Queen Esther Helped Me Beat the Draft

In 1966 Tuli (Naph­tali) Kupfer­berg pub­lished “1001 Ways to Beat the Draft”. I acquired a copy, but it was of lit­tle use to me as I was (at least at the time) fair­ly safe with my 2S (stu­dent) defer­ment. A cou­ple of years lat­er while liv­ing by myself in a tiny apart­ment on Bor­land Road near Cal State U at LA I was “invit­ed” by my local draft board for a pre-induc­tion phys­i­cal.

But­tons I wore dur­ing my col­lege years

The event was sched­uled for the day before Purim, a day known as the Fast of Esther (Ta’an­it Ester תַּעֲנִית אֶסְתֵּר). I arose ear­ly, skipped break­fast, and drove to the draft board’s office some­where in down­town LA. When I arrived I joined a num­ber of young men, none of whom I knew, or even looked famil­iar. We were told to strip to our under­wear, put our clothes in cub­bies, and were giv­en lit­tle can­vas draw-string pouch­es to hold our valu­ables (wal­let and keys was all I had).

Stand­ing in a cir­cle fac­ing the cen­ter an offi­cer came around with a doc­tor and admin­is­tered the “cough test” which was my first ever encounter with an inguinal her­nia. This was fol­lowed by some­one else, writ­ing notes on a clip­board who asked each of us in turn:

Do you have any scars or iden­ti­fy­ing marks”.
I replied: “Yes, cir­cum­ci­sion.”
The offi­cer asked me to spell it.
“C I R C U M …”

At that point, the offi­cer real­ized what the scar was and (I guess) decid­ed that it wasn’t suf­fi­cient­ly dis­tinc­tive for his pur­pos­es. He looked at me askance and moved on to the young man stand­ing beside me in the cir­cle.

The fol­low­ing sta­tion on our phys­i­cal exam was upstairs. We stood in line and one by one stepped onto a large scale (about a yard square). When it was my turn, the offi­cer checked my height and adjust­ed the weights so that the bal­ance would show my accu­rate weight. I’ve been rather thin my entire life. (My pedi­a­tri­cian told my par­ents that I was “slen­der”.) At that point in my life, the most I’d ever weighed was 114 lbs. The offi­cer not­ed my weight aloud as “111 lbs.” I stepped off the scale to move onto the next part of the exam, but the offi­cer called me back and asked that I stand on the scale again so he could take anoth­er read­ing. I stepped back on the scale and asked the offi­cer if I should put down the pouch with my valu­ables. He grudg­ing­ly nod­ded his head yes. I put the pouch on a shelf beside the scale and he took his sec­ond read­ing: “110 lbs.”

I don’t remem­ber any­thing about the remain­der of the exam. It turns out that 111 lbs. is the min­i­mum weight require­ment to be draft­ed. I received a 1Y defer­ment, a tem­po­rary phys­i­cal defer­ment. I imag­ine the army thought that some­one might fat­ten me up so I could fight in Viet­nam.

I fast­ed the remain­der of the day. That evening I’m sure I ate some hamen­taschen and may have gained the miss­ing pound then and there.

Short­ly after this expe­ri­ence with my draft board, the sys­tem changed to a lot­tery and my num­ber was unlike­ly to be called.

Thank you, Esther!

This but­ton dates from the Latke–Hamantash Debate dur­ing the 2008 McCain/Obama pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign.

Cook­ies First
(based on the McCain cam­paign slo­gan “Coun­try First”)
Size:1.5″ square
Pin Form:clasp
Print Method:cel­lu­loid
TextCook­ies First

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or they are poked into a cork-board on your wall or col­lect­ed in a jar. If you have any lying around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point, they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see most of the but­tons shared to date.

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