Tag Archives: prozdor

#BowDown

If you know me, you know I love Beyonce.

I have a hard time thinking she can do any wrong. I mean, because she never does.

So when the internet went haywire over the feminist question in regards to Beyonce after her super-secret album drop last month, I was in shock. How DARE anyone question Queen Bey without my permission.

I obviously think Beyonce is good for the feminist cause. I think she is pushing us further, asking important questions (whether or not she means to), and challenging the status quo that many of us white feminists seem content to accept.

But I’m getting “old” in terms of activism (sigh), so I had to ask the next gen of feminists.

I asked the Rising Voices Fellows, a group of six young women who I am working with this year on the intersections of Judaism, feminism, and writing, what they thought about the “Flawless” video. In particular, I asked them what they thought of the line:

“Bow down, bitches”

The particulars of the conversation aren’t really important. What WAS amazing was that it was a half an hour or so dedicated to discussing the word “bitch.” Eight women in the room, eight opinions, eight million sets of questions and what ifs. The power of language, and how it impacts historically disenfranchised groups, was the name of the game. And the whole thing was fascinating.

We didn’t come to any conclusions–if you’ve figured out the “bitch” problem, please let the rest of us know so we can get on the solution–but the conversation was rich. It exposed our fears about ourselves, the strengths we want to enhance, and how we want to interact with the world around us.

It was beautiful. And to the haters of feminism or Beyonce….

#BowDown.

 

AFTER THE FACT ADDITION:

My very wise mother commented that I copped out, and she’s right.

My take on the “b” word: I like it. I’ve liked it, as a reference to myself, since middle school (I am pretty sure I had a keychain with the word BITCH and an acrostic from Spencer’s back in the day). I think a bitch is a tough, smart, no-nonsense lady. I think it has come to be used as a put down, but honestly? I embrace it. Call it re-appropriating language if you want, but I just think its a good word. However, I will not use it to describe someone else until I know they feel the same way. I try not to use it disparagingly towards other women when I can remember/am being thoughtful and kind. I think the trick with words like “bitch” are that its in the eye of the beholder, so its hard to place identities on others.

So, #bowdownbitches

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My JOIN Story

On Monday, June 24th I was honored to be one of 15 graduating fellows from the year-long JOIN for Justice Jewish Organizing Fellowship. The graduation, or Siyyum, was a beautiful evening of stories–laughter, triumph, struggle, and journeys. Each fellow shared 90-second stories to demonstrate learnings or growth from the year. My story, found below, was inspired by my amazing trip with a group of teenagers through the South with Prozdor, the high school of Hebrew College, where I work as the Director of Programming and Initiatives.This story is dedicated to them, to our beloved van Delilah, and most of all to the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement that followed us throughout our trip:

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I learned the true meaning of the word Dayenu on the floor of a hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama.

As I led a group of teens on a trip to learn about Jewish heritage in the South, I yearned for their exploration of Civil Rights history to open up a conversation about race, class, and privilege in America–and particularly where they fit into the story.

Dayenu, from our Passover liturgy, means “it would have been enough.” And while on the floor of that hotel room, in the midst of intense discussion with seven high school juniors, I learned what it means to feel like the world has given you so much that you can’t really stand it anymore.

Just getting to take the trip, Dayenu.

The voices of my JOIN cohort rang in my head while we traveled, challenging me to address tension and discomfort head on. The other fellows reminded me to push with gentle force, to challenge my own assumptions and in turn those of my teens.As the days progressed, I found myself pushing my students, asking them questions about their preconceived notions of the world–which to this point, had been pretty sheltered in some of the wealthy suburbs of Boston.

The experience we had, Dayenu.

When a student began to compare oppression of Jews in Europe and that of African Americans in the United States, I interjected, and challenged the group to stop drawing this parallel line that I hear too often in Jewish communities.. “Too often we get in the business of comparing who had it worse,” I said. “It’s probably not productive, and it is most certainly not a fair equation.”

The conversation that followed on that hotel floor would have been enough. An exploration of our shared histories, tears of discomfort and fear,some angry words, some calming ones, and inevitably more questions than answers. The sheltering walls that had kept these suburban teens from fully grasping the world around them started to crumble and fall.

Dayenu.

The floor of that hotel room in Birmingham reminded me that I believe in the power of teenagers. And I believe that the most fundamental of organizing principles we learn in JOIN–holding tension and creating agitation–are central to my work helping them grow into leaders who will change the world.

And again all I can say is Dayenu. Dayenu. Dayenu. This is more than enough.

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