Memories of a Jewish Girl from Brooklyn
by Helene Meisner Oelerich
Page Publishing, Inc

"Every time I did my homework, I would save my literature or writing or reading for last. That was my dessert."

Oelerich was born to a Jewish immigrant family. Her Russian grandfather arrived as a blacksmith. They fled to America to escape from the Czar’s anti-Jewish pogroms. These were violent massacres that targeted religious groups, especially Jews. Working as a blacksmith, her grandfather shoed horses for the NYC police department.

The author’s early childhood in Brooklyn is told in chapters 1–4. The author had one older brother she greatly admired. Her father was a paper hanger. Her mother read books to her as a child. When she wasn’t reading, Oelerich went to afternoon movies. As a teenager, her activities centered on making her dream to become an actress come true. She studied music and the theatre, including pantomime, taking the bus over to Greenwich Village. During Oelerich’s high school years, her mother was a saleslady in Brooklyn; they both loved Radio City Music Hall and going to the top of the Empire State Building. A close high school friend, Laura, invited her to come along with her family. Laura’s mother was an actress. With them at a famous restaurant, the author met Johnny Carson. For a time, they were a couple pursuing more than a casual relationship as he divorced from his first wife. Later, Oelerich was involved in her own failing marriage. Prior to this point, her life dream had changed to teaching children. The author met Phil Oelerich who became her second husband. The couple has been married for twenty-three years.

The author presents her credentials for writing this memoir in the introduction: “I was born, lived, and taught in Brooklyn. New York City is my playground. I am intimately involved in restaurant dining. I live and teach in Whitestone, today. Three Throgs Neck Bridge is my backyard.” This bridge connects the boroughs of Queens to the south with the Bronx to the north. Five boroughs make up New York City. To a reader who is not native to NYC, the stories in this memoir demonstrate the humanity and welcoming character of neighborhoods within what may seem to some to be a very impersonal city.

The author and her husband live in Queens; they dine at fabulous restaurants and enjoy all that New York has to offer, especially the theatre. For over ten years, she has reviewed restaurants, admittedly covering only restaurants that she likes. Her written reviews appear in magazines and newspapers. For those who already know Oelerich as “The Dining Diva,” this memoir serves up another tasty slice of NYC.

Each chapter resembles a short story with a specific theme carried along over several pages. These stories appear to have been written on different occasions. With twenty-plus chapters, there is an understandable overlap of characters and content. A final edit could have polished the entertaining and insightful memories into a cohesive whole for a new audience. Oelerich’s own photographs accompany the short stories in this memoir. As explained in Chapter 22, travel and photography are other childhood dreams she has been able to incorporate into an amazing life.

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