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The Neilah Jew

Gila Arnold

It was always his reply when they wanted him to do something Jewish — pray in shul, make a kosher wedding. “No, rabbi, I won’t. You see, I’m a Neilah Jew.” He refused to elaborate and he refused to budge. A short fiction story in Family First's special "Before the Gates Close" theme section.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Herman, the Neilah Jew. That’s what Shimon Goldman next door called him. Herman lived alone ever since Ida passed on and his two sons, both married to non-Jews, had moved away. Shimon tried inviting him for a meal, but he always got the same reply. “No, thank you. I’m a Neilah Jew.”

The first Yom Kippur after he had moved in, Shimon had watched with curiosity to see if Herman would, indeed, keep his word about being a Neilah Jew. But he never showed up, so his self-description remained as cryptic as ever.

For the high-spirited Goldman boys, it became a game. Eight-year-old Aharon was convinced that their neighbor was a lamed vavnik who hid in his home, davening for the world’s salvation at Neilah time. Eleven-year-old Avi maintained that  the old man was just making a joke, and that was the view the rest of the family adopted.


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