Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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Jewish Childhood Blog

"This blog carries the voice of my memoir, past and present, into the future. Feel free to fill out the form with a question or comment. I look forward to a dialog with you."

  —L'chaim, to life, Jeanne

A Los Angeles Childhood - Synopsis of the Book
Friday, 17 February 2012 12:13

My childhood memoir, SAVING MYSELF: A LOS ANGELES CHILDHOOD is about growing up Jewish in Los Angeles in the 1940s. It deals with an historic time, an historic place and surprising anti-Semitism and prejudice against young Jewish girls during that time.

Set in the early 1940s and 50s, SAVING MYSELF evokes the wonder and terror of anti-Semitic Eagle Rock, a small section of Los Angeles where the Simonoffs are the only Jewish family in their small neighborhood. The book  is from the viewpoint of a child as a young girl trying to understand the early loss of her birth mother as well as abandonment by her friends because she is Jewish.  She is constantly told by a Christian neighbor boy, on the way to school and on the way home, “You killed Christ.” She is refused membership in the local chapter of the Girl Scouts because she is Jewish. She is finally abandoned by her own religion when she is denied her place as a Bat Mitzvah to become responsible for her own deeds, spiritually, ethically and morally, because she is a girl.

She is not allowed to read Torah, the exclusion from traditional rites of passage—one loss after another spanning all the years of childhood. The memoir truly captures the child’s voice.

Not until sixty is she able to put it all together.  Like many who suffered early and continual loss, this memoir comes full circle in a journey toward spiritual, transformational wholeness with her Bat Mitzvah at age sixty-two as it did for her adoptive mother at the age of seventy-five. It is the universal wish for a sense of belonging. It is the story of loss, then redemption.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Welcome to the 21st Century
Thursday, 09 February 2012 15:21

I decided to try two things that would carry me into the high tech world of today. The first was a Universal Remote. Why have to look at 6 remotes sitting out on the coffee table each with their own function, shape and fond memory. Actually I think that it is five. First remote was Comcast, then the AV receiver, the DVD player, the CD player and what else. Well you get the idea. So I first tried to purchase one of the best from Best Buy but got one that would only handle five things and I had six. So B and H online got me my Logitech One that will handle fifteen knowing I would never need that many but might as well be prepared.  Oh, next was the Blu Ray which I got at a very good price through Groupon online and of course, when it arrived I had the HDMI cord but not the special Wi-Fi access connection, so $70 more and I ordered that from Toshiba from whence my Blu-Ray came and of course, it was the only place to get it upping the price of the Blu-Ray to $140, which of course I could have bought another brand with the Wi-Fi adapter for probably a little less.

Nevertheless, with kindness from my neighbor, Doug, who programmed the universal remote which should probably be in total caps because it is such an asset and we were able to get the Blu Ray to talk to Netflix so I could do what I had always wanted to do: stream to Netflix making my choices in movies and TV series tremendous.

A Los Angeles Childhood - History of the Book Part 2
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 11:36

I returned to Los Angeles as I got further into the story just to see, yes … the tree with the soft bark like papyrus Grandma Goldenberg taught me to hug was on Cochran Avenue. The La Brea Tar Pits, although now held in by mesh wire fence, were still where Grandma and I visited them. Orbach’s was now part of the Page Museum.

These are all images a child remembers and pulls forth to hold to her as gospel.  My own safe haven, warm and holding me now appeared on the page. A topographic map in the recesses of my brain.  Yes, that child lived.  Yes, she is in there to guide me.

The house where my mother Alice died remains. As the small child came out and was able to breathe on the page, so was I able to reclaim her as the two of us now walked through my life and became one.

My heart sister, Pat, said to me the other day, “You write about dead people.”

It’s not all about that. It’s the memory of their lives on the page, keeping them alive to help me. They are part of who I am, who I have become. Not separated and separate, like an antique flower-painted vase in a glass case, the one painted by my maternal grandmother, but out in the open, woven into wholeness, as threads were pulled together, called back home.

Queen Stinky emerges and joins me, strong, reliant, resilient. She helps me down the path of the book. The will to survive, first revealed when I  was four, carried me through death, loss, childhood, torture, rejection, betrayal, and then, rejoining, like the refraction of stained glass at Beth Olum Mausoleum. The pieces of the puzzle came together, the mosaic of my life, transformed.  “Can we create a whole from decomposed matter…” artifacts. The scavenger hunt, the ultimate prize, the memoir.

Thanks to all of you living and dead who helped me to this place.  I share with you not a shrine of death, but a celebration of life:  L’Chaim. And as always thank you for reading Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.

A Los Angeles Childhood - History of the Book Part 1
Friday, 20 January 2012 20:17

I start with a blank page, words formed randomly, across formidable space, pulling back this child who was me.  Did I know before I wrote what would appear?

Cavernous, overwhelming emptiness, loss, a mother, a lie of omission … trying to bring together what was vaporous?

How do I know what I put down on paper is true?  I travel back to Los Angeles down streets I travelled in memory.  Yes, my mother Esther said it didn’t happen like this.  What did she know within the mind tangled of a small childhood, how it was stored, recorded and brought out one grain at a time?

Five people, five different stories.  Same incident.  Memory bends, turns, reforms in its own order of interior importance.

First a poem, a hieroglyph, then the filling in of images, story, all one at a time, to reform and pull back the dead.

In 1989, I took my name back, the French one, the one my birth mother gave me along with my love of Paris.  Did I go there with her?  Not in real time, not what could be counted on the clock. Hariette Jeanne, the French way, like Shawn, with a soft J, and in that moment I reclaimed my past, the one forgotten or pressed down where grief could not let it out.

A Los Angeles Childhood Never on Sunday, The New Years Rose Parade
Thursday, 05 January 2012 11:11

The Never on Sunday Rule matters when New Years falls on a Sunday. Then the Tournament of Roses is held the following day, Monday. So ready and with the channel on HGTV because they always have the parade commercial free, I begin my yearly ritual of watching all the floats and marching bands come down Orange Grove and onto Colorado in Pasadena, the crowds packed in the grandstands and lined up along the street. It begins at 9:00 AM. I turn my cable box to channel 222 HGTV, the one I leave on during the day for my dog to watch home DIY projects. I have been watching this ever since I was a child of 10, I think, when we got our first television, the black and white one, very small screen. Shortly after that my parents took me to Pasadena, getting up very early in the morning to be sure and get a parking space and a place on the curb on Colorado Boulevard. From there we would be able to see it in person. The wonderful marching bands from all around the world, the special ones for the football teams who would be playing later in the afternoon in the Rose Bowl, my dad had to be home in time to see the game. I don't remember the theme that year or the teams that played in the Rose Bowl. I don't really remember much about the parade except for the small three-legged milk stool my parents brought for me to stand on.

The first Tournament of Roses was on January 1, 1890. In 1902 the Rose Bowl Games were added to help pay for the parade. This year theme was "Just Imagine," and had one float where dogs actually surfed (always one of my favorites).

Each year we continued to be glued before the TV screen as the screens got larger and larger and eventually came out in color, probably an RCA Victor because my dad just knew that was the best one available.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Gonna Take A Miracle - Remembering Laura Nyro
Tuesday, 27 December 2011 23:08

The speakers in my car blared ‘Gonna Take A Miracle’. I had it turned up as loud as I could on that drive up to Taos. Laura Nyro had just died. The album I listened to was composed of all of her favorite songs. Up on The Roof, as well as Gonna Take A Miracle. How could she be dead, as if she never existed when in my world, she carried me through treating the youngest alcoholic patient ever admitted to USC County General Hospital, with the song, Wedding Bell Blues. His name was Bill, and when I fell in love again, Laura still carried me through with Stone Soul Picnic, and When I Die, There'll Be One Child Born To Carry On.

When I got to the workshop I was driving to in Taos, I asked everyone, so has anyone had a child? Anyone at all? Give me a name. Laura, through her song had told me there would be one child born to carry on.

Laura Nyro would never again compose another song or that opera I always thought she would write, because she was such a wonderful storyteller, a shaman, a gift, my light.

Los Angeles Childhood - Etta and Me, 1962
Sunday, 18 December 2011 15:23

Two a.m., Sunset Boulevard - a private club where we went to dance and drink when everything else in town closed down.

The $10.00 cover was well worth it for protection, in 1962 when two women dancing together could be jailed and equality was only a whisper by a movement called Civil Rights.

There on the small stage was a combo, a bass, a piano and an electric guitar and a black singer, with bleached blond hair. The same color as my partner Sue, who some people said looked like Kim Novak. Since I was raised close to Hollywood and the stories up on the silver screen, it all made sense, Etta up there singing, going up down, down up, any way you want it daddy roll em', yeah, yeah, yeah. Then bursting into a song called At Last.

How many of you out there had secrets that you could only share with the privileged few who were in your most intimate circle?

I remember smoking Newports and lighting them, for Sue and me with my Zippo lighter that I could snap open, flick the flint and right there in front of Etta and the inside insulated protected club up on Sunset, my whole world lit up.

A Los Angeles Childhood - The Queen of American Folk Music - Odetta Part 2
Sunday, 11 December 2011 19:11

Odetta was born New Year's Eve, 1930, Odetta Holmes, in Birmingham Alabama but grew up just as I had, in Los Angeles and both of us went to Los Angeles City College. Odetta studied opera at the age of 13. In her career she influenced many singers including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Mavis Stapes. She was considered the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. If you heard her sing those spirituals you would know she felt the suffering of all those who came before her. To hear her speak even in June of 2008 as I did not too soon before her death as she continued to sing with the use of oxygen and using a wheelchair that she lived the life that gave hope and comfort to many of us all around the world.

In 1963 Martin Luther King anointed her "The Queen of American Folk Music at the March on Washington when she sang, "Oh Freedom". She was that voice booming out round and full awakening those who slept at a time when we were all being called forth to bring about equality, not for just those thousands who heard her that day but for all of us. There is a saying that if even one of us is not free, we are all slaves.

Odetta, honored by President Clinton in 1999 with the National Endowment for the Arts Medal, and in 2004 was honored with the Visioning Award and in 2005 by the Library of Congress with the Living Legend Award. There were many other national and international honors that were bestowed on her.

Odetta died December 2, 2008 in New York City. It was odd to find a tribute to her this past week in 2011 in the obits from the Santa Fe New Mexican. Memory comes back in on itself and for some reason online I was meant to see it and share it. I posted it on Facebook and within 3 seconds three people had responded. Many of us remember her impact on our lives. May her name be for a blessing!

Thank you for reading this blog about a person who had meaning in my life, where we all experience those early childhood losses, here is a memory found in Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.

Click Here: Odetta: The Times They Are A-Changin' YouTube

A Los Angeles Childhood - The Queen of American Folk Music - Odetta Part 1
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 09:32

I can remember staying up until 3:00 AM listening to the Chambers Brothers. Lester and I were hanging out together when I went to Los Angeles City College in 1961. Millie and Sherry who called Christmas Gimme Day and saved their food stamps up for a good meal.

One night Lester said to me, "Tomorrow we'll be doing a gig with Odetta, opening for her at the Ashgrove”. This must have been later on, maybe 1962 or 63. Four of us piled into my 1959 VW convertible, Sue and I were in the front seat and Jean and Margie McPherson in the back and took off for the Ashgrove on Melrose Avenue.

"She's different," Lester had told me. She’s a Folk Singer. She marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. for the March on Washington D.C. Even Joan Baez loved her and a new guy, Bob Dylan, a poet and songwriter loved her. By then I'd had a couple of poems published, one in America Sings, which I think anyone who sent in a poem got published, and the other one in the Citadel, the literary journal of LACC where I was in workshop on Monday nights with Isabel Ziegler, a short older poet who taught poetry at that time. Her long white hair was piled up in a chignon, her Pall Mall cigarette dangling out of her mouth when we all hung out at the Gas House in Venice Beach with Eric Nord, the King of the Beatnicks.

But this first night at the Ashgrove in Los Angeles I would always remember hearing Odetta. Nothing has ever been the same. She sang Motherless Child and I knew she was singing to me. Thank you for reading Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.

Click Here: Odetta (1930-2008) No More Auction Block YouTube


A Los Angeles Childhood - Revisiting the Past - Deli Goldenberg, Paris, France
Sunday, 27 November 2011 22:31

In 1989, after visiting Marais, the Jewish sector of Paris, I wrote a poem. It came to me stacatto style, one word at a time. I just had lunch at Deli Goldenberg. This part of Marais, which housed Deli Goldenberg was known as the Pletzi, which means little place in Yiddish, is a section of Paris since the 13th Century, with the fifth largest population of Jews in the world. France has this honor and a center street of the area, Rue de Rosier, houses many delis. Deli Goldenberg, the name also of my adoptive mother, has been there for fifty years founded by Jo Goldenberg who lost his parents and all of his sisters in Auschwitz. It became a symbol of resistance and revival, a place where Holocaust survivors and resistance fighters could meet. In August 11, 1982 it was the target of an attack by terrorists who threw a grenade into the main room and opened fire on passersby killing six people.

It was closed about five years ago. The new enterprise, a fashion boutique kept the tile facade of the historic deli as well as their name on the awning. The neighborhood is very much now in vogue.

The Jewish District shrinks as such every year.

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