October 17, 2013
As a feminist, a Jew, and a sometimes-writer, I should have had Letty Cottin Pogrebin on my top 10 list of awesome people I’d love to have dinner with someday. I can’t believe that I didn’t know about this incredible writer-activist until this summer, when I began working at the New Center for Arts and Culture. As soon as I heard that Letty co-founded Ms. magazine, her New Center program quickly became my most highly anticipated of our fall season. And I realized that I needed to know more about her than what my quick online search produced.
While I knew her New Center discussion with Robin Young would focus on her latest book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, I decided to start with her seminal work, Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America. Published in the early 1990s, I couldn’t help but read her book with a bit of curiosity: how far (or not) have things come for us as women and Jews in America, over 20 years later? And, how can we further adopt Letty’s ideas and practices? For too long, I’ve been frustrated that many in my generation see feminism as a dirty word, and that we don’t recognize the struggles of women before us that have allowed us advantages we take for granted. Reading about Letty’s life and work has been a catalyst for how I think about my own feminism and Jewish identity.
September 4, 2013
Truthfully, I always needed other writers. As you know if you’re a writer, letting people into your brain is kind of like letting someone see you naked: Just…be careful. Not everyone deserves it. Finding the like minded is an unbelievable gift. Finding those who understand what it’s like to have a universe in your head, or to need a pen all the time, or what it is like when you read a perfect sentence, is what keeps a writer from going crazy.
I need other writers because when I talk about my work out loud, it gets bigger and clearer. I see what’s there. Writers are (fine, I am) a cranky, unpredictable lot. Finding us can be hard; getting us together can be even harder. Sometimes it’s a matter of luck, so if you think you might be onto something, I would recommend jumping on it immediately. It’s not often that an opportunity comes along like the Rising Voices Fellowship that’s serious about cultivating writers and community. The right company makes a difference. I promise.
March 18, 2013
Adapted from The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America, by Joyce Antler (Schocken Books, 1997).
Bel Kaufman, the daughter of East European immigrants and granddaughter of Yiddish novelist Sholom Aleichem, emigrated from Odessa with her family in 1923 when she was twelve, quickly learned English, and used the public libraries voraciously.