Sara Bock: A Jewish mother with attitude
My mom is not famous, like her sister, Lea Nikel, who is included in JWA's online encyclopedia of Jewish women. However, she is certainly a "Jewess with Attitude." She had a very tough life, born in British-Mandate Palestine in 1929. She lost her father when she was 12 years old, leaving her, her sister, and her mom (who had TB), without a means of support. My mom took care of her mother, which allowed her sister (who was 7 years older) to study art and begin her career. After her mother died a few years later, she lived with family for a short while and then at a youth village, for orphans and disadvantaged youth. Eventually, she was introduced by relatives to my dad, Philip, who was an American Volunteer in Israel's War of Independence (1948).
After the war, they married. My older brother Yehuda was born shortly afterwards, and I was born 3 years later. When I was 10 months old, my dad moved the family back to the U.S. Times were very difficult in Israel, and he had trouble making a living as a taxi driver. Our first abode in the U.S. was a one bedroom apartment in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where Yehuda, I, and our new younger brother, Steven, shared the one bedroom. My parents slept on Castro-convertible sofas in the living room. My father worked in his father's rag business, but they didn't see eye to eye, and so he left and was unemployed for a period of time. He finally got hired as a clerk in the Post Office in Kennedy Airport. So, when I was 7 years old, we moved into a newly built housing project in Edgmere (Rockaway), Queens, NY. Things were nicer there, in many ways, because we had a 3-bedroom apartment!
My mom (and dad) sacrificed their own needs to send us to a Yeshiva, so that we could have a good education. It was very hard to live on a postal clerk's salary, and, so we lived there in near poverty, and continued to live there after the apartment complex became a slum. We could not afford to move and we feared for our lives. Eventually, we moved to nearby coop, which was a little (but not much) better. After I married, I moved to an apartment in Rockaway Park. Shortly after, my parents were able to get a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment in an adjacent building in the same apartment complex. In the years following, my mom survived five hip operations and thyroid cancer.
My mom was a women's libber, before there was such a phrase. As her only daughter, she pushed me to have a career of my own so that I would not have to depend on a man. She also pushed my brothers, her two sons, to succeed as well, telling us all that we needed to be doctors of something. We all met her expectations (becoming 2 PhDs and one medical doctor) and this is her proudest accomplishment.
After my father died (in 1996), I had tried to get her to move closer to my home in New Jersey. She refused to leave her beautiful apartment in Rockaway Park, NY, with a view of the ocean. Finally, a few months ago, she finally agreed to move to a wonderful assisted living community, a few miles from my home. This would normally be a difficult move for someone her age. However, when she finally made up her mind, she didn't look back, and just jumped into her new home, and adjusted very quickly.
On this coming Mother's Day, I would like to recognize my mom, Sara Bock, as a "Jewess with Attitude," and wish her a Happy Mother's Day!