Essay 1

Jake Brenner 

Personal Narative 

Due 9/18

            My family did not come to America for any happy reason. It was not for the work opportunities or rumors of the streets being paved with gold. Instead, they came to simply be able to continue living their lives. When my family was still in Europe, they were at risk of death. Death due to the persecution of Jews by Hitler and the Nazis. My family came to America three generations ago so that I could live a free life and so that, my parents, and their parents before them could be happy. I will forever be thankful for the bravery that they had and the risk that they took so that my bloodline can survive and thrive.  

            Regardless of the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice it took for my family to make it to this country almost a century ago, for the earlier part of my life I found it very hard to connect to my religion. The countless trips to temple for all the different holidays was always a chore to me, and being the stubborn child that I was, the experience of temple always left a sour taste in my mouth for Judaism as a whole. Overall, the duties of being a Jew were, frankly, boring and I wanted nothing to do with them. 

            As I get older, I have realized that my early animosity against Judaism most likely upset my father. He was the one that always had to push me into going to temple and embrace my religion. After all, it was his grandparents that had come to America in the first place. Clearly, Judaism and its principles were very important in my father’s upbringing. Unfortunately, the same importance did not get passed down to me. 

            Around the time I was 8 or 9 years old, my parents signed me up for Hebrew school. It is very easy to say I was not happy with their decision. For the next 3 years on Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm and Sundays from 9am to 12pm, I was miserable. Sitting in a poorly lit room with horrible temperature control was not the way that I wanted to spend 5 hours of free time every week. It really did seem like all the children in the Hebrew school were not enjoying their time there. The teachers were rather mean with her old croaky voices that snapped if she heard the slightest peep out of a child when a class was supposed to be quiet. My favorite part of Hebrew school was the few people I was able to be friends with, but even so they were hard to connect to and I had very little in common with them. In this way, I feel as if I had a connection to David from “Call it Sleep”. When David came to America, he had trouble connecting with the children at his school[KN1] . I connected with this during my time at Hebrew school because I could not speak Hebrew. Most of the children at my Hebrew school were able to speak Hebrew, and this made me feel ostracized when it came to communicating in the classroom. At times I felt as if I did not belong with them in the school. 

            Finally, my time at Hebrew school was up and it was time, and it was time for my Bar Mitzvah. After months of preparation and memorizing my torah portion I was ready to become a man in the Jewish religion. Leading up to that day I was ready to have my required commitment to Judaism to be over, and to go on with the rest of my life, but when I had arrived at the temple, I felt an hadthis overwhelming sense of belonging[KN2] [KN3] . It had felt as if the same old temple I had been visiting for years before was brighter and the people were genuinely happy to see me. I finally had felt the feeling that my family had wanted me to feel for years. I finally was proud of Judaism. Since that day, Judaism is an additional way that I connect to my immediate and extended family. I will live the rest of my life proud of my religion including the lessons, principles and responsibilities that come with it. 

Hi Jake,

I enjoyed reading your narrative.  Please see my comments in the margins and let me know if you have any questions.  Overall, I think you could have leaned into sensory detail and specific moments of your experience more to tell your story.  Also, while you mention David in your narrative, you could have expanded on your connection to him more by being more specific.  Lastly, while you talk about your experience with Judaism, you don’t address the assignment prompt exactly, which was to either talk about your experience of immigration or to talk about how your culture/religion impacted a parent/child or caregiver/child relationship in your family.

Still, I hope this assignment provided you with an opportunity to reflect on your background, Jake.


Prof N

 [KN1]Here you could have gone into more detail about the sort of trouble David had with the kids in his school by using a concrete example from the book.

 [KN2]Use the straight past tense here rather than the word “had.” Too many “hads” becomes hard to follow.

 [KN3]Do you know why you felt this?  This could have been expanded/explained more.  Here, using sensory detail to describe the synagogue may have helped to convey your experience (and may have also explained why you felt the way you did to yourself).