I’ve always loved “The Lives They Lived,” the year-end issue of The New York Times Magazine profiling famous and not-so-famous people who made an impact on the world and died during the previous 12 months.
No, let me correct that. I should say that I’ve loved the issue until now.
This difference is not attributable to the design of this year’s issue (though I can undoubtedly say that it is not my favorite). Rather, it’s because reading “The Lives They Lived” is no longer an edifying coda to my year, a comforting annual tradition allowing me to deepen and broaden my knowledge about the influence of individuals on history.
This year, I knew someone personally in the magazine. And that changed everything.
To be sure, many of those profiled in this year’s issue touched my life in some way. Loops of Whitney Houston songs play in my head when I think of my college and grad school years. Neil Armstrong’s moon landing is my first memory of watching TV. I cannot read the name Vidal Sassoon without recalling the scent of the shampoo I used for years. A worn copy of Maurice Sendak’s “In The Night Kitchen” is one of the only books I made sure to save from my childhood and pass on to my kids.
Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times, is currently covering Operation Pillar of Defense from inside Gaza. Rudoren, who was appointed to her post in May of this year and who had previously reported on presidential campaigns, education and the Midwest for the Times, is covering a war for the first time in her career.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities, Rudoren left her husband and five-year-old twins at home in Jerusalem and headed to Gaza, arriving there Thursday late afternoon. Despite “spotty Internet,” as she put it, Rudoren was able to communicate with The Sisterhood by email from Gaza on Friday evening.
Here is what she shared about being a female reporter among other women war correspondents, what she has seen so far, and juggling being a mother and a bureau chief on the front lines.
The New York Times blog Motherlode provides a smart and nuanced look into the pressing parenting issues of the day. Led by KJ Dell’Antonia, the blog covers things like work-life balance, breastfeeding, divorce and infertility. What is absent is things like shedding the baby weight, nursery decoration tips, or why moms with $1,000 strollers do or don’t suck.
The blog is a serious look at parenting, and shows how a smart discussion on the topic will inevitably hit upon matters of politics, economics and science. And yet, the New York Times considers the blog as part of the Style section online and features it in the Home section in the print edition.
The Times’ editors think the blog best fits in among stories about fashion, beauty, and interior design. I don’t.
So, so much has been written about work-life balance in the past year, which is an old conversation re-ignited by Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story. What emerged in the recent discussion about balancing career, money and child rearing is that this isn’t just an issue for moms. Instead, this debate probes deeply into how we, all of us, men and women, work and organize our family life today.
Like many graduates of the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, I’ve spent the week in consternation over the New York Times Magazine story exposing a tragic history of sexual abuse at my alma mater (also the alma mater of the story’s writer and editor).
Most of the abuse, but not necessarily all, took place before my time, before the current administration, before the school as it is now. Yet its revelation is searing. The conditions appear to have been a perfect storm: a top-tier academy protecting itself, a lingering male-only culture, eccentric teachers and students both granted ample independence, a New York student body that likely fancied itself more sophisticated than it was, and a widespread and perhaps internalized homophobia. All these, plus what appears to be gross negligence on the part of the administration, created a dangerous environment for many students. At least one predator seems to have walked the halls for years, and at least two people involved (one perpetrator, one victim) later killed themselves.
At first, I felt shocked and horrified, but with a patina of head-shaking knowingness. After all, hadn’t I, well before the story broke, summed up Horace Mann to a stranger as not only stellar academically, but “the school most likely to end up on the cover of a magazine” due to scandal?
The story was about Rabbi Yael Buechler’s weekly Manicures Midrash club for middle school students at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. Kids can opt to paint their nails instead of taking one of the other electives, like the glee club, a sports writing seminar or the math club. Rabbi Buechler teaches the girls — and they are not surprisingly all girls — the finer techniques of nail polishing, as well as Jewish texts and commentaries to inspire their midrashic designs.
Never have I been so torn about an innovative educational approach. As an experienced Jewish educator, I am always appreciative of new and creative ways to engage students in Torah study. It is clear that the nail painting in Rabbi Buechler’s class is a means to an important educational end. At the same time, I am somewhat uneasy with the manicure piece of this.
I used to roll my eyes when my mother would point to someone on television and say, “He’s Jewish!” or, “She’s Jewish!” Now I’m that person, thrilling to the news of a Jewish woman’s rise to a position of prominence and influence, like when Elena Kagan was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, or when Jill Abramson was named the new executive editor of The New York Times.
So I joined Forward Editor Jane Eisner and countless others in reading with particular interest Abramson’s interview with Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane in last Sunday’s issue of the paper.
Brisbane’s first question in that interview is whether Times readers would notice a difference “because a woman is now in charge.”
I come from a family where halacha is championed alongside the freedom and power of the individual. It is a hard balance to forge, and it is one that comes with contradictions and hurdles. Recently in the news was the story of a Capitol Hill staffer who would not grant his wife a get, or a Jewish divorce decree. On the one hand, I find there to be something sacred about the untouchable nature of halacha. On the other hand, I cannot support a belief system that allows for women’s freedoms to be taken away without any real repercussions according to the law.
I emailed a New York Times article about the divorce dispute to a friend, who subsequently expressed his dismay that the Orthodox belief system could survive with such an edict intact. I argued that at least the Orthodox community is taking measures against those men who refuse their wife a get. At present, a common communal response against a man who leaves his wife an agunah, or a chained woman, is social pressure and threats of being ostracized, in addition to other halachic creations like prenuptial agreements and inserting minor mistakes in the wedding ceremony that could allow grounds for a halachic divorce without needing a get.
The New York Times had a fantastic package of stories in its magazine on Sunday focusing on women in the developing world and the impact of their poverty, poor health care and disenfranchisement on overall political and economic progress.
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