Sharrona Pearl is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on how we judge others by their faces and appearance, and her first book, About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain, was published by Harvard University Press in 2010. Her edited volume, Images, Ethics, Technology is being released by Routledge this November. She and Ben have three kids who love navigating the streets of Center City, Philadelphia. You can follow her on twitter at @sharronapearl.
The bris (ritual circumcision) is a ceremony I’ve basically been going to since my own birth. Except not really, of course, because back when I was born, women had a lot longer to stay in the…hospital following delivery, especially in the case of a C-section. In those days, a lot of the brises happened right in the hospital. With a mohel, sure, and as a fully religious/Jewish experience, but much more quietly. Much more privately. In those days, often, women did not have to host 150 of their (and their… >> Read More
I’m not very good at saying no. That isn’t a humble brag: As a feminist and a (sometime) pragmatist, I think women in particular would benefit tremendously from saying no more often.
We are…asked to do more, and the more we are asked to do is often the most low-status stuff. And we say yes more. We shouldn’t, unless it is for things that we really care about, find really interesting, or would benefit us. (There is so much that we care about! So much that is interesting!… >> Read More
None of my kids has ever had a haircut. That’s not an ideological statement, or a religious one. (Or, really, even a true one, to be honest: My littlest guy recently told me that “my hair gets in…my eyes, Imma. Too much.” I gave him a wee trim, and some de-mulleting.) It’s more of an inertial one: both my girls were basically bald for a really, really long time. Like, really long. We never really thought about haircuts, and then one day we woke up and the eldest had all this long,… >> Read More
“It’s just a game.”
That’s what people say, rolling their eyes slightly and turning away, when they hear that I am no longer watching NFL or participating in any of its merchandising or…fantasy pools. “It’s just a game.” Also: “Don’t take yourself so seriously. Just relax.” And, of course: “I’m sure the NFL is just quaking in its boots. Do you really think you can have an impact?” Honestly, on the NFL, no. Not at all. But on the people in my house, on my kids (whose… >> Read More
I wish we didn’t have to take it seriously. I wish it didn’t all sound so familiar. I wish it really was just a joke, a satire, a sideshow act. I wish it didn’t make me very, very scared. Again.…A presidential candidate (and yes, Donald Trump is a real one, despite how it seems) is calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the US. Seriously. A. Ban. On. An. Entire. Religion. I wish that the conversation about banning all people of a given religion (and no—it doesn’t matter which one) stopped immediately after… >> Read More
We had heard rumors about it, whispered behind closed doors and with a tone of skeptical reverence. Some said it was as common as water, others said it was rarer than a sighting of the Loch Ness…monster. Like the myth of the courtier, we had held out hope that we would be among the few lucky ones, that it would happen for us. The Shift. That mythical, magical shifting of bedtime to earlier in the night, facilitated by the end of nap time, or the beginning of kindergarten, or the blessed… >> Read More
The past few mornings, I’ve woken up with the feeling that I’ve forgotten something. I wracked my brain today, trying to figure out what needed to be done. It came to me: packing. I need to pack.…Relieved, I sat up, only to remember that I’m not actually going anywhere. None of us are. Packing?!? Why was I convinced that I needed to immediately start packing? I was so sure that I needed to pack. So very sure. (Weird. So very weird.) When I thought about it a little more, a little… >> Read More
It doesn’t hurt me anymore.
Standing quietly as I prepare for Yizkor, the memorial prayer, I watch most of the synagogue file out (quietly, respectfully—until they pass the invisible barrier…and then, of course, there’s laughter, chatter, and why not?). It doesn’t hurt me anymore. I’m used to it. I’ve been witnessing this peculiar and almost ritualized procession for over 25 years, since I first started ducking out of junior congregation services to join the big shul for Yizkor. I expect it. But I still… >> Read More
My friend Ilana is sick. She's in the fight of her life. And she's winning. Please God and anyone else who may be listening, she's winning.
Meanwhile, I'm listening closely, reading, tweeting,…and retweeting. Because my friend, Rabbi Ilana Garber, educator, leader, and spiritual guide—this extraordinary woman of great courage, enormous skill, and powerful ability—is, it turns out, a person of tremendous generosity of spirit. Ilana, with whom I was once very close but now, because of the distance of time and geography, because of the demands of the… >> Read More
For those women with the freedom to choose when to have a baby*, it is usually not a decision made lightly. There’s a lot to consider, and the factors are different for every woman or couple. And…the factors are deeply personal. Having a baby is a deeply personal decision, even as it is a deeply communal one. Some say it takes a village to raise a child. Others say we should hide the very fact that we have families. At least at work. Because families are personal and have no place… >> Read More
It was late at night. The kids were finally asleep and I’d finished up my work for the day. All I wanted to do was fall into bed, but instead there I was in the kitchen, cooking a meal for someone…I’d never met. My own family had quesadillas for supper, quick and easy, but I was slaving away to make a beautiful dinner for strangers from our synagogue who’d just had a baby. Because that’s What We Do. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, on the face of it. With our busy… >> Read More
I was with my three kids the other day, en route to a favorite public water park. As I saw the bus pulling up, I remembered—suddenly, viscerally, and more than a little bit painfully—the first…time I took all three of them to this same park. My littlest was about 6-weeks-old, and I was feeling my oats. Maybe even strutting a little at that bus stop, so proud was I of myself: packing the picnic, gathering the various water paraphernalia, and getting us all—me, my almost 4-year-old, my almost 2-year-old,… >> Read More
This is my bald statement of truth: I made fun of someone much younger, with much less power, and far fewer resources with which to deal with cruelty. Today, I was an asshole, and instead of a…justification, the rest of this post is an apology. First, some context: I was watching my oldest daughter play baseball. She’s just under 6, and she, like many of her teammates and opponents, doesn’t really know what she’s doing. There are exceptions; the kids with tremendous natural abilities or athletic older siblings or parents who… >> Read More
This piece was written in response to a previous blog post by Jordana Horn.
I also (in what seems to be a theme on this website) didn’t watch the Oscars. The next day, the blogosphere directed…me to clips of John Legend and Common’s acceptance speech, which moved me. Very much. As did their performance of the song “Glory” itself. Their discussion of the history of triumph and the ongoing struggle of blacks in America was brave, important, and resonant. Their song, with its insistence on highlighting Ferguson in the context… >> Read More
For the first time in six years, there was a guard outside our shul on Shabbat. It’s not one of the big historic synagogue buildings in Center City Philadelphia, which has, like many large…synagogues, been employing security services for years. It’s a small--but growing--rabbi-led minyan that meets on top of a store. We have an awning with our name, but there aren’t any city signs pointing the way to our modest quarters. And yet, this week, there was a guard posted outside. >> Read More
I’m a pretty laid-back parent about most things. My kids eat dirt, play with (plastic) knives, and spend a lot of time on the counter helping me cook. I rarely think to warn others when they have…colds (I’m trying to remember!), because I would never expect the same. Colds are a part of life, and will probably help them in the long run, as frustrating as they are now. My kids run around, make messes, get sick, get better, and generally (I hope) have a lot of fun. (It’s not always… >> Read More
Three kids in, I will nurse (and have done) in front of anyone. Father-in-law? Check. Rabbi? Check. Boss? Check. Graduate students? Check. Everyone who goes to my local park, grocery store, coffee…shop, and (obviously) doctor’s office? Check, check, check, and (obviously) check. To me, nursing is natural, life-giving and life-affirming, and simply a part of my baby’s nutritional needs, much like any other kind of food. Pumping is a different story. I barely let my spouse see me pump, let alone anyone else. Where nursing is… >> Read More
I remember clearly the day that I learned for sure that I know nothing. I was standing in line at the dollar store, casually eavesdropping on the woman ahead of me talk with the woman behind the…register about feeding their ravenous newborns. I nodded smugly, caressing my huge belly and thinking back to when my other two kids were new and endlessly hungry. I smiled, confident in my ability to empathize and ready to interject a wise comment as a soon-to-be mother of three. And then I stopped to actually listen.… >> Read More