Etta King Heisler
Etta King Heisler weaves her passions for teaching, community building, and justice activism together in her role as Camp and Public Programs Director at the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor, MI. Etta earned a B.A. in Education Studies from Brandeis University and studied community development in the Washington Semester Program at American University. She also completed a year-long fellowship in community organizing at JOIN for Justice in Boston, MA and holds a Certificate in Management from the Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership, also in Boston. Before moving to Michigan, Etta served as the Education Program Manager at the Jewish Women's Archive and taught early childhood and Jewish education in the Greater Boston Area. Etta enjoys drinking coffee, cooking, singing folk music, going to the movies, and playing competitive board games.
What does it mean to remember together?
Silence. That’s what I remember. Silence coated in hazy sunshine and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I spent most of the week of the Boston Marathon Bombing feeling alone—at my desk at work, on the couch or laying in bed at home. I woke the day of the lockdown to the news on WBUR coming from my alarm clock and I sat quietly, anxiously, in my apartment all day. I heard nothing outside, no sirens or cars or people shouting in the alley outside my window. It was totally surreal. I didn’t sleep well for weeks after that happened. I felt scared and alone.
A few months after I started working at the Jewish Women’s Archive, I was taking the last bus home from a raucous karaoke night on the other side of town. Being from the Midwest originally (read: overly friendly), it was only natural that I strike up a conversation with the bus driver. As our conversation roamed from the weather to current labor issues in the MBTA, I shared a story with him about Rose Schneiderman, a Jewish woman labor activist who had I had been researching for a work-related project. The conversation was so lively I missed my stop and had to walk four extra blocks home.
When I think about that night, I remember the pride that I felt about sharing part of Jewish history with this guy, and how grateful I was that my Jewish identity was giving me a lens through which to connect with others (even non-Jews!) and understand complicated issues in my community.
I’ve been working at the Jewish Women’s Archive since the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2011. In my almost-three years here, I have learned one thing above all else: in order to understand ourselves, to know our past, and to build our future, we must tell our stories. And this past week has been one of my most favorite weeks of story telling as every blog, news agency, and Facebook user has shared anecdotes, historical photos, and reflections of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Last week I highlighted some little-known historical facts about the March, including the involvement of Jews in the event. Since then, I have seen Rabbi Joachim Prinz’s name and words all over the Internet as Jews claim him as our own and passionately take up the legacy of his work for civil rights and social justice.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March tomorrow, I would like to share 5 things I have learned about the March on Washington that you may not already know—one for each decade. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to check your assumptions and look more closely at this monumental, game-changing event.
Each poem I write is about a person or relationship and the feelings and sensations I associate with him/her/them/it. Some explore connections with friends or family, while others dissect my relationship with God or with myself. I usually write in moments of clarity—not as a means of working through an idea or problem. Rather the poem is a record of a conclusion or discovery I have made, or perhaps poses a question for which I have decided to seek an answer.
Painting the World with True Colors: An Interview with Two Jewish Women Helping to Tell an Incredible Story
In the one instant of silence between the curtain and the applause I remember feeling alive. I remember feeling like my heart had been ripped out of my chest, bounced down a basketball court, and thrown through the hoop for the winning shot. Then we (the audience) erupted in cheers. I was elated, proud, and profoundly humbled.
On the Thursday night before Hanukkah began, I attended an event called A Sip of Eser, an introductory session to the ten-part young adult learning program Eser (meaning 10) run by Hebrew College in nearby Newton, MA. Amidst the tumult of a Boston bar, and alongside several dozen people I had never met, I heard rabbinical student, Seth Wax, tell a Hanukkah story none of us had ever heard.
Just before my favorite holiday last week, I sat down with the prolific food-blogger-turned-cookbook-author Deb Perelman. The founder of the Smitten Kitchen was recently given a spot on the Forward 50 and is currently touring the U.S. to promote her new book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook. Next week, I will post more of the story about how her recipes have inspired my own culinary pursuits. But first, here is your chance to be a fly on the wall in our conversation about how she came to write and publish her delicious new book.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Etta King Heisler." (Viewed on August 31, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog/author/etta-king>.