Rolling stone: so wearing a yarmulka was a burden on you?
yr: it was part of my life and different from everybody else (all other kids) except for my brother.
Rolling stone: do you think that background influenced your move away from wearing a yarmulka when you got older?
yr: it certainly colored it, if it did or didn't influence it.
the other thing that comes to mind is kids reporting on "get smart" when they got back to school on monday mornings. "get smart" was on friday night and i couldn't watch it because of the shabbas, so i felt deprived come monday morning. of course there was not eating at friends' houses which made birthday parties awkward and minimized friendships. but my parents were poorer than my classmates' parents, who were middle class and moving on up in the booming sixties, so i lived in a poorer neighborhood than my friends and that would have minimized contact moreso than the orthodoxy.
rolling stone: when did you leave winnipeg.
yr: summer of 66 when i was 11 we moved to chicago. for my mom and dad it was moving "back" to chicago, because that was where my mom's family lived and where my dad went to school for 13 years or so.
rolling stone: what was the milieu like in chicago
yr: better. a mixture of observant kids and not observant kids. again i lived in a poorer neighborhood than most of my friends, but it was better socially from the orthodox standpoint.
i was raised a fierce religious zionist and summers i would go to moshava in wild rose wisconsin and its home base was chicago, so it was socially how i was raised.
rolling stone: when did you leave chicago?
68, a week after the famous democratic convention.
rolling stone: and you found the move to queens, new york difficult.
yr: quite. adjusting to chicago despite its familiarity had been a bit of a journey, but the move to queens was a journey into a desert in terms of friendships and feeling at home. the high school i attended was made up mostly of kids who had spent the first 8 grades together, so the society was not extremely open, that's the way it is for many kids going to high school. and how religious were the kids? a bit less than in chicago. the skokie yeshiva was an influence on the orthodox community of chicago at the time and its recent acquisition of aaron soloveichik. of course new york was home to his older brother, but that wasn't really true, the rav was from boston and yeshiva university was fifteen miles away and there was no institute of higher learning that was idealized by the community in queens.
rolling stone: those were interesting years to be growing up.
yr: you know the chinese curse, may you live in interesting times. well i guess we have that today and i had it back then.
i guess the first encroachment of the outside world on my world was the assassination of JFK. i guess an eight year old kid is allowed to be enamored of a young president (whereas journalists of a different age might be mocked.) and because the space program was designed to inspire young boys his presence in the headlines was something that i knew about and his killing was quite a shock.
i put up a poster from the newspaper of JFK's portrait and my brother mocked it and said that nonjews don't go to heaven and i asked my father if this was true and my father assured me that good nonjews go to heaven too.
the fact that ruby was jewish didn't make that large of an impression, but there might have been a tinge of nervousness that ran down the spine of jews when the killer of the killer turned out to be jewish.
the beatles popped up on the scene. ringo starr had a large nose and was rumored to be jewish. brian epstein was jewish. bob dylan was jewish and the comedians on sunday nights on ed sullivan's were rather often jewish. allen sherman was jewish.
chicago was far more urban than winnipeg and we returned to a city that was racially polarized with riots occurring twice: in the summer of 66 and in the spring of 68 after martin luther king's assassination.
when i got to new york it was the autumn of the teacher's strike which was fought over the issue of community control and it was primarily the black community versus the jewish teachers and that was the fall of the birth of the Jewish Defense League in Queens by Meir Kahane.
rolling stone: the teenage years are often questioning years, were you questioning?