Sunday, November 11, 2007

My mixed reaction to the book "Yentl's Revenge"

Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism," edited by blogging rabbinical student Danya Ruttenberg, has a little something for everyone, and/or a little something to upset everyone. I wasn't entirely comfortable with all of the essays included in this anthology. Nevertheless, I think that this book is worth the purchase price because of these three essays:

  • "Composting Judaism: On Ecology, Illness and Spirituality Re-Planted," by Sharon Wachsler. Disabled with multiple chemical sensitives caused by environmental contaminants, and forced to leave the Boston area for a home in the middle of nowhere, the author strives to live a meaningful Jewish life in almost complete geographical and social isolation. (Sadly, this hits a bit close to home.)
  • "United Jewish Feminist Front," by Loolwa Khazzoom. The author was taken out of yeshiva and sent to public school after her teacher made the appalling and totally false statement, in front of the entire class, that Jewish law forbade the use of a Sefardi prayer book. Then, after her older sister left home, her synagogue told her that she was no longer permitted to sing aloud because she was now the only female present, an attitude that they seem to have picked up from the surrounding Ashkenazim. (Re the linked post, I neglected to mention that Shearith Israel is a Sefardic synagogue.) But this Jewish woman of Iraqi descent refused to take either ethnic or gender discrimination lying down.
And my personal favorite,

  • "You Take Lilith, I'll Take Eve: A Closer Look at the World's Second Feminist," by Yiskah (Jessica) Rosenfeld. The author, standing on one foot: You wrote a midrash, I'll write a midrash--maybe one reason why Eve talked to the serpent was that G-d didn't talk to her!
My commentary: In point of fact, I would say that HaShem ignored Eve and Adam disrespected her. What kind of man calls his own wife "That"? See Breshit/Genesis, chapter 2, verse 23 here--three times in the same verse, Adam calls his wife "Zot,"and G-d doesn't correct him, either! (Zot is grounds for divorce!) No wonder she talked to the serpent--he/she/it was the only one who treated her as an independent and intelligent being.


Blogger Danya said...

Hey, Shira--

Thanks for having a look! And I'm not surprised about the discomfort--I made a deliberate effort to include subjects or POVs that don't get a lot of airtime in the Jewish community, in part to provoke discussion (and in part because some of this stuff has been in the air for a while, so why not name the elephants in the room? We can only, as a community, decide where we want to put them once we admit that they're there.) There's a lot to be said for being forced to articulate why you disagree with something, no?

Mon Nov 12, 10:55:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Danya, the elephants in the room were pretty hard to miss, to be sure. What can I say? This isn't the easiest book I've ever read. Still, I suppose that it can get pretty crowded 'neath the rug when one sweeps so much under it.

Mon Nov 12, 11:53:00 PM 2007  

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