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To Women Writing Bravely

Before I discovered I had a voice, everyone else’s words about me filled the room. When I did speak, I was told by my teachers that the words were not mine. Story-keepers sought to dictate my story to me. And so, I did not realize that I could tell my own story, that I could write myself into being.

“What kind of person would I be if every choice was mine?”

What kind of rabbinical student and religious leader would I be if I started contributing to the world as I envision it?”

These questions, stemming from not knowing who I was, led me to look closely at who I came from. I started writing poems about my ancestors each day to inspire me as I used writing to discover myself. Through Jewish art, I found the women of the Tanakh to be complicated and confounded wanderers, whose warrior souls were marred yet opened by struggle, defying what others expected of them and living life at the service of their sacred song.

By recording the ambiguous and complicated moments of my Jewish ancestors in text and beyond, whether it was Sarah’s cynical but knowing laugh at the prospect of pregnancy or Miriam’s rebuke of her father’s decision to divorce her mother, I found a liberation to be just as I am. And at these moments, I plumbed an invariable truth:

In order to crack the light out of this broken world, every single woman’s story has to come pouring out.

By coming to know our foremothers, we are actually coming to know ourselves and by taking up the weight of the pen and writing our own story, we are freeing all women, then and now. For women’s stories are the keys to our collective liberation. To all the women writing bravely today, I dedicate this piece:

bless the woman
who writes with society's invisible ink.
but who, with the sound of the pen,
etches out every hush
and threat
until every word draws out the poison.

and may we remember
all women
are writing.
and our task is not only to reveal our own words.
but to heed other women.

how women's work is a sentence without end.
unutterable
until the day when all our words are free
to climb off the page
into our mouths
and sound freedom's voice at last.

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Students at the Library circa 1910s
Full image
Work with schools: writing a composition, girls wearing straw hats, bent over their work circa 1910s.
Courtesy of the New York Public Library.
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How to cite this page

Spier, . "To Women Writing Bravely." 14 February 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/to-women-writing-bravely>.

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