Friday, January 27, 2023


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 Frau Liese: An Ordinary Immigrant's Story, Mimi Pockross's latest book soon to be published.

Saturday, January 21, 2023



(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 Frau Liese: An Ordinary Immigrant's Story 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.">View all my reviews</a>