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Jewesses with Attitude

Never too late to become a Jewish mother

Is 73 too old to become a first-time mother? Not for the trailblazing Marylin Berger, who is now raising an 8 year old boy from Ethiopa.

The New York Times describes Marylin Berger as "someone who knew her own mind." Long before it was normal to see women on the news, Marylin Berger was the White House correspondent for NBC News. She would later go on to write for the New York Times. At 43, she remarried to Don Hewitt, the creator of "60 Minutes," who passed away last year. At 60, she took up sailing and at 72, she began writing her first book. It was this book that led her to Ethiopia, and motherhood.

Marylin Berger's book was about Dr. Rick Hodes, an American doctor who has dedicated his life to treating patients at the Mother Teresa’s clinic in Addis Ababa. While she was doing research in Ethiopia, she spotted a young beggar with an extremely curved back -- a symptom of spinal tuberculosis she recognized from her work with Dr. Hodes. Instead of walking by, Marylin Berger stopped, arranged for the boy to be treated by Dr. Hodes, and invited him to stay with her and Don Hewitt in New York City indefinitely. Like many Ethiopian children, the boy took the name of the doctor who saved him, and is now known as Danny Hodes.

Danny's arrival coincided with Don Hewitt's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and Hewitt passed away a few months after Danny came to live with them. Rather than a burden, Danny "filled a hole" for Marylin and his presence comforted her in a time of grief. Since then, she and Danny have created a life together. 

From the New York Times:

She does not consider caring for Danny to be some kind of charity work: “I just feel like I’m living a nice life with a very nice child.”

Very nice is the least of it. By Ms. Berger’s account. Danny is also brilliant, a gifted actor, a genius mathematician and a hilarious cut-up (she swears that her high-profile friends agree). “I know,” she acknowledged, “I’m a disgusting Jewish mother.”

In response to the inevitable question of her age, Marylin Berger says, “I figure I can get through 10 years — until he’s 18.” Her friends believe that Danny will keep her young. 

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I am touched to learn this story. Marylin Berger has shown us that it is never too late to be a Jewish mother.

More on: Mothers, Adoption

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Never too late to become a Jewish mother." 14 April 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 26, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/never-to-late-to-become-a-jewish-mother>.

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