Infidel

Dough

by Mort Zachter

Debbie Weiss: "Dough" was an interesting story line for me to read because I could relate to many of the characters described in the book by Mort Zachter. Mort's uncles owned a bakery in New York and my paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Russia who was a baker in a retail establishment in Brooklyn around the same time period. The descriptions of the neighborhoods and people brought back memories of my own childhood, spending Sundays with my grandparents in Brooklyn. However, while the author's uncles turned out to be millionaires, my grandfather certainly did not. None-the-less the outlooks on life and the customs and beliefs all appeared to be very similar, as they probably all grew up in the same part of eastern Europe.

I could understand why Mr. Zachter was frustrated by the fact that his wealthy relatives never offered to help him out financially while he was a struggling young adult. I suspect that the bachelor uncles might have wanted to offer some financial assistance, but just could absolutely not depart from the money which meant security in life to them. Ironically, of course, this meant that they were never able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. This to me is so very sad. While the story line was interesting, I would only rate the book a 3.
Rating: ***

Gail Reid: "Dough" is the story of a day-old bakery operation in the Lower East Side of New York that consumes the lives of the author's bachelor uncles. Ostensibly, barely making ends meet, the uncles expect Mort Zachter's mother, Helen, to work in the store without pay as a family obligation.

So it is with a great deal of incredulity that Mort learns that the remaining elderly uncle, declining with Alzheimer's, has a portfolio in excess of five million dollars. This is a bittersweet personal tale where the author wonders out loud why his uncles and parents could not have bought themselves a better life? Why was this secret maintained? Why did the uncles not offer to help him, their only heir, when he was a cash-strapped young father working days as an accountant and attending law school every night?

This book is a telling examination of post-Depression mentality contrasted with the assimilation of second generation Americans. Many readers may see their own family members in this story.
Rating: ***

Judy Stanton: I volunteered at the Jewish Book Festival this year; having arrived before my assigned program, I slipped in to hear Mort Zachter talk about his book Dough. The good part is that he was entertaining, funny and caught my interest. The bad part is that he told most of the story in the book. Still, I enjoyed reading this memoir, completing it in one day. (173 pages)

The story is about Mort's family, mainly his bachelor uncles, who lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side and ran their parents' day-old bread store, with help from Mort's mother. Their frugal lifestyle -- living in a tenement, working every day, never vacationing, and not providing financial support to family in need belied the fact, which he later uncovered, that they were actually multi-millionaires. I could relate to some of my parents' beliefs in Mort's family and to how difficult it was for him, even as he inherited this fortune, to change his work ethic and lifestyle.
Rating: ****

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