Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My first day at Oholei Torah - Levi Keller

Most of my peers spent two years in kindergarten, where I spent only one year, so I wasn’t the sharpest card in the deck by the time I got to Rabbi Kreiner's class. It was a very exciting day: I had a new box full of crayons and pencils and all other kinds of temporarily-thrilling, shiny implements that I would never use. There were a few grand speeches in the big hall, and names were called for what seemed like hours until mine was, and I threaded my way behind a long line of kids to a dank and dingy basement classroom in the hallway adjoining the gym.

The whole process was mysterious, new, thrilling, and even somewhat nerve-wracking, but when I saw Dovid Kreiner, I felt reassured by the familiar face of my brother-in-law. In fact, by the time we were all seated, I felt positively giddy, and I desperately wanted to point out that I know this man in front of the class.

Then he began calling out names: some strange, and many familiar. When he called out the name of one kid sitting near me, I tapped his desk in some idiotic, newly-invented gesture of recognition. Dovid sternly summoned me to the front of the class, and commanded me to stand on his desk and bend over. He then explained that this was an unfortunate but important example. I don't recall whether he hit me hard or lightly, with his hand or with an implement of some sort. All of my senses were overwhelmed by the burning shame, the tears and the constriction in my throat. Perhaps my classmates, some of whom spent two whole years in kindergarden (apparently studying important examples), might have understood exactly what terrible crime I committed, but like I said, I wasn’t the sharpest card in the deck, which may be why I never again trusted a teacher to be fair or kind.

For what it's worth, Dovid Kreiner can be credited for providing me with an accurate introduction to the arbitrary brutality that would permeate my tenure at Oholei Torah.