My father never attended a service at the lone synagogue in Yorktown heights. He did, though, pay a call on its offices one day in 1976 – to see if the young rabbi could stop my mother from seeking divorce. “And you know what he said?“ my father asked me as we were sitting in front of her computer. We had been looking at photographs of Hungarian cathedrals. “Waaall, Mr. Faludi“ – my father delivered the rabbi’s remarks in a high-pitched register – “in modern Judaism divorce is something that has to be considered.“ Whenever my father got on the subject of Jewish male authorities she’d encountered – whether American Reform rabbis or Orthodox caftan wearers or wartime Judenrat representatives – her impersonations turned mincing. One summer afternoon when we had taken our coffee to the deck, my father went into yet another of her mocking imitations of the Budapest Jewish community elders who wouldn’t help her reclaim the family property after her return to Hungary. “Oh, we can’t do anything, Mr. Faludi,“ she said, channeling Minnie Mouse. “We have to make nice with the authorities.“ My father was wearing a rosebud-print housecoat and bedroom slippers – “my hausfrau outfit“, she called it – which only heightened the contradictions. Here was a Jewish man-turned-woman making fun of Jewish men for not being manly enough.
In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi