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Myerhoff with Morrie Rosen, Director of the Israel Levin Center

Myerhoff with Morrie Rosen, Director of the Israel Levin Center

"I returned [to the Israel Levin Center] on one memorable day to touch base before undergoing surgery. It was to be a hysterectomy, a personal operation. I whispered news of this to Morrie, who, to my astonishment and acute embarrassment, announced it over the loudspeaker and asked people to pray for me. It took all my self-control to sit through the little ceremony, reminding myself that all prayers are statements of good will and, as such, useful, even powerful. Anyway, I was an anthropologist, trained to locate objectivity when I needed it. As I left, several women shouted to me that all would go well, they or their daughters had had such an operation, it was nothing. 'Besides,' yelled Manya, 'how could you fail to recover when you got two hundred atheists praying over you?' Thus they gave me their blessings, laughed at themselves, and demanded a little gratitude, all at the same time. Theirs is not a world in which something is given for nothing. Everything is built around exchange. There are no beggars, no charity, only webs of donors. And so their irony made me laugh, restoring my perspective, mending my embarrassment. We were in this together, and I left them knowing why I had come. This attitude of theirs was what I had so often seen carrying them through the worst of times; it was the subtle, sturdy stuff of surviving."


1. Barbara, Myerhoff, "Surviving Stories," Remembered Lives: the Work of Ritual, Storytelling, and Growing Older, ed. Marc Kaminsky (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992) 280-1.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Myerhoff with Morrie Rosen, Director of the Israel Levin Center." (Viewed on February 10, 2016) <>.


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