Merle Lewis Feld is a well-known playwright, poet, and peace activist for the Middle East. Feld was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1947. After graduating from Brooklyn College, she became a writer and has since been anthologized and read in hundreds of synagogues. During her sabbatical in Israel, she became involved in many peace efforts, including facilitating an all-female Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group on the West Bank. This group was very important in creating a sense of shared humanity among Israeli and Palestinian women, breaking down prejudices, and forming a grassroots context for understanding. Feld also demonstrated regularly with Women in Black, an Israeli women's weekly, silent protest of the Occupation. These experiences formed the basis of her play, "Across the Jordan," included in the first anthology of Jewish women playwrights, Making a Scene (Syracuse University Press, 1997). In 2000, she was honored at the Jewish Women’s Archive Women Who Dared event and was inducted into the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame in 2017. In 2005, she founded the Rabbinic Writing Institute, which helps rabbis and cantors develop a personal spiritual writing practice and become better leaders. She is a mentor at the Albin Rabbinic Writing Institute and the president and co-founder of Derekh.org. Merle Feld is married to Rabbi Edward Feld, and they have two children. She is a writer of essays, plays, poems, and a spiritual memoir, A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist Journey (SUNY Press, 1999), which includes a chapter describing the year she spent in Israel organizing Israeli-Palestinian women's dialogue.
Feld was chosen to be part of the Women Who Dared project for her work in starting a dialogue group between Israeli and Palestinian women. Merle describes her childhood growing up in Brooklyn, where she came from a “really assimilated, not Jewishly observant family without Jewish institutional associations.” She talks about her family background, their customs, the traditional food they made, and the holidays they celebrated. Growing up, Merle became more involved in the Jewish community through her peers at Brooklyn College Hillel. Merle also discusses her family’s political views and how they influenced her political and feminist identity, particularly around her involvement in Israeli political issues. Merle recounts her sabbatical in Israel and her work facilitating Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in the West Bank, her continued activism, and the works she published around these issues. Merle explains how she managed her activism and creative work while raising a family. When Merle returned from Israel, she continued to speak publicly about her experience there and published her play, "Across the Jordan," which was included in the first anthology of Jewish women playwrights, Making a Scene. She reflects on her involvement in the world of Israeli-Palestinian issues and with the dialogue group in particular. These efforts had an enormous impact on her life, political views, Jewish identity, and work as a writer and public figure.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Merle Feld. Interviewed by Judith Rosenbaum. 19 July 2000. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/feld-merle>.
Oral History of Merle Feld by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.