A young man answered my call for cleaning help; he biked fifty miles because he couldn’t afford the bus ride.
At the Kolech conference in Jerusalem, the Israeli religious feminist movement gathered to talk about its mission.
In August, my family and I left Ann Arbor for a yearlong stay in Jerusalem. Ann Arbor is hardly a place devoid of intellectual and cultural ferment. Yet coming to Jerusalem was, for me, the chance to enter into a different ferment of ideas in a different language: Jewish ideas in Hebrew.
This year, I knew a month in advance what I would be doing to mark November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I am affiliated with a variety of feminist organizations, plus I am a graduate of Barnard College and a university faculty member in gender studies, but this year I was made aware of the upcoming date not thanks to my participation in any of these communities. Instead, I was alerted thanks to an announcement by Rabbi Benny Lau, the renowned Israeli scholar, teacher and rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem.
To protect has always seemed to me to be the first duty of the parent. Living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with my husband and three young children, I knew what it was I wanted to shield my children from: violence, fear, social disorder so profound that it would unsettle their very sense of safety in the world.
Avivah Zornberg’s classic studies of Genesis and Exodus are now available in paperback. That itself is a strange thing, because if you enter the home of most scholars of ancient Jewish texts, the books lining their walls will be leather-bound volumes with titles printed on the spine in gold or silver lettering — a Jewish form of publishing committed to instantiating spiritual and intellectual value in material that itself looks valuable. Zornberg’s work stands out precisely because of its deep engagement with that inherited “hardcover” world of classical Jewish texts and commentaries, and its simultaneous commitment to the modern “paperback” world of contemporary philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary criticism, anthropology, poetry, drama, novels and essays.
In the past two weeks, I have had coffee with two important Jewish women who have spent the fall semester as fellows at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Both have reminded me of the value of good conversation and the affective and intellectual gifts of getting together with other scholars, artists, or thinkers; and to be more specific, Jewish scholars, artists and thinkers; and to be even more specific, Jewish female scholars, artists and thinkers.
My son, Shai, was born on January 21, 2007 and two days later, in time for our arrival home from the hospital, a heavy cardboard box arrived in the mail. University of Nebraska Press had sent me 20 copies of my first book, “Houses Of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books,” which I had been writing for much of my adult life. Here it was, in hardcover. My first thought was to give one as a gift to our friend Alicia, who had served as our doula at our daughter’s birth in 2004, and had attended Shai’s birth as well.