Jewish Women in Modern America: Lessons to Live By
Last semester, I was one of four boys in a course at The Weber School dedicated to Jewish women in modern America—a group of people who have had great impact on our lives. However, this group has received little of the public recognition it deserves and is vastly underrepresented in traditional history classes. Like most other American high school students, I have spent the bulk of my academic career studying Christian men from Europe. No wonder that I knew little or nothing about these remarkable women. Yet learning about them is only one reason why this course was so enlightening.
For the class I conducted an interview with an 89-year-old woman I had never met before: Ms. Amelia “Zenia” Greszes. I took away from this interview a number of important values that I hope to emulate in my own life. When Ms. Greszes explained to me that her family had to flee both Russia and Cuba due to rising revolutions before finally reaching America, I learned something about the fragility of life. When she assured me that the single greatest achievement in her life was raising a beautiful family, I did not necessarily learn anything new, but I was reminded of my own family and its irreplaceable role in my life.
In the second part of the course, we made shadow boxes, and I sought to represent those values through this artistic medium. There are two primary elements to my shadow box: the background and how you see the background. A series of photos illustrating political turmoil and revolution, reflective of Ms. Greszes’ struggle leaving two homes, makes up the background. Superimposed upon it is a semi-transparent photograph of the family that she started here in America. Much of the background is only visible when one looks through the family photograph. This is meant to signify that, while Ms. Greszes’ difficult past is undeniably with her everyday, it does not stop her from focusing on the family that is at the forefront of her life. Though inauspicious to say the least, it is because of her troublesome past that Ms. Greszes is the woman she is today—one with a great family and a greater heart. She has taught me to strive for a life in which, as she says about her own, “I have no regrets,” adding, “appreciate absolutely everything you have.”
A companion piece by Adina Karjup, another student in the class, was posted yesterday.