When I was in grade school, I remember my love for reading Judy Blume. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge were both required reading for us in Cincinnati, and they were a joy to read. Then Again Maybe I Won’t, Blubber and Freckle Juice soon followed as readings of my own choosing, and I read Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret, although I admit I didn’t understand most of it until much later in life. My re-reads of the Fudge books brought so much joy that I even tried to read Fude-A-Mania, but by then I was a little too old to read that genre. Nevertheless, as a young and avid reader, Judy Blume was a favorite, and while I am sure my parents must have mentioned that she is Jewish (they loved making sure I knew which celebrities were Jewish), it was never a factor in why I kept reading her stories, gravitating to a book that had her name on its cover.
As we move from children’s and YA books to other categories of literary interest, the Jewishness of the author could become more and more important to us.
As I mentioned in a previous article in this very space, we usually learn Judaism from the male perspective. The Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, was clearly written by men. The most common name for a woman in the Bible is eshet, meaning “wife of.” We learn the names of all the male characters in the Bible, but rarely know a female character. Sure, we can rattle off names of significant female characters, but that is precisely because they stand out. Most of the action of our sacred narrative is dominated by male action, mannish interpretations, and men telling us what the lessons are deep within our text.
It has been a great pleasure to flip the script this year, and learn more from the female perspective. Cantor Ostfeld, Stephanie Butnick, and Rochelle Weinstein have taught us a great deal about their writings, their unique perspective, and their ability to teach and evoke emotion through story.
In the world of Jewish women authors, few are as prolific and well known as Anita Diamant. Diamant is to Jewish adult writing what Judy Blume is to younger readers. Her writings have inspired us to review the Biblical narrative (The Red Tent), to understand the American immigrant experience (The Boston Girl), and to understand the importance of women’s friendships life while going through both divorce and breast cancer (Good Harbor). In addition to two other novels, Anita Diamant has authored five guide books for Jewish living, including books on birth, marriage, and mourning. It could be said that Anita Diamant’s collection can bring us all the way through our life cycle with richness, creativity, and strong connection to the Jewish community.
It is so exciting to prepare to welcome Anita Diamant to CBT on Saturday, March 21, at 7:00 p.m.. She will present on all of her books, including an opportunity for us to ask questions and pick her brain about her time as one of the most significant women Jewish authors of our time. Admission to the event is $15 per person, and we hope you will consider an ad in our program for the evening. Information on all of these things can be found at cbtfv.org or by emailing Nancy Danger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you will join us for the culmination of our year studying with amazing Jewish Women Authors, and for an incredible night with Anita Diamant.
RABBI DAVID N. YOUNG is THE HEAD RABBI AT Congregation B’nai Tzedek and a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.