StoryCorps: A Family Who Skipped Yom Kippur To Repent In Their Own Way Bernie Feldstein created "Amnesty Day," a tradition he started so his kids could confess anything without punishment. "I just wanted you to feel that you could share anything with me," he told them.

'A Great Burden Was Lifted': A Father's Made-Up Day Of Forgiveness

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Yom Kippur was this week - the Jewish Day of Atonement. So today for StoryCorps, we hear from a family who came up with their own way to repent.

BERNIE FELDSTEIN: So we had, in our family, an amnesty day.

VICKIE FELDSTEIN: (Laughter) I didn't think I needed Amnesty Day.

B FELDSTEIN: No, but your brother sure did. So he could say anything, and there would be no retribution of any kind - no condemnation or discussion.

MARTIN: That's Vickie Feldstein with her dad, Bernie. She grew up in Newton, Mass., in the late 1960s with her brother, Michael, who also came to StoryCorps with her dad. And Michael gave an example of a childhood prank that he didn't think his father would ever forgive, not even on Amnesty Day.

MICHAEL FELDSTEIN: One of the ones that I don't think I ever told you was there were crab apples that were pretty big in our backyard. And so, we would take them and throw them as far as we could into the neighbor's backyard. They had this glass porch. And I hit one of these windows perfectly, And all 20 windows fell to the ground and smashed. And we just ran.

B FELDSTEIN: Well, wait a minute. This is a new one, I'm not sure that there's a statute of limitations on this.

M FELDSTEIN: Yeah, that's not going to happen. Amnesty Day ended when I was 15. And then, the time I was probably about 8 or 9. We used to keep baskets in the bathroom, and so I thought it was kind of cool lighting toilet paper on fire in a toilet. When I had a fire going, it was up like a foot, foot and a half, and it was going pretty good. And I flushed it, no problem. And I looked, and the toilet seat was burned. So I remember running downstairs and getting the watercolors and then trying to watercolor paint the toilet seat.

B FELDSTEIN: When I was a little bit older than that, I had some firecrackers - I lived in an apartment in the Bronx with my folks - and I got scared, and I dropped it. And it dropped on the dining room table, and it burned a hole in it. And I painted it to match, and it didn't match well. So I did exactly the same thing. Three days later, my father looks at me and he goes, OK, what is it? You haven't been eating right, you don't look right, you can't smile? Something's up.

So I showed it to him. He said, you think the world's going to come to an end because there's a hole in a kitchen table? What's the matter with you? Once I let it out, it was like a great burden was lifted. I think this is the genesis, really, of Amnesty Day. I remembered what it was like to carry around guilt for having done something wrong and be hiding it. I just wanted you to feel that you could share anything with me and that you'd find support for life.


MARTIN: Bernie Feldstein talking with his son, Michael. We also heard from Vickie Feldstein, Bernie's daughter. Their interviews will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

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