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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘magazines’

Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation: Women Bettering The World For Other Women

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

According to the Rambam, the highest form of tzeddakah is enabling someone to find a means of becoming self-sufficient. It is clear that the founders of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation (TOWF) had this precept in mind when they founded the first ever Jewish women’s foundation dedicated to funding programs that bring about social change for women and girls.

TOWF was founded in 2004 when two women, Liza Levy and Robin Hettelman Weinberg, realized that there was no Jewish grant-making organization in the Washington DC area dedicated exclusively to bettering the lives of women and girls. With assistance provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the United Jewish Endowment Fund and the Vivian Rabineau Endowment fund, the two set about creating a vehicle that would not only support women’s causes, but would give women the opportunity to exercise their philanthropic muscles by having them fund and run the foundation. By providing women with the opportunity to use their leadership skills and financial resources in a charitable venue, it enables them to use both their talents and their assets to transform their communities, addressing the social issues and concerns they think are most relevant and timely.

The Rockville, Maryland based foundation lives up to its name. Tikkun Olam means “bettering the world” and TOWF strives to do exactly that by preventing social issues before they occur, attacking problems at their roots instead of just dealing with their manifestations.

“Our goal is not to provide social services,” said Sara Gorfinkel, Director of Tikkun Olam and its only full time employee. “We focus on social change, so that women don’t get to the point where they require social services. We don’t want to fund programs that deal with victims of domestic abuse. We want to prevent domestic abuse before it ever happens.”

Currently, TOWF has approximately sixty members, known as trustees, ranging in age from twenty-five to eighty plus. Membership requires a monetary gift to the foundation, payable over a five-year period. A five-year membership to Tikkun Olam requires a donation of $15,000. Lifetime memberships are available for $45,000, but with a $100,000 financial commitment, it is upgraded to an inter-generational membership that can be shared with daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Women under the age of thirty-five have the option of joining the foundation for three years with a $4,500 associate membership.

“While we do have women who prefer to just make a donation to the foundation, for many of our trustees, becoming part of Tikkun Olam is exactly the opposite of just writing out a check,” explained Gorfinkel. “TOWF gives women the opportunity to be hands on in their philanthropy, reviewing requests from organizations and researching them. It is empowering to see women taking on different leadership roles and responsibilities and getting involved in different committees. Yet every woman, no matter what her financial commitment, comes to the table with the same voice and the same vote, irrespective of how much she is donating.”

Sara Gorfinkel

Tikkun Olam’s grant cycle runs from July to June, with grants awarded during the summer. TOWF’s first grants were distributed in 2006 and the foundation is currently in its seventh grant cycle. The foundation distributed a record $100,000 in 2011 with grants awarded to nine different organizations that strive to bring about social change for women and girls – both locally and in Israel. Among last year’s grant recipients were Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, which received TOWF’s first ever multi-year grant to fund a teen-dating awareness and violence prevention program; Jewish Council for the Aging, to provide training, mentoring and support for women over fifty five who face age and gender discrimination in their job search, and the Israel based Mavoi Satum, to ensure the operation of private rabbinical courts which would protect women’s rights during both marriage and divorce. Other grant recipients included Jews United for Justice, Economic Empowerment for Women, Eretz Acheret and Mahut Center. Two Washington DC based charities, CASA de Maryland and Empowered Women International, which serve local immigrant women, were also awarded grants as TOWF trustees felt that as Jews living in America, we understand all too well the plight of those who have recently come to these shores in search of a better life.

While Tikkun Olam takes great pride in its own work, it is also part of a larger network, the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund, which is working to put together a joint grant that will distribute funds in Israel.

“We found that many of the Jewish women’s funds were overlapping in grants they were making to organizations in Israel,” said Gorfinkel. “We decided to pool our resources in order to produce more effective donations to those organizations.”

A Candyless Purim?

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

If the phrase mishloach manos conjures up dreaded images of piles of sugar laden treats that no one wants to eat cluttering every available horizontal surface just weeks before Pesach, chances are that this is one part of the happiest of Yomim Tovim that you are not looking forward to. I find it hard to believe that endless stacks of broken foil wrapped wafers, rolls of paste, colored winky candies and cloudy grape juice bottles of dubious vintage have any bearing on the mitzvah of mishloach manos.

It seems to me that many people spend countless hours obsessing over a theme for their mishloach manos, possibly even one that matches the entire family’s carefully coordinated Purim costumes. Chinese themed mishloach manos. An all purple mishloach manos. Beach themed mishloach manos. Over the years I have gotten some pretty creative packages from some very clearly talented people. However, I can’t help but wonder if it might be a good idea to focus less on what goes with “the theme” and more on what people actually want to receive.

Of course, by doing that you open up a veritable Pandora’s box. Do any of us really have time to prepare a customized mishloach manos for every person on our list? I can only imagine what that would entail. Low-fat foods for my parents. Low calorie foods for my cousin in Queens. Exclusively organic food for one neighbor. One hundred percent nut free for another. All chocolate for my sister, with nothing chocolate for her husband. Lots of gum for one friend. No gum at all for my sister-in-law. The list goes on and on and doesn’t even begin to cover teachers, rabbeim and others whose food preferences are completely foreign to you.

So how to come up with mishloach manos that people will be happy to receive?

First and foremost, think outside the box. If you are over the age of ten, is there any reason to associate mishloach manos with candy? Think of foods that people like and more importantly, that present nicely, are easy to prepare and can either be assembled in advance or put together at the last minute with minimal effort.

I know there are those who would disagree with me, but I am a big believer in sending actual food for mishloach manos. Picture your typical Purim. You spend the day either answering the door, delivering mishloach manos or escorting several children to numerous friend’s homes scattered all over your neighborhood. For me, there is nothing I appreciate more than real food showing up on my doorstep, which I can either serve on Purim, Shushan Purim when my kids are home from school, or can be stashed in my freezer for quick thawing in the hectic pre-Pesach days when I have neither time nor patience for cooking. As an added bonus, chances are good that any food you make yourself will be less costly than anything you buy in your local store.

I should warn you that I do know of people who immediately toss out any homemade food the minute it comes into their house. There are no hard and fast rules here and you will never please everyone, so try your best and hope your efforts are well received.

Over the years, we have experimented with numerous cooked foods that people seemed to welcome. (Or maybe they were just being polite when they told me how much they enjoyed them?) Among the things we have tried: bagels, cream cheese and lox, cold cut sandwiches with pickles and even a quart of my husband’s legendary cholent when Purim fell out on Friday. Other ideas were freezer friendly and could be made weeks in advance: cherry cobbler, small kugels and containers of soup, which when paired with an inexpensive mini bottle of schnapps, made for a nice presentation, if I do say so myself. A word of caution: If you are sending perishable food items, make sure the recipient knows that the item requires refrigeration. It is such a waste to find a great looking pastrami sandwich lurking in someone’s mishloach manos at 11:00p.m. and having to throw it out because it has been sitting on your dining room table for the past ten hours.

Of course, there may be people for whom you may feel the need to prepare something special and personal. Your parents. The machatanim. Your married children. But chances are you know their preferences, which means that, hopefully, they will welcome your offering with open arms.

If you find the concept of making everything from scratch daunting, try stocking up on bulk dried fruits and nuts, many of which will likely be on sale at your local kosher fruit store in honor of Tu B’Shvat. Bag them yourself in pretty cellophane bags, tie them up with some decorative ribbon or a small silk flower and they will look as good as they taste.

Money Saving Sites You Just Gotta Love

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

If you are anything like me you may have noticed that slowly but surely the Internet is creeping further and further into your everyday life as you turn towards the web for countless tasks. From looking up phone numbers, to finding recipes and getting directions, my laptop has become an invaluable resource that I utilize throughout the day. Two new sites created by Orthodox Jewish women have caught my eye, both of which address a topic that you must know by now is near and dear to my heart – squeezing a dollar so tight it literally begs for mercy.

CreativeJewishMom.com: I have more than a little respect for a person who can crochet rugs out of old sheets and turn both old t-shirts and shopping bags into yarn. But a visit to creativejewishmom.com will dazzle you with how many fun crafts you can make out of items most people would just toss in the trash.

Sara Rivka Dahan was born in California, educated in New York and currently lives with her husband and five children in northern Israel. With a background in interior and graphic design, advertising and the fashion industry, she certainly has an eye for all things beautiful and creative, and her website is chock full of innovative ideas that breathe new life into humdrum household items.

Creativejewishmom.com began two and a half years ago, after Mrs. Dahan noticed that while there were many crafting blogs online, there were no Jewish blogs featuring the types of crafts she wanted to make. Her background in crafts, design and as a crafts writer made Mrs. Dahan the ideal candidate to take on this job.

“The idea behind my blog is to help busy moms enhance their lives with creativity and bring joy to the Jewish holidays with crafting,” said Mrs. Dahan. “I strongly believe that crafts are very important in childhood development and in helping children develop interests that will carry them through their teenage years and into their lives as adults.”

As an added plus, CreativeJewishMom.com gave Mrs. Dahan the opportunity to do more projects with her own children and she hopes that by teaching her own children to see the value in everyday items they will continually come up with new ideas.

“A person with creative interests will never ever think to say ‘I’m bored’ and that, quite simply is something I’m trying to avoid with my own children,” explained Mrs. Dahan.

With sections dealing with kids crafts, recycling crafts, birthday crafts, home décor, crafts for mom and Jewish crafts, the website contains an astounding number of fantastic projects just begging to be made. A Chanukah menorah made out of empty toilet paper rolls. Placemats crocheted out of “plarn”, yarn made out of plastic shopping bags. Flowers made out of empty water bottles. Bouquets made out of fruit roll up flowers. Bird nests made out of brown paper bags. Flowers made out of paper plates. The list just goes on and on.

While most of the projects on the site are Mrs. Dahan’s original ideas, she is sometimes inspired by a project she has seen either in books or online and is always careful to credit the original source. A weekly feature called “Craft School Sunday” showcases an interesting array of craft projects culled from various crafting blogs. CreativeJewishMom.com also features informative posts on cooking, gardening, parenting, sewing, travel and more. Check this site out and check it often. This is one website you really need to bookmark.

KosherOnABudget.com: If you haven’t spent some time on this amazing website, you probably want to rectify that mistake immediately, if not sooner. Chock full of coupons, deals, freebies, recipes and other money saving ideas, Kosher On A Budget (KOAB) is a terrific resource for Jewish consumers looking for ways to trim their budget.

What began in the summer of 2010 as a personal quest to save money for Overland Park, Kansas resident Mara Strom, has grown into a full time job as the busy mother of three children, ages eight, six and two, created a money saving website catering to Orthodox Jews. Just eighteen months later, KOAB has a daily email list of approximately 1200 and received 80,000 page views last month.

“I had been reading other frugal/coupon blogs for a while and learned how to coupon from them,” said Mrs. Strom. “But as a strict kosher-keeper, I had to figure out how to apply those principles to the kosher food – and lifestyle – that my family holds by. The better I got at saving money, the more friends asked me ‘how do you do that?!’ Rather than referring them to these non-kosher blogs, I finally decided to start my own website.”

Getting Help From Mental Health Guidance Counselors

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

What began 10 years ago as a small group of volunteers providing mental health referrals within the Jewish community has evolved into a full-fledged mental health referral, education and support organization that takes on 6,000 new patients annually in four major cities across the globe.

The Boro Park based Relief Resources is a non-profit organization that was created in 2001 to serve the unique needs of members of the Jewish community seeking mental health care by partnering them with leading mental health professionals who are both culturally sensitive and well suited to the individual patient. Funded by private donations and government grants, Relief Resources not only offers free referral services to those in search of mental health care but also raises awareness about mental health issues by publishing and distributing informational brochures, conducting seminars for school principals, teachers and clergy members and also maintaining a special eating disorder hotline staffed by trained specialists. There is no question that the demand for mental health care has increased dramatically over the years.

“In its first year, the organization got about two hundred phone calls from people seeking help,” said Relief Resources director Benjamin Babad. “Today we get 200 new calls every 12 days. There used to be a lot of stigma and denial when it came to mental health issues but the environment has changed a lot over the years. We are seeing a tremendous number of calls from community rabbis, principals and teachers who are more aware of issues and realize that some problems can’t be dealt with internally and there are those who just need professional help.”

Relief Resources has dealt with over 40,000 patients in the last 10 years and some of the disorders they address include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. Their staff of trained referral specialists in Boro Park, Lakewood, Toronto and Jerusalem refers callers to a network of carefully screened clinicians worldwide and well over a thousand follow up calls are made monthly to ensure that treatment is progressing well and that the patient-clinician match is a good one.

“It is not as critical to like a physician when it comes to general medicine, but if you don’t click with your therapist then nothing is going to happen,” explained Babad. Some patients are easily treated and can have their issue resolved in a matter of months; others require long-term therapy, and, according to Babad, Relief Resources is there for the long haul, sometimes following patients along for years.

While the difficult economic climate has made it more difficult for the organization to obtain funding, Relief Resources is continuing to look ahead and hopes to open up additional offices in London and Chicago so that they can persevere in their mission of providing mental health services to as many people as possible.

“We are not clinicians,” said Babad. “We are here to make the referrals and walk people through the process. Relief Resources screens our clinicians carefully. We interview them, check them out and track them, to make sure our patients our happy. We have approximately 100,000 patient reports that we analyze so that we can best understand which clinician is good for each type of person. If for any reason a patient isn’t satisfied we will help them out in any way that we can. Relief Resources follows through with our patients to make sure that they get the help they need so that they can go on to live full and happy lives.”

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

Economic Volatility, Hyper Consumption And The ‘Wealth Of Nations’

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one particular class, but rather the overall well being of an entire nation. He sought, as every American high school student learns, “an invisible hand,” whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Still, this system of “perfect liberty,” as he called it, could never be based upon encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, argued Smith, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” actually demanded explicit disdain for any gratuitous or vanity-driven consumption.

What does this all mean for better understanding of the current economic dislocations and volatility? Above all, it suggests that modern commentators and pundits often speak in blithe disregard for Smith’s true beliefs, ignoring that his primary concern for consumption was always tempered and bounded by a genuine hatred for “conspicuous consumption” (a phrase to be used more pointedly by Thorsten Veblen in a later century).

For Adam Smith, it was only proper that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand, yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. In fact, Smith plainly excoriated all those who would artificially create or encourage any such contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, where engineered demand and hyper consumption are permanent and allegedly purposeful features of the market, especially here in the United States, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to build our economic recovery and vitality upon sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a core problem that is not at all economic, fiscal or financial. Rather, as Adam Smith would have understood, it is a starkly psychological and deeply human dilemma.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper consumption. This manipulated drive, so utterly execrable to Adam Smith, has already become so overwhelming that many learned economists warn us sternly against saving too much.
If only we could all buy just a little more, they argue, life in America would be better. Retail sales are the authentic barometer of the “good life.”

Collectively, our national economic effort is always oriented, breathlessly, toward buying more. Many of our country’s troubling and troubled economic policies are a more-or-less direct consequence of this sorely misdirected effort. Until we can get an effective reversal of the frenetic public need for more and more things, any recovery will remain transient and partial.

Not from the start has contrived demand been a basic driving force of our economy. Obviously, before television and before our newer surrenders to an avalanche of high-tech gadgets, such demand would not have had any such compelling power. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, it will take herculean efforts to detach healthy patterns of consumption from a distressingly ceaseless barrage of advertisement.

At the recently played Super Bowl, millions of viewers watched the proceedings not for the gridiron activity, but for the commercials. In a society that has now come to loathe any genuine hint of intellect or serious thought, even in universities, television commercials are hailed unashamedly as a discrete and clever genre.

What kind of an economy must rely on engineered consumption for both its buoyancy and its survival? Writing during the middle of the nineteenth century, the American Transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke presciently of “self-reliance.” Foolish “reliance upon property,” Emerson had understood, is the unwanted result of “a want of self‑reliance.”

Today, still living apprehensively amid urgings of imitation and a delirious collectivism (“rugged individualism” is a plainly silly myth still dutifully recorded in primary school textbooks), the always-fearful American wants more or less desperately to project a “successful” image. This projection, in turn, remains founded upon material acquisition, upon a cornucopia that is recognizably laden with “all the right things.”

The relentless conformist call of American mass society insidiously undermines our core economy. This deafening cry, one that would have scandalized Adam Smith, is proclaimed throughout the land as gospel truth. Everywhere, it reigns triumphal.

To create a robust economy and a stable stock market, we Americans will first have to reorient our society from its corrupted ambience of mass taste. Surely, there is still great beauty in the world, but it is best for us not to search for it exclusively on television, at the movies or on Facebook.
In that large part of America that knows very little of Wall Street, there is often great fragility, restless anxiety and palpable unhappiness. Taught again and again that respect and success will lie comfortingly in high salaries, and in corollary patterns of high consumption, the dutiful American mass now celebrates fitting in. At the same time, it generally abhors real literature, serious learning and any tilt toward “self reliance.”

Ritualistically, in yet another stupefying pretense of democracy, we Americans will turn again and again to elections. Stubbornly patriotic, these transient diversions will certainly offer us a more or less pleasing amalgam of searing anger, hackneyed gossip and reassuring clichés. But as a convenient activity that serves to obscure an otherwise-evident plutocracy, these cheerfully prescribed excursions into politics will have little meaningful or enduring effect upon the sustainability of our economic markets.

As with hyper-consumption and engineered demand, no politics can ever rescue our economy. Adam Smith would have agreed.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. The author of ten major books and several hundred scholarly articles on world affairs, his columns appear in many major American and European newspapers and magazines. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.

Title: Everyone’s Got a Story

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Title: Everyone’s Got a Story


Author: Ruchama Feuerman


Publisher: Judaica Press


 


 


         Who doesn’t love a good story? And who hasn’t said to themselves, “I wish I could write this one down”? Here’s a book for all of us who delight in storytelling and who rejoice in a great tale. For those of us who possess a yen for writing or would like to possess one, the literary lessons included in this book are instrumental, practical and writer-friendly.

 

         Everyone’s Got a Story is an anthology of short stories written by Ruchama Feuerman’s writing students and edited by her. Mrs. Feuerman has had her own stories widely published in newspapers, magazines and journals. Her novel, Seven Blessings has met with international acclaim and she has been teaching the art of writing for 15 years, inspiring and guiding countless writers, many of whom have gone on to have their own works published elsewhere.

 

         When she first began teaching writing in 1993, Mrs. Feuerman, then Ruchama King, had just received her Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College. The response to her classes was overwhelming. “Women came from all over – they were hungry for this,” she recalls. “I loved what was coming out of my students. Many were quite accomplished to begin with. A few seemed very simple to me and self-effacing, the kind of people life tends to overlook. But to read their stories was to see a wealth of an inner world. They had so much to give, to say. …Over the years a dream took root. I wanted to gather my students all together in a book.”

 

         This dream became a reality, and Feuerman’s professional discipline and coaching are translated into the many creative pieces presented in this anthology. And the diversity of the topics covered in this anthology is testament to this teacher’s appeal.

 

         Ruchama’s students come from around the globe and from your own backyard. Some have doctorates and some have high school diplomas. Not all are women. Yet the common thread binding them is Mrs. Feuerman’s nurturing. A New Jersey resident who took Mrs. Feuerman’s workshops several times attests to the success of the class. “The more you write – and rewrite – the better you get,” she affirms. “You have the opportunity to obtain lots of feedback from lots of different people. That was really helpful.”

 

         The backgrounds of the writers are as diverse as their offerings. We are presented with insights from a ba’al teshuvah and musings of a chassid. There is a story written by a new mother and another by a grandmother. The anguish described by a child of Holocaust survivors follows a most humorous depiction of a droll uncle. One story details a racecar driver’s odyssey towards Yiddishkeit, and another portrays the intricate work of a scribe. With over 40 offerings, there is a selection for even the discriminating and the finicky.

 

         I was as much intrigued by the stories as by the array of genres that were offered. Divided into categories focusing on fiction, character, humor and other topics, the stories run the gamut from serious to funny, from solemn to whimsical. Each student’s written words find their home in this anthology. The quality of the writing varies from story to story, though most of them belie their authors’ rank as students. There were very few stories that bored or irritated. Some reflect more obviously honed guidance, yet others are penned by authors whose stories I truly relish and would love to see anthologies of their own.

 

         Before each category of selected stories, Feuerman defines the genre of that category and offers writing instruction in that specific style. For me, these invaluable writing tips and tools were even more engaging than the stories themselves. Offered with wit and humor, even a seasoned writer would benefit from her virtual writing manual and her generous sharing of secrets of the trade.

 

         Feuerman details her intention for including instruction in this anthology. “I wanted to showcase my students in this book,” she says, “More than that, though, I wanted to give tools to others – how do you evoke setting, create a compelling character, make a reader want to turn the page? How do you find the story that has urgency for you; that you must tell? My goal is to provide the skills to the point where my students can take off, on their own.”

 

         Reading her instruction is almost like reading a recipe for a favorite cake. We’re in essence told how to find the best ingredients, what amounts to put in, and how to shape it. But with any recipe, the final product varies from one baker to another. The creative aspect is the special domain of each writer.

 

         Neither your typical anthology nor your typical handbook, Everyone’s Got a Story settles both accounts in a satisfying manner. It is for anyone who enjoys a good story or anyone who would love to write a good story.

Title: Everyone’s Got a Story

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Title: Everyone’s Got a Story

Author: Ruchama Feuerman

Publisher: Judaica Press

 

 

         Who doesn’t love a good story? And who hasn’t said to themselves, “I wish I could write this one down”? Here’s a book for all of us who delight in storytelling and who rejoice in a great tale. For those of us who possess a yen for writing or would like to possess one, the literary lessons included in this book are instrumental, practical and writer-friendly.
 
         Everyone’s Got a Story is an anthology of short stories written by Ruchama Feuerman’s writing students and edited by her. Mrs. Feuerman has had her own stories widely published in newspapers, magazines and journals. Her novel, Seven Blessings has met with international acclaim and she has been teaching the art of writing for 15 years, inspiring and guiding countless writers, many of whom have gone on to have their own works published elsewhere.
 
         When she first began teaching writing in 1993, Mrs. Feuerman, then Ruchama King, had just received her Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College. The response to her classes was overwhelming. “Women came from all over – they were hungry for this,” she recalls. “I loved what was coming out of my students. Many were quite accomplished to begin with. A few seemed very simple to me and self-effacing, the kind of people life tends to overlook. But to read their stories was to see a wealth of an inner world. They had so much to give, to say. …Over the years a dream took root. I wanted to gather my students all together in a book.”
 
         This dream became a reality, and Feuerman’s professional discipline and coaching are translated into the many creative pieces presented in this anthology. And the diversity of the topics covered in this anthology is testament to this teacher’s appeal.
 
         Ruchama’s students come from around the globe and from your own backyard. Some have doctorates and some have high school diplomas. Not all are women. Yet the common thread binding them is Mrs. Feuerman’s nurturing. A New Jersey resident who took Mrs. Feuerman’s workshops several times attests to the success of the class. “The more you write – and rewrite – the better you get,” she affirms. “You have the opportunity to obtain lots of feedback from lots of different people. That was really helpful.”
 
         The backgrounds of the writers are as diverse as their offerings. We are presented with insights from a ba’al teshuvah and musings of a chassid. There is a story written by a new mother and another by a grandmother. The anguish described by a child of Holocaust survivors follows a most humorous depiction of a droll uncle. One story details a racecar driver’s odyssey towards Yiddishkeit, and another portrays the intricate work of a scribe. With over 40 offerings, there is a selection for even the discriminating and the finicky.
 
         I was as much intrigued by the stories as by the array of genres that were offered. Divided into categories focusing on fiction, character, humor and other topics, the stories run the gamut from serious to funny, from solemn to whimsical. Each student’s written words find their home in this anthology. The quality of the writing varies from story to story, though most of them belie their authors’ rank as students. There were very few stories that bored or irritated. Some reflect more obviously honed guidance, yet others are penned by authors whose stories I truly relish and would love to see anthologies of their own.
 
         Before each category of selected stories, Feuerman defines the genre of that category and offers writing instruction in that specific style. For me, these invaluable writing tips and tools were even more engaging than the stories themselves. Offered with wit and humor, even a seasoned writer would benefit from her virtual writing manual and her generous sharing of secrets of the trade.
 
         Feuerman details her intention for including instruction in this anthology. “I wanted to showcase my students in this book,” she says, “More than that, though, I wanted to give tools to others – how do you evoke setting, create a compelling character, make a reader want to turn the page? How do you find the story that has urgency for you; that you must tell? My goal is to provide the skills to the point where my students can take off, on their own.”
 
         Reading her instruction is almost like reading a recipe for a favorite cake. We’re in essence told how to find the best ingredients, what amounts to put in, and how to shape it. But with any recipe, the final product varies from one baker to another. The creative aspect is the special domain of each writer.
 

         Neither your typical anthology nor your typical handbook, Everyone’s Got a Story settles both accounts in a satisfying manner. It is for anyone who enjoys a good story or anyone who would love to write a good story.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/title-everyones-got-a-story-2/2008/05/28/

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