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January 14, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-01-14

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

Editor's Notebook

Community Views

Jewish In America
Meets The Challenge

Going Cold Turkey
With the TV Set

LAURENCE !MERMAN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

PHIL JACOBS ED TOR

A friend's daugh-
ter, Amy, recent-
ly married a
"nice Jewish
boy." While cer-
tainly not an ex-
ceptional event,
the nay-sayers
among us might
claim the mar-
riage of two Jews a rare occur--
rence, given today's inter-
marriage rate and the bride's
background.

The bride is a seventh gener-
ation American and the fifth
generation of women in her fam-
ily to have obtained a univer-
sity education. Forebears could
be found since the Civil War
among the leadership of towns
from the Ohio River to the Ke-
weenaw Peninsula.
Amy attended a Reform tem-
ple's religious school, but did not
have a bat mitzvah. Nor did
Amy's family send their daugh-
ter to a Jewish camp or to Israel
as a teen-ager.
The bride's parents are equal-
ly at home in the gentile as in
the Jewish community. They
and Amy are, by any measure,
totally assimilated into Ameri-
can society.
Thinking of Amy, I wondered
whether the nature of her Jew-
ish identity offers an insight into
how my own daughter, seven
months old, will meet, as an
adult, the challenge of being
Jewish in America.
Amy's Jewish identity begins
with her family's history — a

Laurence Imerman is a Birm-

ingham attorney.

family that clearly identified it-
self as Jewish through seven
generations in this country. Her
Jewish ancestors not only
achieved many personal suc-
cesses, but labored to improve
the general society in which
they lived. They accomplished
this while actively practicing
their Judaism in places with few
co-religionists and fewer Jew-
ish institutions.
Being a Jew binds Amy to that
very personal history. Being a

Jew means Amy is yet another
thread in the complex tapestry of
Jewish life in America.
Equally important, Amy
views being Jewish an asset, not
a liability, or worse, an in-
significance. The identity ties
her to a people who not alone
created Israel, but also played
a major role in shaping modern
America. Further, she shares a
common "religious" social sta-
tus with high church Protes-
tants.
For almost 50 years, the Jew-
ish community has utilized the
Holocaust and Israel to fashion
Jewish identity. We, as a com-
munity, have not invested the
same energy constructing mu-
seums of American Jewish his-
tory throughout the country nor
highlighting American Jewish
history for our children.
For someone like Amy, mem-
ories of Europe are of Eurail
passes and perhaps seeing a
play or two in London. The
Holocaust is but another — al-
beit more personal — example
of man's inhumanity to man:
another 20th century instance
of a government, which tried to

systematically destroy a tribe,
ethnic or religious group.
Israel's emotional tie for Amy
is an abstraction. As a child, she
planted trees in Israel and she
marched with classmates on Is-
rael Independence day. But she
increasingly views Israel as "dif-
ferent" — a Middle East state
with its own culture and her-
itage. It is not her second home-
land.
Perhaps as the Jewish lead-
ership focuses upon the multi-

faceted aspects of Jewish
continuity and identification, we
should examine how the Amys
of our community define their
Jewishness.
This scrutiny should occur in
light of the fact that the vast
majority of Jews are third or
fourth generation Americans
and that an increasing per-
centage of Jewish children are
from mixed-marriage house-
holds or homes where one par-
ent converted. These children
do not bring the same emotion-
al response to the Holocaust and
Israel as their parents or grand-
parents. We need innovative
symbols of Jewishness drawn
from the American Jewish ex-
perience.
As the children at Tamarack
sit around the campfire singing
songs, they should sing both
about the heroes who built Is-
rael and those who built the
United States into the most vi-
brant community in history.
We must create stirring visions
derived from the children's own
experiential base to form that
necessary shorthand for being
and remaining Jewish. ❑

This week's
Talking To Kids
seminar at the
Shaarey Zedek
Parenting Center
brought to mind
an experience
that we had in
the early 1980s,
one that I'm
about ready to try again.
My wife and I, both working
people, would leave every morn-
ing, and get back in the evening
by 6 p.m. We were without chil-
dren at the time, so often the
television became an automatic
distraction. There were times
when the TV went on just for
background noise. It became ob-
vious, though, that we were ad-
dicted to the tube.
We knew how to watch our fa-
vorite reruns of M*A*S*H three
separate times during the
evening on three separate sta-
tions. We'd find ourselves com-
menting that "Dan Rather looks
a little gaunt tonight; I wonder
what's the matter." This was a
small television, a table-top
model, and we would carry it
from one room to the next of our
two-bedroom condo. But we
thought we weren't addicted.
Then one day in 1982, on a
dare from a friend, we gave away
the television. He took the lit-
tle Sony and put it on his closet
shelf. Whenever we visited, I'd
ask to see the television, almost
as if I was visiting a friend on the
other side of a glass prison wall.
What was also happening,
though was significant. My wife
and I were forced to have mean-
ingful conversations with one an-
other. We actually read real
books other than TV Guide.
Still, there was that addiction.
Nights spent volunteering to dri-
ve to the mall and visit Sears
and the TV section. The 45-
minute drive to my mother-in-
law's was rewarded by the TV in
the den. And any time we'd stay
in a hotel, I checked the TV be-
fore I opened the curtains.
Then came the change that
brought TV back into my home
life. We had a baby. The babysit-
ter would be given the tour of the
apartment. Here's the refriger-
ator; have something cold to
drink; there are pretzels and
chips in this cabinet; enjoy.
"Where's the TV?" asked the
14-year-old with a mop of brown
hair and a serious "you better
come through with the goods"
look on her freckled face.
"We don't have a TV."
We also didn't have a babysit-
ter. The "rational" self, exhibit-
ing the classid addictive

friends, who held our television

captive, were out of town. Before
my wife could even respond, I
was in line at the department
store buying a 19-inch television.
When I brought it home, it was
after 11/2 years of no television
at home.
During the time when the TV
was away, I can tell you that our
lives changed. My addiction was
still there, but we did spend
more time together and with our
friends. We did enjoy a quiet
household. One of the strangest
aspects was listening to friends
talk about particular showS and
not knowing what they were
talking about.
Now, the posture has
changed. What was discussed at
the Parenting Center hits home

The putdowns,
the sarcasm that we
hear from our
children can
be controlled.

for many of us. The thought of
our children talking to us like a
Bart Simpson or a Beevis and
Butthead is chilling. There are
some redeeming broadcasts on
television.
Still, if you happen to have a
rare acqaintance who doesn't
have a television in his home,
you'll find his life isn't any less
rich than the overwhelming ma-
jority who are hostage to TV.
Truthfully, his life is probably
richer. There's conversation go-
ing on that has meaning.
With television, we are artifi-
cially taken into the lives of fic-
tional characters or the
negativity of reality program-
ming to the point that we don't
hear what our own children or
spouses are saying.
The Parenting Center work-
shop was teaching us how to talk
and listen in a way that doesn't
copy a sitcom or docu-drama.
Isn't that sad, that we even need
such a reminder. Yet it's clear
we do.
It's difficult to make a change.
But we should consider, if not
giving our television sets to our
friends for a while, at least figu-
ratively "giving them away" by
turning them on a lot less. Par-
ents should be stronger about
the TV. It shouldn't be a babysit-
ting device only. In this day an
age, it's sad that we have to mon-
behavior, explained to my wife itor the monitor. But if your chil-
that if we ever wanted to get out dren see that the sum total of
on Saturday nights, it was time your marital experience is re-

to get a television set. My

COLD TURKEY page 8

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