The Price of Prosperity

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Expectations Now and Then


Today’s Jewish children anticipate much more than the expectations of the young who lived during Hitler’s reign, known as the holocaust era.  What the survivors of the Holocaust expected is infinitesimal to the youth of today.  In the early 1940’s these youth, having entered America, were grateful to be in this country and to be able to enjoy their freedom.  If they were fortunate, they could obtain an after school job.  They felt wealthy if they could enjoy some penny candies from the candy store or an ice cream cone or a new garment (if they saved very carefully for it).  They did not complain to their parents, who struggled hard to make a basic livelihood.  They had the handicap of a new and unaccustomed language to tackle, being marked by a distinct German or other European accent.

As youngsters, they were happy to be in school, learning the culture and customs of their Jewish and gentile American neighbors.   They spent as much time learning as was available.  They did not expect their tired, overworked, poor parents to infantilize them or to give them what their parents scraped together to purchase the absolute necessities.  At a very early age, they learned to be independent and to strive and work for what they felt they wanted for a better, more satisfying life.  What little they could earn they shared with their parents and the younger siblings in their family.  When they accomplished a task or fulfilled their minimal desires, they felt elated, because the accomplishment was theirs.  Higher education was also available if they were willing to strive for it on their own.  The choice of school was easy to make.  They attended a university that had a low tuition and would give the courses that were needed to attain their goals.  There was no question of prestige, whether it was a well known prestigious college or otherwise.  They attended the school that had the lowest fees; usually they were state universities with very minimal entrance fees.  If the cost factor took them out of town, they searched for the cheapest accommodations, sharing these with others and working when and where possible to absorb the requested cost.

Today’s Jewish youths also strive to better their lot by becoming educated. They far outnumber other young folk in their college attendance ambitions.  They frequently make great efforts to become doctors, lawyers, and other high ranking professionals.  They seek the prestigious schools and shy away from local universities no matter what their reputation.  They search to be the proverbial “diploma elite” and bask in the glory of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Bryn Mawr, and other “Ivy League” institutions.  Cost is of little consideration for them since they expect their parents to enable them to attend the university of their particular desire regardless of the financial situation of their elders.  “They want what they want, when they want it.”  Their parents are diminished in their eyes and their reactions toward them if they so much suggest remaining in their hometown.  Jewish parents will forego almost anything to please their narcissistic offspring.  What is and has been given them as they were growing up means nothing to them.  Children have little if any consideration for the deprivation of their parents or the psychic and material cost of bowing to the demands of their progeny. 

Many things have changed in the last seventy years.  Women no longer are considered a lesser species.  Marriage is not their only goal in life.  There has been an equalization of roles, which used to be considered a reversal of roles.  Jewish women, like Jewish men, strive for high prestige professions. They are no longer the proverbial housewives, as was formerly the case; they also want to be serviced as only Jewish men were privileged to be. There has been a problem with retaining the Jewishness of the young people of the twenty-first century.  Intermarriage, especially among the males, has increased to a very high degree.  Many Jewish women who want  very much to retain their culture, their religion, and their beliefs, are left bereft, unable to find mates of their convictions and Jewishness.  Secularization has increased enormously and synagogue attendance has decreased among both men and women.  Religious conviction has been minimized, often to the detriment of Judaism (church attendance has met a similar turn and a number of churches have closed as the result of lack of interest of the population).  So called “reform” conversions have sprung up to delude mixed couples, their parents, and siblings that they are Jewish.  It could be stated that not only did Hitler succeed in annihilating the six million who were destroyed, but the last remnants of our erstwhile Jews will also soon disappear!!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

Home ] Up ]