The Fourth of July is the result of the undaunted efforts and unyielding commitment of our American forefathers. They worked through animosity, trepidation and at a great risk to their lives to succeed in establishing this great country.
The first official Fourth of July party was held at the White House in 1801, although Independence Day was not declared a national holiday until 1941. And I bet you didn’t know that the stars on the original American flag were in a circle, so all the colonies would appear equal.
In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the new nation. In 2017, there were over 325 million. Many of those were immigrants, like my husband’s dad, Miklosh Joszef a”h. After surviving the Holocaust, he arrived in America penniless and alone, having lost his entire family in the concentration camps. He worked as a factory worker before seizing the opportunity to start his own business and live the American dream.
He was always proud and grateful to be an American citizen. He loved everything about America, took his citizenship very seriously, and never missed an opportunity to exercise his right to vote. He also loved the fun and leisure that our wonderful country provides.
One of Mr. Joszef’s greatest pleasures was taking my husband Jerry, his brother Seme, and a bunch of their friends to Yankee Stadium, where they would view the game in $1.50 unreserved seats in the right field upper deck. Rumor had it that those tiny figures down below were actually playing a Major League baseball game.
On their first trip to the stadium, Mickey Mantle hit a home run into their section to win the game. Jerry’s love for Mantle has never abated since.
When the national anthem was sung, Jerry’s dad placed his hat over his heart and proudly sang along with patriotic zeal, and with perfect allegiance to the phonetic sounds that made up the words he did not know. He had a vocabulary all his own.
One of my favorite stories is that of Jerry’s first drive to the Catskills. With his dad’s directions, he headed north and became hopelessly lost. He spotted a police officer and asked where the Top and Center Bridge was. “There is no such bridge,” was the reply.
Jerry said that was impossible, as his dad was great with directions and never got lost (a skill he had not inherited). The officer asked where he was headed.
“The country,” Jerry replied.
“What country?” the police officer asked.
“You know, the country. Everyone goes up to the country in the summer.”
The officer was still not sure what Jerry meant, so Jerry clarified: “The mountains, you know what I mean now?” After a while, the officer realized his dad must have meant the Tappan Zee.
Jerry’s mom and dad loved to take road trips through the U.S. to see as much of it as possible. They would travel to New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, where they would visit “The Gilligan Mountains” (Killington). They would go to the opera, ballet and the theater. But Jerry and his brother much preferred going to the “mountains” and spending time in Turkin’s bungalow colony, a well-known vacation destination. There, every Sunday, his dad would ferry several carloads of kids to the movies. He was the only one who had a car, and he didn’t want to leave any kids out, so he would make a few trips.
Until Jerry was in his teens, he didn’t realize that there were actual start times to the movies. They would just get there, start watching the movie, and stay for the next performance to watch what they missed. Then in the middle, they would all stand up, exclaim how great the movie was, and then leave the theater. I promise,these are all true stories. Just ask Sol Genuth, Neil Stein, Ira Grosser, Bob Gittleman, and Rabbi Yotav Eliach, who knew Jerry’s parents back then.
This 4th of July, why not try this easy to make stars and stripes pie? It’s a creative end to a patriotic day.
Patriotic Cherry Berry Pie
1 can cherry pie filling
12 ounces frozen mixed berries, drained
2 pie crusts (one for trim on top)
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cherry pie filling and mixed berries. Set aside.
Unfold bottom crust onto floured pie dish. Pour berry filling into the piecrust. Roll out second piecrust on a floured surface and cut 3 half-inch-wide strips that will reach from the middle of the pie to the side, and 3 strips that will reach from side to side. With remaining dough, cut out 5 stars, each the size of a quarter. Place them in the upper left corner of the pie top and then attach the strips, following the picture as a guide.
Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Reduce oven to 350 F. Bake until berry filling starts bubbling in the middle of the pie. If dough starts to brown too quickly, cover lightly with aluminum. Let cool completely before serving.
And whether you’re staying home, going to friends or family, traveling via the Top and Center Bridge, or enjoying the beauty of the Gilligan Mountains, take a moment to thank Hashem, our founding fathers, and the many heroes who sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom.
This column originally appeared in 2012.