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Harriet Berkal
photo by Megan Wilson

 
HARRIET BERKAL: THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT BEING A RABBI’S DAUGHTER WE’RE JUST HUMAN

by Harriet Berkal, March 10, 2017

Had my beloved father been a plumber, a car salesman, an insurance agent, doctor or a lawyer, my life would have been dramatically different. Why?  The other professions don’t attach any social/ sexual connotations to the offspring of these individuals. Clergy on the other hand, take on this god like presence, which gets transmitted, to their kids one way or another.

 

Of course I can only attest to  my own experience as the child of  a Rabbi , and other children of clergy may have had different experiences than I have had.  

 

I adored my dad who worked all the time and was well loved by the community at large and quickly I figured out that in order to spend time with him, I’d have to hang around the synagogue more. My solution was to join the junior choir and went with him every Saturday morning. We left quite early so no one would know that he had driven his car, as our home was a good distance to walk to shule and we were always the last to leave. But there was a price to being a Rabbi’s daughter that is worth conveying.

 

I noticed this unique status at a very early age that I was expected to act in a certain manner akin to my dad, by friends, teachers and numerous others. There was an expectation that I shouldn’t swear, drink, try drugs or be sexually active until marriage to a nice Jewish boy – nothing less. 

 

This unique status  was so notable that  I encountered situations where EVEN non-Jews heard that my Dad was a Rabbi, I sensed that they would  alter their behavior around me. It’s as if they assumed I was keeping track of them for admittance to heaven via osmosis. How ridiculous is that? But true enough it happened over and over again. 

 

The first words that came out of the mouth of my husband’s friend at the time  upon meeting me when I was living with Larry before marrying, were: “ The Rabbi’s daughter – is she really that PURE?” It was an ignorant and insensitive comment and it hurt my soul. We both took offence to that comment but it wasn’t worth the confrontation with him. (As an aside, I am fairly certain that my folks weren't too thrilled with us living together but they adored Larry and he was Jewish)

 

Acting out in a rebellious fashion might reflect poorly upon my father and could potentially jeopardize his relationship at the synagogue. So you either towed the party line, or acted out in a low-key manner. But the question begs: “Is it fair to judge me or any other “PK” (preacher’s kid) just because of  a father’s  chosen profession? No it is not!

  

 

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