Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kasher in the Rye

     I just finished reading the book Kasher in the Rye, the true tale of a White Boy from Oakland who Became a Drug Addict , Criminal, a Mental Patient and then turned 16. by Moshe Kasher.  What an amazing tale.
      Moshe Kasher is the hearing son of deaf parents who divorced when he was  small and lived most of the year with his mother in Oakland, California and spent summers with his father in the Satmar, Seagate , Brooklyn. His father became more religious after divorcing Kasher's mother and ended up marrying a divorced, deaf , Satmar woman . Since she was deaf and divorced  it was okay that Kasher's father was b.t.
      When Kasher was 12 years old he fell in with a bad crowd and became a drug addict. He was thrown out of too many schools to count. He was thrown out of rehab. He was in mental institutions. Throughout all of this his parents, especially his mother tried to get him help and keep him in school. After many failed attempts he finally becomes sober at sixteen. He managed to graduate high school, college , become a deaf interpreter and  is now a stand up comic.
       What is amazing is that he is alive to tell the tale. I think that part of why he survived is due to how much his parents loved him and championed for him throughout his addictions. His mother was downright heroic.
        Kasher's father passed away when he was twenty. When he went to Seagate to sit Shiva they had ten men including his father's deaf best friend . There was a prominent frum Jewish singer at the Shiva who loudly said that the deaf guy does not count toward the minyan and that they needed one more man. Though true, perhaps there was a gentler way to announce this at the Shiva for a deaf man whose not as observant son was in attendance. Kasher was so upset by this that he mentioned this in his book for all to know. It is so important to be sensitive to someone sitting Shiva for a parent. They are already suffering , don't make it worse.    
      I also found it interesting that someone who is a performer would go by the name Moshe. Though he neglected to mention this fun fact in his book, I found the answer in an online interview. Kasher's first name is Mark and his middle name is Moshe. His father had really wanted his first name to be Moshe, but his mother did not . After Kasher recovered from his addiction he wanted to make a clean slate with a new name and decided to go by Moshe. His father and brother always called him Moshe anyway.
     Though Kasher is not currently an Orthodox Jew he has an interesting take on Judaism not to be written off. This book is mostly is not about religion but about his descent and redemption from addiction. It is miraculous that he is alive . I think that this shows that no matter what one goes through it is possible to prevail and survive no matter how far gone one might be. 

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