Monday, January 2, 2012

My Mother Recalls a Lesson She Learned from Her Father, Jacob Marateck

My mother has been recording her memories in a series of essays. This is excerpted from one she wrote about her father's impact on her life.

Leviticus 19:16 "Do not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed"

"...I was a student at Hunter College, taking classes at night. I had planned to attend a lecture after class at the Young Israel Adult Institute in lower Manhattan, and one of my fellow students expressed interest in coming with me.

"We took the subway downtown. The subway car was half empty. We were sitting and chatting when, suddenly, the door connected the cars burst open and an agitated, almost incoherent man staggered in. He cried, 'Ayudame, ayudame!' Fortunately, I was studying Spanish at the time and, though never a great language student, I knew it meant, 'Help me, help me!' People started to get up when they saw him and I assumed they were coming to his aid. Instead, every single one of them fled to the other end of the subway car. Without stopping to think, I ran to help him in whatever way I could, trying to calm the man and getting him to sit down to catch his breath. The young man I was with kept insisting, 'Get away from him! Don't be so stupid! We're getting off at the  next stop!' He kept tugging at my coat sleeve, trying to get me to come with him. By this time, agitated myself, I yanked his arm off and yelled, 'If you're not going to help, leave me alone!' He finally did, and as soon as the train stopped at the next station, he got off and so did most of the other passengers. The ones who remained pretended to be oblivious, reading their newspapers or faking dozing.

I put my arm around the poor man and helped him out of the train at the next station. To my dismay, the platform was totally deserted. There were no cell phones then, no guards on the trains. I realized that there had to be a ticket booth where people could buy subway token. There was, and a woman was in the booth. By this time, the man had told me that he had been stabbed. I asked her to please, please call the police and get him help as he was wounded. She took her sweet time, and, looking at the victim with contempt, muttered something nasty under her breath. I had to threaten to report her to her supervisor before she deigned to pick up the phone.

"After what seemed like hours, a police officer finally showed up. He also was in no hurry to administer first aid and get the man to an emergency room. Finally, he agreed, and took the man up the steps to the street. What happened to that poor man after that, I had no way of knowing.

"It was pretty late by then (I never did get to that lecture) so I went home. I found my parents drinking tea in the kitchen. Not wanting to arm them, I said, "I just had an interesting experience.'

"I can see,' my father replied. 'You have blood on your coat.'

"Once they saw that I was not injured, I was able to tell them what had happened, knowing that I would not be criticized for my impulsive behavior. For we were raised to do what we knew in our heart was right, even if it did not make us popular. Looking back at it today, I realize my parents gave us a great gift."

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