Warm and 'Utterly Jewish,' Nora Ephron Left Us Way Too Soon

Appreciation

Friend and Colleague: Nora Ephron could make everything seem easy, from moving across town to writing a screenplay.
getty images
Friend and Colleague: Nora Ephron could make everything seem easy, from moving across town to writing a screenplay.

By Abigail Pogrebin

Published June 26, 2012, issue of July 06, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

She took one. “I diet constantly,” she declared drily.

She remembered me and my twin sister from our childhood: “Which one of you almost married the gentile?” she asked me, not wasting a minute.

That relationship of mine was over a decade old.

“You remember that?” I asked her, embarrassed. She just smiled knowingly, with a look that said, I have eyes all over this town.

It didn’t surprise me that Nora was all-knowing. Her friendships seemed to reach everywhere — from Hollywood to Broadway to politics to the literary world. I envied her legendary dinner parties from afar, cozy affairs for which she’d prepare a feast all by herself.

She grew up in Beverly Hills with colorful parents and a Christmas tree. She went to school on the Jewish holidays because her mother said, “What are you going to do if you stay home?”

She told me the most interesting moment for her as a Jew was when she went to Wellesley College in 1958 because the school had a quota on Jews. After she was admitted, she received a housing form on which she was supposed to put her religious preference.

“I thought that leaving it blank was sort of the right response,” she told me. “And I got a letter back saying I wouldn’t be given a room assignment till I told them my religious preference.

So I wrote them a letter saying that I was an atheist but I had been born a Jew, and sent it off. And then I went off to Wellesley and it was absolutely clear to a blind person that the housing department worked in the following way: Catholic girls roomed with Catholic girls, Jewish girls were put with Jewish girls and Protestant girls with Protestant girls. When I joined the school newspaper, we exposed this, by the way. But I suddenly realized that whether I thought of myself as a Jew or not, other people thought of me as a Jew, and I had to come to terms with what that was.”

She did recall one major advantage of being Jewish at Wellesley: “There were so many Jewish guys at Harvard and Harvard Law School, and a lot of them were under strict orders to date Jewish girls. The Jewish girls at Wellesley and Radcliffe had, I think, a much more active social life than anyone.”

She was relieved her two boys didn’t request bar mitzvahs. “First of all, because of my feelings about religion, and second of all, because they’re so expensive, and third of all, because nothing is more awful than a divorced bar mitzvah.” (She was divorced from their father, Carl Bernstein, the second of her three husbands.)


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.