In Katrina’s Jewish Voices, JWA’s collection of video interviews with New Orleans women in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Julie Wise Oreck discussed the extraordinary collaboration of the Jewish community to rebuild the city. In 10 years, she predicted then, “we’ll look back and say we could have done it better.
As we approach yet another election year, American voters may be drawing nearer to an enormous landmark: electing a woman president. With Hillary Rodham Clinton polling as the top Democratic contender, it’s never felt more possible.
Susan Hess first came to New Orleans as a young bride in 1965, three days before Hurricane Betsy, and she remembered the one good thing about that storm was that it cemented her identity as a New Orleans insider in a way that would have taken decades otherwise.
For the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, JWA created an exhibit to highlight the stories of evacuees and survivors of the storm, based on interviews we had recorded shortly after Katrina. I listened to stories of heartbreaking losses, narrow escapes, and rare moments of unexpected humor.
When my grandmother graduated High School in the late 1940s, the American dream for women was to get married and raise children. Wartime propaganda told individuals to reject the communist behavior of their Russian counterparts and contribute to society by creating nuclear families. While women were expected to fill roles once occupied by men who went to war, these were seen as temporary positions, not long-term careers. Women often worked as secretaries or store clerks, jobs that paid little and offered few opportunities for advancement. “You just kind of lived life and it happened. You didn’t make big plans,” Alice says. Alice did, despite those expectations, make big plans. In her high school yearbook, she wrote about her aspirations to become a journalist.
When most of us think of Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish community of New Orleans is not the first thing to come to mind. We’re more likely to think of the devastation of the Ninth Ward, of the homes marked with the number of bodies found inside, of the desperate conditions in the Superdome.
Sarah Barasch-Hagans is a rabbinical student and activist who has been deeply involved in the fight for justice for Black Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. Her new venture, Fargesn Media, seeks to give a voice to the people of Ferguson and empower them to tell their own story. Sarah spoke to JWA about Jewish activism, her experiences in Ferguson since last August, and where we as a community should go from here.
This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture. Don’t miss Part I of JWA’s interview with Marisa!
This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture.
I am first generation American, as were most children and, for that matter, many of the teachers, in our public school. Not coincidentally, the word perseverance appeared often on our vocabulary lists. We used it in sentences, like “If you don’t have perseverance, you will not amount to much”—but I already knew that before I started kindergarten. Perseverance was my Aunt Jennie’s word of the day, every day.
My grandmother, my mother, and I walked into a store. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Actually, the three of us were on a mission to find a tallit for me. My bat mitzvah was approaching, and, since neither my mom nor my grandmother had a tallit of her own, they both wanted to accompany me.
For me—and, I imagine, a lot of other trans women out there—the recent flurry of media attention around the appearance of Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair has given rise to a whole complicated array of feelings, not the least of which may be longing for a time when everybody will finally stop talking about Caitlyn Jenner.
My experience with Rising Voices has, in many ways, mirrored my early writing experience as a little kid. Blogging was a foreign medium for me, and writing for JWA meant making my work available to a larger audience than ever before. I will admit that, at least at first, the fellowship was scarier than I had anticipated.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
I have this quote written on a piece of paper taped to my ceiling above my bed; it is the first thing that I see when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. This quote means everything to me, because of both the message it conveys, and the story behind it.
Though I have always supported the general, frankly vague, idea of “women's rights,” I never thought that I of all people had to be an advocate for them. I didn't even really understand what rights women around me were being denied. Until high school, I truly thought that the only disparity that American women faced was that we could not participate in Major League Baseball.
A Flipped Father’s Day: Ask Not What You Can Buy For Your Father, Ask What Your Father Can Buy For You
I’ve reached the age where if there’s something I want, I’ll buy it. I’ll see a soccer jersey on TV and order it online. I’ll buy a book and read in on my Kindle without thinking twice. I don’t need to go through the charade of asking and waiting, and will at the same time happily accept all of the trinkets and art projects that wind their way home through my kids’ backpacks.
For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired by my mother’s ability to craft words into beautiful stories and articulate articles. Throughout high school, my Mom would help me write all of my essays by giving me feedback and helping me through the editorial process. However, the biggest impact my mom made on my journey as a writer happened when I was in fourth grade.
In a society where we’re constantly told what we should love and what we should hate about ourselves, we can forget that our bodies belong to us. There is little space for women to create their own narratives, express their own fears, and admire their own features. Artist Miriam Ross gives women the opportunity to do exactly this in her project, The Body Journey.
When I first started writing, I thought people would want to read my writing just because I had written it. I was wrong. If I have learned anything about being an adolescent writer, it is this: first, you have to read a lot of books. The books don’t all have to be Crime and Punishment but Dostoevsky does a good job with storytelling and Raskolnikov is quite the character, so at least one of the books should be Crime and Punishment.
Welcome to the JWA Book Club! We are excited to gather today to discuss Tova Mirvis's novel, Visible City.
To comment or ask the author questions, simply click on the link on the bottom left of the video. It will pop out into a new window, giving you a "Q & A" button on the top right of the screen which allows you to submit questions.
My first blog post was kind of like my first driving lesson: I was given the keys and told to go before I could ask, “which one’s the gas pedal?” (I’m not kidding. I had no idea.) When I first heard about the Jewish Women’s Archive and the Rising Voices Fellowship, I hadn’t thought much about what it means to identify as a feminist—I just knew that I loved writing, and I wanted to experiment with new forms of it. I’d never been taught how to blog before, and I was excited to learn.
Over Boston’s long winter, I shared Shabbat dinner with a friend-of-a-friend who, unbeknownst to me, is a talented poet and playwright. In addition to winning a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship this spring, Cecelia Raker’s play dry bones rising made its first full-length, professional debut in May at the Venus Theatre in Laurel, MD.
When I wrote my first piece for Rising Voices, it was about an experience I had in Israel. It was about the moment I realized what kind of Jew I wanted to be, not compromising any cosmopolitan feminist part of myself for my religion. When I posted the piece on Facebook, someone told me that they totally understood what I meant and often felt the same way. It was among the highest compliments I’ve ever received.
Anne Meara was a Jewess with an attitude. She was born in Brooklyn on September 20, 1929, raised as a Catholic, and died as a Jew in Manhattan on May 23, 2015. Meara studied drama and although she never intended to be a comedian, that’s how she will be remembered by most audiences. What made Meara truly unique was that she exuded her Irish ethnicity while simultaneously taking on the mantle of Jewish wife and mother.
Sometimes, I just wish that life came with a script. Whether catching up with a friend or chit-chatting with a relative, the thought of having well-written, tidy responses laid out for me is a tantalizing prospect. Never again would I have to worry about saying the wrong thing, tripping over words, or completely misusing language in a misguided attempt to sound smarter than I actually am. Alas, life is not scripted.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on August 31, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.