Cookie Roberts’ new husband book tells stories of their interfaith marriage and life together
Cokie: a good life Lived is divided into chapters filled with anecdotes with commentaries from those who knew her best – the famous and those in the background.
VSokie Roberts, television commentator and non-fiction author, enjoyed observing Catholic ritual while adding Jewish traditions to the lives of her family and friends, while exploring the possibilities of celebrating her interfaith marriage.
Her husband Steven Roberts, also a journalist and media professor, wrote and delivered his 2019 eulogy and filled it with personal stories – far beyond religion – that weren’t widely known. Soon after, hearing positive comments from those who heard the remembrance, he decided that his dramatic public achievements coupled with his benevolent private actions deserved a book.
Cokie: a good life Lived (HarperCollins) is divided into chapters filled with anecdotes with commentary from those who knew her best – the famous and those in the background. While there are sections covering his TV work and non-fiction book projects (including Founding mothers, from this day on, our Haggadah), there is considerable space recalling enduring human relationships, philanthropic commitments and intercultural religious observances.
“The Public Cokie has been well known for many years and has been, for generations, a wonderful role model for young women and girls who could hear it on the radio and watch it on TV and say [they could be that smart and strong]said Roberts, often his co-author and still teaching at George Washington University, serving as chief political analyst for ABC radio and writing book reviews for the Washington post. “It was a great legacy in itself.
“What we didn’t know before this book, I think, was the Private Cokie and the fact that it was about a woman who, despite her eminence and her demands for time, found time every day to do something good for someone else. These stories of private generosity, friendship and charity, in my opinion, are just as important, if not more important, than the public role that she played.
“Not everyone can be a TV or radio star, but everyone can be a good person, and everyone can learn something from the way she has lived her life and the priorities she she settled down. This is the most important thing that I tried to accomplish [with this book]. “
Devotion to the Jewish Ritual
A lifetime member of Hadassah, Cokie is particularly well known to members of Michigan’s Jewish community who attended his local addresses, including one at Temple Beth El and another for the Washtenaw County Jewish Community Center.
In the private sphere, the book recalls how she decided to take her young children to Jewish services during her husband’s life. New York Times missions to Greece, organized seders for interfaith families and even did a chuppah for the civil wedding ceremony of longtime journalist and friend Nina Totenberg, chaired by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The way Cokie introduced the ritual to her husband’s family is described as an important part of their 53-year marriage, which dedicated them to their two children and six grandchildren. He asked his children to read the manuscript of the memoirs for approval prior to publication.
Steven Roberts, who also accepted speaking engagements in Michigan with his wife and once separately for the National Council of Jewish Women, explained how Cokie grew up in a family that instilled a devotion to the ritual. She was the daughter of Congressmen Hale and Lindy Boggs.
“Ritual was not at the heart of my identity as a Jew,” Roberts offered in contrast and referred to his early attachments to Judaism from a tribal and historical perspective. “My dad and my grandfathers were never bar mitzvahs; I was because I had asked to be, much to my parents’ surprise.
“One of the ways my attitude towards Judaism changed thanks to Cokie was a return to ritual as part of identity because that’s what she brought to marriage. My mother often said that the first Passover seder she attended was hosted by her Catholic daughter-in-law.
A precious friend
Writing the biography helped Roberts better understand the meaningful moments his friends remember. He’s interviewed 50 of them, and the standout interview for him involves her prioritizing – in the middle of a hectic day – the comfort of a friend devastated by the loss of a sibling.
“I knew how much Cokie appreciated her female friendships and how much time she devoted to them, but I was not there when she visited. [maternity wards] in the Washington area, ”he explained. “I wasn’t there when she went to the funerals of her friends’ parents. I was not there at his office at NPR (National Public Radio), where there were literally lines of young women at the door waiting to speak to him.
“While I made the decision to write the book based on what I knew two years ago, my belief in the value of stories grew considerably stronger as I heard stories. stories I had never heard before. It was a fascinating process because I was determined to make this story worth telling.
One question stands out in the book as a measure of the sensitivity and toughness that Cokie represented to many, whether on camera or in private to encourage women to pursue their ambitions. Under stress, people wondered, “What would Cokie do?”
This question continues for Roberts as he communicates the partnership aspect of their marriage and evolves with the important elements they had shared.
He continues to maintain close ties with the children and grandchildren, happy to be present at their special activities. He continues the syndicated column they wrote together for a long time. He continues to host seders – recently on Zoom but hopefully soon in person.
And what does he think Cokie would do if he asked him to write a biography?
“I think she would have been embarrassed if I was writing the book in the first place,” he said. “I think she would have agreed that the Private Cokie and the choices she made as a private person were extremely important.
“I’m pretty confident that she would have shared with me the idea that the most important lesson here was the ordinary, everyday choices that each person makes important and that you need to take the time to be a friend.”