Thursday, July 28, 2016

Playing the Woman's Card and Proud Of It

In 1970, after graduating from college, I took my resume around to many employment agents. They all admired it and gushed, “You have such a wonderful resume for one so young. How many words per minute do you type?”

A few of them threw in this advice: “Enroll at Katie Gibbs. It’ll only take a year. Many girls move up from secretaries to management.”

My male friends did not have similar experiences. NOW had an action at the time where they’d send women and then men with similar qualifications to employment agencies and then they’d compare notes. Their experiences were very different. I remember giving NOW a list of all the employment agents who asked me what my typing speed was so they could investigate those agents.

I attended consciousness-raising sessions and learned that I wasn’t the only young woman who was asked by employment agents about my typing speed. FROM THE PERSONAL TO THE POLITICAL, the most misinterpreted slogan in political history. What it meant was yes, it happened to me. It also happened to hundreds of others. Maybe it’s a political problem demanding a political solution. Thus the personal became political. Nevertheless, it also remained personal. I remember how angry and frustrated I felt. It’s part of my story.

Many younger women who grew up after the women’s movement don’t remember those bad old days. They take it for granted that women can be accepted at medical school and law school, become engineers and CEO’s of companies, Senators and Congresswomen. And yes, even President of the United States. Yes we’re behind many other nations in that regard- England, Germany, Israel, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil just to name a few countries that have had women heads of state. Nevertheless, maybe America is finally catching up and it's a momentous step for us. Yes, America has come a long way and I hope a longer way by electing Hillary in November. 

When Hillary Clinton was nominated by the Democratic Party  to be their nominee for President of the United States, I felt a lump in my throat. Then I felt a rush. Hillary has worked all her life for women to get equal pay for equal work, for women’s right to choose, for child care that will level the playing field for all women regardless of economic class. We can continue to call those issues “women’s issues” if we want, but they affect everyone in our society. If we want to continue to improve economic justice in our country, they’re vital issues.

Maybe those bad old days are on the way to becoming a moment frozen in history but maybe not. This may not be the case if Donald Trump and the Republicans win and turn back the clock on women’s right to choose, funding for childcare, equal pay for equal work, and many other issues. I'll hope for the best. Then I’ll do what I can to help get out the vote for Hillary and other Democrats. We’ve come this far and it would be tragic to get turned around now.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Traveling to America - It Doesn't Seem Like the Country I Know Anymore

My grandmother came to America with her family in 1905. She was only eight years old at the time, but remembered this major event for the rest of her life and told me about it repeatedly until she passed away at the age of 86. Theodore Roosevelt was President then and my Grandma always spoke about what a great man he was and how her father-my great-grandfather- respected him. They were always grateful to the United States for taking them in.

How transformative it must have been for my relatives after fleeing the anti-Semitism and pogroms of Russia to sail into Liberty Island and see the Lady gleaming in the harbor, her poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the statue’s base welcoming them into America, a country of freedom and opportunity.
The last few lines of “The New Colossus” which Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 are well known.

….Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Unless you're a Native American Indian, you’ve come to America from another country or your ancestors have – maybe your parents came or maybe in your case, it was many generations back. Maybe your relatives came very unwillingly as slaves or indentured servants but regardless, they came from another place and made America their home. We are a country of immigrants and it is a major source of our strength.

Admittedly, America hasn’t always unanimously welcomed every wave of immigration. In the 1850’s, the Know Nothings nominated former President Fillmore as their standard bearer to fight against the tides of Irish Catholic immigration. In the 1920’s, the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 was passed and the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed as well establishing yearly quotas for immigrants from each country. During World War II shiploads of Jewish refugees were turned away. In more recent times, we’ve made it difficult for Mexicans and other Central Americans who’ve come here from poverty and violence desperately trying to survive. I’m not proud of any of these moments in our history.

Rather, I like to think of the America that has managed better than almost any other country on Earth to form a nation out of all the many peoples who have come seeking  here refuge and/or better opportunities. From 1880-1920 America received 20 million immigrants. Their descendants are now Americans. 

When I see people subscribing to the racism and xenophobia espoused by Donald Trump, I feel blessed that neither my grandmother nor mother is alive to see him receive the nomination of one of our major political parties. We have done so much better and we should continue to do so much better. I pray that we find a way out of this wilderness of hatred and listen to our better angels. I know that we Americans can.
The Statue of Liberty - May she continue to be the beacon of freedom and hospitality to the world.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Traveling in Chicago and Finding a Message of Peace

Few people visiting Chicago these days are looking for peaceful messages and I wouldn’t tell people to come here in search of any. With the recent murder of police officers in Dallas and the all too often murder of African-Americans at the hands of police, many of us are searching for peace. Fortunately for those of  us who live in the Chicago area there is one place to visit where we can find tranquility – the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette.

When we lived in Haifa, Israel in the early 1970’s, we could look through the back window of our apartment and see the Baha’i Shrine. The shrine itself was beautiful and its gardens were a rare sanctuary of peace in a world often torn apart by violence. I felt fortunate then to be able to see it from my window and envision a world in which inter-ethnic harmony was a possibility although a very distant one.

the Baha'i Shrine in Haifa
I can no longer see the Baha’i Shrine from my window, but I can drive a few miles and visit the Bahai House of Worship in Wilmette just north of Evanston along Lake Michigan. I think the building is even more beautiful than the one I remember in Haifa. Entry into the house of worship, the gardens, and the visitor center are free to the public. No wonder Victor Danilov lists it under religious museums in Chicago’s Museums, A Complete Guide to the City’s Cultural Attractions. 
the Baha'i Shrine in Wilmette, Illinois

The Bahai’s main belief is in the oneness of humanity and in the development of relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions that reflect that. Attainment of peace is their goal. They believe that all religions are one in a continuing progression of learning throughout the centuries. That’s a very small thumbnail sketch of their belief system. To explore it further, you can go to their website

In the Visitor Center

Indeed, the Baha’i have attained peace in the style of the building and in the visitor center where you can learn more about this religious group and its belief system. The real attraction for me is the gardens. Walking through them is a walk through tranquility itself. The entire shrine is surrounded by gardens that are beautifully manicured and painstakingly cultivated. For that alone, it is worth the visit. Do go there while everything is in bloom. It’s a massage for the soul. 

one view of the gardens at the Bahai shrine in Wilmette

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Traveling in Chicago- The Museum of Contemporary Photography

Sometimes it “takes a village” and other times it “takes a photograph”. When we hear about an injustice, we may feel some concern. When we see it right before our eyes, it can be impossible to ignore. Few people will forget the image of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed upon the shores of Europe. Knowing how powerful an image can be, the Museum of Contemporary Photography displays photography exhibits depicting social conditions.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP), ,a part of Columbia College, was opened in 1976. It is located at 600 S. Michigan Avenue and is free to the public. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00-5:00 and on Sundays from 12:00-5:00. This museum is small and it doesn’t take long to see one of their exhibits. I recommend a visit when you’re in the area. The images in its current exhibit are quite poignant.

I was fortunate to pay a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Photography in time to see their current exhibit Burnt Generation, Contemporary Iranian Photography. It is there through this weekend- through July 10th- and definitely worth seeing. This exhibit of contemporary Iranian photographers is powerful. Although we have seen many Iranian movies that eloquently depicted the challenges in Iranian society, we had not seen Iranian photographs. Nevertheless, the movies had piqued my interest and I was interested to see this exhibit.

Many of the pictures are in black and white adding to the severity of the situation the photographer is showing us. Most of the pictures that aren’t in black and white are in very subdued tones showing a whole society caught in a very somber mood. The photographs are all taken by contemporary Iranian photographers of people in the generation-those born between 1963-1980 known as the Burnt Generation. They had experienced the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War and all the consequences thereafter. The social and political unrest that they endured shows on the people’s faces.

I especially admired the photos taken by Newsha Tavakolian. She took pictures of people in such private moments that I almost felt like I should look away.


This other picture by Gohar Dashti is of a group but it had the same effect on me. Could we be that different from one another? I think not.


Altogether, this was a very thoughtfully assembled exhibit. The MOCP’s next exhibit starting July 21st will be open until October 9th. Its title is “Petcoke: Tracing Dirty Energy.” I’m looking forward to seeing how they treat this timely topic.