A queer kaddish at the Melchett minyan

“Club Tropicana, drinks are free,
Fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone.
All that’s missing is the sea,
But don’t worry, you can suntan!”

With maximum respect to the co-writers of these fine lyrics, when I attended shul on Friday evening to recite kaddish in memory of my late brother Jonathan, I was not expecting to have to compete with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley blaring from an adjacent apartment.

The Melchett minyan, however, situated in the grounds of a kindergarten, is surrounded by residential buildings, the typical inhabitant of which is an Ashkenazi young professional who is quite likely to “bat for the other side” . . . hence my having to recite my initial “Yisgadal veyiskadash” to the accompaniment of two eighties gay icons who never appeared to dress in anything but beachwear. Try to maintain kavanah (the mindset for prayer) – not my strong point to start with – having to do that.

Anyway, while he might have preferred Jimi or the Dead (I would have gone for a Lenny dirge myself), Jonny – whose music blared through my entire childhood – would not have disapproved of the concept.

I had thought, earlier in the day, of attending a minyan where I would be anonymous because, whenever I visit the Melchett one, the gabbeh (the bloke who runs the show) always makes me feel guilty that they only ever see me twice a year. And, sure enough, as I walked in, the puritanical Shmuel – an accountant, appropriately enough, during the week – gave me that look, before walking over and shaking my hand with a distinctly patronising “Welcome,” which I always interpret (correctly) as “What? Yahrzeit again?!”

I have disappointed Shmuel. He had high hopes for me once – at the turn of the millennium – when, during my year of mourning for my father, I was a minyan regular. But, while I had the best of intentions during those twelve months – of continuing my shul-going even after they were up – they all came to nothing with the abruptness of my final “ve’imru amen.”

The Melchett minyan – a whimsical collection of locals whipped into line by Shmuel and a learned, prominent Tel Aviv court judge – has always struggled for numbers. With promises of the World to Come and/or, on occasion, herring, it regularly has to drag in reluctant locals to make up a quorum (of ten men), no enviable or straightforward task in Tel Aviv . . . never mind off Sheinkin, Israel’s secular heartland. But the minyan has also been guilty of the kind of crass stupidity in which synagogues so often seem to specialise, most ludicrously by allowing the formation of a breakaway service – also struggling to obtain a quorum – which competes against it from the adjacent classroom.

Kaddish, anyway, just doesn’t do it for me. Neither does yizkor for that matter, or even visiting graves. Not being able to cast off my religious upbringing, I of course do them all, though they just – if you will excuse the expression – leave me cold . . .

And, while I was reciting my second and final kaddish of the evening – accompanied, this time, by Radio Ga Ga (all I heard was “radio ga ga, radio goo goo”) by Queen (further evidence of the Shabbos desecrator’s sexual bent) – it occurred to me that the very best way of remembering Jonny would be to ask you lot to read (or reread) my e-memorial to him, and the many touching comments that follow it.

God bless, Jonny.

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11 responses to “A queer kaddish at the Melchett minyan

  1. Mike, wishing you and your mum – “long life”

    Shuli

  2. Thank you, Shuli.

    I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist commenting at the mention of “queer”!

  3. Best wishes Mike. So sorry for your loss all those years ago. I dont know you or your fam. I did’nt even go to Hasmo (went to Menora) . Just enjoy reading your blog.
    Shalom.
    Chaim.

  4. Hi Mike

    Wishing u a long life Mike.

    Thought of you yesterday when I attended a bris, with Shuli MeyeR and Ari, brother of S MyerS in the same room!

    D

  5. Caroline Kendal

    Wish you a long life Mike. Would love to have met Jonny. Sounded like a one and only truly original. Cx

  6. “Mike .. wishing you a long life”.

    You mention the Ashkenazi young professional who is likely to “bat for the other side” .. is that Fatah or Hamas ?

    Whilst your view of ‘Kaddish .. yizkor for that matter, or even visiting graves’ leaves you cold, perhaps you should accept them more as a mark of respect & recognition of your heritage.

  7. Thank you all for your kind wishes.

    Jeremiah, I still practise them all precisely because of the “respect & recognition” that I have for my “heritage.” The point I was trying to make, though, is that none of them provide me with much comfort . . . but knowing that people read about Jonny here – keeping his memory alive – does.

    The following – the traditional, Orthodox (or whatever you want to call it) view, posted to the JC website (where I sometimes publish my posts) – also explains why I still perform these rituals:

    “these things aren’t supposed to “do it” for you. They are designed to “do it” for the dear departed. And since until we get there ourselves and find out if it really does “do it” for them, nobody really knows the real value of these actions, most people – by your own admission, your good self included – decide not to take chances, and perform the prescribed rites.”

  8. Try keeping any kavanah whilst trying to say tashlisch on Venice Beach whilst Californian hot babes in teeny bikinis splash each other down in the surf. It was hard.

  9. David Prager

    I’ll bet it was, Iron!

  10. No problem, Iron . . . if I could ever muster kavanah, that would be all I’d be praying for! 😉

  11. RIP George Michael.

    One thought that gets me davening with Kavanah is millions of muslims praying 5 times a day while plotting my death or dhimmitude.

    The Rabbis say that Isaac’s prayer at Be’er Lahai Roi was a plea to the Almighty to protect Israel and the world from the destructive and violent ways of Ishmael.

    Israel triumphs over the Islamonazis Y’Sh when the Almighty listens to Isaac’s prayers ahead of Ishmael’s. The Vilna Gaon said that Ishmael will remain a wild ass of a man essentially for all time. That’s why I hope and pray that the Almighty keeps on answering our prayers favourably in the merit of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    Happy Hanukkah!

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