Melamed Yossel

The author's stern Hebrew school teacher

As we wrote out the lessons, the melamed walked around and watched over our shoulders. He was known a tough disciplinarian. If you made mistakes or worked too slowly you could expect a jab in the ribs from his bony fingers or, worse, a rap across the knuckles with the ruler he carried.

This time as he made his rounds of the classroom, he stopped behind me, leaned in close and whispered, “Stay inside today during the afternoon break. We are going to have a talk about your attitude.”

Gulp! I was in for it now.