Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal-Past, Present and Future

In college, I was pretty sure I was going to be a Jewish feminist academic (having dismissed previous career goals as a ballet dancer/doctor/cat farmer). I read everything possible, including  Bridges, the iconic Jewish feminist journal. Recently, I spoke with Bridges editor Clare Kinberg about the past and future of the publication, and how it has shaped Jewish feminism. The piece ran at The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.
Bridges, a Jewish Feminist Journal, Says Goodbye

By Chanel Dubofsky

The Spring 2011 issue of Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal is expected to be the last for the publication, which has been alive and rabble-rousing for 21 years. The journal began back when Adrienne Rich, Elly Bulkin and Ruth Atkin, members of the Feminist Task Force of the New Jewish Agenda, proposed expanding the Task Force’s newsletter into a journal. The result was Bridges, whose stated mission is to imbue Judaism with the values of the feminist and LGBT movements. Since then, Bridges has become a place for readers to engage with their activist and Jewish identities.
Over the years, issues of Bridges have focused on such topics as health care, feminism and our fathers, and Jewish women of color. The 31st and final issue — the journal’s contract with the Indiana University Press is up — placed past contributors, such as professor Susannah Heschel, writer and activist Elana Dykewomon, and poet Alicia Ostriker, in conversation with one another.
Each conversation is an illustration of the personal as political: For example, Yavilah McCoy, an advocate for Jewish multiculturalism, and musician Miri Hunter Haruach,, in “African American Jewish Women—Life Beyond the Hyphen,” talk frankly about the challenges of race and gender faced in both Jewish and feminist spaces. And lesbian activist Elana Dykewomon and performance artist Jyl Lyn Felman, in “Forward and Backward: Jewish Lesbian Writers,” deliberate on the notion of being outsiders as Jewish lesbians.
Bridges’ longtime editor Claire Kinberg spoke recently with The Sisterhood about what Bridges has accomplished over the past two decades, and what might take its place.
Chanel Dubofsky: What do you have to say about this notion of creating bridges between women, which seems, with these conversations, to be the point of this issue?
Claire Kinberg: As an editor, I always felt my major contribution was putting pieces by different women together in the same volume, ordering them, and letting them speak to each other. So it was really fun to do this on another level: actually having the authors write to each other. Perhaps it reveals the things that most interest me: the ways these writers talk about their work with another writer…how Israel comes up in so many conversations that start talking about other things; the intergenerational conversations.
You mentioned in your foreword to this last issue that perhaps future incarnations of the journal might take the form of a blog or other online resource. What’s your hope for passing on the work of Bridges to younger Jewish feminists?
I’ve thought about just moving the conversations online and, of course, opening it up to people who hadn’t contributed to Bridges in the past. I really hope for increased communication between generations.
I have two daughters, ages 13 and 10. My 13-year old is studying for her bat mitzvah. Passing it on is very real to me: Since it’s a “last issue,” a retrospective, and because of other aspects, it’s kind of a “pass it on” issue.
I was struck by how much Holocaust stuff there is [in the issue], and also by how [writer and editor] Lenore Weiss says that for the poets that she edited in the “Living Waters” collection, the Holocaust is being crowded out by other issues. When we started Bridges, for many years, we published, on purpose, very little about either the Holocaust or “grandmothers.” We needed Jewish women to push themselves to write about other things.
If Bridges starts publishing again, it will definitely be in a different format. But I really think that progressive Jewish blogging is filling much of the need.
Is there anything particular you’ve noticed in terms of change in the Jewish social justice world since Bridges first began?
In “ Why Write Poetry?” poets Willa Schneberg and Frances Payne Adler talk about when they first heard the term “* tikkun olam” … in the-mid 1990s, in relation to Tikkun Magazine, I think. However, both writers were published in the first issue of Bridges [in] 1990, which had several bold references to *tikkun olam, even in our mission statement, but also in an ad for New Jewish Agenda … it also used the term * tikkun olam*. Anyway, what I realized again was how long it takes for certain ideas to sink in, or to mean something to people, to begin to take hold. Decades!
Back issues of Bridges are available on JSTOR, and on Amazon.com.

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