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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Karen Greenberg’

Writer Profile: Elke Weiss

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Karen Greenberg: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Elke Weiss: I grew up in Manhattan Beach, in Brooklyn. I now live in downtown Manhattan by the Hudson River. I really like living by the water.

What do you do for a living?

I am finishing a Masters in Urban Affairs and a law degree at New York Law School. I’m looking for a job in policy, but I do dream of a fiction writing career.

How did you get started in writing?

I was born talking, as my mother would say. I always had something to tell others, and deeply felt everyone was entitled to my opinion. My parents hooked me on books to help me shape my opinions. I would read amazing stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Wrinkle in Time and I would make up stories where I had joined those adventures. I soon realized that I could write those stories down and it grew from there. When I was little, I wrote a poem that made it into my school paper, and I decided, this was the place for me. Journalistic writing and essays followed. I think the amazing part of being a writer is being able to reach people I never met.

What types of readers do you hope to reach?

I hope to reach young Jewish teenagers. I remember how lonely and confusing being a teenager was, and I want to give them the advice I wish I had known. Besides that, I have a lot of interesting readers, from grandmothers to young professionals to my wonderful cousins in the Israeli army whom are nice enough to pass my articles around.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? What message do you want to send?

My message is pretty simple. There is so much to learn about oneself and that is the greatest joy in life; to change to become the best person you can be. I’m still finding that out for myself and I am happy to share the journey with others.

What do you usually write about for The Jewish Press?

I just give advice and thoughts from my heart; in my writing I try to speak to people they same way I would in person. I write about what is close to my heart – finding one’s place in college, choosing a major, dealing with internships, etc.

I do write about Israel quite a bit, because it’s an enormous part of me and I think it’s a cause every person should know about, and hopefully embrace. I’m a third generation Zionist. My incredible grandfather, Jack Mikulincer, fought in the War of Indpendance and liberated Afula. My parents marched for Soviet Jews to have the right to make aliya. I’m taking a stand against anti-Israel bigotry.

After I graduated from high school I asked Mrs. Mauer if I could cover a rally. She has been a great mentor since, always encouraging me in my writing. I share her vision of constant self-improvement and a love of Israel and she has been wonderful in letting me develop my voice.

Do you have any plans to write a book?

I do plan on writing fiction books, in both history and fantasy. I am currently working on a series of short stories, as well as a historical epic. If I wasn’t already doing law school, graduate school, Hasbara work, seeing friends and family and volunteering for student organizations, I’d have already finished one.

Have you gotten any reactions/ feedback about your writing? How has it been?

I have gotten a lot of amazing feedback from my writing, which touched me so deeply, expressing how much my articles meant to them. I treasure each e-mail and hope my readers feel comfortable being in touch with me through The Jewish Press with questions, comments or for advice. I adore hearing from readers!

Do you plan to continue to integrate writing into your life in the future?

I will always be a writer, until the undertakers nail the coffin shut. Whether it’s blogging, writing fiction, contributing essays or writing legal briefs or proposals, I’ll always have something to say and will be putting it down on paper. My next big project is a play about Israel, which I hope will be bought or published.

A Lesson In Education

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

When I first decided to become an English major, I didn’t really anticipate any problems that would involve my Judaism. This is not a common choice for Orthodox college women, but I chose a different path because I knew what I loved and I was confident that I could land some sort of job with an English degree. Throughout my young adult life, I have read books that both complimented my Torah worldview and contradicted it. There were no problems with those books that were complimentary, but then I would pick up a book by Ayn Rand, for example, and I would have to learn to separate my aesthetic enjoyment of the work from the parts of the books that conflicted with my Jewish perspective on life. If I disagreed with what I read, there was no one to actively argue for the book’s point of view. In a debate between myself and a work of literature, I always won; and so I thought my college literature classes would continue in the same vein. I would continue reading and writing, as I had always loved to do, and would simply filter out anything that came along in contradiction with Orthodox Judaism. All Orthodox students going to secular college are well aware of how this goes, but a personal experience opened my eyes to the minefield of the intellectually honest forum.

This summer I took an English course that focused on poetry from 1945-present. The class was not required for my major, but I chose it as an elective. The course description was pretty vague, but I anticipated a survey of modern poetry over a 6 weeks period of time. When I got to class, I learned that we would actually spend about 4 weeks focusing solely on the poetry of Wallace Stevens, whose works revolve almost entirely on an agnostic worldview. This, I felt, was not the ideal situation for me as an Orthodox student.

When I continued taking courses, things got a lot more complicated than that. The writers who argued for agnosticism and atheism were no longer a silent page that I could turn over, but were brought alive by my professors. My teachers would explain the rationale behind these controversial views and, since these were actual classes, I would have no choice but to sit and listen. Furthermore, I would have to write papers expounding upon these views, finding further support for perspectives that confidently deny the existence of G-d. Although these papers clearly did not reflect my personal opinions, they were nevertheless occupying the majority of my time. I can only assume that Orthodox students across the country are sitting in secular colleges at this very moment, actively filtering through a world of theory that completely contradicts Torah Judaism, but is being presented as fact, or at the very least, something they should be contemplating seriously.

So what do we, as students, do in such situations? The fine line between Torah U’madda becomes a lot more difficult to navigate in the college classroom, where liberal professors are attempting to mold your mind, and yeshiva education is a mere memory. As intellectuals, we are expected to consider all points of view, and objectively work through those fields of study which we involve ourselves in. As religious individuals, we expect ourselves to avoid situations in which we are immersed in agnosticism and anti-Torah sentiment.

We could, of course, simply avoid the classes that run the risk of such controversy. Many of the rabbis and peers that I discussed this with advised me to take other courses. So I could have chosen not spend my summer semester immersed in the poetry of Wallace Stevens; but that, to me, is simply the easy way out. We, as thinking, religious Jews cannot run from situations in which our beliefs are challenged. That is not to say that one should get up in the middle of class and denounce all of his or her course material. Rather, we should tread carefully, anticipating what we will face in the classroom and bearing in mind that higher American education is an intellectual gauntlet unlike any other for the young Orthodox Jew. Amidst the philosophy and literary theory that make up our everyday occupation, we must remember to think critically, because madda is only secondary to Torah, no matter how convincing one’s professor may be.

I think this issue is becoming more and more relevant today as an increasing number of Orthodox students are choosing to attend city and state colleges in this economic downturn. Many students do not properly anticipate what they will be facing in the classroom, especially coming off a year or two in Israel or straight from yeshiva high school. Because I am still struggling with the matter myself, I cannot pose a solution, but can only suggest that the Orthodox community be aware of what their college students are facing on an everyday basis. This is an issue that has always been around in some form or another, but I believe today’s college students are challenged on an entirely new level, and must therefore be duly prepared for an education they have never faced before.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/a-lesson-in-education/2011/12/15/

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