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Vol. 10, No. 4 SUl'nl'ner 1992 103 Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America, by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991. 396 pp. $22.00. Pogrebin's latest book, a personal response to being a Jewish female in contemporary America, is a passionate work, which accounts for its strengths as well as its weaknesses. The first half of the book chronicles Pogrebin's experiences as a young Jew in an observant household which had close ties with Israel. She covers her sense of exclusion from the heart of Jewish life based on gender and her subsequent involvement with the emerging Women's Movement, where she was able to lind a sense of meaning and self-worth. In large measure this is a coming-of-age story, and few Jewish women of "a certain age" would not find much that was familiar. What emerges is the degree to which feminism became an allencompassing commitment for those women who entered adulthood in the 1960s, a commitment which left little room for the spiritual side of one's life. But it is the feminism which eventually leads Pogrebin back to Judaism, albeit from a different perspective. And it is the need to integrate what she calls her "Jewish heart" with her "feminist head" that provides the impetus for these essays. The second half of the book, and for me the most valuable part, is the sections in which Pogrebin addresses such topics as Israel and feminism, the Jewish/Black agenda, Jews and Palestinians. Here, as in the foregoing chapters, Pogrebin writes from a personal point of view, which moves the reader along as if slhe were reading fiction. Much of the material is based on her IIrst-hand experiences in Israel, in Black-Jewish dialogue groups or in organized working groups of various kinds. The problem with this approach is its limited scope and lack of sufl1cient perspective. It is not that Pogrebin fails to present both sides of the issues or that she has not done her homework, it is simply that first-hand experiences have built-in limitations and often distort the larger picture. The advantage of Pogrebin's approach, however, is that the reader always knows where the author stands. And while the reader may not always agree with the sentiments, Pogrebin is strong and clear in her opinions and provides the reader with something to cut one's teeth on. It is hard to IInish the end chapters without entering into a personal debate with the author, most usually when one disagrees, but all this makes for very lively reading. Pogrebin is also very adept at expressing opinions other than her own, and for some Jewish readers the attitudes of Blacks and 104 SHOFAR Palestinians may come as a shocking surprise, even for those who keep up with the daily news. In addition to the' strictly political issues, Pogrebin also reflects upon various cultural phenomena which helped form her self-identity, most specifically the movies. She correctly identifies prevailing stereotypes and bemoans the limited images available for identification. But here, as elsewhere , her personal responses substitute for a thoroughgoing analysis. Her thumbnail sketch of the representation of Jewish women as presented by Hollywood is selective and incomplete. Although Pogrebin's experience in the movie theater may be familiar to many readers, it is only one possible response out of a multitude, and certainly the self-image we develop as Jewish women is happily more complex than what was provided by Hollywood. But this is to quibble. Pogrebin ends her book with a reaffirmation of the difficult and often frustrating process of dialogue. It is not a perfect process. Pogrebin's book, consciously or unconsciously, is an extension of this methodology and thus serves to open up rather than to summarize issues. In this respect it provides a valuable function at this moment in history. Patricia Brett Erens Department ofCommunicationArts & Science Rosary College Hebrew Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, by Dan Pagis. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. 84 pp. $22.50. This publication is a small but important book of essays concerning medieval Hebrew poetry. It can be instructive...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 103-104
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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