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.
Thanksgiving was my grandmother’s favorite holiday, and there’s an almost mythical story about the first time she celebrated it. My grandmother was born in Lublin, Poland, survived the Holocaust, and lived in a displaced persons camp in Germany for six years after her liberation. In the DP camps she married my grandfather, who was said to be handsome and tall, though his visa says he was 5’7. While still living in the camp, they had their first child, my uncle, Yitzchak. And in 1951 they came to the United States. It was November when their boat set sail across the Atlantic. As my grandmother told it, the boat docked in New York on Thanksgiving Day. But before docking, they were served a Turkey dinner.
I am a junior in high school. I’m involved in the mock trial team, the drama department, the creative writing program, and a music club. I’m also on two sports teams: water polo and swimming. I could have also chosen to participate in basketball, or cross country, or tennis, or volleyball, or soccer, or a dozen other sports. I definitely take for granted my opportunities to participate in the athletics and activities of my choice.
Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca was not a women’s rights activist. She was a people’s rights activist.
She understood the problems of the working class—people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds—and sought to improve conditions for workers.
It just so happened that along the way, she became a leader in a way that was unprecedented for women of her era.
“I believe in tit for tat, and if that’s the case someone owes me a lot of tat.” That quote begins this fast-paced, extremely well-researched documentary about Sophie Tucker, the bawdy singer/comedian known for being “the last of the red-hot mamas.” And thanks to the producing-writing team of Lloyd and Sue Ecker, a new generation of fans will be giving Sophie lots of “tat,” just as their parents and grandparents did during her career which lasted seven decades from the 1890s thru the 1960s.
Our world is a broken place.
It’s important to acknowledge this, to be aware of what is going on around us, because only then can we begin to pick up the pieces and try to make repairs. One of the points of brokenness in the world right now is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an ongoing struggle between two groups of people fighting over the same land.
It is no mistake that when people think of the 1950s, a very specific image comes to mind. A slim white woman wears her kitten heels as she holds a baby on her hip with one hand and pushes a vacuum with the other. That same slim white woman flashes a smile while placing a cooked meal in front of her husband and children, family programming playing on the television. This ideal housewife was present everywhere, dominating women’s magazines, advertisements, TV shows, movies, and literature. Women were supposed to be simple, kind, doting, dutiful, and, of course, selfless.
First of all, let me make clear that I sincerely hope this isn’t “The Year of the Jewish Woman,” as the headline of the Jewish Daily Forward’s “Forward 50” list proclaims. One year isn’t enough for me; I’m aiming for a world in which Jewish women—and all people—get the opportunities and recognition they deserve every year. But I’m pleased that the Forward managed to reach parity + 1 this year, after more than 20 years of lists in which women were not represented in proportion to their percentage in the population.
As a student applying to college, my peers and teachers regularly ask me what I am interested in studying. However, when I excitedly answer “business and political economics and foreign affairs,” people often raise their eyebrows or look at me as though I have something in my teeth. One recent encounter stands out as particularly shocking.
Sophie Tucker was a heavyweight performer—in every sense of the word. Right up to her death in 1966 at age 82, Tucker, the so-called “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” took her act worldwide, combining her singing talents and bawdy humor into a legendary act that would manage to survive the demise of vaudeville and the dawn of the television age—all while remaining determinedly and definitively plus-sized.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on May 22, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.