Recipe For Chopped Liver

“What am I, chopped liver?” the expression goes.  Being equated with chopped liver is like saying a person is common; unimportant, a side dish.  It means you aren’t the main course, but an appetizer.  I never liked chopped liver, even though most of my family loves it.  I could never get passed the smell of it.

When I smell chopped liver, I run in the other direction.  My grandmother used to say I didn’t know what I was missing.  I was more than happy to miss it.  Other people insinuated I wasn’t really Jewish if I didn’t like chopped liver.  I said if liking chopped liver was what it meant to be Jewish for them, they were in need of a good course in Jewish education.

When I was a child, I was deeply loved, and doted on by my parents and grandparents. They made me feel like I was the most special person on the planet, and the world was meant to revolve around me.  Somewhere around the third grade, I found that while I was liked for the most part, some kids didn’t like me that much.  The older I got, the more I realized the world was made up of people who liked, me, people who didn’t like me, and people who could care less about me.

Junior High School was the worst time growing up, because it seemed that everyone hated me, although it wasn’t so.  I felt like an outcast through High School, because I didn’t sit with the cool kids, and didn’t hang out with the smart kids or the jocks.  Most kids in adolescence feel this way, and it stays with them by effecting their self-images long into their adult years.  I started to come into my own in College.  In short, from Junior High through College, I felt like I was chopped liver.

The problem with being chopped liver, is that at best you are the side dish and not the main course, and at worst, you stink.   I did many things in my life to counteract the chopped liver syndrome.  Even though I tend to be shy, I like to hang out with people and tell stories, make jokes, and help people laugh and lift their spirits.  This was a positive thing that most people liked.

I wish I could tell you that being a religious person changed my life so that I am chopped liver no more, but I can’t say that.  Even as an adult, many people like me, but many others don’t, and the vast majority of people don’t care one way or the other about me. Being religious simply means I’m religious chopped liver instead of secular chopped liver.

Another thing I tried to de-chopped liver myself, was my education.  I studied and learned, acquired degrees, continued studying, but discovered that not only was I still chopped liver, but that I was now hanging out with other people who were more chopped liver than I was.

Acknowledging that I was chopped liver had a really good side to it.  It gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, and what I believed was right, without having to impress anyone.  I have always cared about injustice and the suffering of my people.  I began to do humanitarian work with elderly Jews and holocaust survivors in the Former Soviet Union. When people meet me, some think its kind of odd that I do this work; putting myself out for them.  I have to advocate for them in the USA, asking people for donations for Chevra, which puts me in a unique position, and when I am with them in Eastern Europe, I put aside my rich, “American-ness,” which appears arrogant to them, when I visit with them in the soup kitchens and in their homes.

What I see in them, is thanks and gratitude.  It came together for me at a soup kitchen in Ukraine.  An elderly woman waved me over to her and thanked me for the soup kitchen. I believe that when you give charity, you never want the needy person to feel beholding to you.  I told her it was my job and she didn’t have to thank me.  She held my arm and said I didn’t understand.  She said she used to be a physician and now was living on $35.00 a month.  She said if it weren’t for the soup kitchen, she would be dead, and all the people who ate there would also be dead.  I told her I was grateful to be able to help her, and thanked her for letting me help.  I have had hundreds of experiences like this over the years.

I realized it’s not a bad thing to be chopped liver, and that if you are chopped liver, you should strive to be the best chopped liver you can be.

If you would like to contribute to the work of Chevra USA, feeding elderly holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe, follow this link:  If my asking offends you, it doesn’t matter..  I’m just chopped liver.


4 thoughts on “Recipe For Chopped Liver

  1. Rabbi, I’ve known you for longer than you’ve known me, and I have a hot flash for you. I cannot speak for everybody, but for many of us who know you, you are about as far from chopped liver as one can get. You sell yourself short.

    You are right about the taste and smell of chopped liver. I can’t stand it either, and I hold gefilte fish in equally low esteem. I think a reasonable way to separate the chiopped liver people from the rest is to simply look at what the person has accomplished. You, sir, have been successful in actually changing the world, and certainly the Jewish people. No? How many Jews would be dead today if you had not intervened in their lives? How many lives have you touched in major ways? If I were to walk into a roomful of Messianic Jews and simply say, “Rabbi Schiffman,” how many heads would turn and how many would smile?

    Maybe you were chopped liver in high school and beyond, but no longer.


  2. Looking for the origin of the expression “chopped liver”, I happened upon this page which I enjoyed reading very much. Thank you so much. You have a great way of expressing himself with humility and humour.

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