Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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flict an ex ternal dramatization o f the internal conflicts o f a con­
temporary woman who is both Jewish and feminist. Annie/
And rea — the names are linked by the ir initial letter, and by
the initial le tter o f the au tho r ’s first name, Anne. T h e novel
concludes with Annie acquiescing to A nd rea’s life in the Yeshiva
world and in an arranged marriage. T h e fa ther o f A nd rea’s
in tended husband — like her, a newly-Orthodox American —
arranges to k idnap his son from the Yeshiva. T he boy’s m o ther
clips h e r sons earlocks and beard as he lies in a d rugged stupor,
and the paren ts arrange to commit him to a mental institution
in the United States for a “recovery p rog ram ” o f uncertain d u ­
ration. Tem p ted to do the same for her daugh ter , Annie instead
deliberately triggers the Yeshiva’s rescue effort, which brings
the young man back to the Yeshiva and to his bride-to-be. But
the emplotted tr ium ph o f religion over modernity is provisional.
Annie awaits an imagined g randdaugh te r who, in her tu rn , will
find the secular world alluring, will want to become a doctor,
a feminist, an American.
Vanessa Ochs’s
Words on Fire
explores the conflicts between
religious Juda ism and feminism in a m anner both less and more
complicated than Roiphe’s novel. Less complicated, because
ra th e r than utilizing the narrative device o f a feminist m o ther
and O rthodox daugh ter, Ochs’s narrative filters everything
th rough the m ind o f the n a r ra to r who observes, wonders, chal­
lenges, analyzes. And more complicated, because Ochs’s n a r ra ­
tive allows fo r a more nuanced consideration o f Juda ism and
o f feminism.
T he n a r ra to r o f Ochs’s memoir enters the world o f O rthodox
and u ltra-O rthodox women in Jerusa lem on an intellectual and
spiritual quest. She wonders what spiritual resources Juda ism
contains fo r women like herself, and wonders fu r th e r how in
draw ing on those resources, women may partake o f a religious
trad ition built on the ir systematic exclusion. H er search draws
h e r into Jewish texts, and into the presence o f women both
O rthodox and knowledgeable, women who find in Jewish texts
and Jewish practice a source o f empowerment and transcenden t
meaning. She meets u ltra -O rthodox women for whom neither
secular no r Jewish feminism holds any appeal. They embody