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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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A four-decade brotherhood

Tags: Columnists Avrum Rosensweig
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When I was young, it was strange to hear that two people had been friends for almost half a century. Now that I’m 51 and have had a friend for the last 42 years, it’s not so difficult to understand this lengthy passing of time and how I am part of it.

My friend is David Nefesh and he lives in Detroit.

On the weekend of Oct. 28, I drove 4-1/2 hours to visit him.

Normally, David drives from Michigan to spend time with me and other Toronto friends.

It was clear, however, that it was time for me to make the trek to hang with David on his own turf.

For those of you who have a longtime friend in another city, you’ll understand how a weekend like this works. The basic idea is to cram as much as you can into hanging time, go to bed late, if at all, and catch up on everything about the other person’s life – past and present.

David and I, therefore, talked about our younger days in Camp Gan Israel in Fenton, Mich. We reviewed how a few years later we spotted each other in the beit hamidrash of Ner Israel Yeshiva College. I called, “Hey Detroit” and he replied, “Hey Kitchener” and we rekindled our friendship.

We shmoozed about our studies in Jerusalem a while later and how we drank a whole lot of café ha’uch and smoked Time cigarettes that year. Those were glorious Stand by Me memories.

On Saturday night, David invited a lovely friend, Cheryl, over to his new home in Berkley. David is a singer/songwriter extraordinary and the three of us sang his songs and kibbitzed about being parents and the travails of life (a common and intense practice among 50-year-olds).

The morning after, we visited David’s parents, Manny and Bessie, in Southfield. It had been many years since I had spent time with them, and I took the opportunity to unleash my obsessive curiosity.

I asked his father about the Gemara (Talmud) Babba Batra he had recently received from his other son, who had travelled to his shtetl in Czechoslovakia.

The Gemara was the one Manny had used as a boy in yeshiva. It had a heart pasted on the front cover. Manny didn’t remember the source of the heart.

I asked Bessie about the perennials she had planted years before and the great joy she got from watching them grow. I asked her what it was like to be a partner in creating 77 descendants – a grand success, as she and Manny had survived the Holocaust.

They are David’s parents, and our discussion intensified my love for my friend.

David gave me a tour of Detroit’s once-majestic downtown, where they are creating farms in place of housing developments. We stopped in front of the empty grassy field where the Detroit Tigers played baseball and Ty Cobb set 90 major league records. 

David and I enjoyed Leo’s chili dogs and cinnamon buns from Zeman’s Bakery. We snapped pictures of each other in front of the Motown Museum and got a glimpse of the Joe Louis sculptured fist hanging proudly near the waterfront.

We have been friends since 1969. Somewhere along the road, David and I became family.

This weekend reunited us. I look forward to another 43 years of friendship with my brother David. It was fine.

To comment, e-mail me at avrum@veahavta.org.

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