Something’s not kosher / Algo no es kosher

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

I WASN’T RAISED RELIGIOUS. I was raised to: “Make it look good for the neighbours.” On the high holy days, when you weren’t allowed to drive anywhere (because the bible said so… don’t get me started), my mother would make us dress in our holiday best. My father would leave the apartment first and we would give him enough time to drive the car around to under the el (the elevated train) behind the building behind ours. We would then head out together looking like we were off for a wholesome walk. My mother’s eyes darted in every direction until we reached the car and then we’d all pile in — and go shopping. Or to visit one of her sisters. Or for a meal.

So, the memory of today’s first photo below (from 1972) always makes me laugh. My sister Dale’s soon-to-be-husband whom she met in Scotland four months earlier, flew into New York from London, swept her off her feet, and they were married a week later. That night, my mother hosted a cocktail party at the apartment, because he was whisking her off to England in two days.

Dale’s style was big-city elegant. Her new husband turned out to be at times a possessive prig and didn’t approve of her big city style for the cocktail party. So he went shopping with her that afternoon and picked out this pretty-in-pink, not even the neck exposed, peasant dress. No makeup that night either. Not Dale’s style, but she was happy. Anyway, back to my real point.

I saw Dale talking with my grandmother and I snapped a photo. Dale looked like she was trying hard to not burst out laughing. I knew the look. She immediately filled me in. My grandmother, some level of orthodox Jew, asked Dale how she was going to find a kosher butcher in the little northern English town she was headed for. Dale lied. Yes, she lied. She said, “Oh, grandma, I would never shop anywhere but a kosher butcher. There’s a big city nearby that has everything we need.”

My niece was born in Germany a little over a year later. On one of my visits to them in England when my niece was around 3, I took a photo and framed it for my grandmother. When I gave it to her, she smiled and said, “Oy, a little shiksa [a gentile girl or woman].” (Dale’s husband wasn’t Jewish.) I said, “But, Grandma, don’t they say the mother’s religion determines the religion of the child?”

Your sister?” my grandmother smiled, “A shiksa.”

P.S.: Dale’s little northern English town had a kosher butcher. She never went in.


NO ME CRIARON RELIGIOSO. ME criaron para: “Hacer que se vea bien para los vecinos”. En los días santos, cuando no se te permitía conducir a ninguna parte (porque la Biblia lo decía … no me hagas empezar), mi madre nos hacía vestirnos mejor en nuestras vacaciones. Mi padre saldría primero del apartamento y le daríamos suficiente tiempo para conducir el coche hasta debajo del el (el tren elevado) detrás del edificio detrás del nuestro. Luego salíamos juntos con la apariencia de que íbamos a dar un paseo saludable. Los ojos de mi madre se movieron en todas direcciones hasta que llegamos al coche y luego todos nos amontonábamos y nos íbamos de compras. O visitar a una de sus hermanas. O para comer.

Entonces, el recuerdo de la primera foto de hoy a continuación (de 1972) siempre me hace reír. El futuro esposo de mi hermana Dale, a quien conoció en Escocia cuatro meses antes, voló a Nueva York desde Londres, la sorprendió y se casaron una semana después. Esa noche, mi madre organizó un cóctel en el apartamento, porque él la llevaría a Inglaterra en dos días.

El estilo de Dale era elegante en la gran ciudad.
Su nuevo esposo resultó ser a veces un mojigato posesivo y no aprobaba su estilo de gran ciudad para el cóctel. Así que fue de compras con ella esa tarde y eligió este bonito vestido de campesina de color rosa, ni siquiera con el cuello al descubierto. Sin maquillaje esa noche tampoco. No era el estilo de Dale, pero estaba feliz. De todos modos, volviendo a mi punto real.

Vi a Dale hablando con mi abuela y le hice una foto. Dale parecía que estaba tratando de no echarse a reír. Conocía la mirada. Inmediatamente me puso al corriente. Mi abuela, un judío ortodoxo de cierto nivel, le preguntó a Dale cómo iba a encontrar un carnicero kosher en la pequeña ciudad del norte de Inglaterra a la que se dirigía. Dale mintió. Sí, mintió. Ella dijo: “Oh, abuela, nunca compraría en ningún otro lugar que no fuera un carnicero kosher. Hay una gran ciudad cercana que tiene todo lo que necesitamos”.

Mi sobrina nació en Alemania poco más de un año después. En una de mis visitas a ellos en Inglaterra, cuando mi sobrina tenía alrededor de 3 años, tomé una foto y se la enmarqué a mi abuela. Cuando se lo di, ella sonrió y dijo: “Oy, una shiksa (en judió ‘chica gentil’)”. (El marido de Dale no era judío). Le dije: “Pero, abuela, ¿no dicen que la religión de la madre determina la religión del niño?”

“¿TU hermana?” mi abuela sonrió, “Una shiksa”.

P.D.: La pequeña ciudad del norte de Inglaterra de Dale tenía un carnicero kosher. Ella nunca entró.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

35 thoughts on “Something’s not kosher / Algo no es kosher”

    1. David:
      My mother didn’t care that Jerry wasn’t Jewish because he came from a famous Yankee family.

  1. I love the vision of your mom walking you all around the back ever so sedately to sneak into the get-away car. Always about how it looked. Those kind of societal pressures were pretty intense back then. A little less obvious today, but perhaps just as pervasive in some venues (e.g. chosen profession, social media, where you live, etc.). As your grandma would have said, Oy vey!

    1. Mary:
      She didn’t even carry a purse because that wasn’t allowed either. It was always a tense walk to the car.

  2. religion is a mental illness and a cult (says the ex-catholic). my, dale had a whirlwind romance. just curious – do you keep in touch with your BIL or your niece?

    1. anne marie:
      We remained close with my brother-in-law and niece for a while… but things happened. So, sadly, no longer. But it’s better this way.

      1. understand. I have the same issues. blood is not always a reason to remain contact.

    1. Bob:
      Oh the hoops we would jump through for my mother — to maintain our reputations! I have some other stories to tell (of course I do) about the inconsistencies.

    1. Debra:
      Grandma was a very intelligent and shrewd woman. I wonder why she even bothered asking Dale about kosher butchers.

  3. What a fun post ! Love the short grandmother with the tall children.
    Your sister is a hoot and a beauty your niece is adorable.

    1. Parsnip:
      My grandmother was tiny (not even 5-feet and a LOT shorter in old age). Five of their seven children were above average in height. My mother was one that was not. And almost all my cousins are tall. Dale and I were the tallest, at 5’10” or so and 6’2″. We seemingly got all our height from my grandfather.

  4. I was raised a proper little Christian, but it didn’t take. It was more painful when I realized Santa wan’t real than when I realized God wasn’t real either. But I will give credit to my parents – they quietly lived their beliefs.

    Your niece is a beauty just like her mother. I think I see a muppet in the chair behind her.

    1. Wilma:
      I’ll have to write more about my religious experiences in my family. They could be quite comical — although didn’t always seem so at the time. I had bought my niece Bert and Ernie puppets and they were sitting behind her on the lounge chair.

  5. You have to do what you have to do! And Grandmas usually are very wise. They just keep most of it inside and use it when necessary. If ever.
    I can see Dale almost bursting!! lol

    1. Jim:
      Dale had a very difficult time keeping a straight face with my grandmother. There are so many stories.

  6. I seem to remember addressing this before in your comment section, but I can’t remember why. Isn’t there some practical reason for all those kosher rules, that it’s not just mindless religious ritual? I’ve heard of non-Jews seeking out kosher foods because of the health benefits.

    1. Kirk:
      There’s lots of information available online about the reasons for kosher laws. They were based mostly on health and safety issues, so did make sense in early times. I’ll have to share some of the inconsistencies I was surrounded by. But the rules around what you could and could not do during holy days and other times evolved through history and could be, to me, very comical.

    1. wickedhamster:
      The term for SG is shaygets. Neither word is nice. Both derive from the Hebrew word shekkets, which apparently means something akin to abominable. Charming, huh?

      1. wickedhamster:
        And I’m sure you’re right about that — not speaking from experience but that one can be both at the same time.

  7. Oh, Mitchell! That photo of Dale is the first one that I have seen, where I realllllly see Chuck’s face and your face in her face 🙂 So sweet to see that!

    1. Judy:
      I love that you see that! I’ll have to find others that may show the resemblances more obviously.

  8. Funny! I love your family stories. I hope Dale went back to her big-city glamor — not because she didn’t look good without it, but because it’s what she wanted deep-down.

      1. Steve:
        We’re no longer in touch. Not since a short time after my mother died in 2016.

    1. Steve:
      Dale never did go back to big city glamour. It was sometimes a sore spot, but she really didn’t care much. She liked her new life.

  9. I’m so familiar with “let’s pretend we’re a happy family and we don’t have problems.” Love the photo of Dale and Grandma. A sister-in-law (ex-husband’s younger sister) dated a Jewish guy long ago. My mother-in-law said her daughter was a shitska. I don’t know about the ska part, but she was definitely a shit.


    1. Janie:
      That would be a shiksa, not a shitska, although it sounds like in this case shitska was more appropriate.

  10. I’m reminded of the flights to Miami and Tampa from Toronto back in my Air Canada days. You knew damned well that half the people who ordered Kosher meals for the flights didn’t keep kosher at home. My friend Shirl who was a chief steward use to laugh at the charade that every one was in on.

Please share your thoughts...

%d bloggers like this: