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Texas Schindler

by Ted Roberts

  

Library » History » Holocaust | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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I’m in a doctor’s waiting room in Huntsville, Alabama, the very buckle of the Bible Belt. I’m leafing through episodes in the life of Elisha, the Prophet, instead of reading about bodily improvements in Cosmopolitan. The Book of Books sits right there on the coffee table along with its trendy companions.

It’s a brief wait. I don’t even get to finish the story in Kings II, about Elisha causing an ax head to float to the surface of the Jordan River. The nurse calls me into the business end of the suite and the doctor—let’s call him O’Neil—checks me out. Later, as I dress, he notices my Jewish Community T-shirt.

“Oh, you’re Jewish. I’m Irish.”

He hesitates. O’Neil is normally a quiet man who doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. I can see that he’s deliberating, considering whether or not to share the thoughts that are visible on his face.

Ya know, a Rabbi blessed my Daddy just before he died; and a Jewish boy who rose to be President of Midwest Grain came to my Daddy's wake
I encourage him by using the old psychotherapeutic technique of neutral repetition.

“Oh, so you’re Irish. That’s nice.”

“Yeah,” he says. “Ya know, a Rabbi blessed my Daddy just before he died; and a Jewish boy who rose to be President of Midwest Grain came to my Daddy’s wake.”

Here it comes, and it sounds like a good one.

“We lived in a dusty, little town twenty miles from Galveston. My Daddy was the head accountant—you might call him the office manager—for Midwest Grain Corporation. It was a good job in the late 30s—plenty of groceries for the family.

“Anyhow, in our town there was an old Jewish guy. I’d often see him on the street, dressed all in black, full gray beard. Instead of a Stetson, he wore a wide-brimmed black hat. Can you imagine walking around in a black suit in a hot, South Texas town where the river dries up in July? I never understood that.

“Well, seems like most every weekend, Daddy would go visit the fellow with the beard. Me and my brother and sister, we’d stay in the car and listen to the insect noises that filled the night. Daddy would stay in the house about an hour. He never said what they talked about, but one thing I remember is he always came back to the car with a handful of papers.


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