We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, February 24. 2011
The “Battle Hymn of the Jewish Mother” is a reply to the Wall Street Journal article last month, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” that caused quite a stir. At root, the difference is between raising a mensch and raising a child to be a self-centered person with primary responsibility to self, above all striving for success, wealth and status, separated from and above society, and even the child’s own nature.
In Yiddish, there’s no higher goal or compliment than being a mensch. In simple translation from the German, a mensch is simply a man. In Jewish culture, a mensch is the highest compliment, a person of the highest character who knows and acts with a strong sense of what is right and responsible toward others. It is believed that success in life is in being a mensch, and though material success is a possible outcome through the respect from others, success in being a worthwhile, contributing human being is a sure thing and most to be desired.
As many American Jewish homes have become more secularized, the central concept of being a mensch is less stressed. And, Christian homes have never been lacking in similar stress on being a worthwhile, contributing human being. Yet, the model of the selfish super-achiever has come more and more to, in my opinion, contaminate our culture. Not only are government, business, academia the poorer for this but they’ve made America poorer, less the City On The Hill.Comments?
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Having been brought up with a family of my parents' best friends who were Jewish, I absorbed much of what you say, Bruce, as a child. As a matter of fact, most parents of our generation believed in these concepts whether they were Jewish or not. Dad was a member of the board of the National Council of Christians and Jews in Milwaukee and active in their efforts to promote better understanding of our joint heritage.
Your essay on this is extremely good both as a piece of prose and as an explanation of what I think of as Judeo-Christian philosophy.
You, sir, are a mensch, in my understanding of the word. And your boys will grow up to be too.
Back in the 1950s, I read a book by Noah Gordon called The Jerusalem Diamond. One of the striking elements of it was how much of Jewish family history is oral, passed down from parents to children through what must amount in some cases to thousands of years. That was Mr. Gordon's premise, at least. The only other cultural group I'm aware of with a similar emphasis on oral genealogy is the Japanese culture, although I think that the inhabitants of Iceland have a similar tradition. It results, I think from a kind of cultural isolation, either because of geographic isolation, or because of persecution and resulting segregation by other ethnic groups.
Here in the South, there is a much greater emphasis and interest in genealogy than there is in the upper Midwest, where I was raised. I suspect it was nurtured by the fact that the South was defeated in the War Between the States and thus, pulled in its horns, so to speak, and turned inward.
Anyway, personally I'm enormously impressed by folks who know exactly where they came from back through the tenth generation. I'm ashamed to say I have only a slight knowledge of my own ancestors.
Would it be possible for you to find out about your ancestry at this point? I come from a family that keeps track of ancestry so we have personal stories that correspond to periods of history. Sometimes we can't validate our stories because the storytellers have passed away, but we have the pieces to work with. We only have this information thanks to one or two people out of many that took time to record the stories.
I have a certain amount of general information on the family, LP. I know, for instance, that on my mother's side, we came to America and were established here before the Revolutionary War, because I have a little wooden chest I inherited which had a note inside the lid saying that it was made by an Indian woman on Long Island before the Revolution for my ancestress. And one of the family names carried by one woman of each generation is the first name Philadelphia, named after the first white girl child born in Philadelphia. Marianne is also a traditional name, so I suspect that there is some French in there somewhere, since the classic name for France in French is Marianne. The trouble is, i have had such a busy life up 'til now that I've never bothered to research all this.
Maybe next year....
The duties of any parent is to strive to give their children independence, education, mores and work ethics. Self esteem is earned, not given, and comes from accomplishment.
I think the duty of every parent is to make sure that their offspring becomes a self sustaining, responsible adult who can provide for his or her offspring. I don't think anybody with a sane mind will dispute the above statement, however, the problem begins when people start interpreting the meaning of "responsible," based on their cultural, religious, ethnic or some other set of values. In this process sometimes they look at thousands of years of history for guidance and sometimes they try to mix in with their present value system that they live in and then there are those who try to create a mix of old and new to get the best of all. Question is, who is going to decide as to what is the perfect way to bring up your kids?
Honestly, there is no one size fits all kind of an answer available. In the meantime let's do whatever we can for our kids to the best of our abilities (including educating ourselves) and hope for the best. Last but not the least, let's not condemn someone else's upbringing because their kids might become bosses of our kids someday!!!