Ruth Several was born in 1951 and grew up living on the Grand Concourse, where her parents were living at the time. Her father worked at the Concourse Center of Israel, an orthodox synagogue on the Grand Concourse. They lived in a large apartment in an art deco style building. She remembers 95% of the building as Jewish, not including the non-Jewish superintendent. The neighborhood had many mom and pop stores, no chain stores, and many synagogues. Several attend a Jewish Day School in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so her mother was a bookkeeper nearby who would take the train with her to school and so they could afford the private education. Her father was a choral director and trained cantors, a trained and well educated musician.
Several attended the High School of Music and Art for music and would get a master’s in musicology. She has liked classical music and cantorial music from a young age, and later the Beatles and disco. Her parents divorced in the mid-1960s. She enjoyed school, putting on plays, and more intellectual pursuits, as opposed to sports, like playing board games. She would go upstate to Rockland County every summer to stay with extended family and attend camp. School was a positive force in her life when her family life was difficult. The day school was mostly the children or refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, so her American-born parents made her different. Several describes it as a wonderful education, modern orthodox with religious studies in the morning and secular studies in the afternoon. Going to Music and Art widened her network, introducing her to Black and Hispanic classmates.
Several’s family kept kosher, with four sets of dishes, and were ahead of their time because her father, after beating cancer, insisted they eat healthy and little red meat. Growing up around strong women, her expectations were always high and she attended Barnard college and would go on to work as opposed to stay home. She remembers the protests and white flight of the late 1960s. While many families from the Concourse moved to Co-op City, her mother moved to Riverdale. She would move to LA in the 1970s, calling the period an out of control time for New York. Several describes the Bronx of her youth as culturally diverse, with many resources and places to go, but not racially diverse. Several sees it as unfortunate it has gotten a bad name.
Grand Concourse, Riverdale, Co-op City, Jewish Day School, High School of Music and Art, music, orthodox, feminism, 1960s, 1970s, Vietnam War, 1967/1968 Teachers Strike, race
Maier Garcia, Sophia, "Several, Ruth" (2023). Bronx Jewish History Project. 19.