For Cuban-born author and University of Michigan anthropology professor Ruth Behar, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have translated into uniquely exciting opportunities to create cultural bridges.
Throughout my life the word “feminist” has come to take on many meanings. It’s a word I’ve both heard and used infinite times growing up in the heart of one of New York City’s most politically liberal neighborhoods. Now, the very word “feminism” is one that brings gratification. However, by the time I reached the ever-menacing years of high school, I knew that the sense of affinity that came with the word “feminist” was not shared by the general whole of the New York high school students.
I have lots of stories about preteen girls. Like, lots. I’ve done my rounds as a camp counselor, older sister, babysitter, and (recently) elementary Jewish educator. I have stories about misusing urine, ginger chews, trombones, boys, and matchmaking. I feel #blessed to have been able to witness pivotal experiences in the lives of preteen girls, because preteen girls are incredible.
Sometimes a single event can define who a person is. For my grandmother Gloria Fischel, that event happened early in her life, before she even started school, yet went on to dictate the cause to which she has dedicated her adult life.
As a Jew by choice, I have for many years found Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) problematic and uncomfortable. Long before I converted, I was drawn to Jewish history. Heritage, however, is another matter.
When I think of a strong Jewish woman in my life, my grandmother, Lorraine Basson, immediately comes to mind. I admire my grandmother for so many of her traits: her passion, her love for her family, her intelligence, her sense of style, her chicken noodle soup recipe, her sophistication, her honesty, her boldness, her fearlessness, but one trait stands out in particular: her love of travel.
I was never allowed to have a Barbie doll. My mom decreed it a rule in the Bickel household. I asked her why one time when I was six or seven, and she told me that she didn’t want us having dolls that portrayed unrealistic body standards. She didn’t want me and my two sisters growing up thinking that we were supposed to look like Barbies when we grew up
When I was in 6th grade, I hit a boy in my class over the head with my lunchbox because he called my best friend gay and said that my jacket made me look gay too. I knew that he wasn’t using “gay” as a nice thing, and I was infuriated on my friend’s behalf.
Many people view grandmothers as sweet, docile old ladies, whose sole purposes are to bake cookies and knit sweaters for their grandchildren. While it’s true that my Grandma Brenda does greatly enjoy spoiling and feeding her grandchildren, there’s so much more to her story.
On a sunny but cold Sunday in Boston, poets Joy Ladin and Lesléa Newman spoke at a JWA-sponsored event about their newly released collections of poetry, Ladin’s Impersonation and Newman’s I Carry My Mother.
Shaking it up. I’ve never been a typical “shaking it up” type of person, per se. I’ve always been a more “nervously try to go with the flow and hope it ends well” type of gal. However, when I got that question, “How have you shaken things up in your community?”, not one experience came to mind.
Change: the act or instance of making or becoming different. Change can be wonderful. Change can be terrifying. Change can be exciting, but change is never easy. Whether we want it to happen or not, change doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. It takes time and effort. I learned this lesson when I decided to start a new position for my temple’s USY (United Synagogue Youth) board.
Twitter has slowly, but surely, cemented itself as the ideological battleground of the 21st century. With access to only 140 characters per post, the ability to put out and respond to personal opinions seems to adhere to that one line from Hamlet that most people don’t remember is from Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
It's Friday night. I'm sitting in a big tent, surrounded by some of the greatest friends I've ever made. The smell of chicken soup wafts under our noses. A man walks to the front of the room, and we smile and link pinkies with the people next to us. This is it. The moment we’ve been waiting for all week. I take a deep breath and close my eyes as he begins in Hebrew...
When the second half of 8th grade arrived, I was faced with what my 13-year old self believed was the most important decision I would ever have to make in my entire life. I had to choose a youth group to join. Even though Denver has fewer options than most cities, I was still overwhelmed by my choices.
I have always found women’s seders perplexing, ever since my mother first dragged me to one when I was a teenager. To me, Passover is a family holiday, and it felt wrong to exclude half of our family from the celebration. I also didn’t understand why, instead of telling the story of the Exodus, we toasted Bella Abzug and Henrietta Szold.
If there’s one thing that characterized my formal Jewish education, it would have to be my profound dislike of it. Though I’ve always felt deeply connected to my Judaism, both culturally and religiously, organized religious school was extremely difficult for me.
My activism takes the form of words. Words that tiptoe out of my mouth and gently push others on a path towards justice. But increasingly I find myself not being able to speak. Why? Because being an activist is making me miserable.
I love student council. I’ve served on student councils since sixth grade. Contrary to what television says, student council races are rarely competitive. In fact, I’ve only been in one race where there was actually an opponent, and even then it was pretty clear who was going to win. My sophomore year in high school, three people ran for three spots each year so there wasn’t even voting. Still, we had to give speeches.
If you know anything about me, you know that I love Hillary Clinton. I’ve been infatuated with Hillary since 2008 when she ran against Barack Obama. One of the most iconic pictures from my childhood is a blurry photo of eight-year-old me holding a sloppily drawn sign for Hillary on Super Tuesday of that year. I didn’t know too much about politics back then, but I knew fervently that Hillary was my favorite candidate.
A large part of my upbringing was my exposure to progressive education. My middle school was one that nourished not only a love for learning, but a well-rounded approach to diversity in any form it may take, including sexual orientation. However, I learned that even this inclusivity was an extraordinary privilege and not everyone, my own parents included, was raised in such a tolerant community.
I’ll admit it—I own a power outfit. And it was only a few weeks ago that I woke up in a D.C. hotel room, put on my pressed skirt and my sensible (but classy) black heels, and took a bus with my friends to Capitol Hill. I remember listening to my shoes click on the marble floor, shuffling through printed pages of talking points, a nervous, excited energy rising from the center of my stomach.
Last month, JWA's podcast Can We Talk? reflected on the founding of the women's health collective Our Bodies Ourselves. Hearing founder Vilunya Diskin talk about fighting for reproductive rights in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including access to safe abortions, turned my thoughts to where we stand today. Abortion has been legal since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, but stigma against women who get abortions seems more pervasive than ever. With abortion making headlines again as the subject of political debate, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and hear what real women are experiencing outside of the media glare.
I was a relatively passive preteen. I was stuck in this mentality that my life wasn’t really going to start until I was older, that everything until then was just filler. Looking back at it now, I can acknowledge the internalized adultism that clouded my perception of the world, but am still regretful of this period of stagnation in my life.
I once told a friend of mine that I think Grease is horribly sexist because the plot is basically: girl changes herself to get the guy. He responded, “I always thought it was her throwing off negative social norms. It’s not like the whole goody two shoes thing was good.” His sentiments versus my own are the crux of the argument about whether Grease is a sexist movie, or one that supports feminist ideals.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on March 27, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog>.