Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women: Patterns in a Feminist Sampler

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Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds come together in Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women to explore and rejoice in what they have in common—their heritage. They reveal in striking personal stories how their Jewishness has shaped their identities and informed their experiences in innumerable, meaningful ways. Survivors, witnesses, defenders, innovators, and healers, these women question, celebrate, and transmit Jewish and feminist values in hopes that they might bridge the differences among Jewish women. They invite both Jewish and non-Jewish readers to share in their discussions and stories that convey and celebrate the multiplicity of Jewish backgrounds, attitudes, and issues.

In Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women, you will read about cultural, religious, and gender choices, conversion to Judaism, family patterns, Jewish immigrant experiences, the complexities of Jewish secular identities, antisemitism, sexism, and domestic violence in the Jewish community. As the pages unfold in this wonderful book of personal odysseys, the colorful patterns of Jewish women’s lives are laid before you. You will find much cause for rejoicing, as the authors weave together their compelling and unique stories about:

  • midlife Bat mitzvah preparations
  • the transmission of Jewish values by Sephardi and Ashkenazi grandmothers
  • traditional Sephardi customs
  • the sorrow and healing involved in coping with the Holocaust
  • a lesbian’s fascination with Kafka
  • the external and internal obstacles Jewish women encounter in their efforts to study Jewish topics and participate in Jewish ritual
  • becoming a Reconstructionist rabbi
  • the difficulties and benefits of being the teenaged daughter of a rabbi
A harmonious chorus of individual voices, Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women will delight and inspire Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike. It reminds each of us how diverse and distinctive Jewish women’s lives are, as well as how united they can be under the wonderful fold of Judaism. This book will be of great interest to all women, as well as to rabbis, Jewish community leaders and professionals, mental health workers, and those in Jewish studies, women’s studies, and multicultural studies.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The essays collected in this volume are woven together to form an embroidery of the lives of Jewish women. Each essay explores what it means to be a Jewish woman living in either America or Canada, and each is filled with the thoughts, wishes and reflections of Jewish women in North America. The book's first section contains essays that explore the meaning of family in Judaism; it opens with a freshly written essay by a 15-year-old about her experience of growing up as a rabbi's daughter and ends with a reflection on the role of the grandmother in the Jewish family by a Canadian Jewish grandmother. The second section explores the displacements brought on by Jewish migrations and the roles that Jewish women have played in adapting their families to new cultures. The third section focuses on the struggle of women to establish personal identities; for example, Rabbi Elisa Goldberg writes about her journey to becoming a Reconstructionist Jewish rabbi, while Evelyn Beck chronicles the shaping of her identity as a Jewish Lesbian Feminist. A fourth section focuses on the relationship between Jewish women and Jewish education; a central essay features a 48-year-old woman's reflection on her bat mitzvah. A final section explores anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, sexism and violence against women. These essays offer fresh perspectives on what it means to be a Jewish woman in the late 20th century. (Sept.)
Library Journal
"This book is a sampler, and within its pages Jewish American and Canadian women have contributed pieces of writing that, like pieces of embroidery, illustrate their lives," assert editors Siegel and Cole (Jewish Women in Therapy: Seen But Not Heard, Haworth, 1991) of this collection of personal essays. Contributors include a wide-ranging group of Jewish womenyoung and old; conservatives and liberals; converts; lesbians and heterosexualsand all attempt to "break the silence" traditionally expected of Jewish women. While embroidered samplers may include an assortment of stitches, there is usually a cohesiveness of style that lends a sense of unity to the piece. Unfortunately, the tone of these essays is so unevenfrom academic-with-footnotes to casual memoirthat the collection lacks an overall unity and will be hard to recommend to specific groups of readers.Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Contents Foreword

  • Preface
  • Section I: From Generation to Generation: The Meanings of Mishpacha
  • Living in a Glass Bowl: Tales of a Rabbi’s Daughter
  • Bris, Britah: Parents’ First Lessons in Balancing Gender, Culture, Tradition, and Religion
  • Married—Without a Chupa
  • Queer Jewish Women Creating Families: New Perspectives on Jewish Family Values
  • Mothers, Judaism, and True Honor
  • Backwards and Forwards in America
  • Personal Reflections on Being a Grandmother: L’Chol Dor Va Dor
  • Section II: Wandering Jews: Lives Fractured by Geography
  • Jewish Identity Lost . . . and Found
  • Trials and Tribulations in the First Year of a “Mixed Sephardi/Ashkenazi Marriage”
  • The Joys of Mitsvoth
  • In Search of Eden
  • Family Memories and Grave Anxieties
  • Section III: The Journey Home
  • Really Jewish
  • You Don’t Know Me Because You Can Label Me: Self-Identity of an Orthodox Feminist
  • The Journey Home: Becoming a Reconstructionist Rabbi
  • Becoming Jewish
  • How Jewish Am I?
  • The Politics of Coming Home: Gender and Jewish Identities in the 1990s
  • Why Kafka? A Jewish Lesbian Feminist Asks Herself
  • Section IV: Eve and the Tree of Knowledge: Woman’s Place Among the People of the Book
  • “I Don’t Know Enough”: Jewish Women’s Learned Ignorance
  • Learning to Leyn
  • Better Late than Early: A Forty-Eight-Year-Old’s Bat Mitzvah Saga
  • Exploring Adolescent Jewish Female Identity: Reflections About Voice and Relation
  • First There Are Questions
  • Section V: Pain and Healing, Sorrow and Hope
  • Jewish Battered Women: Shalom Bayit or a Shonde?
  • Canadian Jewish Women and Their Experiences of Antisemitism and Sexism
  • We Are Not As We Were: Jewish Women After the Holocaust
  • Violent Legacies—Dialogues and Possibilities
  • Glossary
  • Index
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