From Deep Within The Mountain: Family Stories of Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Culture
Culture and Religion: The Tale of A Suburban Jew
By Jodi Thirtyacre
The sun had already gone down when my mom got back from work. As she walked in my dog Maxie jumped on her, getting hair on her suit. “Maxie! Yes I missed you too, now get down!” My mom laughed as the excited mutt wagged her tail. My mom has always joked that Maxie is the only one who misses her.
“Hey,” I said as I helped her put down her bags on top of the endless clutter of papers we call a table. “Mom, I’m conducting an interview for school and I thought I’d interview you about your culture and religion.”
“I would love to, but I am so tired!” my mom complained.
“Come on! It will only take a few minutes. It will b e really fast I promise,” I said. She finally gave in, and we sat down at the table because I knew if we sat on the couch she would start catching Z’s. “So Mom,” I started “where did you grow up?”
Jodi Thirtyacre grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, just near the edge of LA. On a typical day, there was a lot of skate boarding and bike riding going on, the whole neighborhood almost always played in the street. It was a community. There were a lot of kids; they all walked to school together, returned home together, and played together. There wasn’t a lot of homework then, at least not as much as today, so there was lots of playing. She had two sisters, and they played with each other all the time.
Going shopping and playing at the beach also occupied her time. There weas even a famous ball player who lived down the street and he used to talk to the kids. It was very warm in Los Angeles during the summer, so everyone was always outdoors, day and night.
Jodi attended Hamlin Street Elementary School, Hughes Junior High, Canoga Park High School, and University of California, Santa Barbra. The schools that she went to were in the suburbs of LA except UCSB. They were all very diverse. They had a lot of sprit at her high school; everyone went to the football games and wore green because that was the school color. The principal even drove around in a green Mini Cooper, and everyone called it the “Green Machine.” My mom was very involved in school; she ran track and was on the tennis team, in Jr. High she participated in the drama club. In elementary she was Brownie, a type of Girl Scout for younger girls, and her mom was a Brownie leader. Jodi’s favorite teacher was her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hammer. Mrs. Hammer taught wood shop and ceramics; everyone wants to be in Mrs. Hammer’s class!
Being Jewish where she grew up wasn’t really problematic; you didn’t mention it, though she did have several really good Jewish friends. The other kids called them “The Bagel Bunch;” they were amused by it. No one was mean to her about being Jewish, but occasionally when people spoke ill about Jews it would be awkward because they didn’t know she was Jewish, and she didn’t tell them because she would’ve felt left out.
Despite the criticism, Jodi still celebrated her religion; she was Bar Mitzvahed and went to temple during high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the times she did go, she had to put up with her delusional Rabbi, who thought he was a movie star!
In the 1972 Olympics there was a terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes, and Mark Spitz, a famous Jewish swimmer, fled from Munich after his event Later, her temple was tagged with swastikas. There was a lot of news coverage of the incident linking it to the terrorist attack in Munich. In spite of past instances of prejudice, both historical and personal, Jodi Thirtyacre loves being Jewish and getting to know her heritage better than she did growing up. She always tells her kids that they’re Jewish.
After talking to my mom I felt better about my heritage and thankful that I grew up in a tolerant city. I wish every kid could have the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment, free of hate and prejudice. If my kids ever interview me I hope I can tell them how much people have advanced since the time my mom was a child.
The interview I did with my dad was pretty good. I thought he was going to cry or get really sad when I asked him about my grandpa, but he held it and stayed strong. I felt good. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know. I also learned to never give up and just keep on going forward.