Sisterhood Blog

The Redemption of Valley Girl Speak

By Elissa Strauss

IMDB // The Valley girl characters Cher Horowitz and Dionne Davenport in “Clueless”

Like, yes. Like totally. Like finally. The Valley girls of the world have been redeemed.

In what I hope is the last and final word on girl speak, the New York Times recently ran an oped by prominent linguist and literature professor John McWhorter in which he makes a case for the use of “like” and “totally.”

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Treating Babies Like Adults

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

A few years ago at a holiday party at my brother’s house one toddler began hitting another toddler. After a few minutes the parents of the boy being hit asked the parents of the hitter if they wouldn’t mind telling their kid to stop.

“No. We can’t. We don’t believe in telling our son ‘no.’ We believe kids need to figure out these things themselves.”

A little shocked and a little annoyed, the parents of the boy being hit picked up their son and walked away.

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Jill Soloway's 'Transparent'

By Elissa Strauss

Jill Soloway, who has written and produced shows like “Six Feet Under,” “United States of Tara” and, her directorial debut, the movie “Afternoon Delight,” isn’t afraid to get a little Jewy and a little feminist in her latest work. She goes there, straight there, and for this, we love her.

She has a new pilot out on Amazon called “Transparent,” with a brilliant ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Tambor and Gabby Hoffman, playing a Los Angeles Jewish family with secrets to tell. (If you don’t want to know what those secrets are yet, read this interview after you watch the show.)

The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke with Soloway about L.A. Jews, how becoming a Jewish mother made her a better artist and what you can (okay, should — again, this is a Jewish, feminist comedy!) do to help “Transparent” get turned into a full series.

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Jill Soloway's 'Transparent'

By Elissa Strauss

Jill Soloway, who has written and produced shows like “Six Feet Under,” “United States of Tara” and, her directorial debut, the movie “Afternoon Delight,” isn’t afraid to get a little Jewy and a little feminist in her latest work. She goes there, straight there, and for this, we love her.

She has a new pilot out on Amazon called “Transparent,” with a brilliant ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Tambor and Gabby Hoffman, playing a Los Angeles Jewish family with secrets to tell. (If you don’t want to know what those secrets are yet, read this interview after you watch the show.)

The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke with Soloway about L.A. Jews, how becoming a Jewish mother made her a better artist and what you can (okay, should — again, this is a Jewish, feminist comedy!) do to help “Transparent” get turned into a full series.

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Writer Aimee Bender Veers Into New Territory

By Lilit Marcus

Author Aimee Bender

L.A.-based writer Aimee Bender is one of the world’s masters of magical realism. Her first two books of short stories, “The Girl with the Flammable Skirt” and “Willful Creatures,” both featured characters — mostly women — dealing with extraordinary circumstances in quite ordinary ways. For example, the girl who treats her potato babies like normal human infants. Her novel. “The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake,” was a stretch on the genre, taking the unrealistic story of a girl who can taste the emotions of the people who make her food and making it the underpinning of an otherwise realistic story of family discord and loss.

Bender’s latest book, “The Color Master” is a return to the short-story form that made her famous. But even the most fantastic stories contain a certain sobering reality. The characters are more and more human, picking up their kids from school, stressing about aging, and dealing with infirm relatives. In two of the standout stories, “The Doctor and the Rabbi” and “The Fake Nazi,” Bender deals with Judaism in a head-on, direct way that she’s never done before.

In “The Doctor and the Rabbi,” Bender’s titular doctor, an atheist, is charged with caring for a rabbi who has a blood disease. He gives her weekly transfusions from Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and atheists, waiting to see if the new blood will cause her to think differently about her religion. Despite her healing, the rabbi remains a rabbi — and even encourages the doctor to pray with her.

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31, Jewish and Nowhere To Go

By Rachel Rosmarin

Rachel Rosmarin
Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, California.

The synagogue nearest to my new house is the second-oldest in Los Angeles. Recessed from the street in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Highland Park, it’s so small that it nearly looks like a house — albeit one with lovely stained glass windows. The Rabbi, who used to be a dancer, seems to have brought new life to the place, but the congregation is still so small that it can’t support a traditional Hebrew school. The shul “has roots in conservative Judaism” but is unaffiliated.

I know all this because as soon as I moved from the west side to the east side of Los Angeles, I Googled the heck out of the place and, of course, did a drive-by. I’m intrigued, and I’m curious, but I haven’t been inside Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, and I can’t decide if I want to.

Oh, not this old chestnut again, you’re thinking. But listen. We all know that non-Orthodox American Jews are increasingly uninterested in synagogue attendance and membership. We’ve seen the studies. Only 7% of conservative and reform synagogue members are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to a 2010 survey, and that number doesn’t exclude those college kids who are still on their parents’ memberships. What percent of post-college but pre-parenthood Jews belong to shuls, let alone take interest in them? Surely the number is tiny.

But I’m open. I want to be sold on a shul. I’ve already visited most of the conservative synagogues in the Los Angeles area and, for one reason or another, found them wanting. I’ve come to realize that what I want in a shul assuredly does not exist, which is why I’m avoiding setting foot inside the walls of my new neighbor.

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