Being sent to Rabbi Block’s Yeshiva when I was ten years old was a devastating time in my life. It wasn’t that going to a Hebrew School that bothered me, but I found out that at Block’s Yeshiva, the instructions and learning was carried out in Yiddish, a language I have never been able to learn. In fact, languages were my worst subject all through my schooling.
There were two classrooms in the Yeshiva, one conducted by Rabbi Block, teaching the higher grades and at least one more class for tyros. I was placed in Rabbi Block’s class and my initiation to the old-time religious teachings was one that made me want to run away from home. The teachers kept decorum the only way knew and that was with a strap. The teacher would walk up and down the aisle with a strap in his hand anxiously looking for some breach of his rules, such as: talking to your neighbor, mispronouncing or mistranslating the Hebrew words, looking up from your book while someone else was reciting the lesson. The punishment came swift and sudden, and made me more frightened than anything time in my life.
This was no place for me. I think that I had been betrayed by my Grandmother’s second husband. He was a very learned man in the Hebrew language and religious works and had tried to teach me before I was sent to the Yeshiva. He could not speak English and I could not speak Jewish, and he was not allowed to beat me. My Grandmother would have beat him if he tried. I really think he talked to Rabbi Block about my going to the Yeshiva and that way got even with me for the frustration of my not being able to learning from him.
My conflict was resolved when I told my Mother that I was quitting and that there was no punishment that they could give me that could compare with what I had seen in short time (two weeks) at the Yeshiva.
I was enrolled in the Hebrew Educational Alliance where the first language was English.