It was a long rainy Shabbat when many of our grandchildren gathered at our home in West Orange to celebrate our granddaughter’s upcoming marriage a few days later. A nearby hotel housed the overflow crowd and we ate and sang together in that spirit of joyful anticipation of a major and extraordinarily happy lifetime event. A simcha!
The feeding of the crew was my familiar assignment which I did with joy and too much food. But of what use is a classic Jewish grandmother if she doesn’t overfeed you? Then again, how much can you eat? And how much can you play board games before they become bored games? And how much Israeli and American politics can you discuss while gazing at the pounding rain that made even a little walk drenching?
Someone discovered our cache of photos, treasures from the past. All of our contemporary pictures are stored, foolishly no doubt, on our phones. And so we turned the pages of our family’s recorded history and examined the albums, beautiful reminders of days gone and often forgotten. We rekindled our stories and anecdotes, long untold, suddenly came to life and were shared.
Which dog was in that photo became a disagreement. Gringo and Toto, generations apart, did resemble each other in that sturdy way that pure mutts teach us that they exemplify the survival of the fittest, that they haven’t been overbred to become fragile and sickly. We reached a conclusion. It was Toto, Toto who lived a long, if not particularly productive life, surrounded and indulged by a loving family. I will never forget how Eitan, the eldest of the five boys who grew up with her, carried her out to the backyard with remarkable tenderness, when her own paws could no longer support her failing old body.
Other pictures had their own stories. There were my parents and in-laws on their own wedding days, the spark of love and the glistening future they prayed for written all over the striking photos. My in-laws never knew these grandchildren, not surviving to meet even the first. What a loss for all of them. My parents, who reached old age gracefully and of sound mind and body, are seen in photos holding babies and watching them grow, My father knew all but the last two, one of whom shares his name, Sam. This is no coincidence.
And then there are the classic shots of babies. In each of our children’s families, the first child is highlighted, with numerous pictures of a single child. By the time siblings were born they were always relegated to that typical lack of total attention that number one kids always received. But, no matter, all were, and continue to be, loved even if the spotlight was now shared. So we are blessed with many photos of little children, who belong to us, and without surprise, an overwhelming number of first baby shots. But, thank God, the others do exist and shine up our lives, even with a dearth of photos.
And then there are pictures with stories. The classic in my mind is my mother’s family when she was a teenager. She sits chastely on a chair next to her cousin, another girl, about a year or two younger, perhaps 14 to Mom’s 16. Also in the photo are the cousin’s two brothers, both significantly younger, both still wearing short pants, about 8 and 4 years old. What makes this picture so fascinating is that, years later, the middle child, who became a good-looking doctor and married young, had a mysterious age transformation, via the miracle of my great-aunt’s magic formula. In those bygone days, the early 1930’s, it was definitely not chic or stylish for a younger brother to marry years before his much older sister. That would categorize her as an old maid, undoubtedly a fate worse than an inappropriate marriage or even death itself. So my great-aunt magically made her daughter the middle child and her son, he with the short pants, the eldest. This was gross revisionist history but only my picture, which hangs on a wall in our home, provides the total proof. One fine day a disaster of overwhelming proportions was thankfully averted. Their family, including the eventual husband of the formerly eldest, but now middle child, who was never ever told his wife’s true age, were coming for a rare visit. It was literally ten seconds before the doorbell signaled their arrival that I snatched the picture off the wall and secreted it to a safe place. Now it’s back on the wall. They won’t be visiting again.
All this picture nostalgia reminds me of the New York Times which screams at us “All The News That’s Fit To Print.” Recently they published an enormous photo montage of dead Gazan children. It was horrifying. I am a lifelong reader of that paper, even though it slants the news according to its own priorities, sometimes ignoring fairness, accuracy and the most basic facts. For me it’s the old story of I can’t live with it or without it. I have, in the past 65 years or so, repeatedly canceled and then resumed delivery. We are bound to each other even though I can’t stand its leaky ink which “shmears” up my house, and I resent its high price. Even more, it infuriates me when they, self-hating Jews staunchly amongst their editorial and reporting staff, do what they did very very recently.
The Times has long had a well-earned reputation for being unsympathetic to Jewish travails, even when they are of such major proportions as the Holocaust. Historians and longtime readers acknowledge that the murder of over six million Jews hardly ever warranted more coverage than middle pages in the paper. How could it be? No one of us can honestly explain, or certainly justify, such abhorrent behavior. The Times is known as a liberal instrument and finds space to excoriate dictators and be sympathetic to their victims. Jewish victims often seem to be the exception to that practice.
Thus, in the recent Hamas-Israel war, which was fomented clearly and objectively by a huge volume of unprovoked rockets being dropped by Hamas on Israeli cities and towns, and everywhere that Israelis and, yes, Palestinians live. The New York Times seemingly sided with the perpetrators, Hamas, a known terrorist organization which plants their fighters behind children and other civilians, by decrying Israel’s retaliation which resulted in the deaths of innocent children. These children were framed on its front pages, with their tragic stories attached. Sad. Yes. Tragic. Yes. Israel’s fault. No. Of course not!
As a mother, grandmother, great grandmother it is painful to me to contemplate the loss of children to war. And when they are planted in sensitive places so that they can become victims, that is murder. It was a horrible and evil propaganda move that killed these children. It was squarely the work of Hamas. Israel fine-tuned its responses as much as was humanly and humanely possible. What in the world did the New York Times expect of our Jewish chayalim, our soldiers, that they not respond and defend their country. Could America have been victorious in any war if they did not retaliate to enemy aggression? Clearly not. Shall we even remember Hiroshima? Nagasaki? How many dead children did America kill to win the war? Israel’s retaliation pales in comparison.
I have no solution to the disgraceful behavior of powerful self-hating Jews. I condemn it mightily. Throughout modern history there have been all too many childhood victims of war, none of whom have merited almost the entire front page of the Times.The tragic loss of their young lives should never be a moment in time that is cheapened and devalued as propaganda. This is clearly an abuse of the paper’s journalistic integrity. Shame shame on the New York Times.
When we peruse our old pictures here’s a wish that they reflect treasured days of our lives, and may there be many such times.