The ProsenPeople

How Wives Pay for Their Husbands' Crimes

Thursday, April 27, 2017 | Permalink

Last week, Randy Susan Meyers discussed the gender discrepancies in financial literacy and shared how the UJA-Federation saved her life. With the release of her fourth novel, The Widow of Wall Street, Randy is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series here on The ProsenPeople.


Crimes have multiple victims, including those who receive the least (or most inappropriate) attention: the family of the perpetrator. As fifty-plus accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby piled up, his wife of 52 years, Camille Cosby was damned for not knowing, damned for not telling (under the assumption that, of course, she knew about his… indiscretions), and damned for covering up her husband’s crimes.

With no evidence.

When Bernie Madoff’s crimes came to light, Ruth Madoff caught the rage. Again, with no evidence.

The world expected Hillary Clinton to answer for Bill Clinton’s infidelities, both by denying the charges in the aftermath and then absorbing the blame as she ran for president. Donald Trump’s infidelity was somehow equated with Hillary Clinton’s husband’s infidelity.

The rage flying at Hillary Clinton, Camille Cosby, and Ruth Madoff is encased in years of baked-in sexism, not dissimilar to the Betty Crocker school of blame-the-victim-unless-she-is-above-all-reproach (Betty Crocker representing the lovely, perfect woman). Anyone working in criminal justice recognizes this syndrome: female victims, whether of strangers or husbands, must be above reproach to merit either sympathy or empathy, and they are deemed guilty and imperfect until proven otherwise.

Even women who consider themselves victims of men will blame and assert that wives can and should control their husbands. According to theNew York Times, “accuser Juanita Broaddrick, whose claim of a 1978 sexual assault has been denied by the Clintons, thinks Hillary Clinton was too passive. ‘I always felt if she’d been a stronger person... she could have done something about his behavior,’ she said.” An article in the Philadelphia Tribune says that Camille Cosby “was no wallflower in her husband’s career, observers point out. She was his business manager and according to a February 2014 Ebony magazine story, a ‘shrewd’ one.” Andy Borowitz savagely parodied Ruth Madoff in The Huffington Post: “Just hours after her husband Bernie Madoff was sentenced … Ruth Madoff expressed shock and dismay at her husband’s behavior, telling reporters, ‘This is not the man I owned nine homes with. When you spend hundreds of millions of dollars with someone, you think you know him.… I guess I was wrong.’”

Ruth, Camille, and Hillary became the joke and the target of rage over their husband’s crimes and misdemeanors. Not a shred of sympathy was spared. Reactions to hearing the subject of my new novel, The Widow of Wall Street (based on a situation not unlike the Madoffs, from both the wife and husband’s point of view) fascinated and saddened me, as the first thing most men and women say is, “She must have known,” or “Of course she knew,” with an air of surety one usually reserves for an awareness of the closest of friends.

Why? Why must she have known?

Who does not have a friend who suddenly found out that her husband of forty years was cheating for decades, a cousin who learned her husband hid money in his business accounts? A sister who tragically finds out about her partner’s affairs when she gets tested for AIDS?

Fascinating in the umbrage is how the same people who insist that she must know don’t question how financially literature men and women were fooled by what turned out to be the most naïve of plans. After three years of researching The Widow of Wall Street, I’m shocked that anyone schooled in finance (and many of his victims were financially literate) believed in Madoff’s constantly, year-in, year-out, positive returns, the lack of up-to-date computerization, and the lack of online confirmations. And yet they did, while we insist that Ruth Madoff, who was neither an accountant—though she helped her husband with bookkeeping early in his career—nor a stockbroker, banker, money manager, or investor, must have known the details of the two arms of her husband’s convoluted business.

Perhaps we think these things because we want to believe that we, of course, are immune. That our husbands have been and will always be above board in all they do. That we can never be fooled and there is no wool to be pulled over our eyes. We are protected.

Like so many musts in this world, these stories we tell ourselves end up being a flimsy garment we wear to feel secure and safe in our lives, because the reality of our fragility is a frightening as it is omnipresent. It can’t happen to me. That is the unspoken theme that we clutch.

Randy Susan Meyers's novels are informed by her work with families impacted by emotional and family violence— and a long journey from idolizing bad boys to loving a good man. After years working in social service and criminal justice, Meyers’s works of fiction have twice been chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “Must Read Fiction.”


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Money, Me, and The Widow of Wall Street

Friday, April 21, 2017 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Randy Susan Meyers shared how the UJA-Federation impacted and even saved her life. With the release of her fourth novel, The Widow of Wall Street, Randy is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series here on The ProsenPeople.


Money. It’s our last taboo. People spill seamy details about their sex lives before talking about their finances, salary, or savings accounts. Yet despite this curtain of silence, money is not only (supposedly) the root of all evil, it’s at the heart of relationship battles, shattered dreams, and midnight wakefulness.

Money, sadly, is often how men measure their worth and how women measure men. We forgive dreary people their dreadfulness a lot quicker when they possess fat checkbooks—particularly when their riches are combined with a successful career. Writers laugh louder at the jokes of acclaimed fellow authors; relatives give a bit more latitude to rich aunties and uncles. All of us, whether with awareness or not, bow a bit in the face of a fat wallet.

Women—especially women of my age—grow up expecting to if not be supported by, be with a partner who pays the lion’s share of the rent. Young women today grow up with higher expectations (yes!), but they still harbor dreams of Prince Moneypants rescuing them; how could they not after watching fairy tale messages in classic movies such as Pretty Woman. These images stalk us; we buy into them, despite ourselves. When that man of ours walks out still holding the reins to the family money, we’re destroyed.

Each time a financial scandal unfolds, I wonder what was the self-told story the perpetrator believed that let him hurt so many people, and what is it like for his family?

When Bernie Madoff’s crimes made headlines, I thought about his wife Ruth and what it would be like to wake up one day and learn that one’s entire life was built on air. Every crime has multiple victims—and those victims usually include the family of the perpetrator. I know from working with criminals for ten years about the stories they told to excuse themselves—excuses that simultaneously fascinated and repulsed me. I learned how even those engaging in the most heinous behavior, manage to explain away their exploits—even if only to themselves.

Writing The Widow of Wall Street allowed me to explore my fascination with how criminal scandal affects those closest to the perpetrator—and how they applied to the family of Bernie and Ruth Madoff—by inhabiting the point of view of both my main characters, caught in a similar crime: husband, Jake Pierce, and wife, Phoebe Pierce. My lens on marriage and money sharpened.

White-collar criminals, accustomed to entitlement, commit the most outrageous schemes and crimes, always believing they’ll find a way out. Women, conditioned to second chair financially, don’t question the most unlikely of financial scenarios claimed by their partners.

So many women—many of my friends and relatives— are clueless about their finances. This added to my belief from the outset that someone like Ruth Madoff could absolutely be unaware of what her Ponzi-scheming husband had done. (He pulled the wool over the eyes of captains of industry and CEOs. Why not his wife?)

I learned the word knippel at my mother’s knee. She was so secretive about her money that I assume she even had some she hid from herself. She urged me to keep a knippel when upon the occasion of my first marriage.

At 19.

Looking back, not such bad advice. At the time, high on feminism, equality, and a cotton hippie wedding dress, I scoffed at the idea of hiding anything in marriage. However, I soon learned equality as an ideal was not equally prominent in my husband’s mind as it was in mine.

By the time my marriage ended, I longed for full purview over the checkbook.

Ten years later, divorced, I had it. Broke, I let my credit card debt pile up—ignoring the growing interest, excusing myself because I was the sole support of the house and being unable to pay bills is tiring—and buying stuff for is soothing. So, you charge one more thing, open one more credit line . . . and the road to madness continues. I pushed the problems back; they woke me at three in the morning. Worry gnawed. How did I assuage my fears? By spending more money. The cycle grew.

Avoidance brings stress. I should have listened to my mother, who always said pay yourself first. My mother, horrified at the idea of my debt, rescued me via a kind (and wealthy, thus worshipped by her) relative who gave me an interest-free loan, which I used to pay off my credit cards and I vowed to never have credit card interest again. Interest makes banks fat and turns us into twisted ropes of tension.

Since then, my husband has convinced me that avoiding the truth never makes the truth go away. What is, is. But sometimes, what we’re told is, isn’t. There were many messages I took away from writing The Widow of Wall Street, including how often people wake up learning they live in a different marriage than their spouse, and how children always end up as collateral damage in their parent’s crimes.

Most of all, I’ll never forget this: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Randy Susan Meyers's novels are informed by her work with families impacted by emotional and family violence— and a long journey from idolizing bad boys to loving a good man. After years working in social service and criminal justice, Meyers’s works of fiction have twice been chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “Must Read Fiction.”

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How the UJA Saved My Life

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 | Permalink

Randy Susan Meyers’s fourth novel, The Widow of Wall Street, came out over Passover last week! With the release of her new book, Randy is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series here on The ProsenPeople.


The acknowledgements for my first novel, The Murderer’s Daughters, begin with these words: Before offering thanks to those who helped with this book, let me say this: I wish this story were science fiction instead of realism. For ten years, I worked with men who destroyed their families—men who weren’t monsters, but who did monstrous deeds. This book is for their children, the ones who suffer unnoticed, and for all the amazing men and women who dedicate their lives to helping these children. You may never know whose life you saved. Thank you, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, Doris Bedell, and Camp Mikan.

The novel was about sisters witnessing their father murder their mother. What I didn’t add in my acknowledgments was how years earlier, my father tried to kill my mother.

Challenging childhoods take many forms. Usually it’s an amalgam of hardships—from emotion, physical, and fiscal problems to abuse to loneliness. Smacks and screams thankfully have a time limit, but neglect is the evil gift that never stops.

Even benign neglect—like being a latchkey kid—can foster loneliness.

When trouble fills a family, kids are pushed to the background. I lived in a land of my own imagining, where I believed my real parents, President Kennedy and the First Lady, had left me to fend for myself, testing a ‘cream will rise to the top’ theory. Meanwhile, my beleaguered sister, Jill, was trying her sullen best to cook us supper by nine years old.

If it hadn’t been for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, I doubt my sister and I could have ended up strong at the broken places. Our mom was a struggling single mother who did her very best. Our dad suffered in ways we’ll never understand, papering his sadness with drugs and dying at 36.

But we had the summer. Through the magical generosity of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, we spent our summers at Camp Mikan, our paradise. We entered a bus somewhere in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and came out of the bus blinking in the sunlight and breathing the sweet green air of Harriman State Park. Sunshine! Swimming! Friends!

Visibility!

In memory, it was a Wizard of Oz transition from a black-and-white life in Brooklyn to the technicolor of Camp Mikan. At camp, we went from unnoticed to the coolness of being all summer campers. My sister became a big shot, a member of an envied clique, moving up the ranks of camp hierarchy until eventually she was head of the waterfront (only the coolest job in the world). I became part of a pack of safely rebellious friends who kept me going through the lonely winters.

We got to be kids.

I starred in Guys and Dolls. Jill gathered swimming groupies. We hiked. Canoed. Short-sheeted counselors. The head counselors, Frenchy and Danny, a married couple, taught me I could be lovable, and through loving them I learned early on that interracial marriage was a non-issue; Luke Bragg taught me to get up on stage, and from being with him I learned through osmosis that gay or straight made no difference.

We got to be kids.

Women ran Camp Mikan. They taught me and Jill that women were strong and loving and firm and trustworthy. They taught us that is was possible to be protected in this world. The camp was racially, culturally and ethnically mixed. We learned to be friends across all borders.

Back home, we were once again invisible and quiet children cleaning the house, uncomplaining and obedient, waiting for the year to pass so we could again have a childhood. Summer came and once more we could swim, sing, mold clay, hit a ball, learn folkdance (I still dance the misirlou in my mind), and unclench from being coiled watchers.

Doris Bedell, the camp director, shaped our lives more than she’d ever imagine. She loved us, she scolded us, and she made us feel seen. She probably helped my sister become the best teacher in Brooklyn. Her memory stayed with me when I ran a camp and community center in Boston.

Summer can save a kid. One person can offer a child enough hope to hang on. Think about this as we get ready to slide into school vacation.

One adult can change a child’s world.

Remember this.

Think of who you can touch.

Thank you, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Thank you for my childhood.

Randy Susan Meyers's novels are informed by her work with families impacted by emotional and family violence— and a long journey from idolizing bad boys to loving a good man. After years working in social service and criminal justice, Meyers’s works of fiction have twice been chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “Must Read Fiction.”

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My Storied Food

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | Permalink
This week, Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters, blogs for the JBC about a special (and delicious) offer for book clubs

When I was a girl, it was family lore that my Aunt Irene, when she cooked something awful, yelled, “It’s a loser!” to my Uncle Bobby as he walked in the house.  I’ve been known to come out with more than a few losers (like the time I served my new in-laws pie accidentally made with Borax instead of sugar. (Lesson learned—be careful how you decant) and I’ve made a few dishes that held an opium-like addiction, but it’s the stories behind how recipes evolve that fascinate me.

When I was newly married (nineteen!) my then-husband and I moved to a farm located between Binghamton and Ithaca, New York. His job was being a farm hand. Mine was reading, cooking, and gaining weight as quickly as possible. We were isolated. When the farmer’s son’s wife invited me for breakfast, I was ecstatic. Upon arrival, she offered me a 7&7, a Pop Tart, and a bowl of depression. Thus was shattered my Brooklyn girl idealization about life on a farm.

Christmas week, she invited me to a cookie exchange party. My excitement at having somewhere to go (a bit measured based on our Pop Tart breakfast) was high enough for me to spend my next weekly library visit foraging for the most interesting and exotic cookie recipe I could find.

The cookies I brought (recipe below) were everything I’d hoped. Complicated, sophisticated, delicious...and greeted with faces of horror. What were these lumpy brown things brought in by the Brooklyn Jew, which resembled nothing close to Christmas cookies? I handed out my Plain Jane bags, sans shiny ribbons curling down the sides. My New York style sweets might as well have been wearing little yarmulkes and speaking Yiddish for how much they stood out. All the other offerings were variations on a Christmas sugar cookie theme cut in the shapes of stars and Santa, and decorated (sparkles! red and green sugar! glittering gold balls!) with the skill of Rembrandtesque elves. 

My cookies looked like the homely third cousin your mother forced you to invite to the bar mitzvah. But they were the tastiest. Try them. Really.

Years ago, I began pulling together the recipes my daughters knew best, wanting, like many of you, to pass on my culinary secrets. As I copied from spattered cards, torn newspaper pages, and hand-written recipes, I realized the stories behind the recipes were as important as the food. Did my girls know their favorite brownies came from an ancient “found on the street” cookbook, circa my hippie days? How our Passover brisket had morphed into another family’s “Christmas meat?” Did they know which recipe might have sealed the deal with my soon-to-be-husband?

Pages piled up as I matched stories to recipes. From that was born The Comfort of Food a cookbook to share with book clubs, not for sale, but as a thank you for joining me in my first passion, reading, by offering another love. Food.

Any book club choosing The Comfort of Lies or The Murderer’s Daughters as their book club choice will receive a hard copy and electronic version of The Comfort of Food.  Simply go to the book club page on my website, www.randysusanmeyers.com and fill out the form.

French Lace Cookies
½ cup corn syrup

½ cup butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 cup flour, sifted

1 cup finely chopped nuts

Dark chocolate, melted (if desired)

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine corn syrup, butter, and sugar.  Bring to boil.  Combine flour and nuts w/liquid.  Place by teaspoon 4" apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.

To add a wonderful and delicious flourish, dip each cookie in melted dark chocolate when it comes from the oven. If you are talented and want to add a special flourish, roll the cookies while they are still warm, into a cylindrical shape and then when the rolled cookie is cool, dip it in the chocolate. If you are lazy, like I am, don’t worry about rolling; simply dip the flat cookies when they are cool. Lay on waxed paper while the chocolate hardens.

Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear: Shame, Truth, and Reconciliation

Friday, May 17, 2013 | Permalink
In her first two installments of “Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear,” Randy Susan Meyers wrote about an essay in which the writer met with an elderly former SS officer and the plight of the ordinary German citizen during World War II. Her newest novel, The Comfort of Lies, is now available. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

“The schools would fail through their silence, the Church through its forgiveness, and the home through the denial and silence of the parents. The new generation has to hear what the older generation refuses to tell it.”  ― Simon Wiesenthal

I worked for many years with batterers—men who were adjudicated into a program for domestic violence prevention, men who had beaten, hit, punched, and sometimes killed their wives. They sat and stared at me, denying with the most innocent of eyes the very crimes I had laid out in photos in front of me.

She ran into my fist.

I grabbed her arm and then she ran in circles around me, and that is how she broke her own arm.

She had a soft head, and that is why she died when her head hit the iron railing.

People ask if the men ever changed and my answer remains the same: only if they are able to face their crimes and cruelty. Denial, and the shame these men felt (whether shame at being caught, shame at hurting people they should have loved, or shame at their hidden crimes being brought into the bright sunlight), blocked their change. How do you change if you can’t admit what happened?

Questions of shame and guilt spill to the next generation in families where domestic violence occurs. Are children of abusers doomed to abuse or be abused? Can they inherit a denial of familial guilt, which prevents them from comfort in their own skin and belief in their memories?

Does awareness that your people were killed in vast numbers (for being Jewish, which you are) leave one forever frightened?

What does it do to the frightened, to have that past denied?

What does it do to the children of perpetrators of violence? How does one put together love for a parent even in light of feeling revulsion for the deeds they did or the beliefs they carried?

Should there be a scale of pain and justice here, for these generations now and future? Or should we accept that everyone is the star of their own show, that pain is always relative?

For me, it’s all in the truth. I take no comfort in lies, half-truths, and fairy tales.

I learned from my scientist husband that what is, is. This lesson crystalized for me when, after a lifetime of trying to run from facing issues of fluctuating weight issues, I learned truth could be freeing. Like most women, the size of my dress rules my mood, while at the same time I veil myself from accepting the reality of that number. Pictures where I looked like a whale? Bad camera. Skirts tightening beyond the ability to button? Must be shrinkage at the dry cleaners. Don’t think about those waistbands. Put on an elasticized skirt.

What is, is.

After a lifetime of avoiding the scale, I began weighing myself. And continued to weigh myself every day. And, knowing the truth, I lost weight.

When a nation faces truth, perhaps the psychic weight begins to fall away and collective guilt lifts. Recently a series on German television, Our Mothers, Our Fathers, gripped the nation. According to War History Online:

Reviewers have praised the drama for breaking new ground by showing how the Nazi system reached into every corner of life. Christian Buss, a culture editor for the magazine Spiegel, wrote in a review of the drama that while the question of Germans’ collective guilt had been resolved, the role of individuals remained unclear.

“Who has had the conversation with their own parents and grandparents about the moral failings of their elders?” he wrote. “The history of the Third Reich has been examined down to the level of Hitler’s dog while our own family history is a deep dark crater.”

I want to see this series. The closest I can come to leaving my fear is by understanding how a vast number of people turned to evil—and that they are willing to examine it right. Pretending that nobody in their family ever knew what was going on is far more frightening. If a tiny portion of a nation could truly commit such horrors with nobody knowing but the smallest handful of people—what hope does a frightened child have? If the grandchildren of American slaves are told, “nobody knew it was happening,” why should they believe it couldn’t happen quite easily again?

When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC the exhibit which most captivated me was a film of survivors talking about their experience—in specific, a man who said that while he was in the camps he thanked God each day in his prayers. I don’t remember the exact words, but the essence was this:

“What are you thanking God for?” he was asked.

“I am thanking God for not making me him,” he said, gesturing towards the guard.

There is pain in participating in evil—especially if one feels bullied into that involvement. Choosing a path of righteousness is always easier in one’s imaginings, but it’s also true that evil flourishes best in silence.

Compassion towards those who feel forced to participate in something as enormously evil as slavery or genocide (whether in Armenia, Rwanda, or Germany) is a kindness that can only be meted out when a perpetrator acknowledges his or her role. A wronged community needs justice and truth to reach reconciliation.

Anti-Semitism, racism, and hierarchies of cultural, racial, and religious power are alive and well. Compassion towards perpetrators of evil (and those who blinded themselves to the evil next door) must be leavened with keeping truth in place. Smothering reality with blankets of kindness is in the end no kindness: not if our goal is preventing future generations of children from living in collective fear.

Read more about Randy Susan Meyers's here.

Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear: Ordinary German Citizens During WWII

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | Permalink
In her first installment of “Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear,” Randy Susan Meyers wrote about an essay in which the writer met with an elderly former SS officer. Her newest novel, The Comfort of Lies, is now available. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.
 

“It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.” ― Elie Wiesel, Night

Like most Jewish children born in the fifties, the Holocaust was a constant shadow. If the German generation born after WWII suffered from collective guilt, trying to cast off the shame of their parents and grandparents, or convince themselves or the world of the innocence of their parents and grandparents, the generation of Jewish children born of the same time, suffered from collective fear.

I didn’t grow up in a traditional Jewish family (if such a thing exists) by any stretch of the imagination. The first time I entered a synagogue was for a friend’s Bar Mitzvah. But I read voraciously, and from the time I received my ‘adult’ card at the Brooklyn Public Library, I was reading accounts—fiction and nonfiction—of the Holocaust. The non-fairy tales of my youth were The Diary of Anne Frank, Mila 18, and Night (which then morphed to Jubilee and Roots, as I conflated the horrors of slavery and concentration camps into one mass of fright).

I grew up with a sense of doom—partly from these stories I consumed, partly due to my own family’s silence (my paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Germany, but I never knew why) and perhaps partially the hours spent looking at photos my father sent my mother from his post in Africa during WWII. That vast wasteland of desert merged in my mind with the nuclear wasteland I envisioned thanks to those elementary school drills spent under my classroom desk—the desks meant to shield us come the nuclear attack.

I never knew whether it was more likely I’d end up a survivor of a bomb, cowering under a desk, or sleeping on a wooden plank in an Auschwitz-like camp. Sophie’s Choice haunted me after my daughters were born. When I received an engagement ring, my crazy first and unbidden thought was that I could sew it into the lining of my coat if I needed to bribe a guard or save a child.

Should I compare my fear to the collective guilt of generations growing up on the other side, German children never wanting to question their parents or grandparents about their past? Can my inherited fear help me understand why the author of the essay, a woman whose parents and grandparents were in Germany during the war and post-war period, wanted to believe that the menorah on display at a SS officer’s house was likely to be a gift from a grateful patient as it was to be the spoils of war?

There has been a spate (or perhaps it’s always been there and I am just noticing it now) of novels about the trials of ordinary German citizens during the war. Many claim—a belief that seems most comfortable for many to live with—that the ordinary German had no clue what was happening. The entire Holocaust was carried about by a small slice of the population. Could this near-impossible-to-believe-assertion be possible? Or is it true, as reported in Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany:

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler's Holocaust, according to a new research study. They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised (SIC) as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand.

Does this matter? Do we need to pound on the question of whether or not men and women in WWII Germany did or did not know about the horror unfolding around them? Does it matter whether or not this dying-out generation of SS officers and soldiers knew what they were doing? That their wives and neighbors knew there was a culture of genocide during these years?

For me, yes.

I believe lying and denial increases future racial and cultural terrors. Slavery bred concentrations camps, which bred Rwanda, which today breeds . . .

I want to know the plight of the ordinary German citizen—but I want to know it as it truly was—including deprivation and horror, but not painting away knowledge. I want to know how blind eyes were crafted—so these blindfolds can never be made again. I want to know more about the painful heritage of the children and grandchildren of the people of Germany who did know what was going on.

Check back on Friday for the final installment in "Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear." Read more about Randy Susan Meyers's here.

Randy Susan Meyers on Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear

Monday, May 13, 2013 | Permalink
Randy Susan Meyers's most recent book, The Comfort of Lies, is now available. She is also the author of The Murderer’s Daughters, a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

“Justice is better than chivalry if we cannot have both.” - Alice Stone Blackwell

The Internet is a tricky beast. Sitting alone, cozy in ragged sweatpants, writing while curled on the couch, it’s easy to believe that you’re cloaked in isolation, even as you spill on that most public of forums. Thus, I hesitate before committing words online. After reading a recent well-intentioned post—about an SS officer—a piece written by a friend of a dear friend, an article meant in good will, I wrestled more than usual.

The essay focused on a particular slice of the copious research this first-generation American author did while writing a novel (which I have not read) about Germany before, during, and after WWII, from the point of view of a young German woman who falls in love with a Jewish man.

During her research, the writer (through her family ties in Germany) met with an elderly former SS officer—an officer and doctor— who the writer concludes was stationed on the front lines, not in a camp.

They met in the man’s home, where a German Mother’s Cross (a program begun by Hitler, encouraging German women to have more Aryan children, which yearly—on Hitler's mother's birthday—awarded women crosses centered with swastikas for fertility) hung on the wall, a menorah sat on top of a cabinet, and, in an album of wartime shots shared with the author, was a photo of the officer standing with Hitler.

The author doesn’t question these displayed and shown items: she doesn’t want to discomfort the family member who arranged the interview, upset the doctor’s wife, or continue the process of “collective guilt.” Perhaps the officer was forced into his role, the author suggests. The author herself was a victim of assumption, having been taunted by being called a Nazi because her parents were German.

Despite her sincere attempt to be fair (“who was I to judge him now?” she asks), after finishing the essay I was shaken. Badly. Before writing a comment, I spent hours pondering the wisdom of ignoring the post versus attempting conversation. I didn’t want to anger or insult the writer, or publicly ‘call her out,’ and thus hesitated to commit my feelings to public paper. Still, however well-intentioned, her words felt like slaps against my history. I couldn’t get the essay out of my mind.

Not writing didn’t seem like an option.

Check back tomorrow for the second installment in "Collective Guilt vs. Collective Fear." Read more about Randy Susan Meyers's here.

Randy Susan Meyers on her Jewish Book Festival Ride

Friday, December 02, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer's Daughters) talks about her recent Jewish Book Network tour for The Huffington Post:

"Don't forget; Jewish people read an enormous amount," my lovely (and Jewish) literary agent said before my book launch. "We really love books."

I nodded. Yes, I knew that -- at least I knew it in as much as I was Jewish and I read -- as did my mother, my sister, and my daughters, but could I raise that sample to the status of landslide? Discerning what was true in my culture was fraught with difficulty. I grew up with a slight case of anomie, surrounded by a cultural belief that all-things-Jewish equals families-pushing-one-towards-great-achievement, while, among other family oddities, my grandmother taught me to shoplift.

 Continue reading here.