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."
A few years ago, I saw the Israeli film Sentenced To Marriage which documents the stories and experiences of agunot, Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (divorce contract) leaving them as "chained wives." It was rather sobering to learn about these women (religious and secular alike) whose self-determination is trumped by oppressive men, and falls prey to the less-than-sympathetic judgments of the rabbinical high court.
Happy Adar, everyone. Get your costumes ready, give the groggers a preparatory whirl, and pre-heat your hamantashen-baking ovens, because Purim is coming! (Well, actually, not until next month, since this is a Jewish leap year, with two months of Adar).
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.
I spent the last week of December encamped in a Catskills hotel with about 425 klezmorim, dancers, artists, students, and lovers of Yiddish from around the world. We had gathered for the 23rd annual KlezKamp, a music and culture extravaganza organized by Living Traditions, a nonprofit dedicated to Yiddish cultural continuity and community. During the day, we took classes on everything from Hasidic dance to world Jewish foodways; at night, we danced to the newest and oldest in Ashkenazi music in the hotel ballroom with its famous gold lamè curtains.
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.
Lately I’ve had bras on the brain. Having recently weaned my twins (and here I’m referring to actual babies, not euphemistically to my breasts themselves), I’m gearing up for one of the milestone moments in a mother’s life: buying new, regular, non-nursing bras. So I’ve been thinking about what bras mean in the life of a Jewish woman.
I watched the coverage of the New Hampshire primary last night, and in the wake of the Obama hype, meshed with harsh criticism and suspicion (unwarranted, in my opinion) about Hillary's display of emotion (a.k.a. humanness!) at a coffee shop in Portsmouth, I was impressed by -- and excited for -- Hillary's win.
Anyone who was charmed by Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller's Day Off could not help but mourn the loss of Jennifer's face after her nose job, (and other facial re-constructions). What Grey thought to be "enhancements" only resulted in dried up acting gigs and disenchanted fans.
On Saturday night, I saw Judy Gold's one-woman show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.
The title of her show was inspired by her quest, in partnership with playwright Kate Moira Ryan, to interview more than 50 Jewish mothers around the country, of different ages and Jewish backgrounds.
On my seven hour drive back to Boston on Christmas Day, I was listening to a piece on "Talk of the Nation" about the long-standing tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.
There has been a recent flurry of attention to the issue of boys’ (and men’s) flagging participation in Jewish life, particularly in the synagogue -- some going so far as to call this a crisis.
Who knew that "Hava Nagila" could be "sexy" ... or "racy"...? Lauren Rose (formerly Lauren Goldberg), a Jewess from the UK, has given this familiar (and perhaps tiresome) traditional Hebrew folk song a somewhat dirty, teeny-bopper twist.
Last week, Jewish Women International hosted their 2007 "Women to Watch" awards, described as "a celebration of extraordinary Jewish women and their impact on art, culture, and community; business, politics, and media; family, science, and spirituality."
Ever seen women with headscarves doing Vaudeville? Last week's Forward featured an article about Atara, an association of Torah observant artists whose new mission is to bring Orthodox female artists and performers together to nurture their creative expression -- be it through theatre, music, art, spoken word, etc. -- within a halachic framework.
Today I'm celebrating the 35th birthday of one of my favorite childhood albums, "Free to Be You and Me." I've always loved this collection of songs and stories that envision a non-sexist world. As a young adult, I was proud to learn that Jewish feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin was the editorial consultant for the album, book, and tv special (and the author of "Stories for Free Children" which I also loved). Lately I've had the happy opportunity to appreciate "Free to Be You and Me" a second time around, now as a mom. It's fun to hear the voices of Marlo Thomas, Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, and Mel Brooks - it's like visiting with old friends.
In yesterday's Style section of the New York Times, there was a very short article with a mention of Sarah Silverman's "sedulously cultivated Jewish homegirl style." Now, I don't usually read the Style section, nor do I have a vested interest in Sarah Silverman, but this chic-sounding phrase - without a qualifying description -- had me a bit perplexed. So I needed to inquire: what exactly is a Jewish homegirl style? And how does one "sedulously cultivate" it?
Yesterday I finally got to see Making Trouble, the film produced by the Jewish Women's Archive, on the big screen. After sold-out shows at film festivals around the country (plus Jerusalem!), Making Trouble made its Boston premiere as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival. Though I've seen the film several times, and in various versions, it was exciting to see it in a theater, with a big audience.
On Tuesday evening, I attended a reading (co-sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Archive) by scholar/writer/activist Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz from her new book The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism. There’s a lot in this book—too much to discuss in one blog entry. In sum, it examines historical and contemporary views on Jews and whiteness and the complexities of African/Jewish relations.
Last week, Newsweek ran an article titled From Barricades to Blogs, asking about the state of feminism in the 21st century. The article treads familiar (to my mind, tired) ground, questioning whether young women are taking up the torch of feminism, or whether they (we) are letting the flame die.
I just returned from the Jewish Outreach Institute’s annual conference called Opening the Tent: Visions and Practices for a More Inclusive Jewish Community. It was an interesting conference that explored practices for welcoming interfaith families, non-Jewish partners of Jews, Jews-by-Choice, and, generally speaking, all whom are “unaffiliated”—including Jews perceived to be “on the margins” (i.e. Jews of Color and GLBT-identified Jews)—into the established community.
The 2007 Nobel Prize laureates in Physics were announced this week—Albert Fert from France and Peter Gruenberg from Germany, both credited for the first successful applications of “nanotechnology” to radically reduce the size while radically increasing the storage of computer hard-drives. With their impressive credentials, Fert and Gruenberg seem to fit the mold for this award in a profession in which male + Ph.D is a likely pairing. But following the announcement, I was pleasantly reminded of chemist Gertrude Elion, a 1988 Nobel Prize recipient, who most certainly did not fit this mold, and who didn’t think much of it: “Women in chemistry and physics? There’s nothing strange about that.”
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on May 28, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.