I was with mom when she died. I sang her back the songs she sung to
me when I was a small child. I hugged her and talked to her. I knew
she was at risk, but my heart expected to have her for a long, long
She was my mom, and I loved her. But she wasn't always my mom.
Betty Stein was Born in Chicago in 1929 on the day after the stock
market crashed. For her family this must have been a distant echo.
Her father, Morris Stein (Moshe Sorotskin), emmigrated from the
Ukraine to escape pogroms and avoid forced conscription into the
Russian army with nothing, and established a business in Chicago
manufacturing and marketing tortoise shell combs for women's hair.
After his first wife died he married Mom's mother, Anna Katzofsky, who
Mom often remembered by her Hebrew name, Hannah Hindel. Anna was from
the same part of the world as Morris, but they met in Chicago, where
the lived at the corner of Lawndale and Lexington. Mom's Hebrew name
was Bathsheba. Her first memory was hiding under a table and hearing
them saying "Where's Babs? Where's Babs?", for this is what her family
and friends of this time called her. She was still wondering whether
or not they were teasing, or really didn't know where she was, and
recalls the lace tablecloth. She had bright red hair.
Betty also remembers "something was terrible". Anna Katzofsky died
at the age of 37 leaving Morris with four children from his previous
marriage, and Betty 3 and Sol (Sonny) 6 from hers. Myrtle, just a
teenager, took care of Betty and Sol with the help of Sammy, a hired
woman who Betty remembers as "wonderful". But the depression and
changing fashions were hurting the comb business, Morris lost his
business, and the family was forced to take support from Jewish
charity. When Betty was seven the family dispersed. The older boys
were on their own. Myrtle went to a girls club, and Betty and Sol
lived with a loving family, the Carsons. The Carsons had to
relinquish their foster children when their granddaughter was born.
They then stayed with the Eisenbergs, who Betty believes took care of
them only to receive the small stipend for foster parents. These were
"different times" said Betty. "Everyone was very poor."
A bright spot during this time was that Betty was sent to a summer
sleep-over camp where she was introduced to nature, singing and
guitar. She would sing some of those camp songs to me at bedtime.
Her older brothers had saved a little money, expecting that Sol would
use it for college. Sol did not take the money, either because he
was drafted around then, or because he was not interested in college.
Perhaps he wanted to give Betty a chance at a better life. In any case,
Betty went to, and graduated from, the University of Illinois. Mort and
Mery or Elaine and Irv can tell this part better then me of course.
She met her first husband Bobby Goldberg, and thrived as a member of the
Goldberg family and lived with them in New Jersey. Bob worked in the
the supermarket business, and me, Amy and Jeff came along to make things
difficult for them. We got our first house as sputnik orbited overhead.
I hold many splendid memories of this time. Mom taught me to ski when
I was 7 or 8 years old. "You've got to be able to do the kick turn"
she said. She placed the back of her left ski on the snow in front
of her with leg perpendicular to her body, and turned the ski and leg
outward and around so left ski came to rest parallel to her right ski but
pointed in the opposite direction. Then with her body facing downhill
in a plie position she swung her right ski over the tail of her left ski
and brought her skis together so that she had turned completely around.
You had to be there. During this time Betty took classical guitar lessons
and got her first tape recorder, a large reel-to-reel, and listened to
Tom Lehrer, the Beatles, and the Weavers which led to an interest in
South African folk music. Betty also loved classical music and some
show tunes Jacques Brel, and My Fair Lady. Mom taught me to strum and
sing Down in the Valley.
Betty won a life-and-death battle with lupus in the early sixties.
Just as her health became stable, Bob Goldberg died suddenly. Mort,
Mery, and the Goldberg family were at our side. We moved to a large
house where Bob and Betty had hoped to entertain Bob's business
friends, and Mom's interest and involvement in politics and folk music
blossomed. Betty brushed aside the lingering effects of the lupus and
devoted her considerable energy to meetings of the ACLU, the Eugene
McCarthy campaign, and many house concerts and meetings of musicians.
Mom helped organize the Folk Music Society of Northern New Jersey, all
the while taking good care of us kids. Betty also contributed to the
Eastern Cooperative Recreation School where she studied group
leadership, and strengthened her interest in folk dancing. During
this time we lost Rose Florence Goldberg, my Grandmother who had been
lifting us during these times.
Mom met Norb at the 50th wedding anniversary of Norb and Mery's
parents and they were married in a whirlwind. Betty moved to the
shore of the Pacific ocean to be with Norbert, and began to work with
the folk music community in Southern California.
There much more to tell, much I don't know - some is being told by
others. I would like to relate a recent story 'though. Last December
I brought my family to see Betty and Norbert. It was the last time my
children, who call her "Bubbie" were to see her. She looked fragile
to me, on her divan. Rosalie ran over and gave her a firm hug and
kiss, but my son, Arnon threw himself at her. As he bounded about on
her I said "Is he hurting you?" "No!" she said, astounded at my
question "I love it!"
Of all the things Betty has given me those I value most is the love,
respect and care that she gave to me. I will strive to use these as
guidance in how I treat my own children and other people. Betty also
taught me to let tough analytical thought and emotional freedom
coexist in my spirit. She taught me that compassion for others and
sticking up for yourself go together. She taught me to love adventure
and beauty. By example Mom taught me courage, strength, and
persistence (stubbornness?). Betty taught me how to hold and tune a
guitar, A, D, E (major and minor forms), G, G7th, B7th, two ways of
playing F, hundreds of songs, and introduced me to the world of music
and musicians. Maybe some of the gifts she gave me resonate with you
to. These are the wings with which I fly.
Betty is survived by her loved and loving husband Norbert Glasser.
Two of her brothers, Sol1 and Hy
are in Chicago. Two of her brothers and her sister, Paul, David and
Myrtle have passed away. Her children are me, Jeffrey and Amy and she
has three splendid grandchildren, Rosalie, Arnon and Timea. May the
memory of her shine through us forever.