Woman Mind

Dr. Avivah Zornberg’s web site is low-tech and humble, the absence of easy linking has me scrolling up and down a lot. While scrolling, I come across a few casually scattered photographs of little girls, Avivah’s grandchildren, one crawling on a tiled floor, others posing in front of the dining room in their homemade Purim costumes.

I pause to wonder about this choice of visual. Are the children there as emissaries of innocence, softening their grandmother’s possibly intimidating persona? Is this an illustrious scholar’s way of playing it safe in an Orthodox world which is famously uneasy with eclectically-learned, intellectually-innovative women? Is this her way of subtly reassuring us that underneath her brilliance and originality she is really (just?) a loving sabta? Do scattered photos of granddaughters defuse accusation and jealousy, do they soften her challenge to the conservative guardians of gender roles in her world? It is rhetorical to ask if any male scholar of her stature would feel the same need to build in a humanizing disclaimer.

I mention this to my friend Dr. Harriet Fraad, a talented psychotherapist and lifelong, staunchly secular leftist. Harriet always impresses me with her very personalized version of feminism, her singular take on gender relations. When I comment that only a woman scholar in a sexist community would need to hedge her prominence with pictures of granddaughters, I expect Harriet to agree.  But Harriet surprises me with her own point of view. She thinks it’s “wonderful and refreshing” that Dr Z. feels no need to keep family or mothering aspects of self safely hidden from view. Harriet champions AZ’s courage in letting everyone know that her outstanding scholarship in no way inhibits other aspects of her life as a woman. Dr. Fraad applauds the way Dr. Zornberg resists conforming to a male-imposed reduction of womanhood to categories; by insisting on her whole self she transcends a cultural either/or.

Avivah Zornberg endorses the Bible as the literal word of God and weaves her intricate web of personal meaning from there; Harriet Fraad is a firm nonbeliever in the great tradition of Jewish Marxists and looks for meaning outside of the transcendent. Zornberg understands God as speaking to us through the unconscious, while Fraad would suspect God fixation as a barrier to connection with woman self.

Still, this conversation unites the two women across a great ideological divide. They meet in the invisible spider web of the receptive mind. Somewhere in the atmosphere of interconnection that is the awakened woman mind, we each discern a design. In every point of view there is something that transfigures the ordinary.

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About susanrtorn

writer, life coach
This entry was posted in Avivah Zornberg and Me, Personal Evolution, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Woman Mind

  1. Deborah says:

    I especially love Dr. Fraad’s take on the Zornberg grandchildren pictures. Here’s hoping we’re evolving toward a more multidimensional view of humans of the female persuasion!

  2. Harriet Fraad says:

    As a woman who was a founding mother of the then “Women’s Liberation Movement”, I feel that we made many mistakes. One is that we clearly saw what we did not have. We were effectively barred from the important spheres of life that are political, economic and intellectual. Naturally there were token exceptions that managed to escape gender steropathy.There always are a few tokens.
    What we did not see was the enormous learning in our traditional roles as the emotional laborers that hold children, families, other women, and men together. By the same token we could not see the value in our uncelebrated uncompensated roles in maintaining life, in providing meals, and order, and cleanliness. We need all spheres of life to be present, articulated, appreciated, compensated and practiced by men and women. When women went to work after managing others’ lives and their own homes, they had no skills to articulate and claim in the job market. That is scandalous! There ought to be a financial reward for the skills of emotional labor and life maintenance in which we excel. Susan Reimer’s blog is a step toward this crucial goal. Hurray for Susan!

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