spoke Yiddish, and the one thing I resent about my upbringing is that they did
not teach me Yiddish. In fact, they spoke it when they wanted me not to
understand what they were saying. I believe it’s important to keep the language
alive and am a contributor to the National Yiddish Book Center.
I was born in Brooklyn in 1943 and moved
to _____ when I was five, and spent my formative years, until my first year in
college, in _____, a suburb of the capital. It was a mostly Jewish neighborhood,
and my friends were mostly Jewish, though not entirely.
I was brought up in a Conservative home
and went to a “Conserva-dox” synagogue and was bat mitzvahed. We lived down the
street from the rabbi and walked to and from shul with him on shabbos. The
rabbi was a jovial man large of build and kind spirited. His wife was the
consummate rebbitzen and made us kids feel at home whenever we visited and was
a happy presence at synagogue.
I enjoyed how the family celebrated the
traditional holidays and have always been proud of my heritage, though I no
longer practice anything but reciting yitzkor and lighting yahrzeit candles for
My mother was a wonderful cook and
baker, having learned from her mother. I remember visiting Philadelphia and
watching my grandmother (who came to America in 1905 from Odessa) make kishka
from scratch and gefilte fish and blintzes.
Mom used to make ruggelach and
absolutely fabulous sponge cake and nut cake and wonderful little Passover
rolls and delicious kugels and excellent chicken soup and vegetable-pea soup. As
you see, Jewish food was an important part of my life! I hardly bother to cook
or bake such things now, as I live alone and have basically become a calory-
and fat-watching (though overweight) vegetarian.
From my early childhood I was made very
aware of Jewish identity. My mom lit Shabbos candles every Friday night, as did
my grandmothers, and we had a delicious Shabbos dinner, from homemade chicken soup
with knedlach or noodles, to roast chicken or roast beef with vegetables, and
of course challah.
My cousin and I went to Hebrew school
two or three days a week after regular school. On Friday afternoons we often
stopped at Elaine’s grandmother’s. Baba Sara made her own challah every week,
and we helped her braid the bread and apply the egg wash before it went into
the oven. I realized what we were doing was part of being a Jew.
My dad, who was president of the
synagogue for several years, was extremely proud of our Jewish heritage. You
could almost see his chest swell when he pointed out--actually kvelled at how
many Jews there are in the arts (considering our small representation in the
Again, my dad was quick to point out how
many Jewish actors and directors and studio heads there are in film, and I too
am proud of our impact on the arts. The most obvious Jewish character in film,
to me, is Woody Allen, whose early movies I found hilarious. However, the
schlemeil character has been overdone. Moreover, I must say I wasn’t pleased to
hear he married his stepdaughter.
Though proud of our impact on the arts,
I share the current extreme distaste that the Hollywood (and Detroit) moguls
are offering such trash to youngsters in the form of gangsta rap and violence
and sex in video games, on TV and in the movies. If we used to take pride in the
impact of Jews in the arts and entertainment, then we ought to be ashamed if it
is they who are presenting such ugliness. In fact, I think that fewer movie
chains would go out of business if the film industry would present excellent
movies for the public.
Of course, I was proud that Lieberman
was selected to run for vice president, though it was an obvious ploy by Gore
to separate himself from the sinful Clinton. I clipped from The New York Times
Lieberman’s address in Congress when he was the first Democrat to condemn the
President for his reprehensible behavior, though he wisely did not believe it
to be an impeachable offense.
I admit feeling slightly uncomfortable
when Lieberman injects so much religion into his stump speeches. But who knows
if our society wouldn’t improve if people truly adopted their religion’s
precepts and became more tolerant and caring instead of so intent on
accumulating more wealth and stuff? Then again, religion may not be the path to
tolerance and caring. Look at what’s happening in the Middle East now. Look at
Yugoslavia. Look at Iran. Look at how religion has led the call for wars
Informant was 57, was from New York, and
was living in Georgia
Chew Someone Down" Bieganski Interview #1
are Inherently Comic Janitors" Bieganski Interview # 2
Father Began to Conceal His Jewish Origins" Bieganski Interview # 3
Worked Like Moles Their Whole Lives Bieganski Interview # 4
Never, and I Mean Never, Threw Anything Away" Bieganski Interview # 5
Always Kept One Token Jew" Bieganski Interview # 6
Privilege? I Laugh" Bieganski Interview # 7
Died and I Was Set Free" #8
Jew is Clever. The Pole is Obnoxious, Loud, and Stupid." #9
Grandfather Let Anastasia Escape" #10