keep sane.” Business in the Diamond District was brutal these days.

“What about a mitveh?” A ritual bath was a purification rite for the Hassidim.

“I’ll take a shower and don’t even ask me to apologize to ‘God’. He ain’t done nothing for me this year other than give me more problems than Job. He should be saying sorry to me and everyone else in this economy.” Manny was a little bit of a commie. His son was the complete opposite. Richie Boy still believed in the trickle-down theory. “What do you care? You’re a goy. You do anything wrong last year?”

“A couple of things.”

As a boy I had been an altar boy.

We struck our chest saying ‘mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa’.

None of us meant a word of it.

“Then you have nothing to say to God either. Forget all that Moses shit from the Old Testament. How Yom Kippur was the day he got the second set of the Ten Commandments. Moses was the same as all men. Only sorry if they got caught fucking around.” Manny was an expert at that.

“No, I guess I don’t have to offer any apologies to God.” I was a content atheist. “I’ll see you Thursday.”

“I should be so lucky.”

I hung up the phone and thought about the lack of religion in my life.

LA Dodger Sandy Koufax had refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. His replacement Don Drysdale gave up seven runs in less than three innings and told his manager, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too.”

Not me, I was going to Mullane’s to have a beer and I don’t have to wish I was a goy to do that.

As for Yom Kippur.

Have a happy day of saying you’re sorry.

I believe you, but all my friends think you’re lying.

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