Stephen G. Esrati

Stephen G. Esrati

I guess I fall into the category of German refugee, even though I was not.> We left Germany early, in 1933, for Palestine. I went to schools in Tel Aviv> through the fourth grade, but was expelled from the fourth grade at a public school, Tel Nordau, because I was given Talmud homework that even an observant adult friend could not do. The problem was this: “You own a farm and own a dog. A chicken crosses into your farm and lays an egg. Your dog kills the chicken. Who owns the egg?”

I came to school the next day without having completed the homework and got kicked out. We left for the United States soon after and arrived in New York on May 20, 1937, as British subjects and Palestinian citizens. I was sent to a New York public school for a few months before an aunt, who worked as a social worker for Selfhelp of Emigres from Central Europe, Inc., sent me off to Manumit. I had loved P.S. 166 and wrote in an essay that I did not want to go to boarding school. Manumit was the fourth fourth grade I attended (Tel Nordau, a private school in Tel Aviv, and P.S. 166 came before). I was housed in a boys’ dorm about a mile from the school house and my counselor was Barney Oster. My teacher was called Russ and he was Albanian-American, and probably a Moslem. My sole memories of my stay at Manumit were taking part in a musical play about slaves in which I had to sing “Let my people go,” a trip to Washington on a decrepit bus with a stay at Valley Forge, and learning to print in what was called manuscript. Since I could hardly speak English and had never learned to write cursive script, I still wrote letters home in Hebrew. My parents were poor as church mice and could send me no money so I used to hassle visitors over to the gas pump where I filled their gas tanks and kept the tips. I contracted measles at Manumit and was moved to the infirmary. Some other boy used to wait for me on the lawn in back of the canteen and beat me up. This happened almost weekly. The only other student I can remember was a girl named Patty. I have photos from Manumit, including the gas pump, the bus, and Russ.

Stephen G. Esrati
Dayton, Ohio