Years ago, a young African-American, the grandson of slaves, was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant; his mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother.
Early in life, he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids, he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were the coins that were thrown to them. A Jewish family living in New Orleans, the Karnofskys, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity on the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home to feed this hungry child. Initially, he was given house chores which he gratefully performed. He remained and slept in this Jewish family’s home where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness.
When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang to him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in the Jewish families. They sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as the song, “Saint James Infirmary,” and “Go Down Moses.”
The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and said that in this family he had learned “how to live a real life with determination.” You still may not be able to guess who this young boy was, but I’m sure you’ll recognize the name: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Armstrong would always tell everyone that he proudly spoke fluent Yiddish!
We may not be so fortunate as to rescue such a talented young person from the streets but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many who have run away from homes where they experienced poverty and abuse. That’s why we should applaud every family that opens their doors as foster homes. Pray for them and pray for those in their care. Who knows, there may be another Louis Armstrong out there. – Dr. Robert R Seyda