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15 Minutes of Fame

It’s always news when an Orthodox Jew is lauded in mainstream media. But what happens to these former headliners years down the line?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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It’s always news when an Orthodox Jew is lauded in mainstream media, the kiddush Hashem accompanied by name recognition, autograph requests, and speaking engagements. But what happens to these former headliners, one, ten, or twenty years down the line, and how have their lives changed since those days of media hype and attention?

The Bamboo Cradle Kid (Below)│Jewish Jordan│Smuggler of the Syrians│Right Place, Wrong Time│The Muroff Moment 

Margie Pensak Devorah Goldstein│44, Baltimore│Maryland

The moment that made me a household name

When my father, Dr. Avraham Schwartzbaum, wrote the book The Bamboo Cradle, I was 16. He had lost his job and decided it was a great time to write a book about how he and my mother adopted me in Taiwan. When he asked my permission, I said, “Absolutely not!” He said, “Okay.”

When he came back and asked again, I saw it was important to him. So I said, “Let’s make a list. You write why you want to write it and I’ll write why not.”

My father’s list was one line: To make a kiddush Hashem. My list was all selfish reasons: it’s nobody’s business, I don’t need everyone knowing — typical teenager kvetches. But who could argue with what my father wrote on his list?

In the beginning... 

My life was very quiet. I was a normal teen — I schmoozed a lot, was very social. I had a lot of friends I’m still in touch with. We try to attend each other’s simchahs, which is really special.

How my life changed 

My friends were great. They just accepted it. People would come up to me all the time to ask for my autograph. I used to write paragraphs because I’d think, What’s so special about my name? Let me attach it to something meaningful!


The first time a good friend went with me to Lakewood, I warned her that people would be staring at us. She looked at me and said, “Devo, no offense, no one is going to be looking at us. No one cares!” After an hour and a half, she turned to me and said, “Oh, my gosh, you were right — I can’t take it! Everyone is looking at us!”

Because I get recognized a lot in public, I always feel like I have to be put together. I think to myself, What if I bump into somebody for the first time and I don’t make a good impression? Over the years, people who were inspired by the book have asked me to speak and tell my story. At a recent Torah Umesorah convention, I was the keynote speaker on Shabbos night. I was really touched that so many women came to listen. This past winter, I spoke in London to more than 1,000 women for a kiruv organization.

My kids are all different, but they’re all very proud of my story. The underlying message in our home is that Hashem is truly guiding our lives in everything we do — from mundane things like a bad grade to getting into dance for school. Once we started with shidduchim, it was especially clear to us how HaKadosh Baruch Hu leads the way in everything. 

Unexpected fame

I was not expecting the name recognition we got. I actually don’t speak publicly in Baltimore, where I live, because I don’t want to be known as “the Bamboo Cradle lady.” I want to be known as my kids’ mother and Yaakov’s wife. Here, I’m just Devorah Goldstein.

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