The Human Spirit: When Bubbe and Zayde write back
Here’s a little tip for you from your Zayde and Bubbe from our political days: Downloading isn’t political activism. Clicking “like” on Facebook isn’t political activism.
the schlep lab Photo: Courtesy
‘Call Your Zayde’ is a satiric political video that made its way around the
Internet in the final days before elections.
Parodying Carly Rae Jepsen’s
recent musical hit, “Call Me Maybe,” curly-haired granddaughter Michele gets on
the phone to convince her grandparents in south Florida to make sure they'll
vote for Barack Obama.
She turns Grandpa from undecided into an activist
for the Democrats. Even a few liberal sites were uncomfortable with the amount
of Yiddish used.
Here’s the email I’d expect her grandmother to send her
after the call.
My Dearest Einikel,
As always, I was delighted to hear
your voice on the phone. Any chance we could turn this into a regular event?
Since the presidential election is now over, we don’t have to discuss our voting
choices. But I’ve been thinking of your call and I want to share a few thoughts
with you, I realize that your calling us was a return to a program that was
dubbed in the 2008 election “the Great Schlep.” Back then, at our retirement
village, when we read that 200,000 young people had downloaded talking points to
address their grandparents, we were excited. We spruced up our guests rooms way
ahead of intercession, expecting a flow of grandkids. We, too, downloaded the
talking points so that we could be prepared for dialogue. After all, we were
political activists ourselves in the ’60s and were glad to hear our genes had
been expressed in you – even if they’d skipped a generation.
ourselves, we thought it was chutzpadik of you to think you might inform us
about what would be in our selfinterest.
We are, after all, men and women
experienced enough in the affairs of the world to have overcome our own economic
challenges so that we could fund your college education. But we remembered with
nostalgia the audacity of our own youth, the arguments we had with our parents
and our certainty that we would change the world for the better. So we were
ready for you to bring it on.
Unhappily, the so-called Great Schlep
turned into the Great Disappointment.
Fewer than 100 young folks actually
came down to Florida. Most of those who did come found that their grandparents
were devoted Democratic votes. They’d bonded with the party back when JFK
(that’s John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president) spoke of “a time for
Here’s a little tip for you from your Zayde and Bubbe from
our political days: Downloading isn’t political activism. Clicking “like” on
Facebook isn’t political activism.
You still have to get out there and
stump, ring the bells of strangers, risk having dogs unleashed on you and doors
slammed in your face.
The videos created by the Schlep Lab of the Jewish
Council for Education and Research (what an amazing name) have been shared
endlessly by our friends on Facebook. At the risk of you concluding that your
Bubbe doesn’t have a sense of humor (an old charge aimed at feminists like me),
I was offended by the suggestion in the original Schlep video that we would
choose our candidate by the color of his or her skin. Have you forgotten that
Zayde and I met on a Freedom Ride to Alabama as part of the Civil Rights
movement? Nearly everyone on our bus was Jewish. Singing on the bus late into
the night, when we ran out of songs like Let My People Go, we segued into
Passover songs. When Zayde and I say we fell in love over Had Gadya, we don’t
mean at a Seder. Uncle Mickey is named after martyred Mickey
(Google him, Schermer, Chaney, Goodman, Mississippi, 1964.)
His father was a sheitel-maker.
“We’re all the same inside,” preaches
that mischievous Sarah Silverman. But, my dear granddaughter, as you took the
trouble to remind us in your phone call, Zayde and I were born in Poland. We met
on the Freedom Ride, but our parents met in a DP camp. Our concern about the
fragility of the Jewish world may be – with all due respect to your beautiful
idealism – less rose-colored than yours. What’s good for the Jews and what’s
good for Israel will always be central for us. Speaking of which, we are
delighted that all those Jewish summer camps we insisted you attend had sticking
power. We liked the easy way you, Michele, use the expressions “lashon hara” and
“neshama.” But darling, when you call someone a liar, that is lashon hara. And
take it from some old politicos, neshamas don’t choose politics. The only sweet,
soft soul out there in a political campaign is you, sweet girl.
you’ll think I’m crotchety because I objected to the attempts to scare us. The
implication that you might skip your annual winter visit to sunny Florida to
punish us for us making up our minds about who to vote for was hurtful back in
2008. Your recent concern that the Republicans would take away Medicare was
touching but misplaced. Let me assure you that the crowd we hang out with is
knowledgeable about Medicare. Threats have always made us ornery. When you do
come down next time, we’ll show you the scrapbook from the scraps we’ve gotten
into – not only on the Freedom Ride, but protesting the Vietnam War,
demonstrating for Soviet Jewry and wearing gas masks on a solidarity mission
during the Gulf War.
Don’t think our hearing aids were turned off when we
didn’t react to your announcement that Shira is more than a roommate to you.
Sometimes it’s better not to answer right away. We’d be lying if we said that
your news made us joyful, but we were relieved to hear that with a name like
Shira, she might have an Israeli connection. If you are planning to experience
the joy of children in anything but the usual way, you might consider moving to
Israel, where such procedures are largely covered by health insurance. The
Israelis are No. 1 in IVF, not just IDF. Did you know that Sarah Silverman’s
brother-in-law has started solar fields, green energy on a kibbutz in the Negev?
Since the election is over we’d be proud if you and Shira used your own energy
and courage to stand up for Israel on your campus.
We might even schlep
north to help you.
Love, Bubbe P.S. Zayde doesn’t eat bagels and lox
He’s turned vegan.