Sisterhood Blog

Good Advice for Malia and Sasha Obama

By Devra Ferst

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it but I have a soft spot for commencement speeches. They provide a rare opportunity to hear people at the top of their game — actors, politicians, scientists, musicians, inventors — shelve their normal talking points and share a bit of wisdom they’ve acquired through their life.

getty images
Barack Obama speaks at Barnard’s commencement.

Since graduating from Barnard College in 2007, I have watched Anna Deavere Smith, Meryl Streep and Sheryl Sandberg address the graduates of my alma mater. No matter the speaker, the role of women in our world is always front and center in these speeches. This year’s speaker — President Obama — seemed to offer the ultimate opportunity to hear someone I admire speak about women’s rights.

Cloaked in one of Columbia’s signature pale blue gowns, Obama stood behind the podium and joked about his time at the university in the early 1980s, when Michael Jackson’s moonwalk was the pinnacle of cool. More significantly, the president went on to discuss the improvements in the gender gap in higher education and in the workplace.

But what struck me most about this year’s graduation was not the speaker himself or what he had to say, but a small black book that was presented to him shortly before the ceremony. The book, “Pass It On: Wisdom from the Barnard College Class of 2012 to Sasha and Malia Obama,” is made up of 74 letters from members of the graduating class addressed to the First Daughters. The book embodies the sentiment of a Madeleine Albright quote that student body president Jessica Blank stated during her speech: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” So here, the Barnard Class of 2012, put pen to paper to help two young women.

The introduction of the book states: “To Sasha and Malia…We are honored that [your father] chose to share his words with us at our Commencement… and we wanted to share our thoughts with you in return.”

Barnard shared excerpts of the book with The Sisterhood.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Malia Obama, Commencement Speech, Barnard College, Barack Obama, Advice, Sasha Obama

Emily Yoffe's, Randy Cohen's 'Advice To Live By'

By Gabrielle Birkner

Teresa Castracane, slate.com
Emily Yoffe writes Slate’s ‘Dear Prudence’ column.

“I recently met a good girl but there is a problem. She has a dimple in her chin and people say that if someone has this, their husband will die early. So I don’t know if I should keep on seeing this girl — please help me.” … “A pogrom took place in Bialystok, where my old parents and a sister with three children live. Should I try to bring them here, or go there and help my brothers in their struggle?”

These questions were answered, in the early part of the 20th century, in Yiddish Forward’s legendary advice column, “A Bintel Brief.” Today the questions posed to columnists are more likely to deal with JDate stalkers and Facebook etiquette, but the appetite for good advice is no less voracious.

Advice is a field in which Jews, particularly Jewish women, have long excelled. Two prominent (and, yes, Jewish) advice columnists, Emily Yoffe, Slate’s “Dear Prudence,” and The New York Times Magazine’s former “Ethicist,” Randy Cohen, joined me last week to discuss why people like reading answers to problems they don’t have, the ways in which Judaism influences their work and how we can all be better advice-givers.

Here are some highlights from our public discussion, held at New York’s Museum at Eldridge Street. The museum is currently hosting an exhibit, inspired by the Bintel Brief, featuring the work of graphic artist and Forward contributor Liana Finck.

Gabrielle Birkner: The media has changed drastically since [the Forward’s founding editor] Ab Cahan answered Bintel Brief letters, and since Ann Landers became a household name in the mid-century. But the advice column has endured. What gives it such staying power?

Emily Yoffe: I think there are two things: 1) “Oh my God, the same thing happened to me,” and 2) “Oh my God, my life is so much better than this person’s. Thank goodness I didn’t have an affair with my stepmother, and now I have to tell my father.”

Gabrielle Birkner: So there’s something in it for everyone.

Emily Yoffe: I was re-reading [“A Bintel Brief”] and the human drama, the desire to get a peek into other people’s lives never changes, even though there are some letters in here about pogroms, the grinding poverty of the immigrants who were shipped here — that’s different — but there are other letters in here very similar to the ones that come into my inbox.

Randy Cohen: My experience is very much yours when you use the word “drama.” In 75 words, the questions in my column do what Tolstoy would do in 100,000 words. In drama, someone has to want something. And how you feel at the end is different from how you feel at the beginning. It’s a glimpse into other people’s lives. The same reason that pornography is popular, I was popular.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Randy Cohen, Emily Yoffe, Advice

An 'Advice Goddess' on the Age of Rudeness

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

advicegoddess.com
Alkon’s ‘I See Rude People’ (click to enlarge)

Amy Alkon, the witty syndicated advice columnist behind “The Advice Goddess,” thinks rudeness has reached epidemic proportions.

Alkon opens her book “I See Rude People” with a description of being subjected to a stranger’s decibel-crushing cell phone conversation. And woe to the person who shouts out his phone number within earshot of Alkon. She’s at the ready to take down that number and call him back to tell him how rude it is to be conducting loud personal conversations in public spaces.

The L.A.-based Alkon is an advice columnist for the 21st century — grappling with the intricacies of what constitutes polite behavior in these chaotic and unprecedented technological times. “People are basically the same as they always were,” she told The Sisterhood during a recent phone interview. “Technology enables rude people to disseminate rudeness faster and more effectively.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rude, Amy Alkon, Advice

From a Single Gal (and Her Parents), Advice to Just-Married Friends

By Hinda Mandell

I’ve been summoned to give wedding advice. Well, I along with 156 other wedding guests. Two of my friends are marrying each other in Upstate New York. And while they’ve known each other since their Hebrew School days they’ve only begun dating as adults. It’s all very sweet and loving and good.

This week they sent out an email to their wedding guests letting us know about a Quaker tradition that will be incorporated into their Jewish wedding: Before the blessing of the rings, guests will be able to offer well-wishes and advice to this couple, based on the religious tradition of “witnessing.”

I want to be a part of this ritual. But as an unmarried person I felt that any advice I could offer would be tempered by my marital status. After all, isn’t the best part of advice that it comes from someone else’s lived experiences?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Advice, Jewish, Marriage, Quaker




Find us on Facebook!
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.