After a long hiatus filled with applications for scholarships and preparation for standardized tests, I have recently returned to my primary duty as a graduate student: graduating – that is, fulfilling the requirements necessary to graduate. In this case, that means writing my MA thesis, which is an examination of memoirs and personal essays by Iranian Jewish women who are living in the United States. It’s an interesting project, if occasionally overwhelming, and it reminds me every day that my own experience of Jewish life is not consistent with the lives of Jews everywhere.
After hearing various archivists, historians, and librarians rave or moan about the genealogy TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” I finally got a chance to see it for myself. This show is run by the genealogy database Ancestory.com and takes various celebrities on journeys to discover their roots in an odd blend of reality TV confessionalism and historical inquiry. This is the show that recently helped “Sex and the City’s” Sarah Jessica Parker discover a distant ancestor involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
What exactly is Jewish food? This is the question that most people will invariably ask me after I tell them that I research Jewish food. Most people ask this question with interest, while others are incredulous that there could be Jewish food. Yet, whenever I am confronted with this question I realize that one simple answer cannot work to define this term that eludes any strict definition.
New Yorkers know better than to bother an actor, celebrity or otherwise famous person when they see one on the street (or in a restaurant, store, or park – not to mention stepping out of a taxi). As a New Yorker for fifteen years, I upheld this unwritten rule – even when it came to a famous neighbor.
Like countless other Americans, here at the Jewish Women's Archive we were great admirers of Dorothy Height, who died on April 20 at the age of 98 and is being buried in Washington, DC today. Given what we know about Dr. Height, we couldn’t help but be struck by President Obama’s statement that "the godmother of the civil rights movement" had “served as the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement, witnessing [italics added] every march and milestone along the way."
The work of the historian is to not only tell a story, but to tell it in a way that makes it real, vivid, alive, and human for the receiver. I learned this on Monday when I had the privilege of attending the Matrix Awards and hearing Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s acceptance speech. This wisdom instantly struck a chord because it describes exactly why I write and what I want to do with my writing.
If you’ve watched CNN, CBS “Sunday Morning,” or the PBS “NewsHour” in the past month, you have probably seen grainy, black-and-white clips of President Kennedy’s funeral. The historic footage has accompanied reports on Ellen Fitzpatrick’s powerful new book, Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation. A collection of about 250 letters from the archives at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Letters to Jackie gives people like the man who wrote “I myself am just a nobody from nowhere” their rightful place in American history.
What is about this fire that draws us so intensely? Why has this one event become such a touchstone for political, artistic, and cultural work? How do we explain the nearly one hundred years of memorialization, activism, and creativity inspired by the events which transpired on March 25, 1911 at 29 Washington Place, just east of New York’s stately Washington Square?
Today marks the beginning of Women's History Month. The official theme of Women's History Month 2010 is "Writing Women Back into History," which I find somewhat amusing since that is the official theme of every day at the Jewish Women's Archive. Not to be contrary, but we at JWA have been working on a different theme for this month: "Putting Jewish Women on the Map."
Today marks the 172nd anniversary of the First Hebrew Sunday School in the United States, founded in 1838 in Philadelphia. You can read about it at JWA's This Week in History. It was an audacious undertaking which required the special talents of an unusual woman.