The Arty Semite

Grandmother Who Duels With Darth Vader

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Most grandmothers start to slow down when they hit their golden years, but not Frederika Goldberger. At 93, she’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Outfitted in her spandex suit, cape, helmet and high-top sneakers, she’s ready for any challenge — not as Frederika, but as Mamika, the geriatric superhero in a series of celebrated photographs by her grandson, French photographer Sacha Goldberger.

Sacha Goldberger

Mamika fans follow her crazy adventures — like dueling with Darth Vader, walking a flying dog, and riding backward atop a vintage black Dodge Coronet — on Sacha’s website, at exhibitions (there is currently one running until January 25 at Act2 Rive Gauche La Galerie d’en Face in Paris) and in two books: “Mamika: My Mighty Little Grandmother,” published in English translation earlier this year; and the new “Mamika & Co” published in France in November.

Sacha, 43, a fashion and advertising photographer, began the Mamika project around seven years ago as a means of helping his grandmother get out of a funk following her retirement at age 80 from a long career as a consultant in the textile industry. Mamika means “little grandmother” in Hungarian, Frederika’s native tongue.

“I’ve always been close to her,” the photographer told the Forward in a phone interview from Paris about his relationship with his grandmother. “She was sad and worried after she stopped working, so I thought about asking her to work with me on a project. I was thinking about maybe a humorous website about French Jewish grandmothers.”

Frederika embraced the opportunity, and from the outset, she became not only her grandson’s muse and model, but also his collaborator. The two met regularly and generated ideas for the whimsically stylized and visually stunning Mamika images. “We played together about ideas, and most of the most eccentric costumes and concepts actually came from her,” the photographer said. “Through these really good ideas, I discovered a side of her I didn’t know. She shows that you can become old, but you can still be very funny.”

Frederika was a baroness, born into a wealthy Hungarian Jewish family. During World War II, she and her husband and two young daughters hid from the Nazis, and also helped save the lives of 11 other people. “The Nazis caught them, but they managed to escape,” Sacha reported. After the war the family remained in Hungary, but when the Communists took over, they fled to Switzerland, leaving their textile factory behind. Frederika continued on to Paris with the girls, while her husband decided to start a new life in London.

“She’s quite a modern lady,” Sacha said of his grandmother, who has been married four times. “And she is very Jewish.” However, because of her war experiences, Frederika wanted her children and grandchildren to hide their Jewish identity. Consequently, her grandson attended a Christian school and was told not to talk about the Holocaust outside of the house. As an adult, he has educated himself about Judaism and has begun to observe Shabbat and holidays and eat kosher.

What started out as simply a way for a grandson to spend more time with his grandmother has turned into a real phenomenon. There are thousands of Mamika photos (merely 500 of them have been published in the books), and there are Mamika fans all over the world.

Frederika has slowed down somewhat, but she is still game. She has been assisting in promoting the new book and continues to generate new Mamika ideas. “My grandmother used to ask me, ‘When are we going to have lunch together?’” Sacha said. “Now, it’s ‘When are we going to make more photos?’”

View a slideshow of images from ‘Mamika’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sacha Goldberger, Renee Ghert-Zand, Mamika, Photography, Frederika Goldberger

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.