Friday, January 27, 2023

MY PRIVATE ANTI-SEMITISM


I’m the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, a story that I constantly tell. My mother arrived in America from Germany in 1938 at the age of seventeen. Her parents and grandparents remained in Germany and were murdered by the Nazis. To her dying day, my mother blamed Jews less assimilated than she as the reason Hitler hated the Jews.

 

In his new movie The Fabelmans, Stephen Spielberg takes a different approach. He blames no one and just keeps going on. He embraces his Jewishness and sets his sites on becoming a filmmaker. He leaves behind the baggage many others can’t and concentrates on making a notable life.

 

The audience views how his family is comfortable with the strands of Jewishness that provide the background for his upbringing. They have no trouble being the only people on their block who don’t decorate their homes with lights at Christmastime. They light the Channukah candles instead. 

 

When Sammy (Stephen Spielberg) is faced with antisemitism in high school, he cleverly circulates the problem in a way that does not harm others. He doesn’t punch back or kill; he tells the truth and as a result brings around some of those who hate him because he’s Jewish to realize why they have these feelings and why they need to think differently.

 

It's a message to the rest of us that maybe whining is not the best approach. Maybe setting an example and being proud of one’s ancestry is better especially if it highlights what is good in life.

 

There are many levels to The Fabelmans that go beyond the fact that Sammy is Jewish, and that’s the point. By Sammy focusing on his craft rather than on his roots, he pursues his dreams. He doesn’t dwell on the stereotypes that enter his development although we see them when his long-lost cousin (Judd Hirsch) visits the family and when the jocks at his Northern California high school physically attack him.

 

How appropriate for Mr. Spielberg to address this subject at a time when antisemitism is on the rise throughout the world. Why, he asks, are you going to accuse him of an act performed by his ancestors that occurred two thousand years ago?

 

This is personal for me. I have always been afraid of my shadow when it comes to my Jewishness unlike many of my peers who are proud of their heritage maybe to a fault. This movie comes at a time when Mr. Spielberg has said that the only way to confront antisemitism is to tell stories that will make the public better understand the Jewish legacy that he mentions in the movie started 5,000 years ago.

 

Most of us will never be as rich and famous as Stephen Spielberg but I believe it’s incumbent upon all of us to continually keep telling our stories in a positive way and to figure out, as Mr. Spielberg does, ways to reveal the weaknesses of others’ arguments against us. I’m working on changing my own mother’s complaints and figuring out new ways to approach the problem.



Watch for An American Family, Mimi Pockross's latest book soon to be published.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND

(From Fred Ebb and John Kander’s musical Cabaret)

 

 

 

The other day my grandson, during a family dinner, brought up a topic they were discussing in his business class. His teacher had told them that picking a profession should not be based on how much money one would make but on the impact it would have for each of them. I asked my grandson to ask his teacher “What if making money is the most important impact for a person?” My grandson said he would ask but as yet I haven’t heard back.

 

I was raised in a house where money was the means to an end, i.e. to put food on the table and to buy clothes, toys, cars, furniture so that we could survive. The goal of making money was for that purpose alone and the desire to advance to any higher upper echelon not of import. We had friends, a comfortable home, a good life.

 

I did admire and kind of envy my friends who had bigger houses and nicer clothes and who had their own cars. I lived with my lot and never expected to do more than that. I learned to manage what I had and to always, beginning in fifth grade when I sold Christmas cards door to door, try to make it on my own.

 

Who would have thought when I married my husband, who was even less well off than I was, that in the future we would be more than comfortable in our old age?

 

I remember the pressure that came with the increasing access to wealth. I needed to pay more attention to my wardrobe, my house, my car. I had to learn how to keep my hair, my home and my children up to date on haircuts, clean carpets, and well-tailored clothes. Somehow my mother had always done this within her means and was a good role model and yet, she didn’t know much about this next step into the world of capitalism, the one where you mingled with corporate types and neighbors who were trust fund babies who mostly discussed which resort they would go to for their next vacation

 

I have always been a big fan of Judith Viorst who is most famous for her children’s book Alexander and the Very Horrible No-Good Day, a book I read over and over to my children. I particularly remember reading a chapter she wrote in her book How Did Get to Be Forty (And Other Atrocities) where she talks about getting to a stage where she and her cool college roommates had turned into women “with matching sets of luggage.” I sort of think this epitomizes my transition into the world of capitalism. It became a necessity to figure out how to focus on the ways to increase that wealth so I could continue to buy matched sets of luggage.

 

And then all of a sudden, I was no longer looking out for the welfare of the world. I became more focused on what it took to bring in the bucks.

 

As I have grown older, I have realized you can both make sure you are financially comfortable and be happy doing this. Sometimes you will have to sacrifice and do the things to advance your goals that may overlook your do-gooder instincts. But you can minimize this as well. 

 

Regardless, if you look at the world, it’s always been about money and trade and wealth and power. We’re stuck with that. Money does make the world go around. I have come to believe you just have to deal with it.



Mimi Pockross is the author of three books. Her new book, a novel called An American Family, has just been completed and is pending publication.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Abraham Lincoln Gets It

Take a look at my Goodreads review of Jon Meacham's new and amazing book And Then There was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle


Jon Meacham is a jewel in our American fabric and I have read many of his amazing historical accounts but not all of them. I still have many more to read. This book is particularly important in my mind since in revealing Abraham Lincoln's struggle to free the enslaved and to save the Union, he is reminding some and introducing others to how our democracy is complicated and, at least to this day, still is the better alternative to autocracy. The other aspect of his approach is the emphasis he places on spirituality that is tied to religious beliefs. Lincoln is highly influenced by religious leaders and is guided by his familiarity with the Bible although not exclusively. He likes Shakespeare as well and can recite many passages from memory. In addition, Mr. Meacham also shows both sides of the argument based on diaries and printed news accounts that make the reader understand better the Confederate point of view and even the variations of those in the North. As a read, the book is tedious. I found myself rereading paragraphs to get the gist of one of the many players who were a part of the drama. Finally, one of the first biographies I ever read was about Mary Todd Lincoln when I was in fifth grade. Mr. Meacham describes her vividly and brings her even more to life. I am bowled over by the ability of Mr. Meacham to show all sides to the issue in such a human manner. It reinforces my belief that democracy is a process that evolves and that ultimately keeps us getting better.


https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/37431334-mimi-pockross">View all my reviews</a>

 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Season's Greetings from Mimi


Happy Holidays to you. I hope you have had a wonderful year and are enjoying getting back to a more normal way of life.

I have had another great year with Harvey! That darling rabbit just keeps hopping along. 

 

In January, the film on Harvey’s mom, “Mary Chase: From Housewife to Pulitzer” aired on Rocky Mountain PBS. Produced by the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, the film can now be viewed on Vimeo and is part of the film library at the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame website. A screening of the film took place at the Denver Woman’s Press Club in May.

 

This year it was an honor to participate in the Denver Woman’s Press Club “Unknown Writers” program. I judged short stories by contestants who had never published before and then attended the reading at the club by the finalists. So much talent out there. 

 

It was a thrill to be interviewed by Janice Simpson who produces a program called “All the Drama” for the website Broadway Radio. She did a wonderful job of reviewing my book before asking me if I had ever seen a production of Harvey. At the time I had never seen one, but I can now say that this November I attended a production at the Vail Mountain School.

 

I also gave a presentation this summer at the Vail Public Library, signed books at a Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame’s “Her Story” presentation and answered questions at a Zoom presentation for the Center for Colorado Women’s History monthly book club.

 

All year I have been working on a new book called An American Family that I hope to publish this coming year.     

 

Thank you for being part of my expanding circle that I meet as I continue to do what I love best, writing.

 

Mimi


                                                                   

Text Box: This poster (approximately five feet by 3 feet) arrived at my home in November from Lyon, France where a French production of Harvey began a year-long tour of cities throughout the country. Hopefully we will soon find a public space in Denver where it can be viewed.

This poster (approximately five feet by 3 feet) arrived  at my home in November from Lyon, France where a  French production of Harvey began a year-long tour of cities throughout the country. Hopefully we will soon find a public space in Denver where it can be viewed.

 

Friday, November 11, 2022

A "Real" Harvey

What fun last night when I saw my first real presentation of Harvey at one of our local schools. 

It took place in a magnificent state of the art theater with a cast of delightful and earnest teenagers playing the roles of Elwood, Veta, Myrtle Mae, Wilson, Dr. Chumley, Dr. Sanderson, Nurse Kelley and Judge Gaffney with an appearance at the end by the school director as the cab driver. Some were garbed in old fashion furs, others streaked with grey hair and the doctors and Wilson all in white, all talented and all a joy to watch.

The other aspect that I so admired was the amazing ability to still revel in all the elements that made Mary Chase's play so successful when it first appeared on Broadway in 1944: the sparkling dialogue ("old as a cast iron deer," "white slaver," "all you men think about is sex;" the fast paced scenes that keeps one interested for the entire time; the satire on society and psychiatry; and above all, the absolute humane character of Elwood P. Dowd.

The five years I've spent with Mary Chase have been filled with delight and many surprises. Last night's production was a great reminder.


Mimi Pockross is a freelance writer and the author of three books. Currently she is working on her fourth book, a novel about immigration and assimilation.

Monday, September 5, 2022

What is School For?

Today I read with interest the New York Times "Sunday Opinion" insert on the state of our country's schools post pandemic.

As a former teacher and a parent and grandparent, I am passionate about the subject of education. It might even be the subject of my next book that I finish after the one I'm working on at the moment.

The New York Times insert touched on the many troublesome concerns that pertain to the American educational scene today from critical race theory, to social mobility, to meritocracy, to hope, to wasting time and money, to making citizens, to bonding with nature, to learning to read. There were even a few thoughts and photos by teenage students and teachers and a story about parent activists. The main articles were written by variety of authors and educators and professors. 

I found the different views fascinating even though I did not always agree with everyone's analysis.

For example, the article on citizenship by Heather McGee and Victor Ray favored much more radically a curriculum that exposes in much greater detail the inequities of racism in the past. I personally am a "just the facts" person so I probably might talk about Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to the making of America today without going into the details of his personal life. I might offer going deeper into Jefferson's life as an extra-curricular subject a student could pursue on his own. On the other hand, there are many facts to learn about slavery itself, i.e. that much of it was economic from the beginning and that even Abraham Lincoln was trying to figure out a way to find a solution to the problem from a humane point of view as well as political point of view. That topic might be a good one for a class discussion.

I so want us all to get along and am willing to make compromises in America. but not at the cost of embracing the importance of education for all if we are to maintain a successful country.  

There so many disparities in points of view about the subject of education from the libertarian view that we should all be free to educate our children the way we want to those who insist we rewrite our entire history to be more inclusive. Of course, this is America and we all have a right to disagree.

Bottom line, though I think we need to have a cohesive belief in what it means to be an American and how we can best carry out this belief. To me, as the PBS travel host Rick Steves said, it means educating our children so that they can make rational decisions about what it takes to keep those beliefs. Then it's up to them to take what they have learned and make us and our country even better.


Mimi Pockross is a freelance writer and the author of three books. Currently she is working on her fourth book, a novel about immigration and assimilation.


Sunday, July 10, 2022

All the Drama


All the Drama: Biographer Mimi Pockross on the 1945 Pulitzer Prize Winner “Harvey”

All The Drama is hosted by Jan Simpson. It is a series of deep dives into the plays that have won The Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

How delightful to be interviewed about my book on Harvey for a podcast dedicated to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights. Entitled "All the Drama" and aired on BROADWAYRADIO.COM, the program focuses on each of the playwrights' stories and is written and produced by Jan Simon, herself a sometimes Pulitzer Prize juror. I loved her "off the beaten path" questions. It amazes me that we can still be talking about Mary Chase and Harvey, a testimony to its lasting impact on the theater and life.

Here's the link:  

https://broadwayradio.com/blog/2022/07/09/all-the-drama-biographer-mimi-pockross-on-the-1945-pulitzer-prize-winner-harvey/


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Lessons Learned

  

 

Lessons Learned

By 

Mimi Pockross

 

 

The incident took place in a midwestern rural community about an hour away from a state university in the late 1960s. The make-up of the student body was a blend of children from the nearby Air Force base as well as the children of farmers, and the people of the main town. 

 

I was the high school speech and drama teacher. In addition to being responsible for a full load of teaching public speaking classes, I was in charge of directing two major plays a year. After my first effort when there were only eight members in the cast and an audience made up of their relatives, I decided that every play I would choose from that point on would have casts of thousands. 

 

My next selection after that rather disappointing first play was the 1955 iconic play Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee that had become a very popular movie starring Spencer Tracy, Frederic March and Gene Kelly in 1960. As you may recall, it’s a fictionalized version of the Scopes Trial that took place in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee and tested whether evolution should be allowed to be taught in the schools. In reality two famous lawyers came to Dayton to try the case, William Jennings Bryan who had been a three-time candidate for U.S. president and the famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow.

 

I was very young and na├»ve and never really thought about the political ramifications that might surface from producing this play in a small midwestern town. It wasn’t a matter of race because the Air Force students were a diverse bunch that included African Americans, Asians and even a Jewish child in the mix. No, the problem was Ms. Claire, a teacher who, for religious reasons, objected to the theme of the play, a test case with a little romance and family problems added to the drama. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court where it was determined that evolution could be taught in the schools.

 

Concerned with Ms. Claire’s objections, I wrote an article for the local newspaper. “The plot more clearly brings out the conflict between progress and tradition,” I wrote. “It merely tells us that both views should be allowed to be presented. It does not speak out against religion, but criticizes those who are not allowed to think or those who don’t want to.”  

 

The upshot of this was surprisingly a very mellow one. Everyone liked the play, even the school superintendent, and life went on without a wrinkle. Even Ms. Claire laid her case to rest.

 

Thinking back on my brash decision, I wonder how I would feel if this situation occurred today. When I made my play selections, I did not have to account to anybody. The school trusted that I would make prudent and conscientious decisions. In our current atmosphere, I’m wondering how such choices should be made. Censorship certainly is scary, and we live in different times. Heavens, the plays in which my grandson acts are much more edgy than a story of Southern churchgoers in the 1920s. 

My past experience made me realize how important it is to have guardrails, not rigid ones but ones that allow a robust discussion without making conclusions. The Inherit the Wind playwright Jerome Lawrence described his oevre as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control ... It's not about science versus religion,” he said. “It's about the right to think."

 

I have very fond memories of the time during which the production occurred. I still get letters today from some of the students that took part. Together we were able to talk and think and try to work things out. It is my hope that what I learned can somehow be applied to today’s educational philosophy. I’ll let the boards, the parents and the teachers figure out how to do this.

 

 

Mimi Pockross is a freelance writer who lives in Vail, Colorado. Her most recent book is Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase.

 

 

 

  


 

 

 

 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Top Bunny

 

A couple of years ago around Easter time, a Wall Street Journal article listed the 39 most famous bunnies. Near the top of the heap along with Bugs Bunny and Peter Rabbit was an invisible six foot one-and-a-half inch tall rabbit by the name of Harvey, the subject of the Pulitzer Prize play by the same name and the movie that followed starring Jimmy Stewart in what he once said was his most favorite role.

 

Just like memories of Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes on an episode of I Love Lucy or Gene Kelley singing in the rain, there is, as one critic recalled her mother saying, no time when the mention of Harvey doesn’t bring a smile to anyone’s face who is familiar with the “tale.” 

 

In the story written by playwright Mary Chase, a middle-age man named Elwood P. Dowd befriends an invisible six foot one-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit much to the dismay of his social climbing sister Veta. Chaos breaks out when Veta tries to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium. The question becomes who is more sane….Elwood and his imaginary rabbit or the outside world that Veta represents. It turns out that in many ways Elwood and Harvey are a lot more humane than those who claim to understand reality. Together Elwood and Harvey create mischief for those who deserve it and revel in their moments together when life is peaceful and kind and pleasant. 

 

From the time that Harvey debuted on Broadway in the middle of World War II to a recent reference to Harvey by the mystery writer Louise Penny in her book Kingdom of the Blind, audiences and readers have never stopped thinking about Harvey and appreciating all he is to us.

That an invisible rabbit could be the subject of multiple references in movies like Field of DreamsShawshank Redemption, and episodes of The Simpsons on television is a tribute to the character that was created by his author, Mary Chase. 

 

The actress Helen Hayes who played in the revival of Harvey in 1970 explained to host Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show that in her mind if youngsters just put their imaginations to work, they too wouldn’t have to find other destructive means of escaping. They too could just have a fun invisible companion like Harvey the rabbit and all would be well.

 

As the Easter season approaches and we think of Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail, we should all have a dream of someone like Harvey in our lives that makes us all kinder and more pleasant human beings. 



Mimi Pockross is the author of Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

ME TOO!

“Why did you feel guilty about missing your son’s prom pictures?” probed a forty-something mother at a presentation I made for a book I had written on balancing work and family during the eighties? “I miss my kids’ activities all the time. It’s just part of life.” She, a lawyer, was lecturing me on how to behave like an independent woman. Really?

 

All right, I’m old and grew up in the Eisenhower fifties in a white privileged suburb. I enjoyed being a girl. I loved my time as a Girl Scout. I anxiously awaited the monthly delivery of its publication, American Girl, and I read with great interest about Jane Adams and Mary Lincoln. I never questioned my role. I ran for Homecoming Queen and I tried out for cheerleading and made neither and lived with it.

 

When I had my children in the seventies, I raised them in a white privileged suburb. Though the norms of the past were being questioned, I was more apt to read about the picketing and protesting and write a newsletter for the PTA about augmenting school curriculum.

 

I was ahead of my time in the sense that I decided to return to work rather than remain a stay-at-home mom. I did face discrimination against my gender. When I was looking for space to open an art gallery in the early eighties, the agent who was showing me around, a man, looked at me skeptically and asserted, “You’ll be back playing tennis with your friends in six months.” Needless to say, it took me a while to find a landlord who had faith in me. I still believe that male mindset continues to linger on today. The point is: I prevailed.

 

When I look at life today for women, I am grateful to those who helped me maintain a center, like my mother and my grandmother and also for the suffragettes, Betty Friedan and the feminists, and the MeToo movement. I ask myself if I were I growing up today: Where would I stand? Would I ally with the Me Tooers? Would I decide to be transgender like the child of one of our friends? Would I pursue a career above all else and overlook the demands of family when necessary? Or would I, like I did in the eighties, try to balance it all and make every effort to be present for my son’s prom pictures?

 

Bottom line for me is a belief that there remain variations between men and women and within those disparities, we should each embrace our genders and work to do our best. I’m against the progressive belief that we need to continue to speak out about having been victims, and I’m against the other end of the spectrum who believe a woman’s place is in the home. But we should allow for our differences and accept the realities. I don’t think women are ever going to be quarterbacks for the NFL and I don’t think men are ever going to deliver babies. To equalize the playing field has its limitations.

 

Mimi Pockross is the author of Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Day I Met Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte were booked for the second half of the Chicago CBS noon show where I was working in 1972. They were in town to plug the movie in which they were co-starring called Buck and the Preacher and which Poitier had directed, a first in his career. 

The daily program featured the news and the weather followed with soft interviews presented by the hostess, Lee Philip. But Lee was on vacation as was my boss, the usual producer of the show. 

Substituting for the hostess that day was  Janet Langhart (the current wife of William Cohen, the former US Secretary of State). I was substituting for the producer of the show and was responsible for filling her in on the guests of that day and on the film's story.

It was standard procedure for all guests for the show to appear at the studio (a former roller rink and a block long) a half hour before the show. My regular job was to usher them to the Green Room, offer them coffee and let them know that Lee would be in shortly to meet them before the show began. Guests were instructed to arrive before noon.

On that infamous day, noon arrived without a sign of our guests' presence.  No phone call. No heads up communication. 

My mind was already on Plan B. I couldn't remember experiencing a no-show situation in the two years since I had been working at CBS. I didn't want to upset Janet. She was new to her role just like I was new to mine.

I started going through my boss's rolodex looking for ideas. It was now 12:05 and the news anchor was talking about a possible strike for the Chicago schoolteachers and getting ready to send the cameras over to the weather desk. Still no Harry and Sidney.

I'm not sure what we all decided Plan B would be, but whatever it was, I made my way toward the studio to brief the stage manager and then head to my place in the control room next to the director.

At 12:10, two tall, slim, gorgeous-looking African American gentlemen immaculately dressed in elegant suits and ties hurried into the studio. It was them! They had made it just in time. 

Of course they were enchanted with Janet Langhart. She was one of the few African American women in the broadcasting business in the early seventies. And she was as beautiful as they were handsome.

The two guests were both so engaging and entertaining and wonderful and they looked like they were totally enjoying themselves and had no notion of the panic they had given us.

In particular, I remember Sidney Poitier's response to a question that I had prepared for Janet and that she had taken literally. About the film she inquired, "what is the plot?"

Sidney Poitier rolled those great big eyes of his, smiled a wide grin, and responded "the plot?" as if to say "Really? You want to know something that basic?" Fifty years later I can still remember this moment and how horrified and embarrassed I was that I had phrased the question for Janet in such a naive way. 

Despite my faux pas, the glamour of that moment is indelible in my mind. The two men were icons and it was such a treat to see the human side of them. And, of course, I was honored to have worked with Janet as well.

Mimi Pockross is the author of Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Find her at www.mimipockross.com



Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Jewish Libra’s View of the Holocaust

I was nine when I learned about my mother’s relatives being murdered by the Nazis. I was snooping around boxes in the basement of my home and found the telegrams that had been wired to my mother.

 Of course, it was a shock, but I buried my revelations and instead began to have nightmares. 

 

My mother never mentioned anything to me about this traumatic part of her life. On my own, I learned more about the story as I reached my teen years when movies like The Diary of Anne Frank and Exodus came out and my father handed me a new book called The Last of the Just that reviewed the history of discrimination and atrocities against the Jews and ended with stories of the genocide that took place during World War II. The term “Holocaust” was not even used then and only later was it introduced in the seventies when the series “Holocaust” aired on television. Of course, I watched the whole series, but by then I was married and had children of my own.

 

As the stories trickled out while I was growing up, I began to understand why I had only one set of grandparents. Occasionally my mother would recall happy incidents from her upbringing in Germany, but never once did she mention why or how her family had died.

 

I was raised in Chicago in two different “assimilated” places, more gentile than Jewish. When my parents moved to the expanding suburb of Skokie in the early fifties, they would never have imagined that one day it would have the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the country.

 

When I was growing up, I was the first Jewish child in my fourth-grade class and, though as I grew older there were more Jews in my school, it was always clear that there was a division between the Jews and the Gentiles. There was even a schism between Jews whose roots were in Central Europe as opposed to those whose ancestors were Eastern European. As my mother had desired from the beginning, I tried to blend in with the majority, at that time White Anglo Saxon Protestants. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I wasn’t tall and blonde and so there were a lot of places I didn’t really fit. My efforts to be a cheerleader or to be photographed for the school yearbook were in vain. I don’t know whether I attribute this to the fact that I hadn’t the physical or inherited tools to figure out how to “fit in” or whether I was just not that charismatic.

 

My mother and father never associated with the Holocaust survivors who moved to Skokie. Their group of friends were all from the Reform Jewish congregation they had started when they arrived in Skokie. A few of the couples they knew had emigrated from Central Europe near the time when my mother had also arrived. Many had married first or second-generation Jews and mostly they were professionals or academics. They had missed first-hand the horrors of Hitler’s wrath. No doubt many of them had relatives who stayed in their native countries and perished, but I never heard them talk about it or bring up the subject. And never did their children who often became my friends ever discuss the subject either.

 

The only Holocaust survivor I knew growing up was my mother’s seamstress that altered my mother’s and my clothes. I still remember with horror seeing the numbers on her arm when she was pinning up the hem of my skirt.

 

Since I have grown up, the divisions between ethnic and racial groups has expanded and the noticeable discrimination of Jews has somewhat subsided. When I was becoming an adult, it was easier to get in to college that originally had “quotas.” And there was less difficulty buying a home in the neighborhood of one’s choice. It was even a bit easier to get a job in the corporate world if your religion was Jewish. Still, when I went to college and tried to pledge a non-Jewish sorority, it was recommended by its leader that I join a Jewish one instead. It is not surprising to me that even today we still see so many outbursts of displeasure and violent attacks on American Jews. It’s still a problem.

 

As I grew older, there were many incidents that made my thoughts about my Jewish past keep changing. I allied with the Jews moreso when I saw the musical Fiddler on the Roof even though I learned later that the way my relatives lived was different from how Tevye’s family lived in their tiny Russian village. I was deeply affected when I was a young mother and heard Gerda Klein, a Holocaust survivor speak at a luncheon I attended with my friends. And when I read Orphan in History about a Harvard graduate whose high-profile parents hid from him his Jewish roots, I had to think even moreso about my future relationship with my religion.

 

The more I heard personal escape stories or read about them, the more I questioned how to accept my past. I had been raised in a Reform Jewish home where we celebrated the major Jewish holidays and where both my brother and I were confirmed, but my brother, unlike his Russian Jewish father was not bar mitzvahed. I knew I wasn’t going to become an Orthodox Jew. I wasn’t even going to be a more observant Jew though I did send my children to Sunday School and Hebrew School. I wasn’t going to get active in Jewish organizations that I admired and donated to but of which I did not feel comfortable becoming an active participant. Yet I am still haunted by what happened to some of the people in my tribe even though they thought it could never happen to them. 

 

I hope that I can contribute in my own personal way to help work toward a better world. And I’m hoping telling my story will help both Jews, Gentiles and people of other tribes make peace with themselves and then hopefully we can all learn how to get along with each other.

 

Look for the future publication of my first novel.”Sarah’s Tribe,” a fictionalized version of this story.

 

Mimi Pockross

http://www.mimipockross.com/.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!








                         Happy Holidays from    
   Elwood, Jimmy, Mary, Mimi    
                and HARVEY!