Navah Paskowitz-Walther: The Jewish Mother of Surfing’s First Family
Knowing Navah Paskowitz-Walther today as a San Fernando Valley stay-at-home mom who is active in her synagogue and children’s Jewish day school, it is hard to believe that, as a child, she lived a peripatetic existence in a 24-foot camper. Growing up as the only girl in a Jewish family of nine children, she surfed every day, never went to school, and bowed to her father Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz’s heavy-handed and idiosyncratic approach to parenting. Her story sounds like something in a movie, which it actually has been and will again be. The highly unconventional Paskowitzes, the largest and best-known family in surfing, are the subject of the 2007 documentary, “Surfwise,” — reviewed here in the Forward — and a feature film about them is currently in pre-production.
While the focus of these films is on all the Paskowitzes, Navah’s story deserves special attention — not only because she is the sole daughter, but also because of the particularly Jewish role she has played and continues to play in the family.
Navah has taken on the responsibility for passing Judaism on to the next generation. While Navah, like all of her siblings, has intermarried, she is the only one raising her children exclusively in the Jewish faith. She, with the full support and participation of her husband of German-Quaker background (whom Doc ironically and affectionately refers to as “the most Jewish son I have”), is making sure that her daughter and three sons receive the serious Jewish education she never had.
Renee Ghert-Zand is a Jewish educator, community professional and writer. She blogs at Truth, Praise and Help. This piece was originally posted at The Sisterhood, which crossposts regularly with Jewesses with Attitude.