As I picked up my son today after school ended, he told me he’d won an award. He presented me the certificate and I figured it was something like a dime-a-dozen Best Attendance award (forgive my cynicism, Jonah). But when I read it my attitude changed instantly. Jonah, who attends first grade, had been named the Seymour Kaplan Humanitarian of the Year for his class:
For exemplary efforts to improve the quality of school and community life by continually demonstrating those humanitarian attributes which were reflected in the life of Seymour Kaplan.
My wife and I have always known Jonah is an extraordinarily empathic soul. He seems attuned to the moods of others and sensitive to emotional nuance. If someone is feeling down he knows it. If he or someone in his class has been treated unfairly, he feels it and tries to do something about it. He seems like the spirit of his class.
Jonah isn’t drawn to the loud, flashy or popular kids. He’s drawn to the boys and girls like him who are warm, thoughtful and have an emotional core (forgive me for using stuff that borders on jargon–but if you know Jonah you’ll know what I mean).
Students in each class vote on who should receive this award. Then the teachers go over the vote and make a final decision. His teacher said the choice wasn’t even close in Jonah’s case–he was it.
Can I say how proud I am of my son? Or, as the grandmother of an old ex-girlfriend used to say so memorably: “I’m shlepping nachas.” She also used to say: “I’m a nervous rag [wreck].” But don’t get me started on her wonderfully mangled English.
By the way, who was this guy, Seymour Kaplan? This question sent me to Google where, of course, I discovered some fascinating things about the man. He was the Seattle Anti-Defamation League director in the 1960s and was known as both a civil rights and Democratic party activist during the same era. He was a member of the Washington State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1972, Mr. Kaplan received the Washington State Man of the Year Award. Alas, the ADL doesn’t hire people of Mr. Kaplan’s political interests these days as the group has long since ceased its interest in civil rights, except as it pertains to Jews.
This is the first serious award Jonah has won. If you do a web search there are adults who not only list receiving the Kaplan Award, but some who say it was an important moment in their lives.
If you read his widow, Sara Kaplan’s bio you’ll be amazed at what a couple they must’ve been.