Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism edited by Danya Ruttenberg, Seal Press, $16.95
When my friend Mara turned twenty-four, she asked everyone at her party for a piece of advice. “Pay attention to the margins,” one woman told her. These words rang in my head as I read Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism, edited by Danya Ruttenberg. Ruttenberg, a Lilith contributing editor, has collected a wide spectrum of young Jewish women’s voices, and Susannah Heschel, who broke similar ground eighteen years ago with her anthology On Being a Jewish Feminist, contributes the forward. Writes Heschel: “as a member of that first generation of women who raged and struggled and fought and wept, I thrill with the second generation and all those to come.” The torch of Jewish feminism is clearly being passed, and it is alight with passion, creative tensions and pride.
Thanks in large part to that first generation, whose struggle led to the fusion of Judaism and feminism, this next generation can explore the questions of just what it means to live with both identities. Yentl’s Revenge treats us to essays on finding one’s own way into Judaism through the creation of an egalitarian wedding ceremony, negotiating the challenges involved in “parenting as a religious Jewish feminist”—a particularly provocative contribution by Haviva Ner-David—and Ophira Edut’s sharp, audacious “Tales of a Jewess with a Caboose.” It’s no longer solely about fighting for a place and a voice within Jewish tradition. Rather, the women of my generation unabashedly embrace and find strength in the diversity and contrasts of those places and voices.
And embrace them we do. Through page after page of Yentl’s Revenge, the margins around what it is to be Jewish and feminist explode in wonderful, unexpected ways, unleashing new meanings everywhere. Ironically though, it was just such an explosion that brought me up short. When the title of Jennifer Bleyer’s seamlessly written “From Riot GrrrI to Yeshiva Girl, or How I Learned to Be My Own Damn Rabbi” jumped out, the young Jewish feminist in me was at her side, applauding the challenging spirit behind her words. But the future rabbi in me felt banished to some hopelessly establishment place where I would never recognize myself My friend’s birthday advice might well serve as words of wisdom for the Yentl’s Revenge generation as we continue the transformative dance qf re-defining Jewish feminism and carrying it forward with pride.
Rebecca Gutterman is a writer, theater artist and third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in New York.