To the Glory of the Jewish Mother
Women's Lib battles for many rights. The one cause that has
been overlooked is Mother. So much nonsense has been written about
the Jewish Mother! In the language of the psychiatrists, there is a
hidden hatred for the lady who can be gentle and who can be firm
but whose love is unmatched.
Becouse of the nonsense in so many novels about both Mother
and Father, who have helped create so much genius on the East Side
of New York and the East End of London, there has already been
an elevating feeling in reading Jerome Weidman's "Fourth Street
East." When we reviewed it, we expressed joy over the great tribute
the son Jerome paid his father. Now Jerome Weidman provides a
marvelous tribute to Mother, in an article, "My Mother and Somerset
Maugham," which we shall quote from Bookmark, the Jewish Pub-
lication Society organ, and for which we are most grateful to JPS.
Weidman states right off the bat that he wrote his recollection
about Mother not "in defense of"—calling it "the wrong phrase"—
but as "setting the record straight" about Mother.
His mother, who died only recently at the age of 91, is described
as being typical of Jewish mothers. She escaped to this country from
Russia and Poland during the pogroms, "with only one desire: to find
a safe haven for her children:"
Unlike the all-too-many self-degrading Jewish writers who have
made their m.others, the Jewish mothers, the butts of their venom,
Weidman wrote in his JPS piece:
"Frankly, among all the kids I grew up with, all of them in the
protective shadow of Jewish mothers like mine, I never knew a fussy
feeder. My mother never said 'Eat! Eat!' She had too much
dignity. And too much sense. And I was always too hungry. I
never dug cute islands and cut tricky little canals in my plate of
farina. 1 gulped the stuff down. Instead of 'Eat! Eat!'. the Jewish
mothers with whom I grew Up always said: 'Not so fast. While I'm
here nobody is going to take it away from you.' Nobody did. And
that's why I'm here. To set the record. straight."
He then proceeded to relate the story about his mother and
Somerset Maugham, in the form of an anecdote that assumes a high
role of ethical parable.
It was in 1934, Weidman relates. He was then 21. He had aban-
doned law studies for a writing career. He moved out of his Bronx
home and rented a room on New York's MacDougal Street. Richard
Simon, the president of Simon & Schuster, had already bought some
of his short stories.
Once a week, on Friday night, he was assured a good meal at
On a particular Friday in 1934, his mother suggested he not
Corn:! to the Bronx that night but meet her in front of Klein's to help
her buy a coat. Having acco:nplished that task, he took his mother
uptown, by way of the subway, to see the important buildings. On the
way, she stopped at one of the many Cushman stores to buy a favorite
cake, described thus by Weidman:
It was always the same cake, and it always came from Cush-
man's: a lemon horror that consisted of two slabs of golden yel-
low sponge cake filled with some kind of darker yellow custard.
I don't know where my mother acquired her passion for this con-
fection., but I do know it was a passion easy enough to satisfy:
there were Cushman stores all over town and the damned cake
cost onlii 29 cents.
Having purchased "the 29 cent lemon horror," as they passed the
marquee of the old,. now gone, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a taxi pulled up at
the curb and out stepped W. Somerset Maugham. Weidman had been
introduced to Maugham by Richard Simon. As he stepped out of the
taxi in front of the Ritz, Maugham recognized the young Jerome and
was introduced to his mother. In his delightful JPS Bookmark story,
Weidman explains that his mother understood only a limited number
of English words and he had to act as interpreter during the scene
he depicts in his wonderful story. From this point on, it is necessary
that the Weidman should be quoted in its entirety and the Mashal
—the parable—which Weidman described as an anecdote:
The meeting began, as I have <t'
indicated, with my introducing
these two formidable characters
and translating their acknowl-
edgements. My mother took the
ball at once.
"I am very glad to meet you,"
she said. "My son tells me you
are very famous and very success-
ful and you have been good
enough to be friendly to him."
"It has been my pleasure," said
Mr. Maugham in his most courtly
manner, and. when it came to
courtly manners he was no slouch.
"I would. like to ask you a ques-
tion that has been troubling me
and my husband for over a year,"
my mother said. "Our son has al-
ways been a very good boy, and
very smart in school. We always
thought he was going to be a
lawyer, and he was doing .very
well in law school, but last year
he surprised us by giving up the
law, leaving the Bronx, and go-
ing to live in Greenwich Village
with a whole new career. A writ-
er. My husband and I do not want
to interfere. We trust our son.
But we can't help worrying. So
what I want to ask you, Mr. Mau-
gham, is this. Do you think our
son made a wise decision?"
Mr. Mawg-ham, 'which is the
way my mother pronounced his
2 Friday, August 6, 1971
name, looked thoughtful while I
"On the whole, Mrs. Weidman,"
he said finally, "I would say yes.
Tile lad has a bit of talent, as
much as many, perhaps more than
most, and the way the world
seems to be going in his fourth
decade of the Twentieth Century,
I am inclined to think the pen
would lead to a happier life than
the law, and possibly even a more
lucrative one. Yes, Mrs. Weid-
man, I believe your son has made
a wise decision."
As I translated this impeccably
enunciated speech, my mother's
face began to glow. She had al-
ways had a wonderful smile.
"You have made me very hap-
py," she said. "When I get home
and tell my husband what you
have just told me, I know it will
make him even happier. As a
token of my gratitude from the
Weidman family, here I want
you to have this."
And she handed Somerset Mau-
gham the 29 cent lemon sponge
cake from Cushman's.
"You are very kind," said Mau-
ghain with a bow. Courtly, of
course. "It has been a great pleas-
ure meeting you."
A Jerome Weidman Story About the Jewish
Mother . . : With W. Somerset Maugham to Her
Defense . . . Vatican Challenged on Jerusalem
A Christian's Defense of Israel's Position on Jerusalem . .
Vatican Attitudes Challenged . . . Greek, Orthodox, Armenians Defend Israel
Does the Vatican still insist upon internationalization of Jerusalem? How does a new interpretation,
about the Pope's insistance upon "Christian 'protection' of the Christian Holy Places" apply to the realism
of our time? Is the interpretation of the Vatican position sound and workable?
An eminent Christian, the Rev. Dr. G. Douglas Young, president of the American Institute of Holy
Land Studies, offering his views on this issue to the Jerusalem Post, asserl ed that the latest report of
Pope Paul's attitude "makes even less sense" than the earlier one. Young stated:
"It is too bad that His Holiness lives so far away and must rely on the poor advice being rec(
from local sources and/or that from neighboring countries.
"By what stretch of imagination is it possible to proceed in the I e of the clear evidence? V
`holy place' is not better protected since 1967 than it ever was prior to th,ht date? Who is it that is
the Moslem Brotherhoo
ing His Holiness that protection now is more urgently needed than
continuously putting up more and more restrictions prior to 1967? Hot• .: an the decorum, etcetera, I
.o 1967 even begin to be ct-
pared with that under the pres-
ent administration? Those of us
who visited these 'holy places'
both before and after 1967 can
readily bear testimony to the
greater 'protection' of the places
and peoples currently.
"Has His Holiness not yet been
advised that the guards at Al
Aksa were not Jews and that
the normal guards at the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, for ex-
ample, have traditionally been,
and still are, other than Jews?
It is hard to' understand this at-
titude of fear in the light of the
facts as they are. It is not hard
to understand it in the light of
Christian anti-Jewishness through
the past 1,000 years at least.
May all Christians awake to the
current realities and forsake
W. Somerset Maugham
completely and practically the
attitude toward Jews of the
He bowed again, tucked the
nounced it Jerum. "Could you
past 2,000 years. The church
cardboard cake box under his arm,
give me the address of the bake
no reason to fear that Jews
and walked off into the revolving
shop in which your mother pur-
may treat their 'holy places' as
doors of the Ritz. My mother and
chased that lemon tart?"
the church treated Jews during
I turned toward the subway, and
My first reaction defies descrip-
the past. If Christians living out-
I let her have it.
tion. By me, at any rate. Let's just
side find that hard to believe,
say I was confused.
"Do you know what you've just
let them be more patient and ob-
done?" I said furiously. "You've
"Why, uh, I think " I Said, and
just ruined my career. This man
then I did start to think. "I think
It is tragic that in a matter of
is not only one of the world's the address is printed on the such great significance as reli-
most famous and successful writ-
gious freedom in Israel there is
ers. He is also one of the world's
"No," said Mr. Maugham. "All so much confusion, created prima-
great experts on food. He pays
it says on the box is Cushman's. rily by reports from Rome that
his chef iii the south of France
It seems to be a chain of shops. keep adding fuel to an unneces-
more money each year than I have
What I'd like to know is the loca- sary theological fire. Dr. Young
earned in my whole life. He has
tion of the one in which you pur- is among many Christians who
been kind enough to ' talk to ed-
chased the tart your mother gave have refuted rumors as well as
itors about me. As a result they
official statements from the Vati-
have bought my stories. He has
"All right, now let's see," I can. The truth must, in the course
written a statement about my nov-
said, and I closed my eyes to see of time, reach all fair-minded reli-
el that Mr. Simon has printed in
better. "If you leave Klein's with gious leaders. The Jerusalem issue,.
his ads and as a result I have
a little old lady on your arm, and is major among the controversiaL-1:: -
sold many copies. All this you've
you come out into Union Square ones to be resolved in the interest
destroyed by giving Mr. Mau-
carrying a box containing a spring of inter-faith peace. Dr. Young
gham a piece of cheap junk like
and you turn right into helps keep the record straight and
that damned 29 cent cake."
Fourth Avenue, and you go up to his contribution to the cause of
We had reached the subway
Twenty-Third Street, then, turn truth will list his name among the
kiosk. My mother turned, took
left into Twenty-Third, and go up noblemen of our time.
from me the box containing her
spring coat and smiled her won-
"Just wait till he eats it," she
I did not have to wait long. I
had an appointment to pick up
some' galleys from the production
manager of Simon & Schuster. -I
walked around the corner to
Fourth Avenue. When I came in-
to the reception room, the tele-
phone operator stuck her head
out of the small window over her
switchboard and said., "Mr. Mau-
gham called a few minutes ago.
He wants you to call him back at
Oh, God, I thought, as she
made the call, here it comes.
What came was Mr. Maugham's
voice, crisp and business-like, as
"Jerome," he said. He pro-
to Madison, turn right, and you
go up Madison two blocks after
you pass the Metropolitan, Life
Building you'll see a Loft's candy
store on the corner. Well, two
blocks beyond the Loft's, right on
the corner, you'll find the Cush-
man's bake shop."
"Thank you," Mr. Maugham
said. "That sounds explicit
By now my confusion had giv-
en way to curiosity.
"Do you mind telling me why
you are so anxious to know the
location of that shop?" I said.
"It's Gerald," Somerset Mau-
gham said. Gerald was Maugham's
male secretary and traveling com-
panion, a man almost as well-
known in the literary circles of
the day as Maugham himself.
"The lemon tart," Somerset Mau-
gham said. "Gerald now wants a
whole one for himself."
Thus—so delightfully!—Jerome Weidman, with the aid of won-
derful memories about his mother, has demolished the stupidities
that denigrate the Great Lady in Jewish life.
There are so many prejudices, over mother's cooking, her an-
xieties; something out of fear for an accent and certainly due to
resentment over the great love that comes from a devoted heart!
Out of it all, Mother emerges as the considerate, 'the devoted, the
anxious—the loving!—relative. She may talk too much, she may be
searching for the innermost feelings of offspring, she may be scru-
tinizing too much—it is all out of love. Let youth learn the lesson
of Weidman's mother—via W. Somerset Maugham and the 29 cent
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS lemon horror cake !
Facts vs. Prejudices
It is well that the Jerusalem is-:
sue has come to a head, even in
the debate before a U.S. Congres- -
sional committee. Discussions will
lead to truth.
For instance, as we had indicat-
ed editorially last week, under
Moslem rule the Christian popula-
tion of Jerusalem had dropped
from some 25,000 in 1948 to some
10,000 in 1967 under Moslem Jor-
dan's rule. Under Israel rule
that population has grown to more
than 111,000 and will probably con-
tinue to grow rapidly.
The Catholic prejudices vis-a-
vis Israel, as expressed at the Con-
gressional hearing, inspired by the
Vatican, are deplorable. But they
are being refuted. And in Jeru-
salem the Greek Orthodox and
Armenian Patriarchs spoke with
satisfaction about the Israel gov-
ernment's fairness in protecting
the Holy Places. s_
Greek Orthodox Patriarchene-
dictos pointed out that damage to
a monastery in 1967 was a war
casualty and he stated: "We
would like to stress it again, that
the Holy Places in general, mon-
asteries and churches, were given
full respect and protection by the
Israelis before the war, during
the war and afterwards."
Members of Congress, and
critics of Israel, please take note !