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by Susan Schnur

Analyze THIS

Why Do Therapy and Jewish Women Go Together?

My Grandmom Made Me a Therapist

Lois Braverman, social worker, New York*

Growing up, my grandmother was my roommate; we shared a dresser, a closet, in a little working-class row-house in Philadelphia. She came from Minsk and was the oldest of seven sisters. Every day she called every sister on the phone, a couple of hours a day; she must have been viewed by her sisters as an incredible listener.

I’d come home from school, she’d be in the kitchen, and I’d pick up the extension in my parents’ bedroom; stealthy, you had to breathe very quietly. It was much more interesting than TV. About husbands, children, worries, why is he doing this, why isn’t she coming home in time. The talk of women, trying to understand and accept human frailty, suffering, disappointments. It wasn’t about the stock market. Did he lose his job? She lost a pregnancy, who was angry at whom, was it reasonable.

One of my great-aunts saw a married man until his wife died, then she married him. That was a scandal. All of these different configurations are a part of life. It was all about the relationships. The idea of being in contact every day! My grandmother would go across town by public transportation, for a week, to stay with Aunt Shirley and my cousins — unlike me, they were not so happy to share a room — and my mother was expected to call her every day.

When I left home and got married, might we live in Philly? Where would we live? My mother said, “Well, of course you’ll call me every day.” I said, “I don’t think so.” I didn’t want to have to report everything. But I understood “reporting” — there was this expectation. You would have a close, intimate knowledge of what everybody was doing and feeling and thinking every single day.

  • Karen Koffler

    I was so disappointed to see Kew Gardens, Queens unfairly maligned in your piece “The Tikkun Olam of Kitty Genovese” on pages 22 and 23 of the Winter 2012/2013 issue. The murder of Ms. Genovese was a horrible tragedy. For decades, the residents of Kew Gardens have been unfairly accused of watching and doing nothing during the crime. This misinformation has found its way into social psychology text books and many articles over the years.

    The New York Times debunked myth of the callousness of the residents of Kew Gardens in 2004: “Kitty, 40 years later.” The author could have easily found it if she had done a simple search.

    Ironically, the day after I read the piece in Lilith, the topic was once again covered in the January 30, 2013 issue New York Times: “Timeless book may require
    some timely fact checking.” The article addresses a reissue of A.M. Rosenthal’s nonfiction account of the murder and the question of how changes in interpretation of fact should be handled. I recognize that this particular article appeared after the issue went to press, but it helps to clear the good name of Kew Gardens residents.

    I expect Lilith to engage in fact checking. In a piece about repairing the world, I am especially disheartened to see Kew Gardens denigrated carelessly.

    Note that I am a Jewish woman, a psychologist by training and a former resident of Kew Gardens, where many Austrian and German Jews made their homes after fleeing Europe.

    Karen Perlmutter Koffler