What It’s Like to Be a Woman in the Academy by Linn Marie Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadLast fall, I was asked to sit in on the women’s pre-doctoral colloquium at the divinity school where I teach. In the course of a wide-ranging lunchtime conversation, the central question to which the students wanted an answer was: “what is it like to be a woman in the academy?” The question took me by surprise at the time – mostly because I’d expected to be asked more nitty-gritty questions about applying to graduate school, writing samples, and personal statements – but it has stayed with me in the weeks since the lunch as I’ve found myself trying out answers from different directions.

The first answer, and perhaps the most obvious one, is this: there is no such thing as being “a [generic] woman” in the academy (or anywhere else). Continue reading “What It’s Like to Be a Woman in the Academy by Linn Marie Tonstad”

Reflections on My Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism By Ivy Helman

“Is Ivy Helman Jewish?”   This question and knowing that eventually I’d have to respond one way or another to it has caused me many sleepless nights.  At the same time my faith journey has become integral to who I am and I would like to spend some time today sharing it with you.

Why share this and why now?  Well, first, I have not been ready until now.  In addition, external forces which I will talk about in a minute are making my spiritual path an issue.  So I share my story with a measure of concern about its possible effects but also with a great deal of joy about the ways in which my faith journey has challenged me to grow, reflect and change.

Margaret Farley emailed me about two weeks ago asking me how I identified religiously.  Someone had emailed her asking if I was Jewish because this person had read one of my past blogs in which I wrote “my rabbi” on feminismandreligion.com.  This same person is reviewing my book: Women and the Vatican: An Exploration of Official Documents.   Here is how I answered Margaret: “Hi Margaret, I’m Catholic although I do attend services at a Jewish synagogue on occasion since I was raised in essentially a multi-faith home.  On that blog, there really is no Jewish voice, so I try to comment on ideas from that tradition as much as I can.  Ivy.”  I felt unauthentic sending that email.  But, I did.

Still troubled by that answer and rather than put my friends and colleagues in the middle of questions about my faith, I feel that this has now become a public issue that I must address.  It is a question I have known I would have to answer at some point.  Nevertheless, this is not a decision that came easily or quickly.  I’ve literally agonized over it now for months.  During the time, I’ve never questioned my resolve to be Jewish and to continue to follow that spiritual journey in my life; I’ve worried more about how other people will respond and how their responses will affect my career in academia.   If I were allowed to rewrite that email to Margaret, then this is what I would say. Continue reading “Reflections on My Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism By Ivy Helman”

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