Friday, September 23, 2022


The Jewish New Year…Rosh Hashanah… is on the horizon. It is not all whistles and noise makers complimented by cocktails as it is for the New Year with which most of you are no doubt more familiar. This one is a major religious holiday(s)… a time to reflect on the previous year, to make note of what one did that was good…and not so good… with all of it designed to prepare everyone for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

It is also an anniversary. The Bible indicates this was the day that God first created man in his own image. In other words, the whole thing is a pretty big deal. I am not as religious as some (there are those who might say I am less religious than most) but I was (and am) Jewish enough for Hitler, and (apparently) even for those who march around, carrying torches, claiming to be good Americans, while wearing swastikas on their sleeves.

Attempting to avoid a debate as to how many “good people” there are on that side of things, I will move on to reflections on the year 5782… with thanks to the people at Moderna who supplied the vaccines that made my bout with COVID a mild one. Thanks, too, for Dr. Cheung at Cornell and his staff and nurses and folks at NY Presbyterian who got me through a significant heart procedure in plenty of time to compose these notes, and with a steady heart beat at that.

The year was significant for me in many other ways… an introduction to my first grandson, transitioning from being my youngest granddaughter, and in the process enhancing the connection between the two of us. I attended my first water polo match ever… significant in that one of the lead participants was the 14-year-old son of one of my oldest friends. This friend of mine is my age and having a child (his first) younger than any of my grandchildren is not why I mention it here, nor is it simply because the kid’s team went on to win the Gold Medal at the US Junior Olympics. I bring it up because of another friend, Dennis Gitlin, who died during this notable year.

It was Dennis who introduced me to Miami. He brought me to the Magic City for my first ever visit from my 1991 vacation spot in Palm Beach to show me Fisher Island… the “warm island” from which these notes emanate.

Why does any of this matter? The Gold Medal winner’s father came to visit Sharon and me on Fisher Island over twenty years ago and, like me, fell for the place and basically never left. It was here that he met the mother of his first… and only… child, and none of that: not the birth of that son, or the Gold Medal, would have happened if it had not been for Dennis Gitlin. Rosh Hashanah, I believe, is an appropriate time to acknowledge those connections. To celebrate the living and to honor the dead.

I am at that age where my good deeds far exceed my sins. It is not so much a matter of practice makes perfect as it is one of simply getting old and slowing down. My reflections… as I indulge my annual “end of the year” practice… of culling through my diary from September last to September current is not nearly as titillating as it used to be… but it is definitely more sentimental.

There was the “goodbye” to my first wife, the mother of my children, who then was just beginning the final stages of Alzheimer’s. It is doubtful that this early in life love of mine will recognize me at all at this year’s family Thanksgiving dinner. Add to that the death of Carole R. Smith, my long-time personal assistant and friend; the passing of my cousin, Dr. Stanley Bierman (making me now the oldest living member of our “clan”), as well as Dale Zeigler who recently passed on without ever being able to overcome whatever thing it was that prevented this most promising of our high school graduating class… as well as our USC Freshman Class President… from becoming anything even close to what everyone believed he would be. My long-time friend, Naomi Caryl, the officiate at my marriage to Sharon, mercifully passed after a too-long illness. Ed Asner also left us.

I am not so sure that pride… not the kind that goes before a fall, but the pride one feels in a loved one’s accomplishments… is a part of this New Year’s ritual, but my diary revealed multiple entries of the joy I felt for my spouse and her accomplishment of completing her memoir, Apparently There Were Complaints, for coping with the disappointments with the Simon & Schuster so-called sales force, and for the tireless work Sharon did to promote that book during the time of COVID.

There was the incredibly beautiful wedding of my best friend’s oldest daughter, staged at the foot of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the strength and perseverance of my children during a most disruptive time in their lives. Their generation has not been as fortunate as mine, and I am ever so grateful not to have to confront the uncertainties they are facing. Watching them grow into able adults gives me pause at any time of year as I recognize how thankful I am to have them in my life. On a more minor note, it would be remiss of me not to add to the mix of gratitude the fact of the more than 25-pound weight loss I accomplished this year.

I do not know what place these things have in the grand scheme but there were multiple references to all of these in my chronicles of the year gone by. Told ‘ja: not as sexy as in the past.

So, Rosh Hashanah is here. And I am not sure why I am always so energized about it. Why I always take the day (sometimes more) to go through my diary in preparation; why I look forward to the whole thing. I was never schooled in this religion of mine. Never got to be bar-mitzvahed… never have fully understood why this is a holiday to celebrate.

There is a nice scene (one of too many to mention here) in my series, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, where Rosie’s boss, who happens to be an orthodox Jew, says:

“You know, Rosie, three thousand years ago, if one could have looked into the future and asked oneself, who’s going to survive the longest, the Jews or the Egyptians, the Jews or the Babylonians, the Jews, or the Ancient Romans?... One would not have bet on the Jews… But we’re still here.”

So… okay… maybe it is a holiday to celebrate after all. L’ Shana Tova.


Barney Rosenzweig

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