Jewfem Blog

The book tour as a life journey: Stops along the way

There have been some moments on my book tour when I felt like I’m on a journey revisiting my own life. Part observer, part social commentator, and part Jewish traveler, I seem to be making stops that connect in significant ways to voyages past. The first striking moment was the discovery that Prof. Jon Levisohn of Brandeis University would moderate at my official book launch. Jon and I were very close friends when we were 14, and the truth is that even though we have only seen each other a few times over the past 20 years, he has a very special place in my heart. During that awkward period of adolescence when it’s easy to think that nobody sees you or understands you, Jon was a patient and kind listener, and a thoughtful, intelligent conversationalist. Actually, it seems to me that he still is all those things. His friendship was healing then, and his presence at my first ever book launch was incredibly comforting. It made me feel whole. As if to say, I have been on this journey for thirty years, taking me to this place, and I stll am this same person. And by the way, the fact that we both ended up with doctorates in education makes me wonder what we were talking about during those late night conversations all those years ago. My tour has also taken me back to the Barnard/Columbia Hillel, some 21 years after I graduated from Barnard. I spent a lot of time at the Hillel back then, when it was in what now seems like a small office in Earl Hall. I was particularly active in Columbia Students for Israel, with my friend Josh Leibowitz, z”l, and I remember many hours spent preparing all kinds of flyers and events. We used to sometimes take over the desk of then program coordinator Helise Leiberman who was nice enough to pretend not to mind. (Helise now works with Jewish students in Poland, and we recently reconnected, and are now Facebook friends of course.) We were really happy then, I think – although seeing what HIllel has become, a multi-story building of its own, the Kraft Center for Jewish Life, with an Indian-themed kosher cafeteria, alarge synagogue that does not alternate as a mosque, and lots of spacious rooms and offices for every possible occasion including four different types of prayer services, just blows my mind. The building today is used by a thousand students on campus. That’s just amazing. Still, I should say that the moment that really blew me away was when I mentioned during my session that partnership synagogues have “only” been around for ten years, realizing that for some of the students in the room, that was more than half their lives! Their reality forced me to adjust my thinking and reconsider my narrative of social change. At one of these events, I had a very special audience member: Susan "Sooz" Goodman, my first cousin once removed, whom I had...

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