Where We Find Our­selves: Jew­ish Women Around the World Write About Home

Miri­am Ben-Yoseph and Deb­o­rah Nodler Rosen, eds.
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012

The ten­sion between the ideas of home and exile is a cen­tral theme in much of Jew­ish writ­ing through­out his­to­ry, for both male and female Jew­ish writ­ers. This col­lec­tion attempts to look at issues of home that specif­i­cal­ly relate to the expe­ri­ence of con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish women. The edi­tors of Where We Find Our­selves have tried to col­lect a wide array of mate­r­i­al that speaks to the ques­tion posed in the title. This vol­ume includes fic­tion, essays, and poet­ry from both well-known pro­fes­sion­al and avo­ca­tion­al writ­ers. The back­ground of the writ­ers is diverse as well, rep­re­sent­ing voic­es that draw on the expe­ri­ences of com­ing from or sojourn­ing in places as wide-rang­ing as Shang­hai, Chi­na, Poland, North Africa, South Africa, North Amer­i­ca, Israel, and Romania. 

What home” means is a ques­tion that lends itself to rich, com­plex answers, and many of the pieces in this col­lec­tion address that ques­tion in inter­est­ing ways. Can we ever, as Jews and as women, tru­ly be at home any­where? Are we for­ev­er marked as out­siders, des­tined to always be in exile even when we are sec­ond, third, or fourth gen­er­a­tion cit­i­zens of the coun­try whose pass­port we hold? Or is home not a place at all but rather a way of being? These ques­tions are com­pelling and allow for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mate­r­i­al that push­es and moves the reader. 

Yet in the end, this col­lec­tion is dis­ap­point­ing. The qual­i­ty of the mate­r­i­al includ­ed in the col­lec­tion is uneven. The poet­ry is the strongest mate­r­i­al in the book over­all, draw­ing in part from the work of estab­lished poets like Elsa Lasker-Schuler and Lin­da Zisquit. How­ev­er, the fic­tion excerpts often feel out-of-con­text, and the essays range from fas­ci­nat­ing to mun­dane. In the end, it feels like the edi­tors worked too hard to fit mate­r­i­al into their theme and strove too hard to achieve diver­si­ty with­out con­sid­er­ing over­all qual­i­ty. The col­lec­tion thus lacks real cohesion. 

Hara E. Per­son was ordained by Hebrew Union Col­lege-Jew­ish Insti­tute of Reli­gion. She is a writer and editor.

Discussion Questions