HAIR WE GO AGAIN
What about women with no hair? How about Phyllis Ocean Berman, Program Director of Elat Chayyim, the Jewish Renewal Retreat Center, who chose to go wigless after she lost all her hair? What courage ! Equal I think to the bearded woman you feature in your Hair articles [Spring ’95.] Also, I thought about how brushing hair was used as a way for a mother to express her hostility to her daughter. Susan Fromberg Schaeffer has a chilling description of this in her novel Falling. (I used to use it in my women’s literature class to break through the denial about abuse in Jewish households.)
by Marcia Cohn, Spiegel Rolling Hills, Estates, CA
When I was married to a rabbi, as well as being the daughter of a rabbi who taught homiletics, I used to make up sermons that inevitably wound up SO TOO IN LIFE, and my best one was about hair. (Mine was very long and bushy and in those days I grimly fought it into a bun.) The skeleton of the sermon was that if you brush your hair down very hard and anchor it securely before you start twisting the bun, it will probably stay in place, for a while at least. But if you are careless about that serious foundation step, the bun will immediately start coming apart and you will have to keep sticking in pin after pin after pin, and even so it will look like hell and will ultimately fail. SO TOO IN LIFE.
by Nahma Sandrow, New York, NY
I love your piece on the bearded woman. It has particular significance for me because of my writing about women and body hair in my essay, “The Fiction of Fiction,” included in my 1972 anthology Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives.
I used the six foremothers piece [Spring ’95] in our seder this year. [The article adds two servant women, mothers of some of the 12 tribes of Israel, to the traditional four matriarchs of the Bible.] When many of those who were at the first-night seder went to the feminist seder on the fifth night, we whispered among ourselves with an amused sense of superiority when the feminist Haggadah referred to only four foremothers. How lovely to be an elitist about one’s understanding of classism!
by Susan Koppelman, Tucson, AZ
I cannot pray in a temple on the High Holidays, or sit with other Jews before the ark or hear the cantor chant or the rabbi speak. Why? Because I cannot afford tickets or dues. The recession and a gruesome divorce left me broke. Still, I had myself, my sanity, my children’s safety, and my faith. I moved back to my old neighborhood where my old temple was, and offered to pay a small amount— $125—a king’s ransom to me— for tickets for my family to attend holiday services. My offer was accepted—I thought—and we attended services happily.
But after the holidays people came after me like pit-bulls, demanding the amount in full for four tickets, demeaning me for not being able to pay.
The following year, for no other purpose than to be together with other Jews on the High Holidays, I invited other “Unjoined Jews” to celebrate with me and my family. Each brought something: a challah, honey, a kiddush cup, a special machzor. The Jewish Catalogue. The next year, more came. This year, more still.
Things are better now, and we probably can manage some dues somewhere, though it won’t be my old temple. It still gives me pain to think of how unsupported my family was by our synagogue during a time that we deeply needed support. I write this letter in the hope that it might sensitize synagogues to treat others in my situation with empathy.
by Pamela Walter, East Brunswick, NJ
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