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July 01, 1983 - Image 47

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-07-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Kreplach Joke and Two New Books

By JOSEPH COHEN

NEW ORLEANS — By
one of those coincidences of
the mails, Nora Ephron's
"Heartbroken" (Knopf) and
Blu Greenberg's "How to
Run a Traditional Jewish
Household" (Simon and
Schuster) landed on my
desk at the same time. With
respect to publication dates,
one was late in arriving, the
other early.
Before even opening
them, I knew, as most any-
one would, what each book
was about: one dealt with
the breakup of a Jewish
home, the other with main-
taining and strengthening
it.
Both books are filled with
a love of life, and each
author specifically attri-
butes to Jewish life a special
significance, through Ep-
hron, in this first novel, is,
as one would expect, as
casual and clever about her
subject as Greenberg is
serious and thoughtful
about hers. Each in her own
way celebrates the Jewish
role and each puts a lot of
emphasis on the importance
of food.
Advice about cooking
and recipes abound so
that either book could
end up on your cookbook
shelf and not be out of
place. In these respects
and one other — both are
basically autobiographi-
cal — the two books, for
all their differences,
curiously complement
one another, though, ad-
mittedly, the connection
may be made only in the
reader's head.
Of course, they are vastly
different. Ephron's fiction is
irreverent, crisis-laden, and
funny; her subject is the loss

of love, "Heartburn" being a
witty, upbeat account of the
dissolution of her marriage
to Carl Bernstein of
Watergate journalism
fame. Greenberg's "How
To" non-fiction work is
transformed by its rever-
ence, and its illuminating
commentary, from an ordi-
nary manual into a valu-
able guide to the gaining of
love by relating halakha to
contemporary life.

* * *
Morris Branch
Has Senior Social

The Jimmy Prentis Mor-
ris Branch of the Jewish
Center holds a social at 1:30
p.m. Wednesdays for adults
age 65 and older.
The social includes re-
freshments, dancing and
entertainment. Among the
other programs for seniors
are painting, Bible study,
I dance, current events dis-
cussion, writing and lec-
tures.
For details, call the Mor-
ris Branch, 967-4030.
The branch also has a
gardening program for

i

W

comes pregnant with their
second child. This suste-
nance accounts for the retel-
ling of the well-known
kreplach joke early in the
book, for it is the central
metaphor of the entire
novel. Rachel's plight is
summed by the joke.
Ephron's version of it is as
follows:

Much of the motivation
behind each book lies in the
two authors' responses to
the overwhelming experi-
ences, one negative, one
positive, of their marriages.
In both cases, these mar-
riages were and are among
the best known in the
American Jewish commu-
nity. Both look like they
were made in heaven: one
wasn't, the other was.
For Ephron, whose mar-
riage to Carl Bernstein
turned out not to be made in
heaven, food becomes the
compensatory substitute for
love, not in the eating but in
the communicating about
it, which is also nurturing.
Her protagonist, Rachel
Samstat, publishes cook-
books "My
Grandmother's Cookies"
and "Uncle Seymour's Beef
Borscht" — gives cooking
demonstrations at Macy's
and performs on her own
television food show, de-
scribing herself as "a
middlebrow Julia Child
crossed with a highbrow
Dinah Shore."
Food comes to sustain
Rachel's life figuratively as
well as literally when love
evaporates through her
husband Mark's initiation
of an affair just after she be-

Talk on Cults at the Center

The Jewish Community
Center will host a talk on
"Programmed for
g _ Paradise," by Willa Appel,
i - author of "Cults in
America," 8 p.m. Wednes-
day in the Henry and Delia
Meyers Library at the main
Center complex.
The program is co-
sponsored by the Individual
- Freedom Federation. For
information, call the Cen-
ter, 661-1000, ext. 250.
The works of sculptor
I Leonard Schwartz will be on
display at the Center from
Wednesday through July
31. Schwartz will conduct a
- _ class at the Center during
the course of his exhibit.

I

Friday, July 1, 1983

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

VICTOR YAFFA

adults age 65 and older.
Many of the members of
the senior adult program
have planted their own
fruit, vegetables and
flowers.
Volunteer Victor Yaffa
helps manage and maintain
the grounds at the Morris
Branch. To participate in
the gardening program, call
the Morris Branch.

NJ Merger

EAST ORANGE, N.J.
(JTA) — The merger of the
Jewish Community Federa-
tion of Metropolitan New
Jersey and the United
Jewish Federation of
Morris-Sussex has been an-
nounced.

Once upon a time there
was a little boy who hated
kreplach. Every time he saw
a piece of kreplach in the
soup he screamed,"Aaaaah,
kreplach!" So his mother de-
cided to teach him not to be
afraid of kreplach.
She took him into the
kitchen and rolled out some
dough. "Just like a pan-
cake," she said. "Just like a
pancake," said the little boy.
Then she took a piece of meat
and rolled it into a ball.
"Just like a meatball," she
said. "Just like a meatball,"
said the little boy.
Then she rolled up the
meat in the dough and held
it up. "Just like a dumpl-
ing," she said. "Just like a
dumpling," said the little
boy. Then she dropped it into
the soup and put it in front of
the - little = boy, and he
screamed, "Aaaaah, krep-
lach!"

with a failed first marriage
to an erratic Jew named
Charlie. Maybe it's sheer
coincidence, maybe it's not.
Rachel's two last decisive
acts when the marriage is at
the final breaking point are,
first, to throw a key lime pie
smack into Mark's face, a
way of emphasizing the loss
and the waste of the mar-
riage goodies; and secondly,
to give Mark her secret re-
cipe for vinaigrette, which
act is a statement not so
much of the efficacy of nur-
turing as a reaffirmation of
marriage. Though theirs is
beyond salvaging, in the
heart of the Jewish Ameri-
cart- Princess hope springs
eternal. In the end, the
kreplach has to be swal-
lowed.
"Heartburn" is a good re-
cipe for light summer fare.
It has its merits, through
Ephron's story on how to
ruin a sophisticated Jewish
household isn't going to be
as durable as Green's How
to Run a Traditional Jewish
Household." For all the
pleasure each book gives its
own way, The only cop-out
is that neither gives us an
actual recipe for kreplach.
And that's no joke!

For Rachel, the survivor
of one failed marriage to an
erratic Jew named Charlie,
the fear of the failing again
with Mark is so deeply in-
grained that her anxiety is
equivalent to that of the lit-
tle boy's anxiety.
Life, our mother, tells us
about the goodies in the
marriage soup and the nur-
turing components are held
up before us, but for Rachel,
swallowing the kreplach,
that is, surviving the
strains on her second mar-
riage, is more than she can
cope with successfully.
Facing the kreplach is
facing reality. It is signific-
ant that it is Rachel's
therapist, Vera, who "tells
the kreplach joke a lot."
Why should the krep-
lach joke in its metaphor-
ical context be so impor-
tant? Because, as Blu
Greenberg makes it clear
in her book, marriage is
at the heart of Jewish
continuity and human
well-being. Ephron's
Rachel argues that she
isn't a Jewish princess
but her subsequent
thoughts and actions
belie her words.
Her espousal of Jewish
princessdom is most obvious
in the emphasis she places
on being married. Indeed,
her whole novel is a litany of
responses, some glad, more
sad, to the state of mat-
rimony. We hear as much
about Charlie as we do
about Mark.
The extent of which Char-
lie materializes out of
Rachel's past makes me
wonder if he is as autobiog-
raphical as is Mark, or if he
evolved out of the humorous
work of another well-known
American Jewish woman
writer, Erica Jong, whose
protagonist, Isadora Wing,
in "Fear of Flying" was also
a Jewish American Princess

P'•

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(Engagements

Mr. and Mrs. Connie Gag-
liardi of Buena Park, Calif.,
announce the engagement
of their daughter, Jane
Gagliardi, to Dr. Bruce H.
Letvin of Torrence, Calif.,
and the son of Mr. and Mrs.
A. Eugene Letvin of South-
field. Miss Gagliardi was
graduated from Cypress
College, where she earned a
degree in medical technol-
ogy. Her fiance holds a BS
degree from Michigan State
University and was
graduated from the San
Francisco College of Podiat-
ric Medicine. A September
wedding is planned.

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