The Jewish Partridge by Judy Bolton-Fasman

December 20, 2014 § 5 Comments

Counting our holiday blessings with another Holiday Smile contest entry:

Partridge_(PSF)I was once the flying Jew—the grinning partridge in the pear tree—the star of the 1978 senior class Christmas show at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in West Hartford, Connecticut. For the part, I wore brown polyester clothes from head to toe—clothes that I borrowed from the very hip Sister Pam, dean of students.

I was not the first girl in my Jewish family to go to the nuns. My maternal grandmother was educated at convent schools in Greece. Nuns tutored my mother in Havana. Despite our warm history with Catholicism, celebrating Christmas was completely out of the question for my family.

In my Christmas-less life I was the Mount’s exception to everything. I did not have to wear the school emblem—a cross inside a crown—on my uniform blazer. I didn’t have to go to religion class, although I would have liked to. All of my friends said it was a hoot when the priest talked about sexual morality. During mass I went to study hall with the Protestants. In the spirit of the twelve biblical spies who snuck into Canaan, a couple of giggling girls slipped into the chapel to report on the older nuns sleeping through mass.

When my classmates asked me to be the partridge in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” skit, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t accept the starring role. A sweet tall girl named Denise was my pear tree. The twelfth time I appeared from behind Denise’s trunk, I received a standing ovation.

After the show, I hung up the wings that Sister Pam made for me. But decades later I thank her for giving them to me so that I, the only Jew in my class, could have an aerial view of my two worlds.


Judy Bolton-Fasman has completed a family memoir titled 1735 Asylum Avenue. Her work has appeared in the Rumpus, the New York Times, Salon, Dame Magazine, the Boston Globe and other venues.




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