Jimmy Breslin: My Word Is My Bond

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky: Passing (it) On

Rabbi Yaakov Bleich: Questions Most Can't Answer

Julia Gorin: Confessions of a Refusenik Gone Secular

Ellen Small: Fireflies Light Up The Sky At Night

Dr. Jacob Mermelstein: Depressed Kids, Good Lives

Josh Pollack: A Divided Cyprus Mounts the World Stage

Nehama C. Nahmoud: The Jews of Yemen

Susan Rubin Weintrob: The Greening of American Jewry

Reader Response

First Person
December 10, 1997 / 11 Kislev, 5758

Promises, Promises

Something's been on Jimmy Breslin's mind of late. He's been avoiding something. We'll let you decide what it is.

ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS. In the evening on Friday, religion shut down Binyamin Jolkovsky, and therefore he could not drive me insane with his phone calls about turning in this story for his on-line magazine. He was in mandatory prayer and not allowed to touch a telephone.

I could do what I wanted. So what if I had promised him that he would have this piece by sundown on Friday at the latest? So I lied. What is that, the end of the world?

Besides, what Binyamin wanted was a story about Jews in New York, and all I know is that, first, I'm married to one, and second, there will be no Jews soon for that very reason. All the Jews and Italians in Brooklyn are getting married to one another and soon there will be no Jews. There will be a lot of women named Naomi who can cook.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling extraordinarily good. The phone was silent. That Binyamin is over there in Brooklyn praying. Good for him. Say a prayer for me. Just don't touch a telephone, Binyamin, or you'll burn in Hell.

I wasn't going to write the piece because I wasn't going to, period. I went out to Aqueduct Race Track and up at the top of the escalator, where they rent field glasses for the clubhouse section, I looked for Joseph. He is the interpreter for Ragozin, who puts out a tout sheet so complicated that even a veteran around race tracks can't make any sense of it. You need his man Joseph to interpret it for you.

The selections are based on bloodlines going back to horses they rode in Jordan and other deserts when the kings were named David.

Ragozin is supposed to be the best around. He is an arrogant Communist who lives on the West Side of Manhattan. If he ever heard I did not follow his selections right down to the last horse, he would badmouth me all over the city.

On this day I was concerned. I wanted to bet a horse in the sixth race, Lonsdale. I liked the workouts as I made them out in the Daily Racing Form. But the horse clearly had the breeding of a barnyard pig and I don't see how Rags, this filthy Communist, and his man, Joseph, would let me bet him.

I got to the binocular stand and I said, "Where is Joseph?"

"He doesn't come here on Saturdays. He is an observant Jew."

"Good for him!" I yelled.

I went inside and played horses and did poorly until the sixth race. All over the track, I saw Irish guys getting killed because they couldn't read Ragozin's sheets correctly. Then I bet Lonsdale nice and he ran second most of the way, but looked good doing it, and then he went on the lead at the top of the stretch and ran home the winner at $29.

I was delighted as I left the race track. It still was Saturday, so I knew Binyamin couldn't call. Good for him. He wants to have a religion on a Saturday. I met my wife and some others and we went out to a play in Manhattan and when I got home I went right to bed.

I woke up Sunday morning and got dressed.

"What happens when Binyamin calls?" my wife asked me. She is a heathen. She does not go to a house of worship on Saturday or Sunday.


"Tell him I went to Sunday Mass like a good Catholic." And that is how I got through the weekend without being bothered by Binyamin Jolkovsky.


Master wordsmith Jimmy Breslin, no saint he, is a columnist at Newsday, the Long Island and Queens daily, and the author of numerous books.

©1997, Jewish World Review