Judith Levy's Best-Selling Series Inspires Grandparents to Record Life Stories

Baby Book in Reverse Leaves Space for Oldies' Tales

Total Recall: Levy poses with a copy of ‘Grandmother Remembers.’
Jonathan Sessa
Total Recall: Levy poses with a copy of ‘Grandmother Remembers.’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published September 07, 2013, issue of September 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

“I remembered when I was a kid back in school, if the teacher wanted you to write and you couldn’t do it, she would start you. She would say, ‘The thing I liked most about my summer vacation was…’ and then everyone could write.

“So I thought, if I didn’t ask grandmother any questions, but I just put her foot on the path to telling her own story, that she could easily do it. If I said, ‘When Grandfather proposed to me, he said…’ or, ‘On my wedding day I wore….’ She knows what she wore, and she’ll put it down with a picture next to it and it will become an heirloom in the family, to be cherished by this grandchild and future generations.”

Levy, who moved to Boca Raton, Fla., from New York with her husband in 1979, has, of course, filled out a copy of “Grandmother Remembers” for each of her grandchildren. The books, no doubt, are bursting with vividly remembered details and anecdotes from their grandmother’s colorful life.

Levy grew up in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, the eighth of 10 children born to a poor Orthodox cantor and his wife. “We were five boys and five girls. The boys went to yeshiva, but we girls were sent to public school,” she said.

While her sisters took commercial courses in high school, Levy, a bit of a rebel, insisted on pursuing academic studies, including Latin. Of course, her sisters, with their office skills, easily found summer jobs. “I needed a job, but I didn’t have skills. No one was looking for a Latin translator,” she said, laughing.

She ended up finding a job in a plastics factory, “where it was 110 degrees in the shade.” Unbeknown to her at the time, her singing to herself by her machine to fight off boredom would be her ticket to a life she had never imagined.

“Later that year, I was invited to a Christmas party by the factory’s owners, and I wasn’t about to say no. I traveled all the way to 72nd Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which was a total mystery to me,” she recalled.

Having remembered how she sang in the factory, her hosts invited her to sing a tune with the band. She got up and sang, and the bandleader offered her a job right on the spot.

“I remember thinking to myself all the way home on the train that my father was not going to let me take the job. He thought that going onstage to sing was the same as doing burlesque,” Levy said.


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!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • 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.