What Makes A Book “Jewish”?
Is it the theme, the author, the characters and their values, or the opportunity to learn something new? If I can close the book (or in my case, turn off the Kindle) and feel connected and inspired, in any part of my life – relationships, work, community – then to me, it is “Jewish.”
Recently, I read The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post: A Novel by Allison Pataki (a work of historical fiction). The book follows the life of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the heir to the Post Cereal company. Marjorie dealt with a mother who was severely depressed and an ill father, C.W. Post, who spent time at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan run by the Kellogg Brothers, (who later became Post’s #1 competitor).
The book goes on to share Marjorie’s life after her father’s death in 1914 when she inherited $20 million, (equivalent to $525 million in 2020), and the Postum Cereal Company. During this time, women were unable to sit at the helm of a company, even if her father bequeathed it to her in his will. She needed a proxy and over the course of her life, Marjorie’s husbands, 4 in total including E.F. Hutton, helped lead the company for periods of time until she insisted on taking control. She was a “dutiful” wife, giving up many of her dreams to travel and entertain, which included a stint as the wife of a Russian ambassador.
By the time of her passing, Post was extraordinarily rich having expanded Postum to include General Foods and Bird’s Eye. She was also an exceptional philanthropist who started a hospital in France during WWI and a Salvation Army Feeding Station during the Great Depression.
When I turned off my Kindle, I said “wow,” what an amazing woman, she embodies two of the Jewish values that I hold dear –
- Responsibility- ACHRAYUT – She persevered during a time when women couldn’t run their own businesses, always tried to do what was best and was self-disciplined, measuring her choices and the consequences, before acting.
- Role Modelling- DUGMA EESHEET – Post was consistent in working to grow her company and make sure there was healthy and accessible food available for the masses, she set a good example by giving back to the community, modelled positive choice-making, was fair and equitable when making offers to smaller companies, admitted when she made mistakes, and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty alongside her employees.
Even though The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post was not a “Jewish” novel, I was able to walk away feeling inspired to do my best, be responsible and a role model for women and girls in my personal life and in my community. My rating: 5 stars
Interested in seeing what else I am reading? Friend me on Goodreads.
Manager of Operations, Community Engagement