April 16, 2011

Part 3: "What do you remember about your religious education growing up in early Levittown?"

Click on photo to enlarge
Levittown Community Church in 1958, not far from the Azalea Road pool.

By Frank Barning, class of 1960

This is the third and probably final story concerning religious education in early Levittown. So it's time to summarize what we've learned.

It strikes me that many of us couldn't wait to sneak out of church, that we were bored and wanted to be elsewhere. Many Catholic kids got out of school early to attend religious instruction, but often never made it there, falling prey to distractions along the way.

Some Protestants as well as Catholics still smart from the memory that their parents made them go to church while mom and dad stayed home, preferring to spend Sunday morning at St. Mattress.

Dewain Lanfear '60 observed that "The mix of religions in Levittown schools has been a source of tolerance throughout my life. It was something our parents who came from a more "ghettoized" city didn't experience."

Your blogger was not aware of much intolerance in early Levittown between fellow students, but when it came to dating, many parents wanted us to stick to our own kind. Unlike today, mixed marriages were rare.

We were touched that Catholic Jimmy Anton '61 helped his best friend, Jay Citrin '60, prepare for his bar mitzvah. That jogged the memory of John Kinstrey '61 who wrote, "I was reminded by Jimmy's comment about sharing one's faith with another how important that was to me as a then Catholic. So I took the Jewish holidays off too."

From Linc Binninger '63: "I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the comments. Very brave of you, Frank, to wade into these possibly treacherous waters." Your blogger was impressed with those willing to share their memories, some of which were painful.

The final group of comments follows:

Tom Murphy, class of 1975
I went to St Bernard's. I remember getting in big trouble with sister Catherine who pulled me by her little clicker out of the class for asking if Christ was Jesus's last name.

Maureen Montoro
Saturday morning catechism classes. I went to Holy Family in Hicksville. Lived in Levittown close to the Hicksville border and would walk most days. I loved the nuns. I remember being so frightened at first from hearing horror stories from some of the kids that went to Catholic school but never had any problems. Remember being so proud making my first communion. Every time I smell carnations it brings me right back to that day. After, when I would receive communion on Sunday mornings Father Donavan would make a funny face at me to try to make me laugh.

Susan Weldon, class of 1960
my father being a jewish athiest and my mother a jewish agnostic did not foster much religiosity in the weldon household, even after my 'bubby' moved in with us. she kept a tiny kosher kitchen upstairs, but was perfectly happy to come down and eat chinese food with the rest of the family.

for some reason, my mother thought we should join the temple (beth el i think) and my brother should be bar mitzvahed. he never forgave my parents for this torture. as we had to pay to join the temple, i was 'encouraged' to take 'confirmation' classes taught by rabbi zion. he was smart and funny and we spent time studying catholicism and protestantism and went to services at churches on the occasional sunday.

when it was time for formal confirmation, rabbi zion told us if we weren't sure we wanted to be confirmed as jews, he would prefer that we not partake in the ceremony and perhaps continued study of various religions would be the right way to proceed. probably the 'continued study' part was what convinced me to declare myself a confirmed jew. as a matter of fact, i was chosen to read my essay aloud at the ceremony.

i cannot remember which of my dahs classmates went to that temple , but i clearly remember leaving some temple on yom kippur with arnie mark, richie bernhardt, warren zaretsky and perhaps perry bernstein to sneak out to eat ---what else---chinese food from the place accross the street.

by the way, when parents found out that rabbi zion thought it was okay not to get confirmed, he got fired.

Larry Bory, class of 1960
My folks were Presbyterians and unfortunately the only church was on Wantagh Avenue in south Levittown. It was a part of my life that no one at school knew about since no DAHS friends went to that church.

Warren Zaretsky, class of 1960
I learned early on that there is no god and that religion is "the opiate of the masses." I also learned that religion is the root cause and irrational justification of personal irresponsibility, authoritarianism, intolerance, hatred, greed, torture, murder, wars, genocide and mass murder. The only good thing to come out of thousands of years of organized religion is Friday night Bingo.

John Kinstrey, class of 1961
Hanging by my ear in the talon grip of Sister Mildred during a catechism class at Holy Family Church. That’s one of my most vivid memories of my religious education. That, and realizing that Latin was the reason No-Doz was invented.

Tom Mitchko and I would ride our bikes on Wednesdays so we could go all the way to HFC which was in Hicksville. As I recall, it wasn’t cool to ride a bike or to have a book bag back then, but we each had a paper route and Wednesdays were always crazy: Butt chewing by “Millie” for being late for catechism; butt chewing by Freddie Jenkins for being late picking up the papers; butt chewing for being late for supper. All this to skip Mr. Fitzpatrick’s Cit Ed class. Go figure.

I realized later in life that I was probably a good Catholic but I was a lousy Christian. I’m glad I realized it before it was too late.

Lillian Smith, class of 1962
We Catholics knew next to nothing about other faiths because there was the threat of going straight to Hell if we so much as entered the church/temple of another religion. I see now, as an adult, how easy it is to be brainwashed, especially when you are young and vulnerable, into believing certain things without actually giving them thought.

We accepted certain doctrines back then, without question. It makes me wonder if I had been a young person living during the years of slavery and black oppression, if I would have been a follower. Or if I would have been a trailblazer, despite the risks, like Harriet Beecher Stowe. It takes a really independent, and strong thinker to row against the tide, especially when you are young and malleable and so very impressionable.

Marti Traystman Welch, class of 1960
I read what was previously written about being from a mixed faith family. My dad was Jewish (non-practicing) and my mother was of some Protestant denomination (also non-practicing.) While I know that there must have been many of us, I didn't know that there were any other families in the area that had the same situation.

The Jewish side of me was the love of some of the food, attending the bar mitzvah of my cousin and knowing some of the traditions associated with the "other side of me."

I was not raised with the synagogue as part of my life and my Christian religious education was provided by a neighbor who took me and my sister to the Levittown Community Church where I learned about religion and the associated traditions. I attended Sunday School until I was about 16 and then church, occasionally.

Thanks for the opportunity to bring up memories.

Send comments to fbarning@yahoo.com

1 comment:

Frank Barning said...

Arnie Galeota, class of 1961

I must add one more comment about the religious segment...I whole heartedly agree with Warren Zaretsky's evaluation of religion...so we'll both go straight to hell but it has been, and still is the number one cause for most of the unrest in the world, directly or indirectly.