The Momser and the Mensch


One of the joys of growing up as a Jew in New York City was hearing my parents and grandparents speaking Yiddish to one another and sometimes even getting me into the conversation. While my knowledge of the language is sparse, a few words crept into my vocabulary particularly when I was the target. The fact is that when your grandmother starts calling you a name you don’t understand it’s probably a good idea you know what she means so you know the next time not to sass her. This is when I first heard the word, momser, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Momser is Yiddish for an impudent, mischievous person who can be extremely annoying but also sickeningly sweet. Alright, so maybe I wasn’t the best kid in the world, but to be honest, my upbringing did lead to a time when another Yiddish word was used to describe me.

I remember the first time when my boss, at the neighborhood butcher store, told me I was a mensch, a person of integrity and honor. It was then I felt I had overcome my immaturity and developed in an adult.

All of this brings us now to the current presidential nominating process. It’s really quite remarkable that two men stand out as such polar opposites even though they grew up together in the same city, though in different boroughs. And here is where those two Yiddish words can be applied to each of them.

In one corner is Donald Trump, a candidate who despises the current political landscape. In the other is Bernie Sanders, a candidate who despises the current political landscape. But folks, their place of birth and their general hatred of politics by charge card is where any similarities end.

When Trump first entered the race, he unloaded on undocumented Mexican residents and still does to this day. Additionally, he’s taken after Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists and Ted Cruz, who, in his eyes, is a foreigner. He also virulently attacked women during the first presidential debate. To this day, however, he defends himself just like a momser would after lying to his parents about a broken window pane. After each ensuing insult, however, he’s delighted to tell you, depending on which day, how all of his friends are either Mexicans, Muslims, women or foreigners. In his mind, Trump is the best friend the world could have right now, and amazingly, his followers feel the same

Sanders, on the other hand is a man of integrity and honor, who unlike Trump, is truly grateful for his support. Sure, he can be crotchety, but I’ve never met a N.Y. Jew who isn’t, including me. For Sanders, it’s all about his heart and authenticity. He says his goal is to win the Presidency, rescue the struggling lower and middle classes and leave the trash talking to everyone else.

This whole paradigm reminds me of another time in my youth when comic books were my literature of choice. I, of course, adored Superman, and adored his nemeses, one of which was Bizarro Superman. Everything about Bizarro Superman was in contradiction to the Man of Steel, except they both wanted to be top dog in their separate domains.

So the question now comes down to how America wants to rebuild its current failing state with a man who actually never gets bored thinking of himself, or a man who never gets bored thinking of how he can help others. In other words, this country can go with the mensch, who is willing, like Superman, to fight for truth, justice and the American way or The Bizarro man, who only comes equipped with a big mouth and the dreams to Make America Hate Again.

Eric Blumberg is a former radio news reporter and talk show host who teaches at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2016

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