"Dear Blu Greenberg": JWA blogger Talia Weisberg's award-winning letter
We are proud to announce that JWA blogger Talia Weisberg, a junior at the Manhattan High School for Girls, New York, won runner-up in the 2012 Letters About Literature contest in New York state. The program has student readers write to an author, living or dead, describing how that author’s work somehow changed the reader’s view of the world or himself/herself. The competition had 14,000 entries this year. State winners comepte at the national level, sponsored by the Library of Congress’ National Center for the Book.
Weisberg wrote her letter to Blu Greenberg, the mother of Orthodox feminism and founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA). We are delighted to share Talia's award-winning letter with you on Jewesses with Attitude:
Dear Blu Greenberg,
Like you, I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, keeping Shabbos (the Sabbath) on Saturdays and only eating strictly kosher food. It was a way of life I was born into, something that always made sense to me.
Also like you, I discovered the feminist movement. It was the summer before ninth grade, when I was researching Second Wave Feminism for a paper I was writing. While I had read a lot about First Wave Feminism in middle school, my interest in it only went so far. The main goal of the early women’s movement, suffrage, had been met several generations before my birth, so I never had that strong of a connection to the First Wave. But the more I read about the Second Wave, the stronger tie I felt to women’s rights.
When I fell in love with feminism, my subconscious told me that it clashed with Orthodox Judaism. I couldn’t bring myself to leave either part of my identity behind, though. My faith in God was too ingrained into my heart to suddenly forget, and feminism rang too true to simply abandon. As a result, I compartmentalized my beliefs. In synagogue, I would drop my feminist ideals and pray with full intensity; at home and in school, I would advocate on behalf of women’s rights with no religious qualms. My two selves never met, never overlapped, and certainly never made peace with each other.
I lived that schizophrenic lifestyle until I read your book. To be honest, I don’t remember how I stumbled onto it. There’s no way that I would’ve specifically looked into Jewish feminism, since I had no idea that it existed. I guess it shows that God’s hand is in everything that I found On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition.
As I read it, all of the questions I was too afraid to ask were answered. I learned that Orthodox Judaism is not the opposite of feminism; in fact, feminism is at Judaism’s core. Your book taught me that the Torah is one of the biggest sponsors for equality, despite what it may seem on the surface, and it’s imperative that we as Jews take that message and tell it to the world. While On Women and Judaism is far from an exhaustive analysis of Judaism’s philosophy towards women’s rights, as you acknowledge, it still gave me the basic knowledge I needed in order to understand that I can be both a Jew and a feminist at the same time.
Your book not only gave me peace of mind that I could balance Judaism and feminism, but turned me into a Jewish feminist. It made me realize that women’s status in Judaism needs to progress, and inspired me to get involved in women’s advancement within the religious sphere. To broaden my knowledge of this topic, I started looking for other Jewish feminist outlets. I found dozens, both online and in print. After a while, I decided to make my own voice heard and created my own Jewish feminist blog.
Ms. Greenberg, I cannot thank you enough for enabling the transformation I have gone through. Had I never read On Women and Judaism, I don’t know if I would have ever found Jewish feminism. If I had eventually discovered it, I may have already dropped Judaism or feminism rather than have the balance I possess now. I know it’s trite and overused and a little melodramatic, but your work has truly changed my life.
To learn more about Blu Greenberg, visit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution or Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
Mazel tov, Talia!