Alan Samuels grew up in a small town. He lived in a place where being Jewish was not so easy. There were less than a hundred families. There was no kosher shops and certainly no kosher restaurants. There was however one synagogue. It was an Orthodox shul and the entire Jewish community used it as a place to pray, meet and greet. There was always an Orthodox Rabbi to lead services. If he was married, his wife was responsible for interacting with the women in the community and helping to plan and host special events for families. It was a really fantastic group of people.
Alan grew up with a guy named Mitchell Fink. Mitchell was the kind of guy who had to be first in everything he did. As an example when they were five Mitchell pushed kids out of the way when they were at Birthday parties playing musical chairs. His family was Cohens,(descendants of Holy Priests) and as a result, he believed he and his family were the most important people in the Synagogue.
Every Saturday, Mitchell would wear the nicest yarmulke (skull cap) and tallis. He would be at the synagogue early and would tell the Rabbi that he wanted to lead the services. If somebody else (Alan Samuels) was asked to lead, Mitchell would throw a Hissy fit and be miserable.
In Hebrew School, Mitchell knew everything about everything and if he was corrected by a teacher, he argued. He wasn’t the nicest guy around but his Father adored him. His Dad would often say ‘’Mitch, being a Cohen is a special privilege and honour, never take it for granted.
During High School after his Bar Mitzvah, Mitchell Fink stopped coming to shul on Saturdays. Alan Samuels kept going and he was frustrated as they often had nine men and needed ten for a minyan. He asked Mitchell about it and was laughed at. ‘’Who needs Synagogue, I’m on the ski team and I’m training. My Dad goes, so who cares if I’m there. I have more important things to do.’’
Mitchell still showed up at the High Holidays, but Alan Samuels noticed small changes. He was in the same English class as Mitchell in Grade ten and the English teacher was a real anti-semite. He made a few derogatory remarks about Jews when they were studying the Merchant of Venice. Alan spoke up and told him he thought his comments were wrong and ignorant. The teacher got upset and started to yell at Alan for his audacity in chastising him. Alan simply stood up and walked out of the class and went to the Principal’s office to report the situation. The Principal was outraged and went with Alan back to the class. In front of all the students in the class, she asked the teacher, Ian Handson if he had made those comments. He said yes, but not in the context Alan was reporting, he was being facetious. The principal looked at Mitchell Fink and asked him what he thought. All of Mitchell’s friends on the ski team looked and listened as Mitchell looked around and responded ‘’Álan needs to chill out, Mr. Handson didn’t mean anything bad, Samuels just overreacted.’’ The Principal asked Alan to join her in the hall and said that since Mitchell wasn’t offended there was nothing she could do. Alan went back into the class and the other students gave him a hard time while Ian Handson stood at the front laughing. The anti-semitic insults came fast and furious and instead of reacting, Mitchell Fink sat quietly at his desk.
Over the next couple of years, Mitchell didn’t attend one Jewish event at the Synagogue. When a high profile baseball player came to talk about being Jewish and making the World series, the Shul was packed but Mitchell was a no show. When Alan saw him at school and told Mitchell how outstanding the baseball player had been, Mitchell responded by telling Alan to get lost, he wasn’t interested.
For his last year of High School, Mitchell was selected to go on an exchange program. It was for the full year. Mitchell’s Father organized a special Shabbos kiddish for him the week before he was to leave. The synagogue was packed with good wishers, but Mitchell never showed up.
Alan Samuels lost track of Mitchell but received a call while he was in University that Mitchell’s Father had passed. Alan came home to attend the funeral and go to the Shiva house. At the funeral, Mitchell talked about what an inspiration his Father was. How good in business he was. How he cared about his family, but not one word about being a proud Cohen and proudly Jewish.
After the cemetery, Alan went back to the Fink’s house with his parents. Deepest Condolences were given to Mrs. Fink and her only son Mitchell. The Rabbi said there would be services every morning and every night for seven days. Mitchell looked at him quizzically. He said ‘’That’s nice Rabbi if my Mom is into it, but I’m heading back to school tomorrow. I’ve got things I need to do.’’ When Mrs. Fink tried to talk to him, he smiled and said ‘’You do the mourning, I have other obligations’’ and he walked away leaving her standing, cying. Mitchell Fink had become a first-class shmuck.
Alan Samuels actually missed classes so he could go to the Shiva house to honour Mr. Fink’s memory. When she stood up Mrs. Fink was grateful and appreciative, that strangers showed up to honour her late husband.
Three months later in a private ceremony, Mitchell married a girl he had met while on his High School exchange program in Switzerland. The service was done by the Justice of the Peace.
Twenty-five years passed before Alan Samuels heard anything about Mitchell Fink. He had been invited to watch a horrendously anti-Israel video. It was created for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Alan was watching it when a young woman talking to another young woman said that it would be interesting to get her Father’s opinion of Israel because he was born a Jew. There he was Mitchell Fink sitting behind a desk. When the girl said all of her friends were supporting BDS and what did he think of it, Mitchell Fink once more disappointed. He gave a scathing comment about Israel and then smiled for the camera. Alan felt like throwing up. The guy had become a bigger Fink and a bigger Shmuck. What the hell had happened to him?
A couple of years later Alan’s son married a very lovely Jewish girl who was a Doctor. She dealt with patients who had hip injuries and she told Alan one of her patients was from his hometown, a guy named Mitchell Fink. He was in the hospital and wasn’t doing well. Alan decided to go visit him even though his internal voice told him it was a mistake.
When Alan walked into the room, Mitchell Fink saw him and didn’t respond. Alan Samuels told him he had heard about his health issues and wanted to wish him a full recovery and that he would be making Mischibarachs or Prayers for him to get well soon.
Mitchell was indignant ‘’I don’t need your prayers, I didn’t need your visit, you need to leave, I don’t need your kind around me.’’ Alan looked at him, really looked at him ‘When we were kids, we used to go to Synagogue and you were so proud to be a Cohen and your Dad was so proud of you. What in Hell happened to you? You have become such a self-hating Jew and I can’t figure it out. When I needed you to stand up to an Anti-Semitic teacher you turned your back on me, you threw me to the wolves. When your Mom needed you to say Kaddish (the memorial prayer) for your Dad you turned your back on her. You go on documentary and condemn Israel for BDS, so you help all the enemies of the only Jewish State, I come to visit you and you’re an ignorant bastard and tell me you don’t need my kind. What is my kind? You know I’m leaving Mitchell but you should be careful because my kind is your Doctor. I hope I never see you again. It was a mistake visiting you because you reminded me of what a shit you are. Go Fuck yourself, Whatever you wish for my kind I wish double for you and your family.’’ Mitchell yelled back ‘’I didn’t ask to be Jewish’’. Alan stopped at the door and once again stared at him. ‘’We make up less than a quarter of a percent of the world’s population. We deal with anti-semitism every day, we deal with Anti-Israel rhetoric all the time, and you didn’t ask to be Jewish. Let me tell you something asshat. You can convert, you can hate, you can deny, you can hide, you can be ignorant, but you were born Jewish and even when you die, you’ll still be a Jew, even if you’re a rotten son of a bitch. So good luck with your self-hate, just remember one thing, we are a lot better off without jerks like you, we have enough shit to contend with from outside we don’t need losers like you on the inside. Oh yeah one last thing, I should have punched your lights out when I was five years old and you pushed me off the chair at Joannie Spring’s Birthday party.’’
Alan Samuels left the room and never looked back even though he could hear Mitchell calling his name.
Two years later, almost to the date, there were rockets being fired from Lebanon into civilian areas in Israel and the local news team was asking people on the street for their thoughts. Alan had a knot in his stomach when he saw a familiar face ready to answer the question. It was Mitchell Fink and Alan braced himself for a slew of invectives. ‘’As a sovereign nation that is constantly under attack from neighbours who want to destroy her, I think Israel has every right to defend herself.’’ Alan was in shock. Mitchell Fink had actually said something that wasn’t anti-Israel. He wondered if his yelling at Mitchell that day in the hospital had caused him to adjust his thinking, it didn’t matter he didn’t provide any kind of fodder for Israel’s enemies. Mitchell’s Father would have been proud.
Over the next few months and years Alan didn’t hear or see anything about Mitchell Fink but he took solace in knowing the last comments he had heard from the guy were pro-Israel. It was a much easier way to think about the man.