I am sorry that the artist Sandra Steuer Cohen dislikes the Noshes page enough to pen a letter on the subject (Dec. 31). But I love the Noshes page because it reminds me of another artist, my late mother May Katz (1927-2008). Noshes has a value that might be overlooked by the Standard’s more devout readers.
When my newlywed parents moved to Teaneck in 1951 the town was not exactly welcoming Jews with open arms. First-generation Americans both, they had grown up in the packed apartment buildings of Brooklyn and the Bronx and yearned for their future offspring to have a house with a lawn. In Teaneck, their generation transformed the profile and presence of the growing Jewish community from outsiders to mainstream. They joined the newly built Jewish Community Center on Prince Street. They shopped locally, sent us to public schools, and welcomed the racial integration of Teaneck public schools as just and right. They taught my sister and me to take pride in being Americans, being Jews, and being good citizens.
Women then (and now) had less vocal or no roles in the synagogue. So my mother’s pride in being Jewish showed when we gathered around the black-and-white television. Her radar was unfailing. Be it “The Guiding Light” or “Sing Along With Mitch,” Mom would suddenly gasp then light up and kvell. “Look! See that guy in the back row. He’s Jewish! His mother lives in Fort Lee. See the actress playing the nurse? Her husband is a Jewish doctor and I once saw her shopping at Butterflake.”
Throughout my life, it drove me crazy when my mother would single out other Jews in this way. “What’s the big deal?” I would ask.
Thanks to my parents choosing Teaneck, I never knew what it felt like to be in a minority group until I grew up and lived elsewhere.
Now that my mother is gone, I miss the voice that used to annoy me. I miss the little things that brought her joy. And pride.
When I read the Noshes column, which is the first thing I read, my mother’s voice is alive again.
The Standard must not let any one group of Jews define the experience for others. If we want tolerance from others, we need to preach and live it – starting with our own diverse community.
Don’t take away the nachas that is Noshes.