Jack Kamen, was born in 1913 above his father's harness shop in a Yiddish-speaking section of Brooklyn.
In Harnessmaker's Son, Jack weaves his secret for health, happiness, and longevity into dozens of humorous, heartwarming, true stories of life in the early 1900s.
What's the secret? It's his attitude, and it's contagious!
Read it, catch it, pass it on.
"Three Words," the book's first story, is about the highest form of love.
Why doesn't the story contain the word "love?" Because people rarely said "I love you" in those days. They showed it.
While every story in the book is about love, that "three word sentence" is only written once...at the end of the last story.
Not-so-coincidentally, every sentence spoken in this story is three words long.
"Cossacks are coming!" the terrified young man yelled as he ran through the streets of Tagancha. He came from a nearby town that warm summer afternoon in 1902. His relatives were being murdered as he came to warn ours.
"Cossacks are coming!" were the most frightening words imaginable to Russian Jewish peasants.
Cossacks were members of the Tzar's army, but when they rode into a Jewish town everyone knew it meant trouble. It was best to hide until they left.
Most of the homes had dirt floors, but my father's older brother, Yankel, had just built a nicer house. It had a raised wooden floor and porch.
Yankel told everyone to hide under his house, but he stayed outside. He knew the Cossacks would search the house unless they thought it was vacant.
When they arrived, he greeted them.
"Where is everyone?" the leader asked.
"I don't know," were his last words. They killed him and left without searching the house.
Uncle Yankel is remembered for his short lifetime of generosity and caring. We owe our lives to him.
I was named after him when I was born in New York eleven years later. My parents always called me Yankel, although my birth certificate says Jacob, the English translation.
Now, when someone asks me a hard question, I answer with dignity. I stand up straight and proudly repeat Uncle Yankel's heroic words:
"I don't know."
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