Author Archives: Rebecca Mordechai

Live from the Lilith Blog

September 7, 2017 by

Due on Tuesday: Lesson Plans and a Xanax. The Challenges Facing One Female Teacher.

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

“You need to clap harder if you want the class to shut up and listen!” pointed out Michael, one of my most challenging students.

“I’m trying my best to clap loudly, but my hands are not that strong,” I replied. I demonstrated another clapping in front of the class, but the sound that emanated from my delicate palms was, frankly, pathetic. Michael giggled.

It was at that moment that I became frustratingly aware of my dainty femininity, and how it was no match for the adolescent cacophony of slang, whooping, taunts, and laughter.

“You need to yell!” piped up Eva, another student who can summon the gall to critique my classroom management techniques publicly. “Intimidate us!” With the steady rise of 35 teenage voices threatening to overpower my authority, I finally did yell.

“Enough!” I shrilled, while slamming a textbook on my desk.

My voice, filled with bone-shaking ire, silenced even the loudest student. Michael and Eva were correct: I needed to establish a dominant physical and audible presence if I wanted this class to finally shut up and listen.

After I dismissed the class, I sighed and sank my body on a chair. I felt firm stress knots criss-crossing across the expanse of my shoulder blades, an MTA-like subway grid of burnout and despair.

  • 1 Comment
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

August 23, 2017 by

Subversion, Sex, and Savoy Cabbage: Reclaiming Azerbaijan’s Jewish Cooking

Photo credit: Lou Robinson

Photo credit: Lou Robinson

“Can I cook with you?”

“Repeat what you said.” Blatant surprise lingered in my mother’s voice.

That was to be expected. I can master only the contents of a kid’s menu: mac and cheese, home fries, perhaps, if I’m feeling fancy, breaded chicken cutlets. What my mother makes, however, is the Russian novel of cuisine—layered, complicated, and undeniably time-consuming.

But I was having guests over for Shabbat dinner and I wanted to be as Martha Stewart as possible. My guests were Ashkenazic millennials who, after decades of munching on potato kugel, craved to challenge their palates with Eastern saffron and sumac.

“Can you cook a dish with your mom?”  Erica asked, as she was lounging on my couch one day.

“Yes. You’re from Azerbaijan. Cook lamb!” Josh piped in from the kitchen.

But my friends didn’t quite comprehend how Azeri Jewish cuisine signifies a weighty inner conflict, and why I often resist cooking it.

***

  • No Comments
  •  

Live from the Lilith Blog

August 3, 2017 by

An Emoji Worth a Thousand Words: One Orthodox Woman Uses Humor to Become Visible

Flatbush Jewish Journal

Flatbush Jewish Journal

When Hillary Clinton’s face was covered by the image of a hand in a 2016 copy of an Orthodox newspaper, I choked on my coffee. In the age of ‘woke’ and social activism, concealing the former presidential candidate, in all her strength and pant-suited glory, seemed downright bizarre. I immediately took to Facebook to lambast the ridiculousness of this photo. “Gloria Steinem would be so proud I tell ya,” I posted, earning just one like and one comment.

Unlike me, Adina Miles, an Orthodox 29-year-old mother of two, has the pluck and the platform to get hundreds of people talking about how absurd it is to conceal women’s faces in conservative Jewish publications.

It all started when Miles created @FlatbushGirl, an Instagram account documenting the everyday life of an Orthodox woman—comedic mishaps when baking challah, and shopping for jewelry with an opinionated mother-in-law. After posting several clever and relatable videos for the Orthodox community, Miles’s account swiftly accumulated thousands of followers. Miles then decided to leverage her newfound public persona to create a cleaner environment in Flatbush, the epicenter of Brooklyn’s Orthodox community. She partnered with Councilman Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn to paint over local graffiti, and posed near him (and other community activists) in a photo for the Flatbush Jewish Journal (FJJ).

  • 1 Comment
  •