Brown Paper Bags
OpinionShaindle’s Shpiel

Brown Paper Bags

Shaindle Schmuckler reminds not to judge a book by it's cover.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

There was a time you literally could not tell a book by its cover.

All my school text books were covered in brown paper bags to keep them safe and clean.

Some of my covers were very creative.  Those were the subjects I loved.  Others … not so much.

I learned this is also true for the many people whose paths we cross on our life’s journey.

All my life I had a picture in my head of what frum (religious) women would look like and act like. Boy was I wrong.  I personally know some religious women who are the coolest, worldliest, funniest and most beautiful women I know.

Then there are the folks who are in certain jobs, wearing certain uniforms signifying these jobs. Boy was I wrong again.

So, I am strolling down main street of the MJCCA, chatting it up with Jeffrey, who joined our support services staff about a year ago. Now here is a surprise you are gonna love.

Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins, yes, I said Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins, did indeed join our support services staff approximately one year ago. Jeffrey was one of seven children. When he was 4 years old, his neighbor, the Rubin family’s son, needed someone to intercept letters he was receiving from his girlfriend. He did not want Daddy Rubin to know about these ‘love’ letters. He taught Jeffrey to read in order to pick these letters out of the mailbox before anyone spotted them. Problem solved.   

Jeffrey entered kindergarten already reading. The Rubins, the first Jewish family he knew, were great neighbors and friends. The Rubins influenced Jeffreys’ life in many significant ways. Jeffrey feels blessed to have had them in his life.

In 1976 Jeffrey earned his Ph.D. at the age of 29. He was the first person from Savannah State College, where he earned his M.Ed., to go on to earn a Ph.D., graduating top in his class.

Jeffrey retired from his beloved position as a professor of American history and economics at Savannah State at the young age of 52. For the next eight years, the Savannah Public Library system was clever enough to lure him into a position as library system administrator, while still working as an administrator for a local nursing home.   

Did I mention Jeffrey bought his parents a home in 1965, paying $69.23 a month for many months? His tribute and thank you to the two most inspiring people in his life.

This is not a man to sit on his laurels!

However, he finally acted on an urge to reconnect with his past.

“I felt a pull to return to my Jewish ‘roots.’” Don’t get confused; Jeffrey is not Jewish.  He worked for JEA, the Jewish Educational Alliance for 10 years.

Their loss, our gain.

His children and grandchildren live in Atlanta; he knew this is where he wanted to ‘retire.’  His wife Davida, who is with Emory, and Jeffrey spend every moment available to them with their family.

Jeffrey shared with me what his association with the Jewish people has taught him: “Jewish people set an example for the world – a good education, love and family is most important. Be brave; if you work hard in America, you can be successful. The Jewish people have been good to me and my family”.

Folks, the memory of those brown paper bags I used as book covers came in handy when I met Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins.

Lesson to remember: You can never tell a book by its cover.

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