She grew up in Beverly Hills with colorful parents and a Christmas tree. She went to school on the Jewish holidays because her mother said, “What are you going to do if you stay home?”
She told me the most interesting moment for her as a
Jew was when she went to Wellesley College in 1958 because the school
had a quota on Jews.
After she was admitted, she received a housing
form on which she was supposed to put her religious preference.
“I thought that leaving it blank was sort of the right
response,” she told me. “And I got a letter back saying I wouldn’t be
given a room assignment till I told them my religious preference.
So I wrote them a letter saying that I was an atheist
but I had been born a Jew, and sent it off. And then I went off to
Wellesley and it was absolutely clear to a blind person that the housing
department worked in the following way: Catholic girls roomed with
Catholic girls, Jewish girls were put with Jewish girls and Protestant
girls with Protestant girls.
When I joined the school newspaper, we
exposed this, by the way. But I suddenly realized that whether I
thought of myself as a Jew or not, other people thought of me as a Jew,
and I had to come to terms with what that was.”
She was relieved her two boys didn’t request bar
mitzvahs. “First of all, because of my feelings about religion, and
second of all, because they’re so expensive, and third of all, because
nothing is more awful than a divorced bar mitzvah.” (She was divorced
from their father, Carl Bernstein, the second of her three husbands.)