Until the mid-1900s there was a flourishing “Yiddish Theater,” mostly along Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue. I was two generations removed from the Yiddish language, but I fell in love with everything about the Yiddish Theater when I learned a marquee in its heyday had once blurted out “Velvele Shakespeare; iberzetsed un farbessert vun Aaron Goldberg.”
That means, “William Shakespeare; translated and improved by Aaron Goldberg!”
The following column is not mine. At least the important part – the story – is not. It was by Bob Considine, a genius of a communicator who wrote it around 1950. It blew me 300 yards down the middle of the fairway, and I told him I would do my best to make sure that column lasted at least as long as I did. He laughed and thanked me. I call that “permission to retell the tale.” So, if columns had marquees, this one would read, “Bob Considine; as remembered and hopefully not too messed up by Barry Farber.”
Jesus Christ in his heavenly headquarters was tired and obviously overworked. He stood before the giant picture window overlooking the universe and tried to decide where to take a vacation. A blue cinder revolving around a far-off sun attracted His attention and reminded Him of His short time there as a child and man. He remembered its name: “Earth.”
His mother was skeptical. “You can’t remember the trouble we had getting accommodations down there. We had to make do with a manger!” He smiled and reminded Her a lot of changes can take place over 2,000 years, and He asked His transportation team of archangels to spirit Him as far as New York and He’d take it from there.
After a quick shopping trip for some appropriate clothes He hopped a flight for Gold Beach, Fla. The first four hotels were full, and rather snooty about it. A doorman at the last hotel was touched by the kindness in His face and said, “You might try a motel, Mack. They’re not so hoity-toity.” And, sure enough, He not only got a room, but an invitation to a cocktail party that evening, Christmas Eve. Apparently they were on the lookout for an “extra man,” and Jesus, though He looked a trifle out-of-place, was fine for the mission.
He was fascinated by the conversation at the party. Certain political events had captivated the men, and fashion events the women. Finally one of the men asked the Stranger’s name. The crowd noise prevented any comprehension or reaction. Then, just before the party was supposed to move on to the exclusive Wampum Club, someone asked where He was from.
“Well,” replied Jesus, “Originally, Bethlehem. It’s a small place.” “Bethlehem,” boomed another male voice. “Great place. Used to spend a lot of time there when I was in steel. Fine town.” “Then,” Jesus continued, “we moved to a place called Nazareth and finally to Jerusalem.” That entire portion of the room fell silent. The host was the first to regain his footing and ordered another round of drinks. Once the cocktail party buzz had re-gathered its energy, the host took the Stranger by the arm and led him into an adjoining sitting room.
“Very interesting,” he said, billowing smoke from a cigar. “Bethlehem. Nazareth. Jerusalem. What was your profession?” “I was a carpenter in those days,” He said with a smile. “Then I sort of ‘went on the road’ as you say.” “Salesman?” asked the host. “Yes,” replied Jesus. “I guess you could call it that.” “We though you were some sort of a writer, with the beard.” “No,” said Jesus. “I never got around to that, but I did have quite a few speaking engagements.”
The host thought for quite a long time. Then he said, “Look. I really hope you won’t be offended, but we have to face facts here in Gold Beach.
“Are you Jewish?”
“Yes,” replied the Stranger with a smile.
The host wheezed unhappily. “We’d counted on you being our extra man at the Wampum tonight, but, sorry; it can’t be done. There’s a rule, see? Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it. If I bring you and they find out, they’ll ask me to resign from the club. It’s the oldest and best club around here, and we have to live here, see?”
The host’s wife hovered over the conversation like a helicopter gunship. “We’re late, Horace,” she said. “Say goodnight to your friend. You know how they are about holding tables at the club on Christmas Eve!”
The guests piled out into their convertibles and limos. The host stayed behind, thrust his arm around the Stranger and said, “No hard feelings,” “No” responded a smiling Jesus. “No hard feelings.”
Now He was alone in the now-darkened streets. The air was tender, and the palms – they reminded Him of the palms He’d known as a child; the palms He had known for one brief Sunday as a man.
“Maybe a little more time,” said a still-smiling Jesus as He called for His inter-galactic taxi. “Maybe a little more time!”