Aspen Princess: ‘It can happen again. Don’t ever forget.’

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

I was talking to my friend Rabbi Shereen the other day about having a naming ceremony for Levi.

I can honestly say that I don’t really even know what a naming ceremony is, exactly. I just know that in lieu of having been raised with any form of religion or traditions or ceremonies of my own, I want my child to have more of that in his own life, that spiritual guidance that my own life was lacking. I just have to figure out how to do it.

Shereen was counseling me, as she often does, about our intentions and the values we want to raise Levi with. “Do you want him to be charitable? Do you want him to value family time?” she asked. “You should think about ways you can instill this with traditions.”

She knows we are not religious. I come from a Jewish background and spent more time in country clubs at fancy bar mitzvah parties than I did in temple. My parents never belonged to a temple and I never took any interest in religion. For me, being Jewish was a cultural thing. It meant having a loud, hyper-intellectual family who were also extremely neurotic, funny and outspoken. It also meant having an acute awareness of the Jewish Holocaust. From an early age, my mom would make cutting remarks like, “Hitler wouldn’t have cared that you have blue eyes and light hair. He would have thrown you in the oven with the rest of them.”

One thing I told Shereen is that being Jewish did give me more social consciousness and empathy for people who are persecuted. When I was in middle school, my parents donated space in their office building to Cambodian refugees. That is something I do want to pass on to my son, I told her. I want to teach him about where he comes from, and the history of his people. She said we didn’t have to go so far as to observe formal religious traditions to do that, we could create our own. She suggested baking challah bread together once a week and letting him decorate it with chocolate and sprinkles. I love that.

Still, let’s be honest. I have led an utterly sheltered life and have not suffered one iota for one instant, not ever. I have always been well-fed, well-clothed and well-coiffed. The only opportunities I have ever been kept from are getting media credentials to Food & Wine, and that’s mostly out of my own laziness. Sure, I’ve had a few challenges related to being female in male-dominated industries, but there was a part of me that thrived on it.

There is something about my Jewish lineage that makes me think a little deeper about human nature. It does give me a different perspective on the horrors of what is happening in our own country under our noses today.

When the Nazis invaded Europe during World War II, the Jews were loaded onto trucks like animals and carted off to concentration camps and killed. And no one did anything to stop it, at least not initially. Why did people let this happen? I think a lot of us are asking that very same question today.

It is hard to believe that right now, in our own country, immigrant children were being separated from their parents at the border, numbered and thrown into cages. As a first-time parent and relatively new mother, my heart aches when my child is down the street at preschool. Sometimes I miss him in the morning when I wake up first, because I can hardly wait to see him. Most nights, I go in and check on him before I go to bed, just so I can see his sweet face one more time before morning. When he was born, I felt a strange kind of trauma, having had him ripped out of me in the operating room. For many months when he was a newborn, I often wished he was still in there, where he was so close to my heart. Even now, when I try to settle him at night and he squirms and wiggles and flips and flops, it reminds me of when I was pregnant with him and he was constantly moving, especially as I was trying to fall asleep at night.

It is incomprehensible that we have a president who not only allowed this to happen but ordered it to happen, and then lied about it, blaming it on the Democrats for a law that doesn’t even exist. And Wednesday after signing an executive order to stop the policy, says “I think anybody with a heart would feel strongly about it.” It’s hard to believe that Congress is so broken and dysfunctional and mired in their own political agendas that they didn’t do anything to stop it.

I got into a discussion about immigration reform with a friend of mine who is politically conservative, wealthy, white and male.

“Illegal aliens are breaking the law,” he said, his tone a little more cutting than usual. “If what you are doing is illegal, you should be prosecuted, and you should not be subjecting your children to that consequence. It’s as simple as that.”

Even though I gracefully changed the subject to preserve our friendship, I have been arguing with him in my head ever since. I want to say, “You don’t know anything about these people’s circumstances. They’re not coming here to break the law, they’re coming here because they’re running away from a degree of suffering you know nothing about.” And what’s with calling people “illegals”?

I understand immigration reform is complicated. But what I don’t understand is how we allowed this to happen. The biggest lesson I learned from my Jewish grandparents was, “It can happen again. Don’t ever forget.”

What I don’t accept is allowing a child to be taken away from their mothers, even for a minute.

The Princess is trying to lighten up, both mentally and physically. Email your love to