For Mother’s Day, the Forward challenged you, our readers, to write six-word memoirs encapsulating your mothers — and then we picked 12 winners who penned sweet and silly salutes.
In the process of sifting through your six-word submissions, we learned something important: mommy issues abound in the Jewish world. While most of the memoirs were warm and loving, some were downright disdainful.
Read the Forward’s full coverage of Mother’s Day, from stories to blog posts.
Below, we’ve published the best (or perhaps worst) angst-ridden submissions. We’ve kept the entrants anonymous this time in hopes that they will be able to patch things up with mom later on. Till then, here’s what we discovered:
Some of you think your mother isn’t the brightest crayon in the box:
Yes Mom, I do smoke “marinara.”
Stop texting reminders to call you.
Some of your mothers lay on the guilt and criticism:
Sacrificed her own happiness for ours.
Pressure? Criticism? Guilt? Russian-Jewish mother’s expertise.
Guilt is her paintbrush. Masterpiece. Me.
She expected me to be perfect.
You’re 25! Where are my grandchildren?
That’s not very becoming young lady.
Some of you feel mistreated by your moms:
“My whole family is dead.” Hello??
My mother was an insane monster.
“I’m bored.” “Go play in traffic.”
Mom raged, for she wasn’t adored.
Some of you find your moms supremely irritating:
Mom, why are you so obnoxious?
Listen. Mom is always right. Always.
Mom says, “What’s wrong?” for hello.
Some of you have contentious relationships with your mothers-in-law:
Righteously earned her Gold Meddle Award.
Evidently, I’m not bad for shiksa.
But no matter how you feel about your mother, all of you can probably relate to this one:
It’s complicated, yet I love her.
Are the days numbered for second-class citizenship for women in Israel?
Following two announcements in two days, it seems the exclusion of women from Israel’s public sphere may finally be nearing an end. The Attorney General Wednesday recommended criminalizing behavior that stops women from receiving “public services with equal conditions.” And today, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that she is starting work on the legislation.
Israeli politicians should write Haredim who demand segregated buses a letter of thanks. They have provided them with the ultimate fits-every-occasion always-grabs-a-headline cause for whenever they need a bit of love from liberals or for when news is quiet. Women’s exclusion was never a popular story until it became about the ever catchy “back of the bus” and there is a seemingly endless supply of political points for anyone who condemns them.
But in the past we have seen the issue of gender exclusion disappear from the headlines as suddenly as they appeared. At the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 gender segregation and women’s exclusion topped Israel’s national agenda. “They will be huge issues in the next general election,” went the common prediction. Yet soon after the international community finished its New Year vacation and news picked up again, it became yesterday’s story.
Now, once again, the “back of the bus” story has been wheeled out. The changes being promised are important and welcome. The subject is better for the government than having people talking about Syria or Prisoner X.
But will it survive the next big new story or will it just fade away? Only time will tell.
It’s no surprise that Johns Hopkins geneticist Eran Elhaik stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy with his claim to have debunked the scientific theory that Jews are mostly members of a single race, with origins in the land that is now Israel.
But as Rita Rubin, the science writer who penned the Forward’s piece on the dispute, points out, Elhaik isn’t really saying Jews aren’t a distinct race — he’s questioning which race. And that makes all the difference.
“I think what’s at stake is how we Jews view ourselves,” Rubin told the Forward’s Paul Berger during the paper’s weekly podcast. “The conventional wisdom is that we are a people descended from the indigenous Jews of Judea and Samaria …. This new study says that’s all wrong even though it’s been backed up by well-respected scientists in well-respected journals.”
Elhaik’s study flies in the face of 15 years of studies by notable scientists and geneticists who found that Jews — and Ashkenazi Jews in particular — bear more genetic similarities to fellow Jews than their non-Jewish neighbors.
The theory, most strongly promulgated by Yeshiva University geneticist Harry Ostrer, asserts that Jews are mostly descended from a group of people who lived in what is now Israel during Biblical times. That theory, of course, is a critical emotional and political cornerstone of the Jewish claim to Israel.
In an effort to push forward stalled gun control legislation, Vice President Joe Biden met on Monday at the White House with faith leaders, including three representatives of the Jewish community.
In the meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, Biden discussed at length the current status of the background check legislation which failed its first test in Senate last month. Biden encouraged the group of 22 clergy members to continue their work in all states to make lawmakers know of their support for the legislation. He noted it is still not clear when would be the right time to bring the bill back to a vote on the Senate floor and made clear he believes it would happen only after debate over immigration reform is completed.
The event, organized by the White House office of faith-based initiatives, included Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim religious leaders. The Jewish community was represented by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, Jared Feldman who heads the Washington office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.
“It was an unusual meeting in it duration, intensity and thoughtfulness,” Schonfeld said after the meeting. In the meeting, Rabbi Schonfeld used a Hebrew phrase, roughly translated to “we will cross the bridge when we reach it” to address claims by those who voted against background checks that it will lead to further limitations on gun ownership if passed. “Our country is so divided in anticipatory anxiety,” she said, suggesting that all can agree on background checks and later deal with other aspects of gun control.
In the legendary days of the Yiddish Forward, Ab. Cahan, the founding editor, could leave his office at 175 East Broadway and roam the streets, synagogues, restaurants, schools yards and tenements of the Lower East Side to listen to his readers. And he did, often. It helped him keep a finger on the pulse of his community and enabled the newspaper to directly connect with and reflect the ongoing concerns of his readers’ daily lives.
Now my office is on the eighth floor of a building in Lower Manhattan, largely removed from most of our far-flung readers. But I am able to tap into a virtual Lower East Side in cyberspace — a shtetlsphere, if you will — where engagement with readers can produce an ongoing conversation and some terrific journalism.
That’s what we’ve been doing this year. I hope you’ve noticed.
We began by asking you to nominate your most inspiring rabbi, and the result was a mesmerizing set of profiles of spiritual leadership across the nation. Then we asked for “Six Words on the Jewish Mother” and the result is published in this week’s paper — 18 charming, concise, hilarious odes just in time for Mother’s Day. A similar project for Father’s Day, also in conjunction with Smith Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir®, will commence soon, with a May 29 deadline for submissions.
But before then, we invite you to take part in a different kind of conversation on the brit milah, the circumcision ritual that has been a staple of Jewish life for millennia and is now under assault, from within and beyond our community. It’s a ceremony that inspires emotions ranging from rejoicing to repugnance — with dissonant combinations of everything in between. We would like you, our readers, to share your experiences as parents of a Jewish newborn facing this ancient, primal rite, or as an adult who chose to enter the convenant. Were you conflicted or inspired? Was it a moment of discovery or of disgust? Or did you, perhaps, walk away from it? What were the consequences?
As you can see, our efforts to engage readers span from the celebratory to the serious, as befits a publication that seeks to capture the many facets and challenges of American Jewish life today. Join us.
Welcome, readers! This week’s news quiz will have you kicking yourself — or at least thinking about Jews who kick, even as you also think about the sea, the South, the shekel and… breasts. (If you weren’t already.) Enjoy!
Sid Schwarz’s new book has a rather ambitious title, but then, this rabbi/entrepreneur is a rather ambitious man. In “Jewish Megatrends”, he aspires to do nothing less than, as the subtitle says, chart the course of the American Jewish future. He’s not doing it alone, of course. That’s where I came in.
Schwarz asked me to moderate a panel at the JCC Manhattan with him and just some of the 14 Jewish leaders and thinkers who contributed essay to “Megatrends.” The event took place last night and what could have been an unwieldy gabfest — there were, after all, seven of us with microphones — instead turned into a coherent, stimulating discussion.
The framework was provided by Schwarz when he posits in the book that there are “tribal” Jews and “covenantal” Jews and that American Jews in their 20s, 30s and even 40s are much more the latter than the former. Theoretical attachment to the Jewish people, the state of Israel and the legacy of the Holocaust is no longer enough to get American Jews to join a synagogue and contribute to Federation.
Judaism, he argues, needs to be seen as a path “to help us live lives of sacred purpose.”
And, in what he terms a countercultural statement: “Jewish community should be the place where people and relationships count.”
What if you had to sum up your feelings about your mother in six words? That’s right, exactly six words. No more, no less.
We know, some famous writers take hundreds of pages to work out their mommy issues. But the Forward’s challenge to you, dear readers, is to capture your Jewish mom in a simple six. Consider it the shortest, sweetest Mother’s Day present you could give your yiddishe momme.
The Forward is partnering with Larry Smith, editor of SMITH Magazine, home of the Six-Word Memoir®, in our Mother’s Day challenge. Submit your six-word memoir on your mother or grandmother below before April 24th. Larry and the Forward staff will pick our 12 favorites and publish them in the Forward for Mother’s Day. Those people will receive a copy of the new book “Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life,” published in collaboration with the Jewish cultural mavens at Reboot. We’ll also print another six from noted members of the Jewish community.
For inspiration, here are a few examples about Jewish moms culled from SMITH Magazine’s library of six-word memoirs. For more examples check out smithmag.net/jewish.
Mom and God had boundary issues.
— Marty Kaplan
Cooking chicken soup stirs mother memories.
— Carol Smith
Saying Kaddish. Missing you. Remembering. Remembering.
— Debra Darvick
SMITH Magazine may contact you about inclusion of your Six Words in a future book or other media project.
I have an Orthodox Jewish friend here in New York who is always yapping about Dallas (not the television show).
“The people are so nice,” he says. “The weather is better… The houses are cheaper.” He’s been there only once in his life, but would like nothing more than to find a job northern Texas and move to the city known for Cowboys and (kosher?) Tex-Mex cuisine.
My friend is in his mid-30s, married, and has a soon-to-be 2-year-old son with another on the way. He has a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan and recently had to build a wall in his living room to accommodate for sleeping space for his growing family. He wakes up at dawn to prep his son for daycare and then go to work. After cleaning the apartment until about 1 a.m., he gets about four hours of sleep, if he’s lucky.
It is a life that I could not fathom living at this point. It is also a lifestyle that is increasingly the norm for thousands of young couples in New York, especially observant Jews. That’s why places like Dallas don’t sound so bad after all, even for those accustomed to walking around the corner and finding dozens of options for food, prayer and friends.
The urge to find greener pastures outside the high rent, small space environment of New York was on full display Sunday as the Orthodox Union held its fourth Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair. A record-high 1,300 participants spoke with Jews from places like Portland, Ore., Long Branch, N.J., and yes, even Dallas. There were representatives from 41 cities in 18 states, each touting the myriad advantages of moving there.
Louisville has high tech jobs and 120 years of Jewish roots. “The cost of living and safety is unmatched,” said Brian Wallace, who moved to Kentucky six years ago from Monsey in Rockland County.
On Sunday, April 14, Venezuelans will vote to replace their late president, Hugo Chavez. And while Chavez may have succumbed to cancer last month, his shadow looms large from the grave.
The campaign of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor, continues riding the intense emotions around the longtime strongman’s death. That has made the campaign an uphill battle for Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition leader whose Jewish background has been fodder for ever-escalating levels of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
In previous elections, the tireless Capriles led Venezuela’s opposition to some of its best poll results. Though he’s shrunk Maduro’s lead to 10 points, according to Reuters, many observers believe Chavez’ legacy may prove the election’s deciding factor.
For Venezuela’s Jews, any hope of change means a positive sign. As the Forward reported last month, the late president derided Capriles, whose grandparents were Polish Holocaust survivors, as “imperialist,” a “capitalist,” a “little bourgeois,” and “Zionist.” And a campaign-related article in state media – headlined “The Enemy Is Zionism” – said Capriles “represents Israeli ideology covertly,” according to CNN.
For an inside perspective on what the election could hold for the country as a whole and the Jewish community in particular, the Forward spoke with David Bittan, Caracas-based president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations.
During the Chavez regime, Bittan provided a fearless voice against anti-Semitism. On the night of the death of ‘El Commandante,’ Bittan went on national television to express condolences.
A ho-hum New York City mayoral race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Sext scandal-ridden former congressman Anthony Weiner announced, a few paragraphs into a laudatory New York Times Magazine profile, that he’s considering joining the crowded Democratic field.
That could shake up allegiances among New York City’s political clans, including some city Jews. And analysts warned against betting against Weiner, given his potent resume and proven vote-winning prowess.
“Before his difficulties, before his personal troubles, he was going to be mayor,” said Michael Tobman, a New York City-based political consultant, alluding to the pervading sense prior to Weiner’s 2011 scandal that he was the frontrunner in the mayoral race.
Weiner ceded that leading spot in the Democratic field to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In a race without any Jewish candidates, Quinn and the progressive Public Advocate Bill De Blasio have been contending for the city’s non-Orthodox Jewish votes.
Quinn’s strength is in Manhattan, where her City Council district is located. De Blasio, who previously represented parts of Brooklyn in the City Council, has built support in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Weiner makes trouble for Public Advocate De Blasio and Speaker Quinn,” said Hank Sheinkopf, another New York City political consultant. “He’s got the right name and a history in the outer boroughs, in places where the bulk of the Jews live.”
The sprawling Texas county where two prosecutors have been shot in recent weeks has the unlikeliest of Jewish roots.
Kaufman County, a 780-square-mile jurisdiction just 20 miles southeast of Dallas, is named for David Spangler Kaufman. He holds a place in history books as a lawmaker in the Republic of Texas and was the only Jewish Texan to serve in the U.S. Congress until the 1970s.
The county, in which dog bites and escaped cows usually make up the police blotter, has made national headlines for the shocking recent killings of local law officials. County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death inside their home in the Kaufman County town of Forney on Saturday.
UPDATE: The Texas prosecutor and his wife who were shot at their home on Saturday each suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and sheriff’s deputies found cartridge casings next to their bodies, according to an affidavit reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
On Jan. 31, one of McLelland’s lead prosecutors, Mark E. Hasse, was shot and killed in a parking lot as he strolled to his office at the county courthouse.
The murders took place in an area named for a Jewish pioneer who did his home state proud. According to the Texas State Historical Association, David Spangler Kaufman (1813–1851) was a “lawyer, Indian fighter, and politician.” Pennsylvania-born, Princeton-educated Kaufman began his legal career in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1835. Two years later he settled in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he continued practicing law.
The arguments over Proposition 8 – the California ban on same-sex marriage – gave tantalizing hints about the thinking of Supreme Court justices hearing the case.
After a lawyer in support of the ban, Charles Cooper, argued that procreation and child-rearing were fundamental to a state’s interest in marriage, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought up a previous Supreme Court case in which justices ruled prison inmates have a right to marry even though they may be prevented from procreating, according to the BBC.
“There are lots of people who get married who can’t have children,” Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly told Cooper.
And Justice Anthony Kennedy, often seen as a swing vote, suggested children of same-sex couples would suffer an “immediate legal injury” under the ban.
Despite the intriguing clues, a Jewish leader of the marriage-equality movement cautioned against reading too much into the arguments.
“Today’s argument was lively as the justices grappled with the mix of substantive and procedural questions raised in this challenge to Prop 8.,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told the Forward in an e-mail.
“Now they are going to dig into the mountain of briefs and evidence from a who’s who of America … all showing there is no good reason for denying committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It’s always tempting, and often misleading, to speculate about oral argument, but the truth is that it’s in the opinion-writing and circulating process that the justices reach their result,” said Wolfson, widely regarded as a pioneer in marriage rights in the U.S.
Many analysts said the justices appeared to be considering a narrow ruling in the case and avoiding a pronouncement about whether a fundamental right to gay marriage exists in the constitution.
One day, as I was writing at my desk, the phone rang. From Washington, it was the leader of a Muslim civil-rights organization on the line.
“Rabbi, one of the big airlines just threw a number of imams off the plane because some passengers thought they looked suspicious,” he told me. “We would like to do a ‘pray-in’ at their airport gates here at National Airport in Washington. Can you come?”
Groan. I’m busy. Way behind. Long trip to Washington and back. I open my mouth to say “No.”
But before I can speak, a memory rushes into my head.
I was about seven years old, in 1940 or thereabouts. My grandmother, who had been born in Poland and had come to the United States in 1906 after Cossacks came marauding into her home town and her parents insisted she leave for America, came back from the kosher butcher a few blocks away.
She was half crying but shining through her tears.
“I was in line at the butcher shop, and some of the other women started talking contemptuously about the ‘shvartzes,’” or black people, she related. She told that she interrupted the fellow shoppers: “That’s the way they talked about us in Europe. This is America, and we must not talk like that!”
My grandmother was right, I thought. This is America, and we must not act like that.
I turned back to the Muslim leader on the telephone.
“Yes, of course,” I told him. “When and where do you want me?”
Rabbi Arthur Waskow founded and directs The Shalom Center.
I am lucky to have never heard the word nigger used towards me. As a black woman in the United States this is rare, even rarer since I spent the majority of my childhood summers in rural North Carolina with my mother’s family.
I have vivid memories of riding in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck, red dirt kicking up in clouds behind us. I also remember my cousins telling us to get down in areas where the Klan was known to harass black people. Having no real context for what this meant I followed suit and made my body small and flat against on the floor of the truck’s bed. This happened a few times in my summers in the south, but still I had no experience with the word other than in books.
The first time I heard the N-word used in anger was on a New York subway coming out of the mouth of an Asian teenager a few months ago. He and his mother boarded the crowded train at Canal Street just as an older black man pushed his way onto the train and into the seat the mother was about to take. I was equally annoyed that this man rudely took the seat of an elderly passenger. But I quickly noticed by his erratic gestures that he was mentally ill.
Boiling with anger, the teenager called the man a “dog” and a “nigger.” The man became visibly aggravated and began rocking himself as the teen continued to spew racial insults. The train grew silent and all of the fellow passengers — many of us black and a few Jews in kippahs — looked on in disbelief. None of us said a word. It was their problem not ours.
I’m not sure what I could’ve done to calm the angry teenager down on the subway, but I often wonder if he would’ve stopped his insults if I’d said something. It is for this reason of “saying something” that I often write about the intersections of race and racism that I hear, read about and experience within the Jewish community. It is my hope that raising awareness will lead to change.
That’s why I have written about the word “shvartze.
President Obama’s itinerary for his upcoming visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank contains messages both direct and subtle. And one of the subtler messages seems to be embedded in his decision to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Jerusalem.
In case the intended message passes you by: When President Obama spoke to the Arab world in his June 2009 Cairo speech, Jewish leaders watched warily, and then issued their complaints. Most had to do with the fact that Obama chose to give his first major international speech in Egypt and did not make a stop in Jerusalem while in the region. Others took issue with the President’s strong language against Israel’s settlement activity, and some were bothered by what they saw as Obama’s attempt to ignore Jewish historical ties to the Holy Land.
This argument was based on Obama’s reference, in his speech, to U.S.-Israel ties being cultural and historical in nature and on Obama’s recognition “that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”
By invoking the Holocaust as the root rationale for Israel’s creation, argued Obama’s critics, the president ignored the claims of the Jewish people to the land as something going back to the time of Abraham. Some even claimed that by not mentioning this historical tie, Obama was, in fact, supporting the anti-Zionist narrative, which views the Jews as outsiders who came to Palestine after being chased out of Europe only to make the Palestinians pay for the crimes of the Nazis.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced she was running for mayor Sunday, making official what had been all but acknowledged for months.
In a whistle-stop tour of the city and a new campaign video, Quinn touted her middle-class roots and a campaign agenda that emphasizes housing and education.
If she wins, Quinn would be the first female and also the first gay person to occupy Gracie Mansion.
Quinn has long been considered a frontrunners in the 2013 mayoral race. Yet she faces stiff competition from a large field of Democratic and Republican rivals, many of whom have made strong plays for Jewish votes in a field without a major Jewish candidate.
As City Council speaker, Quinn has opposed a measure that would force New York businesses to offer paid sick leave to their employees. Jewish groups backed the bill, including a long list of prominent New York City rabbis. Many of Quinn’s Democratic opponents support the paid sick leave measure.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death in Caracas today will likely amplify turbulence that’s characterized life in the South American nation since his ascension to power in 1999. Friends I met during a visit to Caracas last month tell me everything – the economy, social stability, livelihoods, diplomatic relations – could be ripe for upheaval.
I’m also wondering what this means for Venezuela’s Jews, most of whom — if they haven’t fled to Miami — live in the capital of Caracas. The Jewish community has fallen to about 10,000 from a peak of 20,000 just before Chavez came to power in 1999.
During my visit, I sought to interview some Jewish Caraquenos about life under Chavez amid reports of rising anti-Semitism. While I was there, JTA reported Chavez had been accused of spying on local Jewish groups.
During last year’s elections, the late president derided opponent Henrique Capriles, whose grandparents were Polish Holocaust survivors, as “imperialist,” a “capitalist,” a “little bourgeois,” and “Zionist”. And a campaign-related article in state media – headlined “The Enemy Is Zionism” – said Capriles “represents Israeli ideology covertly,” according to CNN.
Watching gagmeister Seth MacFarlane’s off-color, take-no-prisoners performance as host of the Oscars on Sunday night and then observing public and press reactions afterward, two things become clear. The first is that a half-century after the Civil Rights revolution and 42 years after the debut of “All in the Family,” Americans are still hopelessly divided on the limits of propriety in ethnic and other stereotypes in our humor. Second, none of us has much of a handle on exactly what bothers us when, and where the line should be drawn, if at all.
I was thinking of clearing the whole thing up for you this evening, but I have to run to a dinner date, so I will limit myself to three key observations.
No. 1. Most of the public seems to consider MacFarlane’s jabs as a package—that is, they tend to find his jokes either wholly tolerable (or, to some, very funny) or wholly offensive. Most commentators saw no reason to distinguish between the adolescent lewdness of his song-and-dance number about women’s breasts, his nasty jabs at Jean Dujardin, Chris Brown and Rihanna, his racial insults of Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, his morbid Abraham Lincoln joke and the shocking bit about Jews running Hollywood. Either you liked the stuff or you didn’t. Either way, you knew what you were getting when they hired the creator of “Family Guy,” and you sure got it. (For the record, I’m a fan.)
Except for one segment of the public. Many next-day commentators in the Jewish community singled out his Jews-run-Hollywood bit as being beyond the pale of decency, while his other routines were presumably run-of-the-mill, take-it-or-leave-it bits of “Family Guy” tastelessness. In case you missed it, you can watch the clip after the jump.
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