In the deepest part of Brooklyn there lies a force to be reckoned with. It instills fear in the hearts of every man woman and child, even undomesticated pets. Don’t be fooled by her innocent grandmother-like exterior…she is a bubbie like no other, for inside there beats a heart that is as hard as an undercooked matzah ball. With blood colder than Brighton Beach in January, she’s The Jewish Godmother, and she runs Brooklyn with an iron fist. Her name was Don Bubbieberger. What? Do you doubt me? Well sit back and listen, I was there, I used to work for her at her base of operations, the “Oy Va Voy Deli.” A nondescript deli on a nondescript street in the heart of Flatbush. My name is Jose Flores de la Guiterrez Perez de Fernandez de Leon De Jesus.
If you look past the deli counter in the front, you will see a trifold screen from Chinatown behind which she sits. On a Manichewitz-stained fourtop with a few mahjong tiles tucked under one of the unbalanced legs, she runs her empire. This was her ‘office”. Such things I heard and saw there…let me tell you about a memorable day a few Chanukahs ago.
A grandmother entered the deli with her grandson who stopped at the counter to order a bagel with a shmear. She had an appointment with Don Bubbieberger.
The Godmother’s daughter, Francine, who was her gatekeeper said: “Ma, you’re 2:30 is here, its Gertie Gershewitz who just recovered from hip surgery at Mt. Sinai.”
The Godmother greeted Gertie with “How’s the new hip?”
Gertie replied in the typical Jewish manner: “Don’t get me started! I think the Doctor left an extra screw in there! I nearly died! You shouldn’t know from the pain! But I’m not here for the hip. Its about my grandson Yankel.”
So her daughter Francine exclaimed, “ The one in Law School? A full scholarship at Columbia? You must get such nachas from him!”
“How is he doing with his studies?”, asked the Godmother adjusting her silver wig.
Gertie replied pushing aside her bagel, “Not good Godmother, that’s the problem, he’s not studying. He found a summer job and now he doesn’t want to be a lawyer! He’s not going back to law school in the fall”.
There was a collective “OY!” that resonated throughout the deli and the Godmother responded clutching her chest, “My heart just stopped for a second!”
Francine then handed her mom some pastrami to calm her.
Gertie continued, “I know it’s terrible. His mother is back at her apartment sitting shiva!”
Francine asked, “So what is this summer job?”
Gertie whispered audibly, “A male stripper.”
The shocking news caused The Godmother to spit out the pastrami, which sailed over the top of the screen from Chinatown. Wiping her mouth she calmly said: “Gertie send him in, I can adjust his attitude, I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (stroking the side of cheek with back of her hand )
Gertie shouted: “Yankel, get in here!”
Yankel sulked in and said, “Bubbie, I told you its not Yankel anymore, its Jake.”
Gertie shouted “Jake, shmake, this is a name for a boy in law school?”
Jake answered, “ It’s my stage name.”
Godmother then said to Gertie, “Give us a moment, Help ya’self to some fresh rugelach at the counter.”
At this point, Godmother turned to me and said, “Jose, we need to make a mood here, turn off the lights and turn up the music. Ok Jake, show us what ya got!” So I put on the Godmother’s favorite, Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”
So he danced in front of us, the shirt came off, the shorts came off and he was down to his Spiderman undies and socks. He danced so horribly, and as Francine put a pity dollar in his underwear the Godmother shouted, “Jose, cut the music!” She turned to Jake and said, “So Jakela, do you remember your circumcision?”
Yankel then replied, “Godmother, how can I remember, I was 8 days old.”
Godmother then did something that most bubbies would deem unthinkable, she grabbed his family jewels and held onto them with her Jewish GI Joe Kung Fu grip and said, “Allow me to refresh your memory!”
“Now listen to me very carefully, your future is in my hands, I am only going to tell you one time, your grandfather was a lawyer, your father is a lawyer and Judge Judy is your second cousin once removed! You’re gonna go back to Law School! And let’s hope you are a better lawyer than you are a stripper!” As she released her grip, she said, “Francine, give him an ice pack for the road!”
Yankel cried out, “Godmother it hurts…” he kissed her ring and picked up his clothes and backed away and Francine handed him a frozen loaf of gefilte fish.
The Godmother channeling her grandmotherly instincts, then gave her final directions to Yankel: “Apply it to the inflamed area 3 times a day, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off and it will be good as new!”
Yankel answered as he stumbled away, “Thank you Godmother, you sure know how to ‘handle’ things!”
And that, my friends was just the beginning, there will be more to follow…..