Jocelyn "Jocie" Wurzburg's Book:
Jocie -- Southern Jewish American Princess, Civil Rights Activist
They say it is a more common phenomenon than you would think. Here is this woman standing before the Memphis City Council giving them the devil. And giving it well! And that woman is me, Jocelyn Maurie Dan Wurzburg. But I am overhead looking down at that woman, listening and watching her doing this. And she’s doing a damn good job!
It felt like an out-of-body experience, whatever that is. The right words came quickly and delivered sharply. It was as if I was a puppet, and some smart person was feeding the best answers. I’ve read of others expressing the same feelings, phenomenon, if you will. The topic of this exchange was the threatened second sanitation workers strike set for July 1969. July, as in very hot in Memphis when you don’t want garbage piled up on the street. July, as in flies. I wasn’t alone. Women from the more prominent east side of Memphis were there to ask – no, demand actually -- that the City Council and the American Federal State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union come out from the corners into which they had backed themselves and return to the bargaining table. We told the council and the union that we were not going to tolerate a repeat of macho political-based bargaining this time. An important person got murdered over it the last time. Memphians had needs, and so did the sanitation workers, and no one needed a garbage strike in July!
In Jocie, I share the adventures of how a typical Southern J.A.P., Jewish American Princess, got converted into an acknowledged, award-winning civil rights activist. After Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in my town, I started calling my maid “Mrs.” -- while my husband and children didn’t. This is a collection of stories that charts the journey of how this upper middle-class, fifth-generation Memphis Jewish woman found herself in that situation and the divorce that followed.
Born in 1940, I hit adulthood in Memphis during its 1960s turmoil. My value system was turned upside down; I tried to straddle the life I was reared to live and the life that was revolting against it. What was the catalyst for this conversion? What were the factors that made me receptive to it?
I didn’t travel that journey alone. There were incredibly interesting people to help me (when the chala is ready, the guru appears) and incidences and situations in which I found myself.
I write about growing up with religious and class expectations. We were poor, but I didn’t feel it. When my father got sick and lost his business, the family was literally in poverty – except for help from family. But my mother would dip the edge of the lettuce cup in paprika before adding a scoop of tuna fish salad we had to eat too often. I married exactly who I was supposed to marry. Not a wealthy, Memphis Reform Jewish doctor, but a businessman whose family had been here as long as my family had. He gave me the security and the cover that allowed me to risk change.
This is not a sad story of loss and sacrifice, although there was a lot of that and death in various forms. Au contraire. This book is a compilation of crazy situations and funny incidences. While there was a loss of friends and family, not to mention a marriage, the balance sheet is positive. There was new insight, new friends, new values, wild adventures, and an old crush -- who loves me still today.