As one grows older, we often look back upon our life for the influences that made us who we are today.
Besides the very dear people in and out of my life, four childhood books stand tall in a prominent place on a shelf where every day I can remember what they have said to me.
Disney’s Cinderella enchanted me until my charming prince turned into a frog and shattered my glass slipper and the marriage I thought was forever didn’t turn into a happily ever after which only made all the acorns that fell on my head feel like doom while my inner Chicken Little ran around screaming, ‘THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!” but then The Little Engine That Could serendipitously crossed my path and when all looked as if it was going downhill, I tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged and Chicken Little and Cinderella made me yell loud and clear “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” and suddenly I was going uphill and Serendipity and I reached the mountain top together and I my light bulb went on to teach me that all things happen for a reason, and this too shall pass, and, I cry, I mourn, I laugh and I learn to eat again.”
As I reflect upon these words that just barreled out of me, I am struck how very Jewish the conclusion is!
It makes me realize how so much of what I think has Jewish implications:
“Is this good for the Jews?”
“OMG, Bernie Madoff is Jewish!”
“Oy vey, is David Berkowitz Jewish? How could a nice Jewish boy be ‘Son of Sam’ and a serial killer?”
(FYI: He was born Richard David Falco and adopted by the Berkowitz family, so he may not have been born Jewish, which could be an emotional relief for many of us!)
And how glad I was to know that Madeleine Albright has Jewish roots!
I can recognize that look from my non-Jewish friends when these kinds of references come up and I see in that look that they are wondering, “WHY does it matter IF they are Jewish or not?”
How do you explain that question to a non-Jew or someone who isn’t a Baby Boomer, like our kids and grandkids?
The truth is, it does matter!
We Jews who take our heritage and culture to heart are hurt when a Jew is pointed out for a discretion and so very honored when a Jew is recognized for his/her accomplishments. I believe the answer is that because we Jews are a community and whether we know the Jew in question or not, he/she reflects our bigger community. We Jews have to stick together, because for the most part, we will always help each other in time of need. We will identify with that other Jew.
But how do you get this across to grandchildren today?
No one ever sat me down and told me this concept but I always knew it. Maybe because at my East Los Angeles junior and senior high schools, circa early 1960s, there were several lunch-time trees where the Hispanic kids ate, the Jewish kids ate and the “sosh (social) kids”—student body officers, football team and cheer leaders, ate.
No one told us to eat in these designated places, we just gravitated there and felt comfortable that it was our place. I know you’re asking “Weren’t there any Jewish “sosh kids?” Yes, there were, some of us who stepped out of the designated places to be editor of the junior and high school papers, marched on Shabbat in competition band parades and sat on Student Council boards. But, at lunch-time, we always went to our tree.
Would I advise my four grandchildren, in today’s world, circa the 21 Century, to purposely congregate with only their Jewish friends?
I can hear my Bubbe saying, “Yes!”
FYI: I couldn’t even date non-Jewish boys and didn’t and haven’t!—but I know from the depths of my heart, my grandkids wouldn’t get the why of this concept, they would think I was prejudiced, racist and a few other meshuggeneh/crazy things!
Oy vey, what’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do?