Sisterhood Blog

When Fanny Brice Made the Follies

By Chana Pollack

Forward Association

Fanny Brice (born Fania Borach) of Forsyth Street, and later on, further uptown and even New Jersey, opened her career-making act as the Yiddish “Salome” with this line: “I’ve been a bad woman, but such good company, Nu?”

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My Matchmaker Divorced Me

By Susan Shapiro

Dan Brownstein / Susan Shapiro and her husband

You would think finding someone their bashert would ensure a lifelong friendship, not a vendetta. When I was 29, my friend Valerie set me up with “Aaron,” “a smart handsome screenwriter mensch” she said I should marry. After a tumultuous off-and-on courtship, I finally heeded Valerie’s advice. She applauded my decision, danced at my wedding, then she dumped me.

Valerie’s rejection of me was painful and confusing, since she’d been a close confidante for a decade. We first met when she was a 30-year-old acclaimed filmmaker in Greenwich Village. I was a 20-year-old NYU English grad student sleeping on a futon in a one bedroom I shared with Ellen, another Midwest Jewburb refugee. I was good at typing, proofreading, editing. Interning at Valerie’s company, Ellen came home one Friday asking, “Can you work on Valerie’s screenplay over the weekend for two hundred dollars?”

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Dawn Zimmer, Thorn in Chris Christie's Side

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Eight years ago Dawn Zimmer was a stay-at-home mom and freelance photographer.

Now, the 45-year-old Democrat, elected the first Jewish mayor of Hoboken, N.J., in 2009, made the front page of The New York Times.

Since last week, when she accused Gov. Chris Christie’s lieutenant governor of trying to make Superstorm Sandy recovery funds contingent on her backing a real-estate project favored by the administration, Zimmer has been in the spotlight. Coming on the heels of revelations that the governor’s aides blocked access to the George Washington Bridge as payback to another Democratic mayor, Zimmer’s allegation has prompted an FBI investigation.

The Times article, which focuses on Zimmer’s political ascent and reputation both for honesty and not always being “the easiest person to bond with,” does not mention the mayor’s Jewish identity. However, other articles about her have noted that she converted to Judaism several years ago.

A 2010 piece in the Hudson Reporter said the Unitarian-raised Zimmer and her husband, Stan Grossbard, agreed when they were dating to raise their children Jewish but that Zimmer felt uncomfortable converting just for marriage.

However, a few years after their two sons (now 12 and 13) were born, Zimmer and Grossbard, who runs a family diamond-and-jewelry business, took an introduction to Judaism course at the Hoboken Synagogue. The family now sets aside Friday nights for family time. They are also frequent donors to the synagogue.

We think it is safe to assume the governor will not make the guest list of Zimmer’s son’s upcoming bar mitzvah.

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Michael Bloomberg Bans Low Self Esteem

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

New York City just launched an offensive on yet another modern plague: low self-esteem in girls. The city started a new public health campaign aimed to encourage girls, aged 7 to 12 years, to challenge the unattainable notions of beauty foisted upon them by pop culture and advertising.

The campaign, which consists mostly of ads on public transportation, was the brainchild of Samantha Levine, the mayor’s deputy press secretary. Levine said she was moved to start the project after learning that 80% of 10-year-old girls report being afraid of being fat and most girls’ self-esteem drops at age 12 and doesn’t improve until 20. The Sisterhood spoke with Levine about what she hopes the campaign will achieve and why we need to redefine beauty.

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Oy! Latest Conspiracy Theory on Huma Abedin

By Elissa Strauss

Getty Images

Huma Abedin, woman or Rorschach test? It’s hard to tell these days. When it comes to Huma, everyone’s got a theory, and these theories do more to reveal the particular neuroses of their creators than they do to shed light on what she might actually be going through.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claims that Abedin’s problem is that she is from Saudi Arabia, “where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet. Comparatively speaking, the pol from Queens probably seems like a prince.”

Gloria Steinem wonders if their child is keeping her by his dirty-text sending side. On CNN.com, Pepper Schwartz suggests that it is her “insane ambition,” and Jennifer Senior at New York magazine sees Abedin as a woman in love with a narcissist. “Like [Hillary Clinton], she fell in love with a narcissist, someone who looms one-hundred-feet high in his own imagination, and like her boss, she has elected to participate in his delusions.”

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Celebrating a Birthday in the Shadow of 9/11

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

I was busy blowing up balloons, hanging streamers and assembling goody bags when I heard about the September 11 attacks.

September 11, 2001 was my son Eitan’s fifth birthday. Just a few weeks earlier, I had returned to my home in Israel from a year-long sabbatical in Connecticut, and, with the house full of unpacked boxes, I had decided that I would pull together a celebration for him anyway. I had invited three of my close friends – all American immigrants to Ra’anana and their children, had hurriedly set up some climbing toys and put out arts and crafts materials. It was supposed to be a relaxed afternoon for moms and kids, with some low-key activities and then a cake and candles. Little did I know that this party was going to be one that I would never forget.

The phone rang. It was my mother-in-law calling from the car on her way to my house, asking if I’d heard about some kind of attack in the U.S. I switched on CNN and then froze in disbelief. I had no breath available for the balloons.

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Woe Unto the Single, Jewish Actress in New York

By Rebecca Honig Friedman

While working on a story about the theater, I came across an interesting, though as yet anecdotally-based tidbit: There are more female than male actors in New York, and the women are more talented to boot.

I learned about this phenomenon from the members of The Dark Lady Players, a Shakespearean theater company devoted to exploring, through performance, the theory that the works we know as Shakespeare’s were actually written by a Marrano Jewish woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier. I touched on this topic before, when I interviewed the founder of the Bassano theory, John Hudson, but this time, for The Jewish Channel’s “Week in Review”, I also spoke, on camera, with the actors in Hudson’s company, who are currently staging “Shakespeare’s Anti-Christian Satires: The Virgin Mary Parodies,” and who are all women.

Was it an artistic choice to make the Dark Lady Players all female, I asked? Turns out, not exactly. The company has had men perform in some of their productions, but they have predominantly female actors because when they hold auditions, significantly more women than men show up, and, according to Hudson, the men who do show up tend not to be as talented as the women.

When the cameras turned off, these classically-trained women actors were more than eager to dish about this phenomenon, which, they said, holds true even for auditions for parts that have nothing to do with demonstrating that Shakespeare’s works were written by a woman. There are generally more women than men at auditions, men always have an easier time getting off the open call wait list, and casting directors go gaga over men’s performances more readily than over female actors’ performances. (And a different but related, if not surprising, phenomenon: male Hollywood actors make a lot more money than their female counterparts.) When it comes to The Dark Lady players specifically, director Jenny Greeman told me, the women are also more interested in sticking around for future productions and collaborations.

Does this gender imbalance in the New York acting scene sound strangely like the situation in the New York Jewish singles scene to anyone else?

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