It was New Year’s Eve and Michael was stuck at home reading. On the last weekend of their vacation, he was assigned to serve at the seven o’clock mass. He didn’t hear anyone calling him from the synagogue, something that he’s been wanting since Sonny tried to urge him to discover Jewish treasure.
Michael asked Father Heaney if the Jews killed Jesus. The priest explained to him that it was actually the Romans who did it and not the Jews. After his conversation with Father Heaney, he went to the synagogue and knocked. The rabbi greeted Michael happily. The rabbi made some hot tea for the two of them.
Michael got curious about the books inside the synagogue. The rabbi introduced himself as Judah Hirsch. He told Michael that he was from Prague, and that it was the most beautiful city in Europe. The rabbi was teaching himself how to speak English but finds it difficult. He negotiated with Michael to teach him English in exchange of him teaching the boy Yiddish.
Notes: His bond with Rabbi Hirsch is getting developed, thanks to his curiosity.
During the month of January, Michael witnessed Mister G’s sons take everything they own and load them all in a truck. He told all of his friends about how it was impossible for the rabbi to be hiding any treasure. The pair tried to convince Michael that all of it might just be a disguise.
An older boy named Frankie McCarthy tried to extort money from the boys, but he was stopped by Mister G, owner of the candy store. Frankie destroyed everything in the store and attacked Mister G, hitting him on the nose. He continued to attack the old guy, and when he was finished, took a pack of Lucky Strikes. Michael didn’t know what to do. He took the nickel from the rabbi and used it to call an ambulance from the pay phone.
Michael had his first Yiddish lesson with the rabbi. He spent the rest of the time telling the rabbi about his life. Michael thought about a lot of things: the dead body he witnessed, his mother, words. The boy had a realization that he wanted to learn Latin so that he could understand what the words at the mass meant. However, he was still more passionate about learning Yiddish instead. To him, it felt like an adventure.
His mother delivered him news that they will be serving as janitors for their building. They won’t have to pay rent, but Michael has to help her out with the duties. She also told him about her other job for the RKO Grandview, assuring her son that they would have an amazing 1947 ahead of them.
Notes: Michael’s longing for his father has led him to try out bonding with someone that can serve as a father figure to him.
The rabbi had plastered markers on his furniture and appliances with the Yiddish and English translation of the names. Michael took a leather-bound book from his shelf and asked him about Prague. The rabbi told him stories about his experiences in Prague. He opened up to Michael about his hardships as a boy, how his mother left him without saying a word. He imagined what would have happened if his own mother left him.
He started wondering about the epic stories that his mother would tell him. He thought about how he couldn’t utter a word when Mister G was being attacked. He couldn’t sleep and decided to read up about Jews instead. He read about the Holocaust and started to wonder how the Jewish people in their area escaped the tragic ordeal.
The next week, the rabbi continued to talk about his life in Prague. The rabbi told him about his encounter with Franz Kafka and his family. Michael asked the rabbi about Josefava. The rabbi changed the subject and continued to speak about Prague. He told Michael about magic, Kaballah, God, and satisfied the boy’s curiosity about his homeland. Then, the rabbi mentioned Rabbi Judah Loew.
Notes: The rabbi started longing for his life in Prague and sharing his stories with Michael.