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By Joanna Valente
TV icon and womenâ€™s rights advocateÂ Mary Tyler Moore, who was in an interfaith marriage,Â died today after being hospitalized in Connecticut. She was 80 years old. Her representative,Â Mara Buxbaum, told the Huffington Post in a statement:
â€śToday, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.â€ť
That statement isnâ€™t hyperbole either. Without Tyler, the way women are portrayed in mediaâ€“and treated in real life, especially at workâ€“would not be the same. The Mary Tyler Moore ShowÂ was the first show to give serious attention to independent working women. Moore, who initially got her big break on theÂ 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, started her own show in the â€™70s, where she played a 30-year-old working woman who never marriedâ€“something unheard of on TVÂ at the time.Â
Here are three reasons Mary Tyler Moore was a feminist icon:
1. Mooreâ€™s character, Mary Richards, famously askedÂ for equal pay to her male co-worker in Season 3, episode 1. The fact that equal pay for women is still largely up for debate is, well, depressing.
2. Thereâ€™s also that episode where Mary goes on the pill. Hello, womenâ€™s lib. You can watch it here on Hulu.
3. MooreÂ ran the show. Literally. Moore was a boss lady.Â The Mary Tyler Moore Show director Alan Rafkin recalled in his autobiography how this was the case, stating:
â€śFirst and foremost Mary was a businesswoman and she ran her series beautifully.Â She was the boss, and although you werenâ€™t always wedded to doing things exactly her way, you never forgot for a second that she was in charge.â€ťÂ
Even Oprah famously said in aÂ PBS documentary celebrating the actress that Moore â€śhas probably had more influence on my career than any other single person or force.â€ť Moore herself identified as a feministâ€“andÂ she told Larry King on his show that her character certainly was:
â€śShe wasnâ€™t aggressive about it, but she surely was.Â The writers never forgot that. They had her in situations where she had to deal with it.â€ť
The show itself ran for seven seasons and held the record for most Emmys wonÂ at a whoppingÂ 29, until â€śFrasierâ€ť broke it in 2002. Besides her acting, Moore was also an animal rights activist, as she foundedÂ Broadway Barks 15, an annual homeless cat and dog adoption event in New York City, and fought for legislation to protect farm animals from inhumane suffering.
But thatâ€™s not it either. Moore was also an advocate for researching cures for diabetes and served as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Moore herself suffered fromÂ type 1 diabetes (and was diagnosed at age 33), and nearly became blind from it in recent years.
Moore, who was not Jewish, is survived by herÂ husband Robert Levine. She and Levine (who is Jewish) were married for 33 years. She was a mother to herÂ son, Richard, who died in 1980 of an accidental gunshot.
We will miss you, Mary Tyler Moore.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters here.
Joanna Valente is the Editorial Assistant atÂ Kveller. She is the author ofÂ Sirs & Madams,Â The Gods Are Dead, Xenos, andÂ MarysÂ of the Sea, andÂ received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.Â You can follow herÂ @joannasaidÂ on Twitter, @joannacvalente on Instagram, orÂ email her atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jared David Berezin
Sometimes it’s nice to have others make minor decisions for me. Iâ€™m happy when my wife decides what weâ€™re cooking for dinner. Itâ€™s more convenient when a friend suggests a specific date to get together. If I look in my closet and see only one pair of pants (the others being in the laundry), no problem, it makes deciding what to wear very easy.
Sometimes though it can be difficult to avoid others trying to make decisions for me. From political commentators telling me who â€śwonâ€ť a debate, to companies telling me what product will make me happy, to programmers at Netflix creating algorithms that tell me what movies to watch, Iâ€™m bombarded with recommendations from people Iâ€™ve never met.
For important lifecycle eventsâ€”baby naming ceremonies, bat and bar mitzvahs, weddings and funeralsâ€”affiliated and unaffiliated Jews alike tend to rely heavily on others, most often experienced and knowledgeable rabbis. For unaffiliated Jews and interfaith couples who do not belong to a synagogue, however, rabbis are often strangers whom we donâ€™t know and who donâ€™t know us.
Stepping away from the cast of strangers
The day my grandfather died, my mother said aloud what we were all thinking, â€śArrangements need to be made.â€ť I immediately pictured the typical funeral service with a rabbi we didnâ€™t know talking to us about a man he didnâ€™t know. Something inside me cried out, â€śNo more strangers!â€ť
Since my grandfather suffered from dementia, the nurses, doctors and staff at the assisted living facility were always strangers. As my grandfatherâ€™s dementia progressed, the cast of strangers in his life expanded to include even us, his own family. I was extremely grateful for the care he received, and yet I wondered, â€śWhy must we rely on someone we donâ€™t know to care for Papa even after heâ€™s dead? Do we really need a stranger to show us how to say goodbye to the man we loved so much?â€ť
Rabbis, like all individuals, can be wonderful people, but I was hesitant to have a rabbi who did not know my grandfather lead us through such an emotional experience. Although a rabbi would help ensure that Jewish rituals were met with accuracy, this had never been a priority for my grandfather. He loved to poke holes in theology and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. I wanted a service that was as loving and authentic as my grandfather; an experience that was both Jewish and completely tailored for the man I admired.
I asked my mother and auntâ€”my grandfatherâ€™s daughtersâ€”if I could lead the funeral service. Initially, they said theyâ€™d think about it. In our next conversation I learned that their hesitation stemmed only out of concern for me. â€śWould you be OK?â€ť they asked. â€śWould it be too difficult, since you and Papa were so close?â€ť Truth is, I was scared to get what I asked for. Even thinking about attending a funeral makes me nervous.
Interfaith marriage as a confidence-booster
The determination to create and lead my grandfatherâ€™s funeral service grew in large part from my experiences in an interfaith marriageâ€”I was raised a Reform Jew and my wife was raised Christian, though she has since developed an aversion to all organized religion. To build rituals and Jewish holiday celebrations that are meaningful for both of us (and our friends who are Jewish and of other faiths), we experiment with ideas from within and outside Judaism. Together, weâ€™ve learned that we can try anythingâ€”if a ritual works we can do it again; if it doesnâ€™t we can try something new.
Developing a practice of spiritual self-reliance and interfaith experimentation gave me the strength to take responsibility for my grandfatherâ€™s funeral, to help lead rather than be led and to do so without the pressure of trying to be exactly perfect.
The Jewish ritual at the end of a burial service is to place dirt atop the casket. This voluntary ritual gives loved ones an opportunity to participate in the burial process. Creating and officiating my grandfatherâ€™s funeral service felt like an extension of this dirt ritual, a way for me to get my hands dirty, to get involved and to get uncomfortable for the sake of love and gratitude.
Preparing the funeral service also helped me appreciate all of the work done by strangers of all faiths whom we rely on to help us say goodbye, particularly the gravediggers. I prepared the words; they prepared the land. After they carefully lowered the patriarch of my family into the earth, I thanked the cemetery workers for their work. A couple of the men nodded in recognition as they walked away wordlessly to their next task.
â€śI am officiating this funeral service as a grandson mourning the loss of my grandfather, my Papa,â€ť I said at the start of the service to the group of family and friends gathered in front of me. Minutes later as my wife and I were performing the song â€śLechi Lachâ€ť on flute and guitarâ€”a duet my Papa always treasuredâ€”a gust of wind sent my yarmulke flying. As a family friend chased after the yarmulke and plopped it back on my head, I cherished the intimacy of the imperfect graveside service.