5779 Martyrology: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz

In our Fringes Havurah/Tikkun Olam Chavurah High Holiday services in Philadelphia, our martyrology service this year was focused on the life, activism, and legacy of Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz.

Fringes leader Elliott batTzedek opened the service by giving a talk about moments of Melanie’s writing and activism that have meant the most to her. We had placed five posters around the room, each with a short piece of Melanie’s work and suggested discussion questions. Everyone was invited to browse the readings, choose their favorite, and settle down to talk with whoever had also gathered around that work. After those conversations, a few members talked about Melanie’s impact on their lives, including Laura Levitt, author of Judaism Since Gender and Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home. Laura who shared a story from her post-college years when she was organizing Jewish culture workshops for Seniors in NYC and Violet Kaye came in one day so excited about the new anthology her lesbian feminist activist daughter had just published – The Tribe of Dinah. Laura bought her copy of the original Sinister Wisdom edition from the proud mother.

We next discussed our reactions to her work as a community, and quickly centered on how ready we were to take up her 2001 challenge to give up our “right of return” as Jews, and to figure out how to do this is in a way to best draw attention to the reality of Palestinians who are still not allowed to return home. We work closely with Jewish Voice for Peace, and will be floating this idea with other communities to move it along.

You can download the introduction here, and handout for the service, including the five text extracts and a timeline of Melanie’s life, here.

We also designed posters for the five bits of text and suggested discussion questions:
Coming Out as Jewish, from Nice Jewish Girls
Confronting Israeli Violence, from Sinister Wisdom 25
Giving Up the Right of Return, from Wrestling with Zion
Shifting the Center of Jewish Culture, from The Color of Jews
Embracing Diasporism, from The Color of Jews

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