Author Archives: Amelia Dornbush

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September 19, 2017 by

What It’s Like to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah When You Have OCD

apple-195628_1280About six years ago, in an act of confused desperation, I awkwardly left my Acting I class early and went to Hillel to attend Rosh Hashanah services for the first time in my life.

I had just started my first year of college—and was suffering from a debilitating sense of guilt. The summer before, every time I’d hit a pothole or a speed bump I’d look behind me to make sure I hadn’t actually killed someone. Occasionally, I’d circle back around just to make sure. Multiple times. And then in a panicked, fearful daze I’d Google “hit and runs in Atlanta” and see if any of them were near where I was.

This wasn’t new for me. The first time I remembered having this specific sort of debilitating long-lasting “guilt attack” was a few years prior, at the beginning of high school, though I had always been anxious as a kid. I freaked out when I turned a penny green after learning that it was illegal to deface US currency, and felt nauseated whenever I saw FBI copyright warnings pop up on the VHS movies we’d rent from Blockbuster.

The problem was, as much as I would try to find ways to sooth my fears, a new one would immediately take its place. No hit and runs that day in Atlanta? Fine. But I sure as hell didn’t deserve to be going to Swarthmore College, because I had had a sip of beer and wasn’t yet 21.

The High Holidays initially offered relief. I could apologize to anyone for anything and it wouldn’t be weird, because it was a religious obligation. Plus, the prayers specified sins committed in thought and in deed, known and unknown. It covered everything my brain could think of.

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September 1, 2017 by

Head of Workmen’s Circle on Strike Solidarity, Yiddish, and Fighting Fascism this Labor Day

Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen's Circle, with Rita Margulies, Clara Lemlich's daughter.

Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle, with Rita Margulies, Clara Lemlich’s daughter.

While marked by many as the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day also has a radical history that began 135 years ago. On September 5, 1882, thousands took to the streets to demand better working conditions, an eight-hour workday and a Labor Day. Twelve years later, in an attempt to defuse tensions following the Pullman strike, the first Monday in September would become officially recognized by the federal government as a holiday for workers. 

In honor of this history, Lilith’s Amelia Dornbush interviewed via email the executive director of the Workmen’s Circle, Ann Toback. The conversation ranged from the future of the labor movement to the continued influence of radical Jewish women and what lessons from 5777 to carry into the New Year.

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April 18, 2017 by

We Should Have Never Left Egypt: A Counter-Narrative to Chew On While You Finish the Matzah

Israel's_Escape_from_EgyptAs Passover comes to an end, and we anticipate the return of the hametz, I think it’s worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on what exactly happened during the story of Exodus.

Some might have you believe that this is a story of liberation, with a hero named Moses, who brought his people out of slavery and into promised land.

They are agents of the patriarchy and not to be trusted.

Consider. There is no doubt that things were bad in Egypt. But what was the plan? Was it to organize the Israelites to realize their collective power labor and #ShutShitDown? No. It was to have a closed-door negotiation between one male palace insider and another.

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March 29, 2017 by

How One TV Show Helped Me Better Understand Abortion

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

There is a scene in season five of Scandal when the protagonist Olivia Pope gets an abortion. She does not tell her then-boyfriend Fitz about her decision. In fact, the entire scene happens without her saying a word. Aretha Franklin’s “Silent Night”—with words such as “all is well, all is right”—plays in the background. Though the presentation of abortion was not without a few flaws, on the whole it was incredibly powerful, and personally empowering. As I was watching the show, it occurred to me this was one of the few times I had seen an abortion on TV (another had been in an earlier episode of the same show.) Though I have never had an abortion, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to see positive depictions of the procedure until it was in front of me.

When I was a kid, I was very much a rule-follower. I had an anxiety attack over the fact that in science club we changed the color of a penny when I found out that there was a law banning defacement of US currency. My stomach actively tied itself into knots whenever FBI copyright warnings came on TV lest I should potentially violate their edicts. I got good grades and stayed out of trouble.

How I learned to break the rules is a different story for a different time, but a side effect to my non-rebellious decades is that I deeply internalized societal stigmas no matter what I might abstractly have believed politically. This manifested in many different arenas—my attitude towards drinking (others could, I couldn’t) and therapy (same)—and in my attitude about abortion.

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March 21, 2017 by

How It Feels When Hillel Kicks Out Your Student Group

Bnai-Keshet-Last February, B’nai Keshet was expelled from Ohio State University Hillel for participating in a fundraiser for LGBTQ refugees that was co-sponsored by 15 other organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)—a Jewish organization which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Yesterday, B’nai Keshet and Open Hillel publicly called for Hillel International and Ohio State Hillel to get rid of the policies that resulted in B’nai Keshet’s expulsion and reinstate the group in a move that was reported on by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Forward and Haaretz

Elaine Cleary, a senior at Ohio State University and leader in B’nai Keshet, spoke with Amelia Dornbush, a one-time internal coordinator of Open Hillel who graduated from Swarthmore in 2015, about the challenges of student activism and the pain that accompanies feeling alienated from your community. The interview that follows reflects the personal experiences and perspectives of two activists who, two years apart, worked to make the Jewish community more pluralistic.

Amelia Dornbush: First things first. How are you holding up?

Elaine Cleary: You know, it’s a little exhausting. I really wish for so many reasons that Hillel had just let us do the fundraiser and stay in to begin with. I really hope that the national American Jewish community will heed our call to tell Hillel to let us back in. 

AD: How would you describe what happened with B’Nai Keshet and Hillel?

EC: So, B’nai Keshet co-sponsored a fundraiser with 15 other LBGT community groups. Because one of the co-sponsors was JVP, B’nai Keshet was kicked out of Ohio State Hillel. This was very sad, because not only did we lose the logistical and financial support of Hillel, we also lost our connection to the Jewish community symbolically and physically. This is very troubling to me as a Jewish lesbian, because I believe it’s important to have strong visible presence of queer students on campus, and I don’t think people should have to choose between two identities. 

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February 7, 2017 by

What Kashrut Taught Me About Being an Atlanta Falcons Fan

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons

I am fifth-generation Jewish Atlantan. My great-grandmother was a child when Leo Frank was lynched. My grandfather was sent to Christian school and converted to Christianity as a young child, actively working to make sure no one discovered his Jewish roots. To his then-chagrin, my father did, and began attending synagogue in the same place that past generations of Dornbushes had. The Temple, whose walls are full of old photographs of my family members who died well before I was born, was where I officially converted.

I love Atlanta. The city is in my muscle memory and in my subconscious. It’s been five years since I lived in Georgia, but I can still walk through the backroads around Emory without getting lost. I sometimes wake up craving cheese grits from Georgia Homegrown. My nightmare—a recurring dream of driving off a highway overpass—was spawned by Atlanta’s heavily congested interstates.

Atlanta builds and rebuilds, constantly reinventing itself, never quite acknowledging or healing the scars of its past. I know the city not just by its current places, but by the places it used to have. Ponce City Market I know also as City Hall East. For my Dad, it’s the Old Sears Building. He told me that the shopping center across from Ponce City Market/City Hall East/The Old Sears Building, which I know as The-Place-That-Used-to-Have-a-Borders-and-Still-Has-a-Whole-Foods was home to a minor league baseball team, called the Atlanta Crackers, when my grandfather was a child.

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December 22, 2016 by

Why Hanukkah Makes Me Sad

lonelyEver since I realized that I would be spending each day of Hanukkah with my parents this year, I’ve been trying to get excited about the holiday. As a family of three converts (who all converted at different times for different reasons… it’s a long story), this is the first time that all of us will have been together as Jews celebrating the holiday for its duration. And yet, I’ve been having a difficult time working up the same kind of enthusiasm as when we’ve been able to spend the High Holidays or Passover together.

I can’t shake the sense that it all feels artificial in a way, a manufactured celebration.

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December 10, 2016 by

Their Poultry Is Kosher. Shouldn’t Their Labor Practices Be?

“For us, Kashrus means aiming higher,” declares the website of the Birdsboro Kosher Farms. “We take no shortcuts and accept no excuses.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, begs to differ. On September 2, the government issued citations to Birdsboro Kosher Farms for two willful and eight serious safety and health violations. This followed an investigation that began in April after a worker’s thumb was amputated.

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November 18, 2016 by

This Jewish Woman Heads the Nation’s Only Mathematics Museum

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 12.50.14 PM

Photo Credit: National Museum of Mathematics

“MoMath wants to be the symphony of mathematics,” says Cindy Lawrence, founder and executive director of the National Museum of Mathematics, North America’s only mathematics museum. Lawrence notes that a child can hear a symphony and become inspired to be a musician, and that before this museum came into being, there was no way to generate this kind of enthusiasm about mathematics. Now, Lawrence tells stories of parents dragging crying children out of the museum because they don’t want to leave. Often, these same children didn’t want to go to a math museum in the first place. 

Lawrence became involved with MoMath after meeting Glen Whitney, a fellow founder of the museum, at her temple.

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September 9, 2016 by

Are You a Jewish Studies Scholar with a Baby? Here’s Good News

wecometolearn

When scholar Andrea Lieber and her husband were at the early years of their academic careers, attending the annual Association for Jewish Studies conference meant “we just roamed the hallways with our six-month-old baby and connected with other scholar/parents on the margins of the conference,” recalled Lieber. This was 2001, and there was no on-site child care. At this year’s conference, parents who are also professional academics will have another option.

Last week, the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) announced that, after more than a decade of organizing by affiliated academics, it will offer highly subsidized child care for attendees at its 2016 conference, to be held December 18 – 20 in San Diego.

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