“One day Harry rode the train home to Queens, working up the nerve to talk to his father about something important. At home he found his father davening, wrapped in a tallis, lost in prayer. When Benjamin opened his eyes he was delighted to see his only son, his college boy, standing before him.
Harry told his father he would no longer keep kosher, no longer pray, no longer spend Friday nights at shul. Because he just didn’t believe. Not in the teachings he was brought up with, not in the Torah, not even in God.
He braced for his father’s reaction.
I’ve often imagined the weight of this moment, too. The guilt of knowing what your parents sacrificed to escape oppression, how hard they worked to preserve their way of life in the New World, how carefully they taught their beliefs to their children. And knowing that across the ocean in their homelands, at that very moment, the political climate was turning, and your people were starting to disappear.
But safe in New York, my great-grandfather looked up and smiled at his only son and said the immortal words: “The only sin would be to pretend.”
Decades later, by the time this story was passed down to me in vivid color through my mother’s impeccable storytelling, those words had become a kind of family mantra.”
by Sasha Sagan in For Small Creatures Such as We