What’s the essence of the Jewish father? This was the question the Forward posed to you in a contest to write six-word tributes to your fathers and grandfathers for Father’s Day.
Six words may not seem like much to work with for a people with so much to say. And there are few topics that cause us to release a torrent of opinions and expression more than our own Jewish families. As the editor of the Six-Word Memoir project, my job is to ask people to describe in exactly six words the individuals and parts of their lives that matter most. As a wordy Jew from a family never afraid to share opinions, I had a good feeling that challenging the readers of the Forward to distill their fathers and grandfathers in a half-dozen words would yield thoughtful, heartbreaking and hilarious results.
More than 100 of you were inspired to share your thoughts on the men who raised you. And while it’s always tricky to make generalizations, it was clear to me from poring through your pithy takes on Pop that the Jewish dad isn’t afraid to smother you with puns, fill you with affection and readily offer his opinion on any and all parts of your Jewish life.
After the jump are 19 of our favorite responses: 12 from Forward readers, and seven from some notable Jews. Each of our winners will receive a copy of “Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life” from SMITH Magazine. And if you’re having trouble telling Dad just how much he means to you, try starting with six words. You never know where a few words about the ones who mean the most in your life will take you this Father’s Day.
— Larry Smith
Larry Smith is the founder of SMITH Magazine, home of the Six-Word ® Memoir project. He’s the editor of eight books of Six-Word Memoirs.
Actor, scrap man, embellisher of of stories.
— Ilene Stein, 64, Riverside, Calif., about Max M. Fields
Shun vampires — they are not Jewish.
— Hal Sirowitz, 64, poet, Philadelphia, about Milton Sirowitz
Never, ever wear pants after 4:30 p.m.
— Gerard Choucroun, 41, Corte Madera, Calif., about Richard Choucroun
He lives generously. That’s my inheritance.
— Paula Chaiken, 42, Kingston, Pa., about Gene Chaiken
Dad’s matzo balls? Hard. Heart? Soft.
— Cheryl Levine, 48, Yellow Springs, Ohio, about Barry Levine
Please Rabbi! Phillies need your blessing!
— Ira Blum, 25, Cambridge, Mass., about Rabbi Barry Blum
Dad, homework done, healthy. Don’t worry!
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 46, congresswoman, Weston, Fla., about Larry Wasserman
Love, f–k up, love some more.
— Etgar Keret, 45, author, Tel Aviv, son of Efraim Keret, father of Lev, about fathers in general
Always making puns, always causing groans.
— Julie Grossman, 26, North Bethesda, Md., about Garry Grossman
Sense of humor, debt-free educations.
— Alexandra Schmidt, 44, Niskayuna, N.Y. about John Lutch
Eating ice cream in underwear. 5 a.m.
— Rich Cohen, 45, author of “Israel is Real,” Ridgefield, Conn., about Herb Cohen
Captivated by Alharizi, Job and Frost.
— Jonathan Reichert, 81, physics professor and businessman, Buffalo, N.Y. about Victor Reichert, close friend and mentor to Robert Frost
Zayde shined my shoes and heart.
— Donna Erbs, 52, Portland, Ore., about Max Joffee
Waiter, I ordered the kosher lobster.
— Shira Kaiserman, 28, New York, about Ronald Kaiserman
Clean linen handkerchiefs comfort me still.
— Roberta Rosenberg, 58, Clarksville, Md., about Harry Rosenberg
Brimming bookshelves — bent, leant and shmoozed.
— Wayne Firestone, 49, president of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Rockville, Md., about Bruce Firestone
Mel Brooks movie marathon: perfect Shabbos.
— Casey Stein, 25, New York, about Alan Stein
Dude dug prunes, melbas and mama.
— Henry Greenspan, 65, Ann Arbor, Mich., about Albert Lewis Greenspan
Theirs — writer, scholar, lecturer. Mine — Aba.
— Rena Potok, 51, English professor and writer, Philadelphia, about author Chaim Potok
Jewish Fathers in Just Six Words