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.
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