Menorah Rotenberg

b. 1937

Menorah Rotenberg was born in Manhattan in 1937. Her parents were both Hungarian Orthodox Jews. She attended an Orthodox Day School, Ramaz, as a member of the founding kindergarten class and also went to Camp Ramah. She attended Barnard College and became a social worker. She has combined her psychoanalytic and Judaic training into writings about the transmissions of transgenerational trauma in religious texts. She lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.

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Scope and Content Note

Menorah talks about her childhood in Manhattan, where she attended Ramaz, an Orthodox day school, as a member of their founding kindergarten class. She recounts how her parents' culture shaped her upbringing as Hungarian immigrants, so she was raised in a nationalistic and observant, but not quite Orthodox, environment. Menorah describes attending Massad, a Hebrew-speaking camp, and Camp Ramah. She reflects on her childhood perception of her Jewish identity and how her gender informed that. She felt angry about the different treatment she received as a girl. She tells an anecdote of when she and her friend decided to stand on either side of the doorway to the shul, challenging the belief that men couldn't walk through a doorway between two menstruating women. Another time, she recorded the haftarah trope for giving bar mitzvah lessons, but she also kept it for her own use. She reflects on how she continued her practice of Judaism in adulthood. She and her husband joined an Orthodox synagogue after moving to Boston, but when they moved to Montreal, she didn't engage in Jewish life. Menorah talks about how, after getting her degree, she felt like she wasn't smart enough to continue with her Jewish education, a decision she now reflects on as influenced by sexism. She describes the development of her feminist consciousness as she realized that if she took her children to the Orthodox shul without her husband, they all had to sit behind the mechitza and weren't allowed to participate. Menorah started going to a Reform synagogue instead but found it wasn't traditional enough. Eventually, her family joined a Conservative shul in Teaneck, New Jersey. She describes how that community became more egalitarian, and she increased her involvement by starting to read Torah and teaching melodies. Finally, she talks about her children and how they vary in their practices of Judaism and views on egalitarianism.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Menorah Rotenberg. Interviewed by Jayne Guberman. 30 October 2005. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 12, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/rotenberg-menorah>.

Oral History of Menorah Rotenberg 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.