I could not keep the two quiet…
During my last month at the Centro Colombo Americano, I had Raquel Akerman as my student. She asked me to come to her home to give private classes to her, her husband Isaac, and Edith Cusnir. After we had done a few classes, they asked me to give classes to their sons Sammy (Akerman) and Henry (Cusnir) as well.
Let me tell you: I could not keep those two, Sammy and Henry, quiet at the kitchen table. And then, when I got to the CCH, I discovered that these two were some of the better behaved ones in the Fifth Grade Primary class! Now I had to try to keep some twenty students quiet, all at the same time! In this class, I had some very active students: Carlos Kowalsky and Samuel Witznitzer among them. Active, to say the least. I won’t tell you what they did. But it got interesting. Nowadays, of course, they are wonderful gentlemen and husbands and fathers. Always the best solution for my active CCH students, I say: to get married and have kids of their own.
Some of the students had familiar faces. Take Leon Camhi for example. The year before, Leon was failing one or two subjects, among them English. His father, Jacques Camhi, was on the board and did not want his son to fail the year. So, since Dr. Avella was trying to get me to teach at the school, he gave me a call and put Jacques on the line. I had two weeks to give Leon intensive private classes and teach him everything about English that he had not studied in a year. Sounds like a proper challenge.
The classes at the Camhi home on 106th Street were exciting, and Luis Brandwayn who lived nearby, came over to help size up this gringo teacher. The Camhis had a dog named “Chiquita”. The name reminded me of a commercial in the U.S. for Chiquita Bananas. I thought it was funny. But, then I think some kids started making fun of me. OK, I won’t get into that. (If Leon reads this, he won’t let me forget it).
Pantuflas! Or canoes?
Often it rained the days we had class and by the time I arrived at the home, my shoes were soaked, so Nana, the English grandma, gave me a pair of “pantuflas”. Because of the size of my shoes, Denise called them canoes! (Hey! I have to tell you that my feet are not that big, only medium. I tell some people that I came to Colombia to feel tall. But after you take a look at Arie Reines, you will know that I have failed).
After two weeks of intensive study, Leon still decided to stick around the CCH for one more year. And that was good for me, because he was my palanca and insider connection with the other kids. That way they would be nice to me. The Camhi Connection was critical, not only then in the Colegio Hebreo, but throughout the years.
I was at the Camhi home when our dear Myriam Camhi began baking and selling her cakes from her kitchen with a window in the garage for sales. Can you imagine how I have had to suffer, being invited for Shabat at Myriam Camhi’s home? I was obliged to eat dessert. Then with Moris Sasson and Alfonso Soued and Leon we had a KIBBE festival, with Kibbe Jamba and Kibbe Neyhe. (You can correct me on the spelling).
Basically, the Camhi family adopted me. I will be eternally grateful to them for that. It was all an integral part of my Jewish education.