The following piece was submitted by Alan Shebroe. He suggests it may speak to many with regard to our Jewish values. Alan says he found it “enlightening” and hopes you will too.
WHO AM I?
Big Cheeks. A grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother. Early in life he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were coins that were thrown to them.
A Jewish family, Karnofsky, who had emigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially giving him ‘work’ in the house, to feed this hungry child. There he remained and slept in this Jewish family’s home where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in the Jewish families. They sincerely admired his musical talent.
Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go Down Moses. The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a Star of David and said that in this family, he had learned “how to live real life and determination.”
You might recognize his name. This little boy was called: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Louis Armstrong proudly spoke fluent Yiddish! And “Satchmo” is Yiddish for “Big Cheeks”!