by Malka Adler
Southfield, Michigan, 2001
Reviewed by Chana Greenblatt
Why was I laughing out loud, smiling, and wiping away tears? Because I just finished reading a most delightful collection of autobiographical essays and stories entitled A Sunny Slice of Life.
Written by Malka Adler, a writer living in Jerusalem, the book is replete with amusing essays and stories, beginning with the author’s childhood memories and continuing on into “great-grandmotherhood.”
In one of Adler’s most humorous essays, she recalls her first date with a penny-pinching young man. At the ice cream parlor, Adler ordered a 25¢ banana split whereupon her date turned “hepatitis yellow, tinged with gangrene green.” Adler proceeded to watch with horror as her suitor began counting out the coins in his pocket. “After a lengthy interval, he whispered his order. The waiter, a patient soul, leaned over to catch the almost inaudible words, ‘a double timber float.’ ” Despite her familiarity with the latest ice cream treats, Adler could recall no such flavor. To her chagrin, the waiter promptly returned with “a modest glass of cold water, upon which floated two wooden toothpicks.”
Growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the ‘40s, Adler used to come home from school, do the laundry and cook for Shabbat while her parents worked. One Thursday afternoon, after she had hung the laundry on the homemade “dryer” (a metal frame with heavy cords stretched across it) a “lone sock…in search of adventure parachuted into the…soup.” What should she do? She fished out the belligerent sock and said nothing. At the Friday night meal, when asked why the soup was especially delicious, Adler mumbled something about a secret ingredient.
The Adlers’ aliyah adventures rival any. Arriving at the Jerusalem airport with four children and 17 suitcases, they eagerly anticipated moving into their new home. When the “home” came into view, Adler writes, “It wasn’t quite a home…it was a huge excavation with…some rudimentary wooden foundations…and two Arab workers wandering about with a pail of sand each.” As a new olah myself, I can easily identify with Adler.
For a while, Adler provided “free entertainment” with her mispronunciations and malapropisms. Her grocery lists, “a guaranteed source of amusement for the children,” contained gems such as a spray to exterminate gemalim (camels) instead of nemalim (ants); a ripe bunch of avanim (stones) instead of anavim (grapes) and a box of kosher melech (a king) instead of melach (salt). Once she wanted to buy kasif (silver carp), but ended up requesting kesef (money). Glancing at the “well-dressed American lady requesting charity,” the fish vendor asked somewhat incredulously, “You need money, gveret?” “Well doesn’t everyone?” replied Adler. Another time, she requested three pitriot (mushrooms) from a saleslady “because of the inclement weather.” Sensing the saleswoman’s confusion, Adler explained that she was an olah chadashah (new immigrant) and really meant to say three itriot (noodles). The confusion was only compounded until a smile of comprehension passed over the saleswoman’s face: ‘You mean mitriot (umbrellas)!’”
A techno-phobic, Adler consistently shies away from dealing with technical matters. At work, when the scotch tape dispenser needed refilling, she would loan it to an unsuspecting coworker and disappear. When she had to confront the computer, everything that could go wrong–did. Most of her efforts “resulted in a very large, very visible message blazoned across my computer screen…YOU HAVE PERFORMED AN ILLEGAL OPERATION.”
Adler’s essays touch upon some serious subjects as well. We accompany her as she visits with her dying friend. We are with the author as she battles melanoma and marvel at her strength and unwavering faith in HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We join Adler and her neighbor Yona, in their frantic rush to the hospital to save a child’s life.
No matter what the topic, our author is a perpetual optimist and manages to find the bright side. Her sparkling sense of humor enchants the reader. Her unwavering faith in the Ribbono Shel Olam inspires each of us to attain a higher level and appreciate the important things in life. Invite Malka Adler into your life. You’ll be glad that you did.
Mrs. Greenblatt is a retired librarian currently living in Jerusalem.