Adults may scoff, and my friends may hypocritically mock me, but I can never deny that I would want to stand out in a crowd. Whether a college application, a creative thesis for school, or even the food that I bring for lunch, I want to discover a personal uniqueness that I carry so I can have some special pride in my stride. Luckily for me, I can already claim an artistic and spiritual individuality that I bring to the table as a female Jew.
There is nothing I love more than seeing a gorgeous fellow redhead featured on the big screen, except perhaps for watching a Pixar movie. There is no fictional character I identify with more than Princess Merida from Pixar’s Brave. But I was not at all surprised when Disney “Disneyfied” Merida with sparkles and a “sexier” new body. I was not surprised by the controversy that followed, either, and neither should anyone else have been. That controversy had been bubbling under the surface from the moment Pixar Animation Studios announced they were making a movie with a female protagonist; by taking thirteen feature films to even have a female protagonist, they had guaranteed themselves a gargantuan amount of trouble to please their anxious audience.
The objects Mae made and the books she wrote helped shape the field of Jewish Americana. Mae’s work, taken as a whole, reflects her view that “just as Jews have become an integral part of the American scene, so can a classical American symbol be used to express a Jewish theme.” A shining example is her hannukiah titled “Miss Liberty”, which is emblazoned with the last lines of Emma Lazurus’s poem “The New Colossus,” and is in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum in NYC.
At first glance Diane Arbus might seem like an odd role model. To many she is simply a photographer of freaks. Her name is usually associated with the marginal and with what some call the “deviant.” Author Norman Mailer once said “giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.” She struggled with depression for most her life and committed suicide in 1971 at the age of 48. She might not be the best example of a nice Jewish girl, but she is my choice for Women’s History Month.
Hazel Karr first contacted JWA because she wanted to add some biographical details to the article in the online Encyclopedia about her grandmother, Esther Kreitman. We struck up a correspondence with her and suggested she write a blog post about the differences between between her mother's artwork and her own.
Hazel Karr comes from a family steeped in art and literature. Her grandmother Esther wrote journal articles, translations, and novels, including the autobiographical Der Sheydim Tants(Deborah) in 1946. Esther’s brothers were Issac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, and Israel Joshua Singer, who wrote extensively in Yiddish. Esther’s son Maurice Carr had a long career in journalism in Paris and Israel; his wife was Hazel’s mother Lola; the daughter of another Yiddish writer (A.M. Fuchs), she painted throughout her life.
In this post, Hazel Karr searches for the meaning in her mother's paintings and in her own.