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Jewish World Review
May 11, 2006
/ 13 Iyar, 5766
PIONEER YIDDISHE MAMAS
Terese Marx, born in Germany in 1846, immigrated with her family to San Francisco, where she married Joseph Ferrin. The newlyweds relocated to Tucson.
They had three children, and Terese raised her family, while engaging in philanthropic work. In 1890, she was president of the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Association and was instrumental in planning Temple Emanu-El. In 1910, Terese was present for the laying of the cornerstone of the first synagogue in the Territory of Arizona.
Terese, known as "The Angel of Tucson," often accompanied a town doctor on emergencies. A holistic practitioner and herbologist, it was said her remedies never failed.
BECAUSE OF A ROCKING CHAIR
On May 11, 1888 in Siberia, Leah and Moses Baline had a son, Irving. They ran from the Cossacks to New York. After Moses died of overwork, Irving (Izzy) quit school at eight to peddle newspapers, hoping to get mom a rocking chair. Izzy also sang in saloons, accompanying himself on the black keys. A printing error on sheet music anointed him, "I. Berlin." Eventually, the ragtime creator who composed "White Christmas" got mom a new rocker and a mansion but continued to compose in only one key F sharp.
JEWISH MAMAS AND ... GOOD SPORTS
With seven Olympic medals three of them gold Irena Kirszenstein-Szewinska, born in
1945, was the first woman to hold world records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters at the same time. At nineteen, she was Poland's Athlete of the Year. She married photographer Junusz Szewinska in1967 and gave birth to son, Andrzej, in 1970. She felt the birth of her child boosted her ability in sports. In 1974, she was the first woman to break fifty seconds in the 400-meters and was named Woman Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News. She maintained that no medals gave her as much pleasure as the birth of her son. While sports has been her passion, nevertheless, she has said: "together with my family [sport] has brought me all the joys of the world."
"I have taught my sons to be good Jews ... to battle for that which is right until the last breath, for man is duty-bound to fight for what he holds dear in life."
In 1979, when the Israel-Egypt peace treaty was signed, Rivka Gruber was among the dignitaries. A pioneer settler in what was to become Israel, Rivka joined a Jewish Battalion. Her son, Ephraim, joined Haganah and was killed two months before the establishment of Israel. Her other son, 16-year-old Zvi, was killed in battle against the Egyptians three months later.
Rivka went on to teach others in a remote region of Israel, helping to transform the area into a thriving sector.
MY YIDDISHE MAMA: BELLA ABZUG
"My mother thought everything I did was perfect. And if I was scolded in school, she'd go to the school and scold the teacher. In fact when I was elected to Congress, election night, she said, 'I always knew Bella would make it. Because she always did her homework and practiced her violin without being asked to do so.' In addition to which [when asked] 'How do you account for Bella's success?'
'I was always there,' she said. 'I was there.'
And indeed she was."
A BUCCANEER'S BUBBE
A free-thinking Jew, buccaneer, alchemist, communist, a frequenter of cabarets and balls, but a loyal family man, the famous pirate Jean Lafitte, no doubt was greatly influenced by his bubbe [grandmother] , Zora Nadrimal, who raised him. Lafitte described her as training him "in the habits necessary to the development of a strong personality, prepared to face the vicissitudes of life with a firm and determined will and capable of ignoring all obstacles that would retard the development of my mind." His grandfather, Abhorad Nadrimal, was tortured and died in prison in Spain. Lafitte's Jewish background provides clues to his motivations, particularly his intense hatred of Spain.
Jewish mothers love eating and feeding almost more than talking:
"Chicken, gefilte fish, chopped liver we created all that. Don't let the French tell you about pate'! They got the pate' from us! We made the pate'. And our pate' was even better than their pate'! My grandmother she rest in peace never knew about recipes. They did it all by heart, they never measured, and it was delicious delicious! I still can't get the boiled beef like she used to make. We created boiled beef. There was a lot of fat involved. So from that we used to get the gout. We created the gout. That's our disease."
MOTHER TO ALL
In "Scrolls of Auschwitz", a manuscript found in the ashes of Auschwitz, a member of the Sondercommando describes a scene in 1943. The children were undressing in the anteroom of the gas chamber. When guards tried to hurry them, an eight-year-old girl resisted, crying: "Go away, you Jewish murderer! Don't put your hand, covered in Jewish blood, on my sweet brother. I am his good mother now and he will die in my arms."
What does a Jewish mama do when her son is running for Vice President? Marcia "Baba" Lieberman, Senator Joseph Lieberman's late mother played matchmaker for "machers" [bigshots] and sent food. Following her son's acceptance speech for his party's nomination in 2000, "Baba" invited Senator Al Gore over for a little cheesecake and coffee. She also sent reporters care packages that included Manischewitz bagel chips, postcards (to write their mothers ), and the following handwritten note: "Please be kind to my son! Enjoy. Marcia Lieberman (Joe's mom!). "When reporter Charlie Gibson asked her how the press responded to this "bribery," she quipped, "They love it."
A Jewish mother, about to be taken to a concentration camp, wrote this letter in 1943.
Bronia, I beg you: take care of my son. Be a mother to him. I am afraid he will catch cold; he is so weak and sickly. He is very intelligent and has a very good heart. I am sure he will love you. Bronia, this letter is a cry from the heart. Michael must eat, become strong, be able to withstand sufferings. Please, it is necessary to dress him in warm clothes, that he wear socks. I cannot go on writing. Even my tears have dried up. May God protect you both.
Eventually he was captured. Both mother and son died in the camp.
HER FOOTSTEPS SHALL LAST FOREVER
Seven-year-old Hannah, sitting on her bubbe's lap, was reading Hebrew to the old woman, now almost blind from her years in the camps, and then the sweatshops.
From time to time, Hannah would take her eyes off the book and take bubbe's tired hand. "Did G-d make you?" she asked.
"Yes, darling," bubbe answered, "G-d made me a long time ago, even before girls could study or lead in the synagogue."
"Really, Bubbe?" asked Hannah, pondering. "I want to be a doctor ... or an astronaut ... or maybe a rabbi." Then she kissed bubbe's wrinkled cheek and pausing, said: "Bubbe, did G-d make me too?"
"Yes, sweetheart. G-d made you just a little while ago. And now you can be anything in your lifetime."
Hugging Bubbe again, Hannah observed, "G-d's getting better at it."
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"DidJEW Know?" is written by Marnie Winston-Macauley, author of the best-selling calendars (and book) "A Little Joy, A Little Oy". She's also the advice maven, "Ask Sadie", which was syndicated by Tribune Media. A former television writer, Emmy and Writers Guild nominee, Marnie is currently working on two projects on Jewish Mothers. She also serves on the Board of the Las Vegas Jewish Center for Education, Media, & the Arts.
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MY SON THE GENIUS!; on account of a cart; "Come to Papa, Bubeleh"; Mr. Television
From Titanic to TV; the apostle of bathing to the apostle of presidents; Oy have I got gas!; famous firsts: ball (and boychick) one!
Pontiac saves a crafty meshuggenah; Quickie sports facts; By an emperor, he's no emperor; The proper making of an egg cream; Master-mouth tricks master-magician; Lincoln & the Jewish feat of feet
Yippie-ai-oy; for you sports fan; So Sioux me; Yiddish facts; Go figure! Vital Hebrew Bible stats; Have an eggroll, Mr. Two-Gun; Marx hits mark with Marks and Benny; A Mezuzah in Monaco? A real Jewish princess; Jews out of this world!
© 2006, Marnie Winston-Macauley