Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
proves this dichotomy false. T h e g randm o the r repeatedly tells
her family, “I cook with a ha te” (16). By this she means, quite
simply, tha t she hates to cook, hates the domesticity to which
gende r has relegated her. But not ou t o f envy o f male ritual
privilege; she is quite con ten t to leave religious practices and
T o rah study “for the m en” (17). Rather, she resents time away
from the business, where she feels most fully herself. She is
“in heaven” when “taking care o f the business and do ing the
books” (16).
Roiphe’s Annie John son reaps the consequences o f m ode r­
nity: she painfully reclaims a place in the marketplace and
thanks modernity, unaware o f the irony tha t Jewish women had
been the re before her, had been forced ou t by the adven t o f
modernity. Annie esteems the life o f the New England spinsters,
but not the life o f h e r O rthodox grandm o ther . T hu s she cannot
com p rehend why the feminist wellspring has run dry for h er
daugh ter . In h er argum en ts with A nd rea and with the Yeshiva
rabbi, Annie sets O rthodoxy against democracy, American lib­
eralism, freedom o f choice and freedom o f expression. She nev­
er recognizes tha t an illusory sense o f universality has curtailed
the choices o f Jewish women by silencing the ir voices and ef­
facing the ir identities; she never acknowledges tha t h e r liberal
feminism has not succeeded in protec ting even feminists from
harassment and coercion. Thus , Annie is unequ ipped to re ­
spond meaningfully to h e r d augh te r ’s critique. She reiterates
tired argumen ts, insisting tha t cultural and political values tha t
consistently failed to galvanize h e r d augh te r should now do so.
But Annie never gets A nd rea’s critique, so she awaits a g ran d ­
daugh te r to inherit the legacy o f an un ta rn ished liberal fem ­
inism. Roiphe’s narrative presents Annie’s and A nd rea ’s world
views as opposing bu t equally plausible. T he narrative sensibility
ping-pongs between the ir voices, never allowing tha t A nd rea ’s
critique m ight reshape feminism, o r at least reshape h e r mo ther.
Finally, the narrative maintains, one must choose between the ir
visions and take the consequences. No synthesis is imagined.
In recovering and reconsidering Jewish texts and practices,
ne ither Ochs’s autobiographical narrative no r the fiction o f
Roiphe, Rapoport, and Goodman o ffe r apologetics fo r the p rob ­
lematic role o f woman. They do no t tell us tha t the constrictions
in one’s ou te r life do not ma tter when amply compensa ted by
a richness o f inne r life. They worry abou t the dilemma facing