The first time I had something published

Hey, it was cool at the time.
Hey, it was cool at the time.

I was 15, a sophomore at Mahopac High School in Putnam County, N.Y. I had a couple of friends, zero game with the girls and—judging by the above photograph—a clumsy affinity for oversized sweat pants with an artificial pair of shorts stitched in.

Wait. I digress.

In December of 1987, my local elementary school—Lakeview—hosted its annual holiday concert. And because I was raised in a lovely place with far too many sheltered ignoramuses, there were complaints that the show (aka: a bunch of kids singing like dying emus) featured too many Jewish tunes and not enough Christmas tunes.

I’m not sure why, but something about that genuinely pissed me off. So I penned my first-ever letter to the editor, and a couple of days later it appeared inside the Reporter Dispatch, our local Gannett daily. That was nothing short of a thrill—my name, my hometown, words I’d typed now being seen all over the county. The comments followed when I attended Sunday school; Jewish parents happy some kid took a stand.

But the best was yet to come. In early January I received a letter from John P. Sheppard, the pastor at a Presbyterian church in nearby Pleasantville. He wrote:

This is well stated—speaking up always makes a difference. People do notice, and are moved to more tolerant positions—even if the movement might be barely perceptible.


John Sheppard

There’s no way the pastor could understand the impact that letter had on a young Jewish kid in Mahopac. But as I sit here some three decades later, stumbling upon the note for the first time in years, the feelings rush back.




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