I remember that I felt so guilty for my encounter with this rabbi that I literally wore black for most of my life.
You may be thinking what could have happened to her that she had such a strong reaction and the truth is I cannot remember it well, even when I close my eyes and try.
The furthest I can get is that I'm standing in a dark basement, and this man is hugging me.
But regardless of what happened there, it left me with a tremendous sense of guilt.
No matter how angry my mother got on my behalf, it didn't matter.
One time I ran into this rabbi in Monsey, in a pizza store. I had gone there with my father and he was just standing there.
I remember he turned around, and he looked at me with the creepiest, creepiest smile.
Setting me back yet again.
I have family in Monsey and it was around this time that I visited them, and someone I looked up to told me that I looked somewhat heavy.
Well that was all I needed: Now I could focus squarely on losing the offensive weight.
But I never forgot that feeling that the rabbi gave me, that feeling that I was subhuman.
It followed me, and it followed me for a long time.
As you can imagine I became a somewhat angry person.
Even now, when I ask my husband what he thinks my "brand" is, he answers with just one word: "angry."
And it's funny because if you know me in real life, you don't see the anger come out at all.
Except if I see somebody bullying somebody else.
Then my anger really comes out. I can feel it. It's like a cauldron of hot rage boiling and boiling inside of me.
God is merciful and He has blessed me to be surrounded by people who understand me. Not everyone does, but enough.
One of these people, who unfortunately is no longer with us, is my Zayde olov hashalom (may he rest in peace).
We used to visit him and my Bubbie up in Canada.
And you know how it is, the family is all caught up in itself, because there are parental dynamics, and parental with the grandparent dynamics, and Holocaust dynamics, and Chasidish dynamics, and the dynamics of a Chosid marrying someone who is not Chasidish, and then there's sibling dynamics, and the dynamics of me with each parent.
The dynamics of Shabbos, the dynamics of that long car ride up to Toronto.
The only consolation amid all these dynamics was the way my Zayde talked to me.
"Nice girl," he used to say, in that Hungarian accent. "You are a very nice girl."
He didn't have to say very much.
In those few words, my Zayde said everything.
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by Shai Barzilay (Creative Commons/Flickr).