Jun 19 2014
“Bloody Mary party at 11 o’ clock!” a voice chirruped from the float to our left.
Lilah, skipping along beside me in her bobbing ponytail and little purple Keens, pulled on my arm. “Mommy, what’s a Bloody Mary party?”
One of the women behind us laughed and I turned to smile at her. “They always learn something new at Pride,” I said. Read the rest of this entry →
May 1 2014
Exactly 50 years ago, on May 1, 1964, in New York City, a group of activists put together the first “Free Soviet Jewry” rally. I wasn’t born yet (I’m not being coy; I’m 44, for anyone who’s interested), but it was the ongoing, untiring effort of that movement that led to my parents and I immigrating to the US from Odessa in 1977, and the rest of our family coming over throughout the 1980s.
Once in America, I participated in numerous protests myself. As I wrote for Kveller earlier, though I enjoyed myself at the time, as a parent I am loathe to let my kids be used as photogenic political symbols before they are old enough to decide for themselves whether or not this is a cause they want to be associated with. On the other hand, I do want to convey to my children just how important the work of those demonstrators 50 years ago was. And not just for the obvious reasons.
Ultimately, I ended up in the United States due to the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was the work of the government. But the government was pressured into passing the amendment due to the “Free Soviet Jewry” movement. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 29 2014
As a mom, there have only been a handful of times I have let my children see me cry. Yesterday, when I learned of the death of the great Pete Seeger, was one of those times. When I tried to explain who he was and some of the things he stood for, I could not complete my sentences. So I turned to YouTube and let Pete speak and sing for himself. Within minutes, my 4-year-old was dancing to “If I Had a Hammer,” and then we were all singing “We Are Not Afraid, To-day.” And of course, since we are farmers,“Inch by Inch.”
Meanwhile, my family and friends started sharing their personal Pete Seeger stories. My father told me about seeing him play near his cousins’ New Jersey chicken farm when he was a boy. My husband’s mother recalled seeing Pete play concerts at Jewish Community Centers near her home in Bayonne, New Jersey, during the 1950s when he was black-listed and few would hire him. My friend’s parents had a first date at a Pete Seeger concert. Other people sailed with him on the Clearwater or sang with him at summer camp, a political rally, or on a street corner.
This is my Pete story. I was raised on his music and my parents still keep his CDs on pretty much continuous loop in their house. When I was pregnant with my son seven years ago, I had placenta previa, a medical term for a low-lying placenta. The doctors said I would need a C-section if things did not change. I got even more worried when I had another ultrasound and the doctor was questioning whether the placenta was healthy in general. This was late in my pregnancy and that night I had a dream. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 15 2013
Potty-training makes you do weird things. I tote oversized handbags around town, filled with spare changes of clothes and super-absorbent camping towels. I keep in the car a portable self-sealing potty which can contain waste should we need to make an emergency roadside stop. (We’ve never used it, but just in case…) I’ve attached a watch-like timer to our backpack so that the little guy is reminded by a song to visit a restroom every 90 minutes. My husband and I have rewarded our son with stickers, silly noises, and painting his toenails.
One of the most awkward choices of this parenting adventure involved a major compromise of my values–a visit to Walmart. For years, Walmart has been a place where we only purchase things we cannot find elsewhere. I avoid Walmart due to its poor treatment of female employees, active discouragement of unions and collective worker protections, and the deleterious effects its business model has on the economies of rural and small-town areas. As a Jew, fair and respectful treatment of workers is a weighty, holy obligation. The Torah mandates prompt payment for labor performed. Employers cannot expect employees to defer their own basic needs in order to acquire work. Our courts must mete out justice to the rich and poor even-handedly. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 27 2012
Me protesting at 12 years old.
December 6, 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Free Soviet Jewry movement’s historic march on Washington in anticipation of Mikhail Gorbochev’s visit to the U.S. 250,000 people showed up to express their solidarity and to pressure the government of the USSR to “Let My People Go.”
I wasn’t at that rally. But by 1987, I had already lived in the US for 10 years and was a veteran of numerous local, similar events. I’d carried signs outside the Soviet consulate in San Francisco and on the sidewalk in front of theaters where Soviet actors or singers were performing. I’d almost gotten trampled by angry Asians at an event to condemn the USSR shooting down of a Korean jet-liner in 1983 and, because I was an adorably pig-tailed little immigrant girl who spoke good English (loudly) and didn’t appear to possess a shyness gene, I was paraded out to speak at rallies and fundraising events. Read the rest of this entry →