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From a Working-Class Jewish Female

It’s always difficult for me to write to any of the RC e-mail discussion lists. I have to push myself past feelings of insignificance. The combination of being raised in a mixed working- and middle-class Jewish home, facing heavy male domination and anti-Jewish oppression as a young female, and my particular early hurts has made it extremely difficult for me to have a voice. I can’t help but notice that I am not alone in this. Although the Working-Class Women’s Workshop1 was a powerful and forward-moving one, few women have written about it so far.

At a meal table with a few of the other Jewish women, Diane2 noticed that feelings of invisibility were a common thread for us. Yet the working-class Jewish women that she grew up around were the ones who had fought the hardest and the loudest for the rights of those around them and also in the home. It has had me wondering what has shut us up.3 My mind keeps going back to the demonstration in which it seemed unthinkable to the client that workers were female. I feel something similar as a Jew. The combination of intense but somewhat hidden anti-Jewish oppression in the United States and the mistaken idea held by many Ashkenazi Jews4 that upward mobility is the key to safety has left me feeling that I cannot be a Jew and a worker at the same time.

So what would my direction be? Workers have breasts! And vaginas! And read Torah!5 And observe the Sabbath!6 There’s no one thing that all Jews do, so it’s hard to figure this one out. Ideas are welcome.

Generally at workshops it takes me a full twenty-four hours to “thaw out” enough to begin discharging hard. I have come to expect this numbness and was completely surprised to find that I was able to discharge on heavy early material7 from the very first short session in my support group and then continue throughout the weekend. I loved every moment of being with my working-class sisters and being led by Diane and Dan,8 who each loved us up.9

Joelle Hochman
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women

1 A workshop held in Massachusetts in April 2015
Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women and the leader of the workshop along with Dan Nickerson, the International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People
“Shut us up” means made us be quiet.
Ashkenazi Jews are Jews of Central and Eastern European descent, who generally identify as white.
Torah is the body of wisdom and law contained in Jewish Scripture and other sacred literature.
The Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday and continues until sundown on Saturday
“Material” means distress.
8 See footnote 2.
“Loved us up” means thoroughly loved us.

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00