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 credit: Courtesy)
the schlep lab
(photo credit: 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.
Among 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 greatness.”
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 Schwermer.
(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.
I’m sure 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 anymore.
He’s turned vegan.