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.
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.
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.
Last Friday marked the 106th anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Fields, the first woman to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the only woman who holds an uncontested spot in the boys' club that is credited with creating the Great American Songbook. Fields was a member of a prolific showbiz family, with a father and two brothers in the business.
I have long seen myself as the dissident daughter of an orthodox father, a truant who broke her father’s heart by turning my back on his cherished orthodoxy and living a more experimental way of life. It is therefore a delicate matter, this fascination of mine with the Other Daughter – the good girl – the one whose father did not call out after her in censure, the one whose aptitude for learning was cultivated on her father’s knee, the one who no doubt offered both her parents much solace.
Many years ago I was sitting in a kibbutz dining hall in the north of Israel. One of the older members, a woman, was reminiscing about the equality of the sexes that supposedly existed when the kibbutz was founded.
In women’s studies classes, we spend a lot of time talking about power: who has it, who doesn’t, and how it moves. Power matters in literature, too, since those in power are the ones who shape the canons – the defined sets of literary works that represent a particular field.
A new anthology, titled “Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires,” includes essays by 14 women who identify themselves as part of the GLBQT community. Some remain part of the frumcommunity, and write anonymously. One is from a prominent politicallyconservative family and talks about her family’s gradual acceptanceprocess of her and her non-Jewish partner.
Hi, I’m Dina Lamdany, usually found at from the rib? with Shira, another guestblogger here. I’ve only been a part of the Jewesses with Attitude community for a short while, but I’m so glad to be one of the newest guestbloggers here.