Hill and Pogrebin discuss future of activist movements
On Sept. 10, Prof. Anita Hill (Heller) and alumna Letty Pogrebin ’59 led a discussion on issues of tradition, social justice and activism in an event called “Faith, Race, and Feminism: The Bonds That Tie Them Together.” The event also featured a discussion of Pogrebin’s most recent novel, “Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate.”
Rabbi Jillian Cameron, director of the Boston chapter of Interfaith Family, which advances Jewish diversity through community building and empowerment with Jews of color and Jewish multiracial families, opened the event by discussing the importance of the subject matter in everyday life. “Faith, race and feminism. These three words are weighted with human history,” Cameron said.
Pogrebin then addressed the audience, thanking both the University and Hill: “I’d like to thank Brandeis for persuading me to do good when I entered at the age of sixteen. ... But most of all I’d like to thank Anita, who is a hero for all of us,” she said.
The discussion then transitioned to Pogrebin’s novel, which tells the story of Zach Levy, the left-leaning son of Holocaust survivors who promises his mother on her deathbed that he will marry a nice Jewish girl and raise Jewish children.
Throughout the book, Levy must reconcile his love for an African American activist with his heritage, a conflict complicated by the presence of the woman who may be his soul mate.
Hill and Pogrebin used the novel’s plot and major themes as a jumping-off point to addressing current issues, such as how society lives with and changes traditions, the arc of feminism and intergenerational relations.
Pogrebin raised the idea of the third generation, or youth, giving back to and honoring the prior generation, their parents. The question she asked the audience was, “What do we owe our parents?” Hill answered Pogrebin’s question with a question of her own: “What do our parents owe us, in terms of why it is important to retain our heritage?”
Together, the two speakers probed the concept of what Hill called “intergenerational involvement,” or the relationship between generations. Hill suggested that individuals are defined not only by interracial relations, but also intergenerational relations.
When Hill asked Pogrebin what she thought the next social justice movement would be, Pogrebin replied that it would be a question of choice and freedom and identity. “It is going to be about choice; if you are ‘shackled to your biology,’ if it doesn’t fit your life course, your life plan...if you’re not free in your own skin, you are not free in this great country,” she said.
The event was well attended, with a mixture of students and faculty, as well as community members from outside the University. “I look forward to more events like this. It is always interesting to open my eyes to new ideas and perspectives,” Sabrina Greer ’19 said in an interview with the Justice.
The event was sponsored by the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and the Brandeis Alumni Association.