Posted in: Facebook, Letters To Readers
Published on Jan 20, 2014 by
Some Facebook Musings
Dear Friends and Readers:
Some of you are already my Facebook "friends" but many of you are not. I've just decided to choose from among my almost daily Facebook postings and send them out to you. The advantage of becoming my Facebook "friend" is that you can post comments in response; I have not dared open my website for comments. That way lies madness. Here are some of my January, 2014 postings.
Rebel Girl Makes Good
Now, I feel as if I truly belong to the ages, not just to this age. I have always felt somewhat apart, "different." I fit in nowhere, but belong everywhere, anywhere, like the Jew that I am. When I received an entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica I was both pleased and frightened. Herzl, Dreyfus, Maimonides, were all in there, it was a sainted reference volume. Me? The rebel girl out of Brooklyn had a place there too? But now that I've received the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, together with so many other truly distinguished authors, each in his or her own category -- Hasia Diner, Moshe Halbertal, Yossi Klein Halevi, Amos Oz, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ari Shavit -- I feel daunted, very sober, I feel the weight of responsibility even more. Kavod Kaved (glory is a burden).
And so, my people have claimed me as one of their own. When I speak, I represent us—all of us, those with whom I agree, those with whom I wrestle. I hope to speak softly, modestly, soberly, respectfully, clearly, and with strength.
Photo: Phyllis Chesler on Lake Kinneret (1972), also known as the Sea of Galilee, wearing her large Jewish star so that when she spoke at radical left and feminist rallies her Judaism and Zionism could be plainly seen.
Can Gender Segregation Ever Be Equal?
Today, the Wall Street Journal has an article about a Taliban leader's school. It separates girls and boys. Each have teachers of their own gender. It is an Islamic school—which may mean that children are taught to memorize the Qu'ran in Arabic, a language that central Asian Muslims do not speak or understand. It may also mean that children learn that boys are superior to girls and that girls cannot be trusted. Based on Memoirs by Afghan-American, M.H. Anwar, Pakistani-British, Samina Younis, and on the biography about Saudi Arabian "Nabila" in Disenchanted, by Victoria Kilbury, we learn that Muslim religious teachers are often or normatively cruel, use corporal punishment, and are themselves under-educated, lazy, and have low standards for girls.
Tell me what you think about gender segregated education in a religious context. I know that in some ways, this may work in the West when certain subjects (science, math) are being discussed and/or when girls are teenagers and have already become distracted and "boy crazy." What about such segregation in a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu religious setting?
Courage or Surrender
When the history of Western civilization is written will it be a tale of surrender to barbarian intimidation or will it be a tale of bravery, a story about those who stood up to censorship, who resisted political correctness, who truly believed in America's First Amendment, free speech, and in simply telling the truth?
Yesterday, a quietly courageous man paid me a visit. In 2005, the rather innocuous Mohammed cartoons, which appeared in a Danish newspaper, became infamous--mainly because several Islamists had slipped more incendiary cartoons into the mix. This led to a terrorist plot against the Danish newspaper Jyllens-Posten; to numerous death threats which sent cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, into permanent hiding. Islamist Muslim protestors burned European Embassies, churches, consulates, and American flags all over the Muslim world.
My visitor, a playwright, had once been on staff at the New York Press. In 2006, brave American journalists felt duty bound to publish the cartoons. The publisher pulled the plug. The staff, under editor Harry Siegel, all quit. My guest was a member of that principled staff.
I stood up and shook his hand.
There are many more quiet but principled heroes who are willing to sacrifice their jobs and their reputations. Will they outnumber those who want no trouble, who genuinely fear being death-threatened, fire-bombed, lynched, murdered for exercising their freedom?
Muktar Mai: The Opera
I saw and heard an amazing opera about Muhktar Mai ("Thumbprint") over the weekend. Composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz have created a magical fusion of East and West, both musically and thematically. This is a photo of Sankaram, who also sang the role of Muhktar Mai, and here is a link to my review.
[Photo: Time Out]
A Dear Friend, Terribly Missed
Barbara Seaman (z"l) was the dearest, kindest, least envious, most generous of all the Second Wave feminists. She died in 2008 and I miss her every week, sometimes every day. She cared so much about women's rights and took on the drug companies without fear and saved thousands of women's lives. Together, we co-founded the National Women's Health Network which is still going strong. Dr. Mary Howell, Belita Cowan, and Alice Wolfson were also co-founders and Cindy Pearson has been our wonderful Executive Director for many years. Barbara was also one of the first feminists who really wanted to "hear" what I had to say about rising anti-Semitism, the demonization of Israel, and especially about woman's inhumanity to woman. We had each other's backs. She suffered secretly—and yet she triumphed since she never became a whiner, a complainer, or bitter. Here we are, at the 2003 party for my book The New Anti-Semitism in New York City at Erica Jong's home.
Me and Mrs Dalloway
Like Virginia Woolf's heroine, I, too, wanted the party to be perfect—and it was. I managed to gather so many different worlds in the same room, so many excellent people who hold different and opposing views, and yet everyone found the assembled company to be "fascinating" "interesting," "extraordinary," "so much fun." These are some of the phrases that came back to please me. Present were radical feminists and financial advisors, socialists and business men and women, philanthropists, philosophers, photographers, physicians, and psycho-analysts, lawyers, judges, painters, human rights activists, world travelers, transportation experts, security experts, linguists, Talmud scholars, authors, literary editors, judges, professors, religious activists, theorists of education, world-class religious conservatives and world-class and ardent secularists.
There were no arguments, no one wanted to leave—some people stayed for five hours and a very good time was had by all. The hostess was only able to join the party after all but twelve guests had gone. Then, conversation was possible and far-ranging. I have many wonderful photos but have mastered the posting of only one photo at a time. Here is a photo of two religious women, both firebrand feminists, one is Muslim, the other is Jewish and it was my pleasure to introduce them to each other. Raquel Evita Saraswati, please meet Rivka Haut. Yes, I am also an intimate part of this conversation. Many other photos will be posted at my website. Please visit and enjoy them.
[January 1, 2014: Phyllis Chesler, Raquel
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