History is full of brave and badass women who did not shy away from speaking up when it counted. Unfortunately, most of their stories have either been reduced to the footnotes or lost entirely to the sands of time.
On this very short list of females whose names and narratives that we know is Queen Esther. During the Jewish holiday of Purim (which started last night and ended tonight), we remember her because she saved the Jews of Persia from the antisemiticpogrom that was being planned by Haman.
Being that March is International Women’s Month, I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate the legacy of Queen Esther. It took courage and a belief in knowing that she was doing the right thing, even when she knew that her life could be forfeit.
It is for this reason that she is remembered, revered, and respected to this day.
P.S. The newest Maccabeats video (We Don’t Talk About Haman) is out and it is brilliant.
These days, depending on who you speak to, religious intermarriage is either just part of normal life or has a hand in breaking down the various faiths. But for as many opinions on this subject that exist, there is one thing that cannot be disputed: it is not a new idea.
The Convert, written by Stefan Hertmans and translated by David McKay, was published last year. In eleventh century France, an unlikely couple has fallen in love. He is David Todros, the son of a prominent Jewish Rabbi and a yeshiva student. She is Vigdis Adelaïs, the daughter of a high ranking Christian family. In spite of the obstacles of faith, family and everything around them that is telling them to back off, they decide to get married. Vigdis converts to Judaism, giving up the life she had before she met David.
She expects that she her father will do everything in his power to bring her home. What she does not expect is an anti-Semiticpogrom and a journey that will take her halfway around the world before she returns to Europe.
Based on the Cairo Genizah, a group of documents and scrolls dating back more than a thousand years, this book is part fact and part fiction. What I liked was that the format is different than other novels in this genre. As we follow the characters on their respect journey, we travel with the author as he goes on a similar journey to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He is able to walk the fine line of using the information that is known while adding historical details that make the period come alive.
What I appreciate is that Vigdis is not the helpless damsel in distress type. She has experiences that could easily kill her. But she survives and is able to make it through a world that others her as both a woman and a Jew.
Hate is powerful. It turns us away from the humanity of our fellow mortals and only shows us the negative stereotypes we want to see.
This past weekend was the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is one of the worst episodes of racial violence in American history. The Greenwood District of Tulsa, in Oklahoma was known locally as Black Wall Street. Outside of the Greenwood District, the residents knew that they would be treated as second class citizens. But inside of the district was another story. It was a vibrant and thriving community that disproved the racist ideas about African-Americans. Unfortunately, some Caucasian members of the community had their minds blown by this success and used the accusation (which has not been verified) that a black man attacked a white teenage girl.
By the time the dust settled, hundreds were dead and the neighborhood looked like a war zone. To make matters worse, it was not spoken of until recently. In light of the fact that this disgusting event has been buried, both WNYC and CNN told the story of the destruction. The new six part podcast, Blindspot: Tulsa Burning, and TV movie, Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street, told the compelling and heartbreaking story of those horrific days. I highly recommend both.
This was a pogrom. The actors and the location have changed, but the reason (if you want to call it that) and the results were the same. I wish that it had not taken a century for this country to remember and honor the memories of those who were killed. But it has. The only thing we can do is talk about it and educate our children so this never happens again.
History seems to always have a way of teaching the current generation, that is if they are willing to listen.
Talia Carner‘s 2019 novel, The Third Daughter: A Novel, was published last fall. In 1889, Batya is a fourteen year old Jewish girl trying to escape Europe with her family. The many pogroms that have turned her world upside down. Along the way to hopeful freedom, a handsome and wealthy man presents himself. He wants to marry Batya and give her a new life in America.
It seems like a fairy tale ending to what has been a horrific experience. But like many fairy tales, it is nothing but a sham. Batya is sold into prostitution or “white slavery” along with thousands of other young immigrant women in Buenos Aires.
As the years pass, she adjusts to her forced circumstances, but still dreams of the day when she will be reunited with her family. When an opportunity appears to become a Tango dancer, Batya takes it. It is also an opportunity to get justice for herself and the other women forced to earn their living on their backs.
Previous to reading this book, I thought white slavery was a story told to young girls to keep them chained to the patriarchy. To say that I was educated by the novel is an understatement. I thought that I knew almost everything there was to know about Jewish immigration around the turn of the 20th century. I was wrong.
I loved this book. It was well written, entertaining and educational without hitting the reader over the head.
Unlike other nations, the United States has a reputation of not being so homogeneous. Most, if not all Americans (unless one is of Native-American descent), can trace their family history to at least one member of their family who was born somewhere else.
You know who and his administration seem to be determined to destroy all that.
Last week, ICE raided several meat processing plants in Mississippi. Hundreds of employees were arrested, many of who are not in the country legally. Among those arrested and detained, a good amount are also parents, leaving their children without a stable parental support system.
Watching these clips breaks my heart. One would have to be inhuman (or without a heart) to not feel something for these kids.
What I find disturbing is that while the company’s owners get off scot free and continue to rake in profits, their employees are targeted for potentially not entering the country legally. And of course, the company had a job fair to fill the jobs that have been left vacant.
One does not risk everything and leave the country of their birth to start over in a new country for shits and giggles. More than a century ago, members of my family left Eastern Europe because of the three p’s: prejudice, poverty and pogroms. The stories of these immigrants may not be the same as my family’s story, but their reason is the same.
America has been and always will be the land of immigrants. It does not matter if one immigrated yesterday, two generations ago, or five generations ago. We are all related to immigrants. Until we appreciate and respect that notion, we will continue to disregard our history and the national ideals that we claim to be proud of.