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Jan 12 2011

Moishe, You Wild Thing

By at 4:06 pm


Before moving to Israel, we spent an inordinate amount of time at Barnes and Noble where I would stalk anyone with a baby in the hopes of maybe– just maybe–having a little adult interaction. (No, blasting gangsta rap in the car with Little Homie and M does not cut it.) One of the lasts times I was there before hauling ass to Israel, I noticed a bunch of stuffed animal “Wild Things” (from Maurice Sendak’s classic) on sale.

I knew I had to buy one– if not for M and Little Homie, then for me –(besides, who can argue with half off?) so I took my new frowzy-haired, hairy-footed friend up to the counter and handed him to the Barnes and Noble clerk.

“Oh, Moishe is my favorite, too!” he said with a wide smile.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Moishe. You know–the Wild Thing!” he replied, holding the stuffed creature and shaking it for emphasis.

“Moishe? As in MOISHE Moishe?!?!” I asked, sounding like a Yiddish broken record.

“Yes, Moishe. Jewish for Moses.” Answered the clerk.

“I’m familiar with the name Moishe.” I said coldly. “Why are you calling him that?”

Bernard. With horns!

I must have sounded as indignant as I felt because the clerk answered defensively: “I didn’t name him! Maurice Sendak did!”


“Maurice Sendak named all of the Wild Things after his aunts and uncles. This one is Moishe.”

“So I gather.” I replied.

“The blue one with the horns is Bernard–but I call him Bernie. The girl-one with the long stringy hair and big nose is Sipi.”

“Sipi as in Zipporah?”

“I guess. But I don’t speak Jewish, so I’m not sure.”

So, I bought Moishe, and a few days later, after finding Bernard on, I got him, too. M and Little Homie love their new fuzzy and frightening friends, and yes, while I enjoy knowing that Maurice Sendak chose to “represent” by selecting such blatantly Jewish names for his famous Wild Things, I wonder if he’s doing our people an incredible disservice by giving these repugnant creatures with hairy feet, humped backs, hooked noses, and horns such obviously Jewish names.

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2 Responses to Moishe, You Wild Thing

  1. Michael says:

    From an interview Sendak did with Bill Moyers in 2004, talking about inspiration for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE:

    SENDAK: And then, we were at… someone had died. My brother, sister and I were sitting shiva, the Jewish ceremony.
    And all we did was laugh hysterically. I remember our relatives used to come from the old country, those few who got in before the gate closed, all on my mother’s side. And how we detested them. The cruelty that children… you know, kids are hard.
    And these people didn’t speak English. And they were unkempt. Their teeth were horrifying. Nose… unraveling out of their hair, unraveling out of their noses. And they’d pick you up and hug you and kiss you, “Aggghh. Oh, we could eat you up.”
    And we know they would eat anything, anything. And so, they’re the wild things. And when I remember them, the discussion with my brother and sister, how we laughed about these people who we of course grew up to love very much, I decided to render them as the wild things, my aunts and my uncles and my cousins. And that’s who they are.
    MOYERS: So, the wild things are your extended…
    SENDAK: Relatives. They’re…
    MOYERS: Jewish relatives.
    SENDAK: Jewish relatives.

  2. Ilbert says:

    So, Sarah has found someone who can be as outrageous as she. There was a special on Sendak and I vague remember him talking about his family and the role they played in his creation of the Wild Things. Many of them frigthened him as a child, ergo the monsters.


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