NOTE: Please keep in mind that the Rabbi writes English with a Yiddish accent. In order to understand some of his dialect, think of the way the famous comedian Jackie Mason speaks and try to read it accordingly. The Rabbi gets rolling about half way through his eulogy and then hits the ball out of the park at the end! Please keep reading. Thanks. kqd
Eulogy for Betty Friedan
by Rabbi David Eidensohn
It may be strange indeed for someone like me, an Orthodox rabbi, to eulogize Betty Friedan, the great feminist, who died February 4, 2006, on her eighty-fifth birthday. At first glance, Betty and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum. She a fighter for women to leave the home, and I a traditionalist. I raised five daughters, and the one thing we wanted was a child who was not like Betty Friedan. On the other hand, I understand her, only too well, and for this, I eulogize her and teach of her pain.
The day Betty died, I had over my house three married daughters. The tykes made, as is their wont, a mess of the house. I would then go to their mothers and ask, “Excuse me, but did you throw these toys all over the floor?” and they confessed. My daughters have, thank G-d, large broods, and work hard. Frankly, the only one in the house who was nervous and anxious was me, because I am cranky and nervous. The ladies were having a lovely time. So what did Betty want?
The article about Betty from the New York Times had this about a woman in Nebraska who had a doctorate in anthropology. After describing a typical morning she says, “By noon I’m ready for a padded cell.” She didn’t work, and probably had very few children. But she couldn’t take the pressure. She considered herself, “one of the more relaxed housewives in the neighborhood.” Why? If this woman, obviously very intelligent with a doctorate, could not figure out how to co-exist with a couple of kids, without working, how do my daughters do it?
My daughters do it because they are not alone in the world. Orthodox children are very close to their parents. My wife is very busy with her own business but still talks to all of her children every day, and they talk! They talk mostly about the children, because that is what life is all about. Betty’s friends don’t have such close families. They don’t live in an Orthodox Jewish community where family is king. They live in a world of fun, and children don’t fit into that world. The family that is on the edge is a family with a television, that goes to the movies, that seeks enjoyment and good times. Children are not for that.
Betty grew up in a world where doting Jewish parents destroyed their daughters. It hurts. I am Jewish. But it is true. They spoiled their daughters rotten. They taught them every kind of fun. One distant relative had rich parents and was a genius. She had everything, including lessons on flying a plane. Today, she is at the top of her field, while her mother moans in pain that she is not married.
I used to be a college chaplain. Once the president of the Jewish girls came to me and said, “Rabbi, the Jewish boys won’t date us, they only like gentile girls.” I was shocked. Surely this was a mistake. When I asked the boys about this, they were evasive. I persisted, and finally, a boy took me aside. “Rabbi, you have to understand,” he said. “These girls are Japs.” I could not believe it. “What do you mean, “Japs,” they are Americans?” I said. “No, rabbi,” said the boy, being as polite as he could to an Orthodox Jew from Monsey who never heard the word JAPS. “JAPS, rabbi, is an acronym for Jewish American Princess.” I felt a punch in my stomach. I was speechless. When I came together, I quickly left the college. I got into my hundred dollar Chevy with the hole in the floor and made good time to Monsey.
“This is just the beginning,” I told Sandra. “The rot is coming to our community. We have got to get our daughters out of this world. Better they should grow up in a cave and not suffer like those poor girls in college.” So, we got out. But I was right. The rot spread. It is now raging in the modern Orthodox community, and lapping at the Orthodox world. Wherever the rot goes gender war ensues, and hate, not love, prevails among spouses and destroys families.
My daughters are not JAPS, because it never occurred to them that television, movies, and “fun” is desirable. Work is fun. Family is fun. Children are fun. If you don’t feel like that, get off of this world, because you cannot have family, and without family, what do you have? Drugs are fun. Just ask Elvis. Of course, he died of an overdose, but at least, he had some fun while he lasted.
If you are raised on television and movies, filthy books and videos, how can you be a parent, or even a spouse? You want fun? So have it. But don’t marry and don’t have children. Betty lived in a world of fun. Since the fifties when the curse of television arrived in the home, the American home died. Today, half of new marriages end in divorce. The ones that don’t divorce are not happy places, either. Indeed, a large amount of non-divorcees are open marriages where people just despair of every marrying, and so don’t bother divorcing.
During the Clinton administration a federal study found an explanation for the decline of marital fatherhood, the rise, especially among whites, of non-marital babies, and the growing resistance of men to marriage. One reason given was the men wanted their money to go for fun, not for children. Of course, you either live for fun or for family, but not both. Something has to give.
My mother, may she be well, is quite busy going to weddings of grandchildren. She came to work a while ago and saw everyone staring at the floor. When she came in, they told her, “Mrs. Eidensohn, here is a baby. Of course, you are used to them.” A baby to a secular person is a rare thing, something to stare at.
My daughters can work and have children and smile, for one reason: They live in a community that has a “the family is fun” ethic, and live for their children and families, and nothing else. An entire community that appreciates children and mothers allow women to feel appreciated. A community that appreciates mothers until they turn forty produces bitter Betty Friedans.
Good by, Betty. You are now in another world, and there you will see the souls of your parents and ancestors. They will not appreciate your ideas, but if they read my eulogy for you, they will try to understand.
Betty, you died on your eighty-fifth birthday. In Hebrew, letters are also numbers. The word PEH or mouth, has a numerical value of 85. Yes, you merited to articulate the anguish of an entire generation, destroyed in the fifties by television, that came into the home and wrecked it.
Now it is our task, which I accept, to continue to articulate your pain. Unfortunately, Betty, the only solution for a woman today is what I did, get out. Gloria Steinem taught for a long time “women need men like a squirrel needs a bicycle,” but when she turned 67, she had enough of that, and married a man. There are no solutions for the modern woman, not to be lesbians, not to be professors, but to be women, in a world where only family is fun. Today, the new Betty Friedan is the brilliant New York Time’s reporter Maureen Dowd, who constantly bemoans her single status, her despair at every marrying, and her chaste misery, awash in money and fame, without family.
Let those of us who believe in traditional family and marriage not attack Betty and her disciples, bitter women who should articulate their pain. We must listen. We must drive the televisions out, and raise a generation of men who know the ancient code of the Talmud, that one must “honor your wife more than yourself.”
Family is the only honor. Family is the only fun. America and the West have lost family, marriage, and as a result, have very few children. Demographically, Europe is a destruction. There is no money to pay for the pensions of retirees, because there are few young people working. Work is done by importing foreigners, who are gradually taking over. Bernard Lewis predicts that Europe will be, in a generation or two, run by Moslems. America, too, is increasingly losing its core population to immigrants. Without family, a country cannot survive. Everything depends on listening to Betty’s pain. We must then act, not as she did, but as our ancestors did. We must restore a woman to her pedestal, as the bearer of children, who are our future, and the life of our present.
And lest you dismiss all of this, who will pay your social security? America is having few children, and fewer people exist to pay for retirees. When this generation retires, we will need eleven trillion dollars, but government only earns two trillion dollars. What will happen then?
Maybe today is the time to think about that.
When my daughters were very young, they once played with their cute new nephew in front of the house. A lady walked by and asked them, “What are you doing?” They replied, “We are babysitting our nephew,” and anticipated a compliment for the baby. Instead, the lady huffed and said, “My children are not slaves.”
They controlled themselves until they got into the house, when everyone had a good laugh. That Passover, despite the budgetary difficulties, I bought some small silver cups. “These,” I said, “are for the slaves.” It became a cherished tradition.
How do we answer Betty? We find freedom in “slavery.” Those who reject it and seek “freedom” from family, will find the hell that consumed a generation of women, and is still burning brightly.