Reuben/Rifkin Jewish Women Writers Series
The Reuben/Rifkin Jewish Women Writers Series: A joint project of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and The Feminist Press
The Reuben/Rifkin Jewish Women Writers Series, established in 2006 by Elaine Reuben, honors her parents, Albert G. and Sara I. Reuben, and her grandparents, Susie Green and Harry Reuben, Bessie Goldberg and David Rifkin. The series focuses on literary works that can embody and connect the varieties of Jewish women’s experiences, speaking for the many whose names and stories are now lost.
This essential and innovative series will produce books by Jewish women writers from the United States and beyond. Following are descriptions of the first books in the series.
Helène Aylon was a good Jewish girl raised in orthodox Brooklyn, married to a rabbi, and a mother of two when her world split apart. A widow at thirty, she broke free of tradition to become an eco-feminist artist whose work deals in transgressive images about war and peace, women's bodies, women and god, and the deeply religious world that continues to influence her work to this day.
The memoir is a charming dash through the years of a structured orthodox life and the artistic life that feed her to question the misogyny of her beloved religion. It is also a tell-all about the art world, with fascinating details about luminaries such as Ana Mendieta, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Betty Parsons.
Examples of Aylon's work included are her early doors for the Jewish chapel at JFK airport, her peace pillowcases (including one worn by Grace Paley), and her current search for the links between feminism and Judaism.
HELENE AYLON is a visual, conceptual and installation artist and eco-feminist whose work has been exhibited around the world, including at the Whitney Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York, the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
May 2012• 350 pages• $17.97 paper, ISBN: 9781558617681 • Rights: USA
Short-story writer Faye Moskowitz presents a collection of wise, wisecracking, occasionally heartbreaking stories of a Jewish childhood in Depression-era Michigan. In this collection of 17 untitled selections, Moskowitz shares recollections of memorable moments and personalities from her life, touching upon such personal and universal themes as pain, death, prejudice and faith. Varying in length from two to 25 pages, these reminiscences and reflections exhibit the strength of love among friends and family that remains despite individual and religious differences.
FAYE MOSKOWITZ is the author of "A Leak in the Heart: Personal Essays" and "Life Stories" and "Whoever Finds This: I Love You." She teaches creative writing and Jewish American literature at The George Washington University.
November 2011• 144 pages• $7.77 paper, ISBN: 9781558617711 • Rights: USA
In this portrait of the artist as a young woman, Michal Govrin, one of Israel's most important contemporary writers, offers a kaleidoscope of stories and essays. Populated by mysterious and real people, each tale is in some way a search for meaning in a post-Holocaust world. Reminiscent of W.G. Sebald, characters irrationally and humanely find reason for hope in a world that offers little. Essays describe Govrin's visits to Poland as a young adult, where her mother had survived a death camp. Govrin journeys there after she learns that her mother had not been alone. She lost her first husband and 8-year-old son, Govrin's half brother, and kept it a secret from her second family for many years. In a multiplicity of voices, Govrin's haunting stories capture the depths of denial and the exuberance of youth.
MICHAL GOVRIN is the daughter of an Israeli pioneer father and a mother who survived the Holocaust. Working as a novelist, poet and theater director, Govrin has published nine books of poetry and fiction. In 2010, she was named one of the 30 most important modern writers by the Salon du Livre. Among her novels, "The Name" received the Kugel Literary Prize in Israel and was nominated for the Koret Jewish Book Award. "Snapshots" was awarded the 2003 Acum Prize for the Best Literary Achievement of the Year. Govrin received the Israel Prime Minister's Prize in 1998. Among the pioneers of Jewish experimental theatre, Govrin has directed award-winning performances in all the major theatres in Israel. Now residing in Jerusalem, Govrin teaches at the School of Visual Theater and is the academic chair of the Theater Department of Emunah College, both in Jerusalem. She has taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presents an annual lecture at The Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, and is a former Writer in Residence and Aresty Senior Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University.
October 2010• 256 pages• $10.17 paper, ISBN: 9781558616738 • Rights: USA
Jennifer Rosner's revelatory memoir explores family, silence and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then she discovers a hidden history of deafness in her family, going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. Traveling back in time, she imagines her silent relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealing with a world that preferred to ignore them.
Rosner shares her journey into the modern world of deafness, and the controversial decisions she and her husband have made about hearing aids, cochlear implants and sign language. An imaginative odyssey, punctuated by memories of being unheard, Rosner's story of her daughters' deafness is at heart a story of whether she — a mother with perfect hearing — will hear her children.
"Deep and moving truths fall out of this enchanting memoir, as deafness becomes a means of exploring the grave obstacles we all face in knowing what it is like to be another." - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of "36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction"
"This beautiful book is about listening — really listening — to children, history and one's own knowing heart. It's an exquisite memoir, crossed with poetry and the unmistakable shine of truth." - Catherine Newman, author of "Waiting for Birdy"
"With profound honesty and endearing humility, Rosner writes about the searing emotional challenges that parents can face, and about absorbing these lessons and moving into deeper wisdom. A beautiful, deeply felt exploration of love and hard choices." - Josh Swiller, author of "The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa"
"This wrenching journey into deafness from the standpoint of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a philosopher, and a Jew explores the meaning of sound in a soundless world. "If a Tree Falls" shows the extent to which what we hear comes not only from our contemporaries but from the people who came before us and those who will succeed us." - Ilan Stavans, author of "On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language"
"Jennifer Rosner's "If a Tree Falls" is the kind of memoir that reminds the reader how we are all part of the same long line: complicated selves finding our way in a world that challenges us to discover our deeper resilience and untold strengths." - Vicki Forman, author of "This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood"
JENNIFER ROSNER's work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Wondertime Magazine, and the Hastings Center Report. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and is the editor of The Messy Self. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
May 2010• 200 pages• $16.95 paper, ISBN: 978-1-55861-662-2• Rights: USA
By Esther David
After religious riots break out in modern Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a handful of the tribe's descendants band together to live in a communal housing complex: the Shalom India Housing Society. Surrounded by their Hindu and Muslim neighbors, the residents of these charming apartments find ways to laugh (the laughing club meets every morning on the lawn) and love, whether it is a crush next door or an Internet date with a distant Israeli.
Writing with wit and an artist's eye for detail, Esther David vividly portrays a resilient group who share a fondness for the liquor-loving Prophet Elijah and costume parties. These true-to-life stories depict the joys and conflicts of a people continually choosing between the Indian traditions of their homeland and their Jewish heritage.
"Hilarious and heartwarming..." - Asian Age
"Esther David perfectly portrays the individuals of the Bene Israel Jewish community in Ahmedabad, many of them torn between Israel's siren song and their own unique Indo-Jewish heritage. Hers is a window into an all too human world, presided over by a comic though attentive Prophet Elijah." - Janet M. Powers, author of "Kites Over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony Between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat"
"'Shalom India Housing Society'...is a poignant tale of a group never quite at home in its homeland." - Amy Rosenberg, www.nextbook.org
"The rich humour depicting the idol faced Jewish prophet Elijah entering people's homes to claim his goblet of wine during Passover isn't the story's premise. In fact, it is a clever tool to analyse and understand the various ritualistic ways, both rigourous and convenient, in which Bene Israelis celebrate their festivals. Which takes it back to their historical shipwreck to India 2,000 years ago, the loss of their texts, the adoption of Konkani and Marathi as their languages, attaching village names as surnames to their original Hebrew names, practice of a mixture of Jewish yet Indian customs. Each story in 'Shalom India Housing Society' has an apartment to itself and depicts all the issues that the Bene Israeli community faces in a world that is becoming increasingly aware of religion. But laced with humour, it cuts on the seriousness of the whole issue and laughs at and with the people who live in 'Shalom India Housing Society.' Don't miss the sketches that suggest careful observation of human behaviour along with individual idiosyncrasies." - Manju Ramanan, Journalist
Esther David is a Jewish-Indian woman. She is the author of "The Walled City," "By the Sabarmati," "Book of Esther," "Book of Rachel," "My Father's Zoo," and "Shalom India Housing Society." She is the co-author of "India's Jewish Heritage, Ritual, Art, and Life Cycle." David is a columnist for the Times of India Ahmedabad and the Ahmedabad Mirror. An artist and art critic, she has coordinated art activities for the Gujarat state fine arts academy as its chairperson and has also organized events for the West Zone Cultural Center, Gujarat. She often teaches art history and appreciation at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University in Ahmedabad when she is not illustrating her novels or creating her own work.
April 2008• 240 pages• $15.95 paper, ISBN: 978-1-55861-596-0• Rights: USA
An Egyptian-Jewish Under the Tuscan Sun, Dream Homes chronicles Joyce Zonana’s quest to find a sense of home among people, foods and places as far from her native Cairo as Oklahoma and Katrina-stricken New Orleans.
After the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, newlyweds Felix and Nellie Zonana flee Cairo with their infant daughter Joyce, ending up in Brooklyn. Growing up, Joyce swiftly realizes that her Jewish family and their Egyptian culture are neither typically American nor typically American-Jewish; they eat kobeba instead of kugel and speak French instead of Yiddish. Struggling with her feelings of isolation from other Americans and frustrated by never getting full access to Egyptian-Jewish culture, Zonana sets out on a life-long journey to find her place in the world.
She meets her extended family living in Colombia and Brazil and travels to Cairo to get a glimpse of her parents’ past. After she and her mother survive the devastation of Katrina, Zonana comes to see that “home” is not a location, but a spiritual state of mind. Zonana’s heritage and quest are also evoked in numerous photos and family recipes.
"In luminous and lucid prose, at once lament, elegy and song, Zonana remembers the world of Egyptian Jews, a world she never knew, a world she knows intimately." - Carol P. Christ, author of "She Who Changes" and "Rebirth of the Goddess"
"Joyce Zonana's memoir is a lush and beautiful read – a picture of the exotic (Egypt, Brazil), the mundane (New York), and the devastating (New Orleans after Katrina). Zonana writes gorgeous prose, full of spices and senses and sounds, while telling the story of a bookish girl who, like all of us, wants independence and love and great food. There are even recipes!" - Emily Toth, professor of English and Women's Studies, Louisiana State University
Joyce Zonana earned her bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College and her doctorate in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her primary interest as a college professor is working with underserved populations, particularly immigrants and returning adult women students; in her current position at Borough of Manhattan Community College, she feels especially privileged to be working with people whose lives and careers resonate with her own.
$15.95 paper, ISBN-13 9781558615731• $55.00 library cloth, ISBN-13 9781558615748• Rights: USA
Foreword by Kathryn Hellerstein
From rural Jewish towns in Eastern Europe to the New World, from abortive revolutions in Tsarist Russia to the Holocaust, nine women writers from the golden age of Yiddish explore multiple lost worlds. The stories range from the wryly humorous – a girl finds a shiksa wet nurse for her cousin with dire consequences – to the bittersweet, when a once idealistic revolutionary decides her hopes for humanity as mere “fantasy.” The title of the collection is taken from a poem that metaphorically anticipates the Holocaust.
“These brave women . . . left us thinly disguised stories and actual memoir of the cruel times in which they lived. . . . Immensely readable.” - Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
“Expands the Yiddish canon. . . . What they all reflect collectively is women artists’ passionate engagement with their Jewish communities and history.” - Irena Klepfisz, Barnard College, author of "A Few Words in the Mother Tongue"
Rhea Tragebov is the author of six collections of poetry and five children’s picture books. She is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, where she teaches workshops in poetry and translation.
Kathryn Hellerstein is the Ruth Meltzer Senior Lecturer of Yiddish and Jewish Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and coeditor of Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology.
199 pages • $14.95 paper, 978-1-55861-558-8 • $55.00 library cloth, 978-1-55861-559-5 • Rights: USA
Translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu
Afterword by Hannah Ovnat-Tamir
Best-selling Israeli novelist Judith Katzir recreates a writer’s coming-of-age during the 1970s. When Rivi returns to Israel decades after a turbulent affair with her female literature teacher, she recovers the emotionally charged journals she once addressed to Anne Frank. As Rivi reads them again, readers experience her teenage angst and the jolt of her illicit affair that ended in scandal. Provocative and heartbreaking, the book gracefully echoes Frank’s famous diary and at the same time engages with its tragic heroine, revealing universal truths about the transition from girl to woman.
“I read the book with wonder and emotion. The love between Michaela and Rivi is depicted precisely and delicately.... It’s beautiful.” - Amos Oz
“Judith Katzir is by far the most talented of the . . . young Israeli women writers. It is really impressive, how Katzir lets her protagonist trace these two decisive years in her life and to see the emotional depth and the poetic sharpness of her descriptions. . . . [A] great literary achievement.” - Jüdische Zeitung
“[T]he author manages to get inside a fourteen-year-old girl without judging her, teaching her or setting herself above her.” - Nathan Shaham, author (Anjoli has the name of his book)
Judith Katzir (1963– ) is the winner of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Prize and the French WIZO Prize.
Dalya Bilu received the Jewish Book Council Award for Hebrew-English translation.
Hannah Ovnat-Tamir is a lecturer at Sapir Academic College and Hebrew University.
May 2008 • 240 pages • $15.95 paper, 978-1-55861-575-5 • $55.00 library cloth, 978-1-55861-579-3 • Rights: World English