“I can’t die before July 28th,” my mother said as soon as her doctor strolled into her room at Long Island Jewish Hospital. “I have theatre tickets.” Then, exhausted from the effort of uttering those two short sentences, she lay back on the pillow and shut her eyes.
Dr. Nadroo put a calming hand on my mother’s arm and looked at me, her large liquidy eyes filled with concern. Had the cancer that had begun in my mother’s bladder and migrated to her liver and kidneys finally reached the outpost of her brain?
My grandfather starts every Pesach Seder with the same opening lines. He talks about how he can remember being at the Seder table with his grandfather, who was once at a Seder table with his grandfather, and if you follow the generations back only a few more times you are right back at the original Pesach celebration, the escape from Egypt. These few words add so much meaning to my Pesach experience; I feel a direct relation to the Jews who escaped slavery so long ago. But while I love being able to draw this connection to the ancient past, something has always struck me about this tale: how come women are not part of this story of family linkage?
I do not break rules. I color inside the lines, a textbook example of a goody two-shoes. This is mainly because I am afraid of what will happen if I am caught breaking the rules. More specifically, I am afraid of the question of “why.” I like to have reasons for everything that I do, and so a question like, “Why did you hop that fence?” or “Why did you eat ice cream for breakfast?” leave me feeling like a complete deer in the headlights.
In November, 2009, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen titled his column “A Jew in England.” It describes his time as a student during the late 1960’s at Westminster, a leading British private school. Cohen related being “occasionally taunted as a ‘Yid’—not a bad way to forge a proud Jewish identity as a nonreligious Jew.” Five years later, he devoted an essay to his mother’s treatment for depression in an English sanatorium: “My mother was a woman hollowed out like a tree struck by lightning. I wanted to know why.”
If you had asked me two years ago if I thought of myself as a rebel, I would have been completely taken aback. I also would have said “no!” in a shocked tone, and ask you what on earth had led to that conclusion. I’ve always thought of rebels as people who resist authority or control and honestly, I don’t resist.
Can someone please tell me when taking advantage of women became an acceptable thing to do? Stories of assault on college campuses and towards so many people—as well as the overwhelming lack of prevention—give quite the impression that violence is an untouchable part of society. I’ve learned recently, though, that it doesn’t have to be.
I cried six times during the movie Selma. Each time for a different reason, and with varying durations/intensities. Within the first few minutes I had tears of mourning and shock running down my face. At one point I broke into sobs of sorrow.
I am not your classic rebel. I have never been overcome by the desire to dye my hair a shocking color or pierce a part of my body that would make strangers gag, nor is there any sort of intrinsic teenage longing to break mailboxes, have sex, and drive drunk hidden within my unstable and developing adolescent brain. It’s hard to believe that the majority of my peers could be particularly rebellious either.
It is telling that the when you Google “anarchy”, two definitions come up: one that calls it a “state of disorder” and the other, “a political ideal.” But in my mind, to paraphrase Ellen Willis, anarchy is not a violent rebellion but an overhaul of societal consciousness. I find it more compelling now to be a critic, of everything, because to live critically is to live truthfully.
Chances are, no two people reading this post have the same favorite book. From month to month, I don’t even have the same favorite book—my tastes range from nonfiction crime thrillers to mid-century poetry, and hit quite a few unusual notes in between. I seek out novels I can get lost in. I like all kinds of mythology and the occasional graphic novel. Choosing what to read next can be overwhelming and generally, I need a little guidance.
I love Hanukkah. Always have. Eight crazy nights of games, presents, impromptu dance parties to the songs of Jewish musical maestro Paul Zim, and examinations of a stack of illustrated children’s books about the holiday, among them one very special giant-sized coloring book. (When I tell you giant-sized, I mean the length and width of an average toddler.)
I’ve already expressed my feelings on the whole “year of the Jewish woman” thing, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t celebrate the many great moments for Jewish women in 2014. Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorites at JWA.
To many other girls, I am “basic.” I shop at J. Crew and I love Starbucks. I Instagram pictures of food and take selfies on Snapchat. Sometimes, I say things like “OMG I cant even,” and I eat at Chipotle. Despite this, whenever someone calls me “basic” and I ask why, they always point to the clothes I wear.
I set the water on my stove to boil and flicked on the kitchen radio, which was, as usual, set to NPR. The announcer was giving an update on the ebola crisis, now listing fatalities from a recent accident, now discussing the stock market—I changed the channel. I’d had a long enough day already and had no desire to sit and listen to the ongoing string of bad news. I flipped through channels until I hit a pop station that wasn’t in the middle of a commercial break. As I pulled out plates and pasta sauce, a new song played in the background.
In my hometown, December means more than just early evenings and the optimism of an impending winter break. It takes on significance beyond any of the holidays, concerts or changes in the weather. Instead, December means Cotillion, the prom-like event that has groups of high school students talking endlessly of dresses and limousines, pre-parties and after-parties, and definitely not the etiquette that the dance is supposed to teach.
For most of my life, my fashion sense has been dictated more by what I don’t want to wear than what I do want to wear. Socks with seams? Nope. Tight jeans? No way. Itchy sweaters? Out of the question! I feel almost nothing towards clothes, and when I do feel anything, it is usually frustration at tedious trips to the mall and or the seamstress shop. Sure, I enjoy looking “good.” But I have never really had any idea what “good” actually means.
I was leading the feminist crusade toward an era where women would be judged not by the cuteness of their clothing but the content of their character. I, clad in ill-fitting yet fully functional attire, was the ascetic monk of the religion of Not Caring What Other People Think.
It was sixth grade when I started to feel like a child among women. Up until that point my wardrobe had consisted mostly of gaucho pants, t-shirts, and Converse sneakers, which suited my perfectly boyish body. But the dreaded halls of middle school eventually caught up with me and walking into school the first day I was caught up in a flurry of flowery perfume, tight leggings clung to early curves, lip gloss, and straightened hair flipping over shoulders. Hormones were raging and silly crushes became relationships while“hook up” was introduced into my vocabulary.
Looking forward to Hanukkah, I asked Power Couples honoree Deb Perelman for a tasty recipe to share with our readers. She instantly suggested Latke Waffles, and who can blame her? I mean truly, what sounds better than latkes in the form of delicious, crispy waffles!?
Nothing, that's what. Enjoy with eggs, sour cream, and the impressive women in your life.
by Deb Perelman
If you’re a driven, self-employed working parent like I am, there’s no internal control mechanism that says it’s time to shut down. I’m nurturing preschool-aged twins, an expanding business, and my next book—entities that call on my resources with infinite demands. Left to my own devices, I would probably crash and burn. In the past, I have.
In 1964, three civil rights activists disappeared at the start of Mississippi’s Freedom Summer. Assuming that James Chaney (who was black), Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner (who were both white) had almost certainly been killed for investigating a racist church bombing, the rivers in Mississippi were dredged to look for their bodies. What they found instead is described in the song “In the Mississippi River” written by Matthew Jones and sung here by the Freedom Singers: Dozens of black Americans who had been murdered, their hands and feet tied, and sunk in the river. It was understood that no one outside of their friends and family members would ever notice they were gone.
When I shop for clothes, I try to purchase tops that are not exceedingly cropped, low-cut, or sheer. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been excited about a cute dress or shirt, only to flip it over and find that the back is completely cut out. This is disappointing, but it also makes me question my own tendency to judge the Girl with the Crop Top. If the majority of clothes at the mall are cut out, cut-up pieces of fabric, it might not be fair to judge consumers for buying what is being sold.
The little girl races to unwrap it and gasps when she sees what the package contains. It’s Slumber Party Barbie™ and she couldn’t be more thrilled. All of the girls in her class have the doll, and now she can’t wait to bring her new Barbie in to school to show them! With the silky haired icon comes an accessory set including a pink satin robe, hair curlers and a pajama set. But what Barbie would be complete without a matching pink scale permanently set at 110 lbs. to keep her slim and fit? Oh and better yet, Slumber Party Barbie™ comes with her very own diet book, solely containing the advice “Don’t eat!”
Sitting in my grandparents' house in Northridge, CA, on stolen land that was originally Barbareño and Chumash territory, I'm thinking a lot about how to foster space for gratitude without erasing the pain and violence in the paths that brought us to this place. Because rolled up in my story, in the events that led to me being in this place with my cherished family of origin, is a lot of pain and violence.
One of the best ways to write poetry is to read poetry: this is common knowledge probably spoken at every writing class in the world. However, this advice is not specific enough. The leader of the class should instead announce to the group of rookie writers that one of the best ways to write poetry is to read the poetry of Adrienne Rich.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on October 24, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog>.