Orthodox Women Talk: Roundtable about media consumption

OWTHi, everyone! I know I pretty much never post twice in a day, but I’m hosting this month’s Orthodox Women Talk. Our panelists include:

  • Tali Simon
  • Melissa Amster
  • Ruchi Koval
  • Rivki Silver
  • Keshet Starr
  • Estee Lavitt
  • and yours truly.

This month’s question is this:

How much do you engage in popular music, movies and other forms of entertainment? What factors have contributed to that choice?

Wow! We’ve got a lot of variety in responses. Let’s see what our roundtable panelists have to say... Continue reading

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You’ve got to be a reader to raise a reader: My take on recent research on teens and reading

Common Sense Media recently issued a report about kids and teens and their reading habits. The four principal findings (I’m going to quote CSN directly) were these:

  1. Reading rates have dropped precipitously among adolescents.
  2. Reading achievement among older teens has stagnated.
  3. There’s a persistent gap in reading scores between white, black, and Latino kids.
  4. There’s also a gender gap in reading across ages.

The NY Times and NPR are both aghast at the findings, but their responses focused more on the problem — and how it has arisen — than on solutions. Common Sense Media itself has offered several strategies to increase reading, but I’m going to suggest my own. Continue reading

An interview with author Batya Ruddell

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing with you another interview. In this post, you’ll meet the funny, talented Batya Ruddell. For those of you who read Binah Magazine or Hamodia, her name will certainly be familiar. Batya is one of the foremost writers in the Hareidi world today, and her work is beloved both by readers and other writers. Next week, she’ll be presenting at the Jerusalem Writers’ Conference, and this week, she’s answered a few questions for me via email.

RK: How long have you been writing? First, as an amateur, and then professionally? 

BR: I think I was writing in the womb!! Seriously, for as long as I can remember I’ve had a pen in my hand. Writing was always my passion but a botched attempt at getting into Journalism school (I knew NOTHING about politics or current events, LOL), led me down a different path to a career as a pediatric and neonatal intensive care nurse. I worked in this field for almost three decades before switching tracks to my initial dream a few years ago and becoming a professional writer. 

Continue reading

The Role of Periodicals in Jewish Life: Rob Eshman’s “Why We Write”

I read a fascinating essay in The Jewish Journal today.

Publisher-about-to-go-on-sabbatical Rob Eshman relates a recent visit he had with young Israelis, when he had the opportunity to explain why Jewish newspapers have had such a prominent and consistent role in the life of Jewish Americans.

The major reason Eshman highlighted was the importance of communication between communities and unifying them to promote certain, common agendas. He also touched on how this role has changed, from an institution what taught Jews how to become good Americans–find jobs and acclimate to their new environment–to an institution which “teach[es]Americans to be Jews.”

Teaching Americans to be Jews

This latter element particularly struck me. As Eshman mentioned, many Jewish magazines and newspapers exist primarily on the web. In fact, that’s where they now find the majority of their readers.

Jews who live outside major Jewish communities–due to geography or due to a lack of affiliation–can now access information about their co-religionists via websites like The Jewish Journal‘s, The Forward‘s, Kveller, and so on. Need a latke recipe? Look online. Need advice about how to handle the funeral of a relative? Look online. Such sites bring community to people who previously felt excluded.

In the Orthodox world, even, you find magazines devoted to Jewish cuisine, divrei Torah (words of Torah, including all of Tanach, the Oral Law, and commentaries), inspiration, and advice from the Jewish standpoint.

What’s your favorite Jewish magazine or newspaper? Why? What role do you think periodicals have in contemporary Jewish life? Please share your comments.

Exploring other media to conquer writer’s block

So, earlier this week, I had a case of the blahs. I suppose I didn’t technically have writer’s block–the problem was more that I didn’t want to do anything, not that I couldn’t write–but the results were the same.

My muddle

My best friend phoned. I told her my sad story. I didn’t want to write. I felt uncreative and just foggy in the head. She suggested I do something different, maybe go for a walk. Just don’t even try to write. Reboot.

The way out

For some reason, I’ve been getting back into art gradually over the last year. As a child and teen, I loved art, but like many people quit when I realized my mediocrity.

poem collage

My collage poem.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos lately, even framing them and displaying them in my home. I’ve done a bit of sketching, as well, although that tends to send me back to a place where all I see is my lack of skill instead of getting pleasure from exercising what skill I have.

Anyway, after my phone call, I was itching to make a collage. I didn’t give into the itch right away, but as my kids settled in for homework this evening, I grabbed a couple magazines and a pair of scissors.  Continue reading

Books–still better than TV?

Liel Liebovitz, on Tablet Magazine this week, argues that TV is for Dummies.

old TV

Photo of Sanyo TV courtesy of Kevin Simpson via Flickr

Like most titles, this one exaggerates Mr. Liebovitz statement: that even if TV has achieved more creative sophistication than ever before, it still fails to reach the majesty of the written word (or something to that effect). In his mind, books are still king. He bases his argument, as I understand it, on the inability of a visual art form to capture the interior life of characters, using a passage written by Henry James as evidence. In the first hour online, Mr. Liebovitz has received 19 comments on his article.

Well, I haven’t had a TV set in my home since 2000, so I can’t really attest to the increase quality of television programming in the last few years. Continue reading