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Sara Bock: A Jewish mother with attitude

Batsheva (Shevi) Salberg with her mother, Sara Bock.

Image courtesy of Batsheva Salberg.

Sara Bock with her mother and sister.
Courtesy of Batsheva Salberg

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!


Topics: Motherhood, Israel
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Sara Bock

Age: 90 -  Freehold

Sara Bock, of Freehold, NJ, passed away on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.  She was born in Israel (British-Mandate Palestine) in 1926, younger sister of the artist Lea Nikel.  She was a homemaker and childcare provider.  She is survived by her three children Yehuda, Batsheva, and Steven, all who are doctors (2 PhDs and an MD), which was her proudest accomplishment.  She is survived by 7 grandchildren (Jonathan, Elinor, Joshua, Jodi, Daniel, Abigail, and Jacob) and 2 great-grandchildren (Dean and Ellis). She is predeceased by her husband Philip who she met and married in Israel following the 1948 War of Independence, and her parents Batsheva and Chaim Yehuda Nikelsberg, who died in Israel when she was young.  She moved from Israel to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in 1954, and then lived in the Rockaways, Queens, prior to moving to Brookside Assisted Living in Freehold.  Sara survived five hip operations, thyroid cancer, and multiple fractures from falls. She was a very strong woman, a “women's libber,” before there was such a phrase, and one of her proudest moments was being able to vote for a woman president. Sara was active in Hadassah and the Israel Veterans organization Machal.

Memorial donations may be made to Hadassah, or AAUW Tech Trek Camp at Stockton University http://techtrek-nj.aauw.net/.

I canÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t believe it is four years since I wrote the tribute to my Mom, wishing her a Happy Mother's Day, and three years since my update. She has long recovered from her fall and broken pelvis, with a few more falls since then (luckily with no more rehab stays required). She continues to go for Ì¢‰âÒshots in the eye,Ì¢‰âÂå which has kept her vision somewhat stable.

She was able to attend her two granddaughters' weddings, my niece Elinor's (in July 2013), and my daughter Jodi's (in July 2014), and meet her first great-grandchild (ElinorÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s first son). She was able to attend two Passover Seders in my home, with her son-in-law (my husband) David, my husbandÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s family, her son Steven and his wife Hope, and many of her grandchildren.

Her eldest son, Yehuda, and his daughter Elinor, will be visiting her in June to let her meet her second great-grandson.

The unfortunate turn of events is that my Mom has lost a lot of weight, and has lost her will to live. She is 89 years old and says Ì¢‰âÒ90 is enough.Ì¢‰âÂå Her 102- year-old roommate passed away last week. I keep trying to give her things to look forward to, like her grandchildren visiting, the possibility of more great grandchildren, or another wedding.

I will be celebrating Mother's Day one day early with my Mom, because I, now, need to help my Mother-in-Law, as well.

My fondest memory of your Mom is how happy she was to see me, and likely all of your friends, when I/we came to visit you. She'd be right there in the mix, smiling, chatting & even listening to music & gossiping with us! She always was always cheerful and friendly, a "cool" mother! You, my dear best friend, are a fantastic daughter & I know she appreciates you! xxoo, Robin

A year has passed, since I wrote the tribute to my Mom, wishing her a Happy Mother's Day. It was a difficult year because my Mom fell and broke her pelvis in September, which required a long rehabilitation period. Thanks to her Doctor, Mark Pass, who assured her that she would recover and walk, again, she did. She was able to walk, again, only to face new adversity, losing sight in her good eye. Again, thanks to her Doctor, Stuart Green, an operation was able to restore her sight. Now, she is in a much better place, and is looking forward to her two granddaughters' weddings, my niece Elinor's (in July 2013), and my daughter Jodi's (in July 2014). On this Mother's Day, I plan to spend it with my Mom, and am happy she is still here with me to celebrate.

In reply to by Batsheva Salberg

Thank you for sharing your family’s story, Shevi. It’s been A long time since grad school. Big hug.

How to cite this page

Salberg, Batsheva (Shevi). "Sara Bock: A Jewish mother with attitude." 8 May 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/sara-bock-jewish-mother-with-attitude>.

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