Mae Billet Ziskin

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The Biography of

Mae Billet Ziskin

Los Angeles 2003

Lifetime Biography

Copyright 2003 all rights reserved


Mae Billet Ziskin

Mae Ziskin was born on May 19, 1928. She was named Mae Biletzky at birth. Mae was the closest name to her grandmother’s name of Mindel that Mae’s mother could think of. Since Mae was born in the month of May, the name worked well. Mae’s last name of Biletzky was shortened to Billet when she was around sixteen years old, and eventually became Ziskin at her second marriage.

Table of Contents

Personal and Family History 4

Family Life 11

Earning A Living 18

Love and Romance 21

Children 26

Living Your Life 29

Standard Pedigree Tree 31

Personal and Family History

Mae Billet Ziskin

Though Mae was a healthy child and was carried full term, Mae’s mother had a very hard labor. Her labor took a full day and a half and she had a low pain tolerance which made the labor even harder. However, when Mae was born, her mother was very pleased that she had long fingers and long finger nails, which came from Mae’s father.

When Mae’s mother was pregnant with her, she lived in he Bronx across from the zoo. During her pregnancy, she refused to visit the zoo out of fear that she would become fixated on an animal and her unborn child would look like the animal when the child was born.

Father Mursha Chaim

Mae’s father’s name was Mursha Chaim, chaim means life. In English, his name is Maurice. He was a very intelligent man who was able to receive a formal education in both Religious Studies and Hebrew while he was in Europe. He did not learn English in school, and he taught it to himself.

Maurice and Mae’s mother Fanny ran a store during their engagement and beginning of their marriage, however soon Maurice found this to be too dull. He had always been fascinated with law, and he became highly involved with the labor unions and made a life long career with them. He frequently traveled across the United States as a special investigator for the United States Department of the Interior.

Part of his work included visiting oil wells to make sure that the labor unions were both being allowed to practice and were being recognized. When Maurice visited Los Angeles, he fell in love with the city. He would go home and tell his family wonderful stories about the orange groves, sunshine, and palm trees. He dreamed of living there one day.

Part way through his career with the labor unions, Maurice decided to stop that and go into business again. He opened a gasoline station in the Bronx in New York. This business did not last long, because the city put a highway directly through where the gas station was located. After this failed attempt, Maurice went back to work with the labor unions.

Maurice started working with alcohol unions and received a retainer of $10,000 per year which was a very large amount of money at that time. This totally changed the family’s life and allowed the children to go to upscale colleges.

Mother Fagel Mashitz

Mae’s mother’s name was Fagel Mashitz, fagel means bird. In English her name translates to Fanny. Fanny’s father died while she was still in her first year of life. Fanny’s mother died when Fanny was twelve or thirteen. Fanny was the youngest of four children: three girls and one boy; however the boy died in childhood. She also had a half sister from her father’s first marriage. When their parent’s died, Fanny and her three sisters decided to move to America where their paternal grandparents and half sister already lived. It was 1913.

The oldest of the three sisters was twenty. She had been divorced and had a three year old son named Herman who was moving to America with them. The middle sister was sixteen and Fanny was thirteen. Their mother had a store before she died, and the girls liquidated it to get cash to go to America. At this time, it was very hard to travel and a woman who was traveling with a child and without a husband was not allowed into America.

The girls made an arrangement with another family whose father was also trying to get to America so that he could bring his family over later. They decided that he would pose as the oldest sister’s husband. The oldest sister had a reputation for being very forward and flirtatious, and this worried the man’s wife. Fanny decided that she would take care of this problem and told the man’s wife that he was not very attractive and her sister would not want him! This must have appeased the man’s wife, because she let him go with them. Coincidently, it was the last voyage that the ship they were sailing on ever made.

When they arrived at Ellis Island, the American immigration workers thought the man had a health problem and marked an “X” on the back of his jacket in chalk to let the other immigration workers know to detain him for a physical examination and possibly longer. The sisters did not understand much, but knew that an X on the back of your jacket could only mean trouble, so while they were on their way to the next station, the littlest of the sisters, Fagel, soon to become Fanny, rubbed the mark off his back with her hand and the party was allowed to pass to the next station.

Fanny posed as a fifteen year old, and because she was young, she had to have an adult already living in America sign for her, saying that she would have a place to live and eat and that she would go to school. The sister’s had to wait for their half sister to come from Philadelphia to sign for her. This kept them detained at Ellis Island until she got there, at which time they were released.

After leaving Ellis Island, Fanny and her sisters stayed briefly with their father’s parents in New York. However, they made the girls pay rent and were very strict. The sisters decided that if they were going to pay rent, they might as well have their own place where they could be in charge of their own lives. They were able to rent a room in a rooming house. The oldest sister did the housework and took care of her son while the middle sister and Fanny worked in factories.

Fanny was an excellent seamstress. She first learned sewing around age eight or nine when her mother became a small business proprietor. Fanny was hospitalized for a period of time around age ten or eleven, and since she was a good child, the nurses would let her stay up at night and watch them sew their clothes. When Fanny started working in America, she worked as a seamstress in a factory.

Fanny’s older sister soon found a husband who was thirty years older. He was widowed and had three children. He worked at the synagogue as a cantor and the keeper of the synagogue. Fanny’s older sister and her new husband had two children together. Fanny and the middle sister continued living in the rented room together.

Mae’s parents met at a social event held by Fanny’s relatives. These relatives were seven years older than Fanny, which was also the age of Maurice, her future husband. He had been friends with these relatives in Europe before they had all immigrated to America, although Fanny and Maurice had not met before coming to America. At this time, Fanny was around age sixteen or seventeen. Maurice moved into the room above Fanny and her sister in the rooming house.

Both Fanny and her older sister had an attraction to Maurice, and both wanted to date him. They would always gather at local restaurants to have fun. Because of tradition and age, it appeared that Maurice and the older sister were interested in each other; however it would later be revealed that Maurice actually had an interest in Fanny.

Maurice went to Europe the join the Jewish Legion during World War I; however he and Fanny continued their correspondence. One day, one of the workers at the rooming house notified her that there was a soldier downstairs who would like to see her. Fanny knew that it was Maurice and flew down the stairs so quickly that from then on they could not deny their relationship.

While they were engaged they started a business together. It was a very long time before they were able to be married because Maurice wanted his family to be there. His family was having trouble getting out of Europe because of World War I. Travel was very restricted. Finally after eight years of courtship, they were married in 1925 when Fanny was twenty four years old. This marriage was against tradition because Fanny’s older sister was not yet married, and traditionally the oldest sibling is married first.

Fanny’s oldest sister arranged for a very nice furnished apartment for them. Fanny had worked until she was married, then she became a housewife. Mae was born two years after their marriage, and Mae’s younger brother was born eight years after Mae.

Against the advice of her family, Fanny’s middle sister married a womanizing man named Willy. She became involved in the Socialist Movement and she was also very fond of opera and the arts. She was much more artistic than practical. Willy had an affair with her oldest sister, which started a feud between the oldest sister and the younger two sisters. Maurice arranged for the divorce, and the middle sister was single for awhile. She eventually remarried and had a daughter. Unfortunately, she got cancer was the first of the three sisters to die.

Brother Jerome

For the first eight years of her life, Mae was the only child of her parents. Because of this, her initial upbringing was that of an only child. Her brother, Jerome Billet (Jerry) was born in 1936.


Mae’s maternal grandfather died while Fanny was still in her first year of life. Before he died, he was a scribe who transcribed the Torah. He was a very smart and holy person. Mae’s maternal grandmother’s name was Mindel. She died when Fanny was twelve or thirteen. She was her husband’s second wife, because his first wife had died.

Every Passover, Mae would stay with her paternal grandparents. This was always a fun time, and for the first eight years she was the only grandchild, so she had the attention all to herself. Mae’s parents were indulgent, and allowed her to take all of her toys with her to her grandparent’s house. At this time, her grandparents were very old, so it was good for her to have many toys to play with.

Mae’s paternal grandfather’s name was Fievel Biletzky. He had immigrated to the United States and was a Rebbe, which is a teacher who worked in the temple and taught the children Jewish prayers starting at age three. He also taught them how to read and write Hebrew. Feivel had an older sister named Rifca and a younger brother named Cheil. Mae’s paternal grandmother’s name was Devora Mashitz, (later Devora Biltezky). She was a very clever business woman and ran a farming business.

Family Life

Day to Day

Mae grew up in a very close family that had a strong commitment to the ideals of the Yiddish community. In fact, Mae learned English while she was also learning Yiddish. Though her family was close, there was also much strife in it. Her father loved to argue and debate, which brought much tension to the household.

Mae’s parents had strong socialist ideals, and since Mae did not have a nanny, frequently she would go with them on protest marches in New York. She specifically remembers one march she attended with her parents in 1933 down one of New York City’s main thoroughfares where she saw the books that were outlawed and burned by Hitler. Because of this, Mae became aware of liberal causes while she was still very young and she had a strong social consciousness.

Growing up, Mae never had her own bedroom. There were times when she would have to sleep on the couch because their house only had one bedroom. In another house, Mae’s parents converted a dinette into a bedroom for both her and her brother.

There was always tension in the house over money. There was frequent fighting and the atmosphere was always charged with emotion. Throughout all of this, Mae’s mother would frequently turn to Mae for support. She used Mae as her confidant and would tell her everything Mae’s father was doing wrong. This made Mae angry with her father for things he did, but Mae was also angry with her mother for telling her these things.

Mae knew that she should not be put in the situation her mother was putting her in. Since Mae could not do anything to change the situation, she began to counsel her parents to get along and like each other. Because of all this, Mae was frequently petrified that her parents would break up and she would have to choose between them. She loved both of her parents and wanted to be with both of them. This stress was a driving factor in Mae getting married to her first husband.

Living Places

While in her elementary school years, Mae’s family moved several times, all but once staying within the same general neighborhood. During second grade however, her family moved to Washington D.C. because her father began working for the United States Department of the Interior when it was first founded. He was the first and only Jewish person to be working for them at the time.

The neighborhood that they moved to was very different from the primarily Jewish and Italian neighborhood that Mae was used to. It was while living here that Mae saw her first Christmas tree. It was also here that her younger brother Jerry was born. When they moved back to New York a year later, Mae had a different accent.

During her early adult life, Mae tried to move out of her parent’s house three times. The first, time was to Miami for college. However, after a few months her parents moved to Miami and she moved back in with them. The next time, she went to New York from Los Angeles to attend a friends wedding. Instead of returning home after the wedding, she got an apartment in New York and started working there as a dress model on 7th Avenue.

While living in New York, she made many friends and would associate with the local people in the restaurants and bars. Though she was having fun, she felt that the people around her were lost. During this time, Mae also met high class men in the dress industry and would ride with them in their Cadillac or other expensive cars, which made Mae, feel very special. Throughout this time, Mae always knew that this was not the life that she wanted to live, and remembered that she could go home at any time. She knew that she had a safety net to fall into.

After six months, Mae was tired of the life she was living in New York and again returned home. The third and final time that Mae moved out of her parent’s house she was successful. She was in her late twenties and living with her parents in Los Angeles after her divorce. She wanted to get an apartment, however her father was very upset about this idea. He told her that no man would want to marry a woman who lived by herself because she would be considered a “loose” woman. Mae responded to this by saying that she would not want to marry a man if he used that as a criterion against her. At this, her father threw up his hands and said that she had an answer for everything. She got her own apartment in Beverly Hills.

School Years

Mae started kindergarten in the Bronx, at Pelham School 105, now this school somewhat famous and known as PS 105. She was a bit leery of being left at the school; her mother was also a bit tentative about leaving her there. It was eight blocks from her home to the school, but Mae and her mother walked it that first morning anyway. During those years, kindergarten was a full day with a break for lunch. During this break, the parents would pick up the children and take them home, then bring them back to school after lunch. At this lunch break, her mother decided that it would be too far to walk every day since she would have to make at least three round trips, so she took Mae home at lunch time and did not bring her back. That was Mae’s only day of kindergarten.

The next year, Mae’s family moved to the other side of the Bronx which was much closer to the school. Mae then started first grade as PS 105. When teaching sentence structure and grammar, Mae’s first grade teacher always tried to get Mae to drop her voice at the end of a sentence, however Mae was never able to do this. Years later when Mae was in high school she went back to PS 105 to visit, and her first grade teacher heard Mae speak and immediately recognized her because of the way she did not drop her voice at the end of a sentence.

Mae loved school and took it very seriously; however she had an irregular education. For first grade she went to PS 105 in the Bronx. During second grade Mae went to two different schools in Washington, D.C. where her family lived for that year. After that, they moved back to the Bronx and Mae went back to PS 105. However, they moved again to another part of the Bronx and through fourth and fifth grade Mae went to PS 63. Then again her family moved and for sixth grade she returned to PS 105.

By this time, it was obvious that Mae was an intelligent student and she was incorporated into the rapid advance program when she attended junior high school which was seventh through ninth grade. Since Mae was in the rapid advance program, she finished those three years of schooling in two years. At this time Mae did not truly believe that she was exceptionally smart, but that she had gotten lucky with her schooling. Part of this belief was due to the fact that when her mother learned of Mae being put into the rapid advance program, she told Mae, “Now you’re really going to have to study.”

During Mae’s senior year of high school, everyone in her immediate family became sick with pneumonia. Because of this, she was unable to go to school from October to April. During this time, not only was her family sick, but when they became well her father took them all to Miami to recuperate. Mae’s teachers understood about the situation and her homeroom teacher sent her all the work she had missed.

Mae went back to school in April, and had to take pictures for the yearbook. She was the only one of the student with a tan because she had been at Miami Beach while the rest of the students were going to school in New York. Luckily during high school, Mae accumulated more units than she actually needed and she was able to graduate at age seventeen.

When she graduated, Mae did not realize that her scores were very high and she could have gone to any college she chose. She did not go right into college because there was a five dollar fee to apply and she did not want o spend the money, especially since she did not know much about college life.

Eventually, Mae’s father decided that he liked Miami Beach and had Mae enroll in the University of Miami. She moved into the dorms there for the first trimester while her parents remained in New York. The school was not very challenging to Mae, it seemed more like a country club than a University. Soon Mae’s parents became worried because she was never writing home about her studies, only about the fun she was having. However, through all this Mae had perfect grades.

She felt somewhat out of place because the other students at the school were very attentive to material possessions and she did not care much about them. Mae did not say much because she felt naïve. Instead, she would try to be quite to absorb the information and try to fit in.

The next January, Mae’s parents and brother moved to Miami and Mae moved back in with them. Mae felt even more out of place because all the other students lived at school. This was in 1945, and there were only a few boys at the school because of World War II; however Miami Beach was a favorite place for the military to send soldiers for rest. This is where Mae met her first husband, and they eventually moved to California where Mae continued going to school. After only three years of marriage, they were divorced and Mae stopped going to college after completing two years.

Mae’s second husband Jay was very influential in Mae’s decision to go back to college. He was a college graduate and working as a lawyer when they met, and when he found out that she had not completed college, he encouraged her to do so. While they were still newly dating, Mae went to the University of Southern California to register. On the date of pre-registration, Jay was on a date with another girl; however he called Mae every ten minutes to see if she had been able to register. Finally he took his date home and went to Mae’s house.

He told her everything that she needed to do the next morning to be registered and enrolled at this school. She promised him that she would do it, and she did. She finished with her pre-registration at eleven the next morning, and called Jay to tell him about it. He left work and picked her up for lunch. After lunch, they had to go get her old transcripts, which Jay took her to do. She was officially registered the next day, and started school the very next Monday.

She was very smart and received A’s in all of her classes. She also became very interested in psychology and changed her major from Education to Psychology. Mae graduated with a B.A. in Psychology. She also graduated Phi Beta Kappa, which is a high honor.

Soon Jay started talking about Mae getting a Ph.D. but Mae was concerned because she wanted to have a family more than a career. Jay told her that she could do both. They applied to graduate school together, both majoring in Psychology. At that time, the graduate school was only accepting ten applicants; however both of them were accepted. Mae and Jay both graduated and received PhD’s in Psychology.

Earning A Living

Mae’s first attempt at making money was in junior high school. She made pins and necklaces out of macaroni and sold them to her classmates. These were very stylish for awhile and Mae enjoyed doing that. However, eventually the macaroni jewelry fad died out and Mae was out of work.

Mae’s father would never allow her to baby-sit because he saw it as an insult to his ability to provide for his family. However, after high school he did allow Mae to start working at a real job. Her first job out of high school was doing telephone sales for the Donnelly Company. She did not work many hours, but was very proud because she had an official job.

After college, Mae started doing sales work at ……..After that she got a job doing typing and secretary work at a near by military base.

While Mae was married to her first husband, they moved to New York for a year. There Mae started working at a telephone switchboard and working with computers. Mae really enjoyed this. She liked doing deskwork and being organized. Even as a young child, Mae would make believe that she was a secretary and play office. After the divorce of her first husband, Mae started working at the admissions desk of Los Angeles General Hospital.

Currently, Mae runs a publishing company called Ziskin Law and Psychology Press. This company is currently in the process of being acquired by Oxford University Press, a well known and well respected publishing company. Mae and Jay have written many books together including books on teaching lawyers how to challenge the testimony of mental health experts. Jay would do most of the writing of these books while Mae would edit and review them. She did more of the managerial work, while Jay would put his ideas into book format. After the first edition of this book was published in 1969, there have been many Bachelor of Arts programs in Universities that will now teach how psychological issues can be applied to legal issues. Before this they were seen as two separate spheres that could not merge. At the first printing, five hundred books were published.

During the 1970’s there was openness to exploration and alternative lifestyles. The idea of an “open marriage” started. “Open marriage” is the practice of allowing other romantic relationships into a marriage. It involves contracting with the spouse and understanding their desires. It works mainly on trust of the other spouse and openness to new ideas. Mae and Jay thought that this would be a fun project and experimented with it for a period of time. At the end of the period, they wrote a book about their experience. They took it to the publishing company and were very excited when it was published and they received a small advance. They kept their composure through the elevator ride to the street, but once they were out of the publisher’s building they let out a yelp of excitement, and went to celebrate.

Mae has also done private practice counseling and therapy since 1966. She still does this, but has a much smaller clientele and works out of her home. Before starting private practice, Mae worked as a staff psychologist doing clinical work at the San Fernando Child Guidance Center. This center started as a small store front operation, however now it is a very large organization. Mae has also taught at colleges and worked in the Counseling Center at California State University, Los Angeles.

Mae is also an active member of the American Psychological Association and various other psychological associations. She has held offices in some of the organizations such as the Professional Psychological Association. Through these different associations, Mae has made many friends that have lasted over many years.

Love and Romance

Mae met her first husband while living in Miami Beach. He was in the military and six years older than her. While they were dating, he would take her out with his military friends who made Mae feel very special. He was a Jewish man who had also lived in New York. They were married the following October in New York. World War II ended, however her husband stayed in the military to study statistics. They ended up in Denver and Mae was very unhappy. She had not gone back to school after the marriage and she felt purposeless.

Her husband eventually decided to leave the military, however Mae did not want to go back to New York. Because of her father’s love for Los Angeles, Mae had always wanted to live there and she convinced her husband to move there. Denver is just east of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and while living there Mae was always curious as to what was on the other side of them. This too stirred her interest in moving to Los Angeles.

At first he was reluctant because there were housing restrictions and rent was very high. It was difficult to find housing at this time. Mae’s father had connections with people in Los Angeles because of his profession and he found them an apartment. However, the apartment manager was an alcoholic so that did not work out. Mae and her husband were still in Denver, and she convinced him to pack up and move, hoping to find a place to live once they arrived. They did find a place to live, and Mae started back to college in 1947.

After moving to California, Mae started getting sick regularly. She would talk to her parents, and her father told her to come to New York where she could see a specialist. After college finals that year, she went to New York and was seen by a specialist. The specialist could not detect any physical problems; however he told her a story about his friend with the same symptoms who was unhappy in his marriage. He said that his friend was getting sick frequently; however after he divorced his wife, all the symptoms disappeared. At this time, Mae was twenty and hearing this shocked her. She did not divorce her husband at this time, but remembered what the doctor had told her.

After this, Mae’s husband moved back to New York and they lived with her parents. The following January of 1948, Mae and her husband moved back to Los Angeles. Mae’s family soon followed. Her father was fifty-eight years old and still working with labor unions. Since he was nationally known he was able to keep his clientele. Again Mae returned to school and finished her second year of college. During this time she was taking psychology courses and would spend time talking with her psychology teacher. Finally after three years of marriage, Mae decided that she wanted a divorce.

When Mae told her family that she was divorcing her husband her father was horrified. He told her that she would be “damaged goods” and no other man would want to marry her. This was hard for her to take, but she filtered through what he was saying. It was especially hard since her husband had not done anything that would warrant divorce, however Mae knew that she was unhappy and the marriage would not work. Mae rationalized this divorce to others by saying that it was not for her but for her unborn children. She did not want to bring children into an unhappy marriage because they would see this unhappiness and become neurotic. In reality, Mae knew that she was doing it for herself, but she tricked herself into believing this rationalization. After this, Mae did not go back to school because she felt that she was a marked woman. Mae then moved back in with her parents and later moved into her own apartment in Beverly Hills.

Mae lived in her Beverly Hills apartment for almost a year before she met her next husband, Jay, on a blind date. Jay was a bit older at the time and was working as a lawyer. Her parents admonished her by saying that Jay, being a college graduate, would never marry her once he found out that she had not graduated college. Because of this, Mae did not tell him that she had only completed two years. Mae and Jay started dating frequently.

One of Jay’s friends was having a birthday party for him. There were five couples there, including Jay and Mae. All of these people had graduated college except Mae, and this started to really bother her. Jay still did not know that she was not a college graduate, and Mae knew that she was giving him the impression that she was.

The next Monday when Mae arrived at her apartment, Jay’s car was parked in front. He told her that he stopped by on his way home, even though Mae knew this was not true because it was far out of his way. Mae knew that she had to tell him that she did not graduate college, so they went out to dinner. At dinner, Mae told him her entire life story, trying to explain why she had not finished college. It took the entire dinner and into the after dinner coffee before she told him.

When she told him, Jay did not think that it was a big deal, and did not realize that Mae was so upset about it. She told him that she was actually thinking about going back to school, and he encouraged her to do so. He saw her transcripts from the first two years of college, and knew that she would be able to finish college. She had perfect grades from her first two years. She was soon enrolled at the University of Southern California. Not long after that, Jay started talking to Mae about her getting a Ph.D. Mae wanted to be a mother and wife more than a career woman, and she expressed this to Jay. He told her that he would support her doing both.

Mae and Jay were married the next summer between the four week summer session and the six week summer session on July 31, 1955. Jay was 35 when they got married. They went to the court and got their marriage license on a Friday afternoon and were married that Sunday. Jay’s mother did not attend the wedding because she refused to attend any major social event, even at the expense of her children. Their wedding day was very special and was shared with friends and family.

The ring pillow that they used was the same ring pillow that Mae’s mother had made and used at her own wedding. Mae and her husband Jay spent their wedding night at home. When they arrived at their house, her husband had to finish his term paper to complete his six week summer school session. They had to be at school at eight the next morning to begin the four week summer school session. Together, Mae and Jay made a very good couple. They made a great match and were both very witty.

The timing for Jay and Mae to meet was perfect. Mae was Jay’s second wife. For his first marriage, he had married into a social scene where women did not seek an education or careers. When he met Mae, she was not like this. Instead she was strong and independent. She wanted to go back to school and Jay was a driving force behind this.

Through their marriage, Jay and Mae were able to help each other work through emotional problems they were dealing with. For example, while Jaw was growing up his mother always pushed her children to be stars. She was a very talented in the performing arts, and she wanted her children to be also. Her children were able to break away from this idea; however Jay always struggled with it because he felt like he was not doing enough with his life. Mae was able to help Jay work though this by allowing him to do things that he felt were necessary, such as writing books and having a publishing company. Mae also struggled with self esteem. At one time in her life she had passed a stenographers class, however she would not get a job as a stenographer because she did not believe that she was good enough and was afraid of making a mistake. Through her marriage to Jay, she was able to see more accurately what she was capable of doing, and she did them. Her self esteem went up and she was able to manage both a career and a family successfully. Mae has been so successful in this, that she has had conferences at California State University, Los Angeles on how to successfully manage a family and a career.

Mae was afraid of their marriage getting dull and boring. She voiced this fear to Jay and he made sure that this did not happen. Every Friday night they had dinner dates and would frequently have weekend getaways to get the romance alive. They were married just shy of forty-two years when Jay passed away.


Becoming a Parent

Mae has two step children and two biological children all from her marriage with Jay: Laura, Ken, Nina, and Randy. The two biological children she and Jay had were both unplanned. Jay wanted to have children right away; however Mae wanted to wait until she was finished with school. Despite this, Mae became pregnant her last year of undergraduate school and her first child was born the day before graduate school began. She missed the first week of school and was able to start after that. Mae also had her second child while she was in graduate school. She was doing an internship and the baby was very late in being born. The other people she worked with at the internship told her to go home and not to return until after the baby was born. They were worried that she would go into labor while at work and they would not know what to do. After the baby was born, Mae missed one week of work and was able to return.

Mae’s daughter Laura Ziskin is a well known Hollywood producer. She has produced a number of famous films including “Pretty Woman”, “What About Bob”, “No Way Out”, and “Spiderman”. “What About Bob?” was an idea generated from Laura and her partner, Alvin Sargens. Laura was inclined toward cinema early in her life. Starting in fifth grade, she and a few of her friends would perform plays in her living room. At first Mae did not think that these plays were anything more than child’s play. They would invite each of their parents to come watch. Laura taught the other kids how to act and perform, even though she did not have any experience doing this herself. When Laura was in sixth grade, she decided to put on another play and Mae called the Burbank newspaper to tell them about it. The newspaper ran a front page story on the play and this was the beginning of Laura’s career as a producer. Included in the newspaper article was a statement about Laura and her friends being “young thespians”. At this time, neither Laura nor her friends knew what this word meant and were very afraid because it sounded so close to the word “lesbians”. Laura was concerned that she was being called a “young lesbian” or something close to it.

In high school, Laura was able to produce a musical at California State University, Los Angeles because her father was on faculty there. While attending college, she became interested in film production. She started producing game shows and worked her way to the top from there.


Mae and Jay were very family centered. Regardless of how busy they were, they always had breakfast and dinner with their children. After dinner each night they would have family time until the children went to bed. They also spent Saturdays with their children.

Leaving the Nest

After their children moved away, Mae and Jay were able to focus more on their careers and each other again. They had more time to do the things that they wanted to do. Three of the four children never left the area, and the one that did move away did not move far. They still take family vacations together and talk frequently.

Mae now has five grandchildren; however only one is blood lineage. Randy has one son who is named Jake after Randy’s father Jay. Jake is almost four years old and is very playful and rambunctious. Ken has two children of his own, Andrew and Jennifer (Jen), and a step-daughter from his current marriage to Hinda. Ken’s step-daughter is also named Jennifer however she goes by the name Jenny. Andy is almost 30. Mae speaks well of Andy saying that he is “sweet, delightful, and soft spoken”. Jen around 28 and is very high achieving. She is currently working on a joint MD and PH.D. at Johns Hopkins University. Jenny is in her early twenties. Mae says that she is very enthusiastic and has a wonderful personality. She is very refined and poetic and has a keen sensitivity. She also loves working with young children. Laura was married in 1978 and now has one daughter named Julia Barry who is almost 21 years old. Mae describes her as having an “independent mind”, yet she is also very talented and gentle.

Mae feels that family is very important and advises her children and grandchildren alike to value and cherish family. She advises her children to have a strong concern, respect, and connection to their families, and also to keep their heritage alive. She also advises them to be the best that they can be. To her grandchildren, Mae advises to urge a sense of heritage. They are now third generation American’s and Mae does not want them to lose a sense of where their family has come from. She tells them to be sensitive to the benefits they have as Americans and not to take them for granted.

Living Your Life

Beliefs and Expectations

Mae is very appreciative of the things that she has and wants to give back to the community. She is a financial contributor to various organizations that help the less advantaged and under-represented. As a teacher she would urge her students to move on and reach for more. She would push her colleagues to attain greater positions and better themselves. She has also pushed her children to be the best they can be and never to be satisfied with mediocrity.

Life Choices

Mae often wonders what her life would be like if her father never received the large retainer through his work and they were not able to have and do all that they did. Recently at an American Psychological Association meeting in New York, Mae met with some New Yorkers with very similar backgrounds to hers. She felt very comfortable with this group and wondered if she would have been part of their group had she never left New York.

After thirty years of not seeing one of her friends, Mae went to visit her again. This was a girl that she had grown up with and they reminisced about their days together as children in the Bronx. This woman had become a principle, and this made Mae very thankful for the life that she lived. She is glad that she was able to live an above average life and did not get trapped in the cycle of mediocrity that so many of her childhood friends did. Mae says that ultimately it is important to realize that nothing is done perfectly. Everyone has guilt and shame over something, and it is important to face these things and move on.


Mae sees the biggest danger to the world is humanity being self centered and nationalistic. She says that commerce, communications, and technology is global, however caring and concern for others is not. Mae sees nationalism as being unhealthy because it promotes an egocentric way of life and it closes the mind to alternatives. Nationalism leads to imposing one’s own beliefs onto others.

Mae’s strongest hope for the world is education, however this education needs to be accompanied with hands on experience of other people’s way of living. Humans need to realize that people around the world feel pain just as much as oneself does, and not to discredit their suffering. Other’s lives are as important as one’s own.

Standard Pedigree Tree

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