Miriam Yasgur grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, during her early life, before moving to Teaneck. She attended Yavneh Academy for middle school before graduating and went on to be a member of the first class at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls. Yasgur studied at Barnard College and participated in the Barnard Conference on Jewish Women Changing America as well as working with the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. Yasgur is an artist, and after graduating Barnard went on to get an advanced degree at Lesley University. She now practices Expressive Art Therapy and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Miriam Yasgur reflects on her childhood and early Jewish education and studying Talmud at an all-girls school high school. She notes that Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls was a very progressive school for the Orthodox community, and describes the leadership roles she took while there, including chairing the tefillah committee. Yasgur discusses the impact of her parents’ divorce on her faith, and the role religion played in their respective homes. At 23, she describes the close relationship she has with both parents, acknowledging the complexity of growing up with an Orthodox rabbi as a father and having parents with different values. She goes on to talk about her experience as a girl in an observant household, describing feeling disconnected from womanhood and expressing that as a child, she always wanted to be a boy. During her childhood, Yasgur didn’t enjoy wearing skirts, and remembers feeling jealous of the boys in her life. In college, she recalls doing a self-portrait while in art class that portrayed her face on a boy’s body. Yasgur describes struggling with identifying with feminism as an Orthodox woman. Her education was entirely religious, and she recalls thinking about feminism as a secular practice that didn’t align with the values of Orthodoxy. After high school, Yasgur went to Israel, which helped her contextualize the progressiveness of Ma’ayanot. She began to engage with her spiritual practices, learning about rituals for Jewish women and bringing them back to her family. Introducing her family to new rituals and traditions opened up new opportunities for Yasgur and her siblings to discuss identity and feminism in their religious household. She describes her father bringing these new practices to his Orthodox shul, including removing the mechitza, or barrier between the men’s and women’s sections in shul during sermon. Yasgur’s art took on a lot of this religious imagery while she was in college. She took many art classes in different mediums, including painting and poetry. She remembers her artwork resonating with the frum girls she went to school with, and the pride she felt about expressing herself within the religious space. The interview closes with a conversation about mikvah, blowing shofar, and other women’s mitzvot.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Miriam Yasgur. Interviewed by Judith Rosenbaum. 29 October 2005. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/yasgur-miriam>.
Oral History of Miriam Yasgur 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.