Today is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, and I'd like to mark it not (only) by eating falafel but with something less tangible but ultimately more nourishing: considering stories. Sixty years is only half way to 120 - the mythical age Jews wish upon one another - but this "half life" contains within it so many dreams and visions, loves and losses, hopes and fears, connections and fractures, struggles that remain unresolved.
It's unlikely that Emma Goldman predicted her legacy would inspire the name of an activist folk music duo, but perhaps she did. Over the weekend, I had the delight of seeing Emma's Revolution, a "musical uprising of truth and hope from award-winning, activist songwriters" perform with feminist folk music pioneer Holly Near.
What connects the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus? Susan Sontag with Gilda Radner? Patriotism with labor protests? Musical theatre and domestic ritual with potato kugel and halvah? You guessed it: JEWISH AMERICAN HERITAGE!
"The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves, and the only way is through a strong working-class movement."
On February 21, 1942 (sixty-six years ago yesterday) Wanda Landowska -- a Warsaw-born Jewish musician with a mastery of the harpsichord -- made history with a performance of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" at New York's Town Hall. It was the first time in the 20th century that the piece, originally written for the harpsichord, was performed publicly on that instrument. A student of Landowska's later remembered that hearing her performance was "like being in front of one of the greatest wonders of nature."
I first heard the word "Refusenik" applied to Israelis who refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Force. Then I heard it in relation to Jewish citizens of the former Soviet Union who were refused permission to emigrate. I learned the word in a third context -- "Muslim Refusenik" -- a few years ago, when I heard Irshad Manji speak at my college. Ms. Manji is a Canadian lesbian Muslim feminist.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion. In commemoration, I’ve been reading Behind Every Choice is a Story, by Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood – a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while.
My friends and I often talk about how our religious and activist identities interconnect when, at times, they seem to be at odds. I've been thinking about this while reading some of the essays in a provocative new anthology entitled Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice.