My First Guru, Alfred E. Neuman
A 'nice Jewish boy from Nebraska' becomes a 'mock Christian' and Mad Magazine fan.
BY: Wes 'Scoop' Nisker
I was born and raised as the only Jewish kid in a small Nebraska town, so I was an outsider from the very beginning. Perhaps learning that role in childhood is what eventually led me into league with the radicals and mockers of the world and then into journalism, where I could stand outside and witness the action, and finally into Buddhism, where detachment is considered a state of grace. Could all this have happened because I was the only kid in my hometown who didn't believe in Jesus?
For a while, when I was a young boy, there were just enough Jews in Norfolk, Nebraska, to keep a little synagogue going above the local bakery. As I remember, you walked around behind the bread ovens and up a flight of wooden stairs to a large room with wood-slat walls. At one end of the room stood the Torah and, facing it, a few benches. I can recall the bakery smells wafting up to this makeshift synagogue on Friday nights and making it very difficult to fast on Yom Kippur....
In order to prepare me for my bar mitzvah, my parents hired a traveling rabbi, a Jewish equivalent of the circuit preacher. His name was RabbiFalik
, which may partly explain why he did not have his own pulpit and congregation, was relegated to travel by Greyhound bus through the small towns of Iowa and Nebraska, ministering to the lost Jewish tribes of the American Midwest.
Once a week, the bus would stop right in front of my house, and out would come Rabbi Falik, who looked as though he belonged in a European shtetl, wearing long forelocks and a big black hat and overcoat, even in the summertime. I didn't want my friends to see this medieval-looking man coming to our house, so whenever he was due I would lure them away from the neighborhood and then make up some excuse to run back home just in time to meet the bus and rush Rabbi Falik inside.