Lost Art of Storytelling, Lost No More
by Kimberly Ann Orlandi - April 6, 2000
On March 29,
storyteller and New York actress Vered Hankin came to Temple Emmanu-El
to celebrate Jewish Women's History Month, with a smart, often
funny interpretation of three women who not only inspired a generation
of Jewish women to strive for what they believe in, but women
everywhere, including myself, who wanted someone passionate about
the cause in their corner. In particular, women's rights activist,
congresswoman, political activist and founder of N.O.W., Bella
Abzug; Canadian athlete and 1928 silver medal recipient in track-and-field
Bobbie Rosenfeld; and anthropologist Barbara Meyerhoff.
research, Israeli-born Hankin became enthralled with the life
of Bella Abzug. Like myself, Hankin's interest in the woman who
made the men of Capitol Hill cower whenever she opened her mouth,
stemmed from the bold steps she dared to take to fulfill her destiny
in becoming the American women's voice in Congress
loved her and was inspired by her through my research. She really
lived in me," said Hankin, "so much so that at times
she would speak to me in my dreams."
said Hankin, speaking to her in her dream," what should I
be sure to tell these women about you and your cause?" Immersed
in the character of Abzug, Hankin said, "The equal rights
amendment has not yet been passed. In 1994, women in this country
made $.70 to a man's $1. Seventy-five of the homeless are women.
The current welfare reform act cuts off benefits after 60 months
and reproductive freedom is in constant jeopardy of being repealed
under Roe vs. Wade."
of mostly women, although there were a handful of men in the audience,
sat awe-inspired as Hankin took on many of Abzug's traits, causes
and her many hats.
Hankin said, continuing her dialogue, "maybe they would also
like to hear some personal stories."
fine, but none of those hoopla anecdotes. I want you to tell them
something that means something." Bella proceeded to tell
a time she was approached by a woman in an airport:
Mrs. Abzug, aren't you?" said the woman.
hailed as a big time liberal, aren't you?"
some people say that."
Mrs. Abzug, I'll have you know that I don't want to be liberated.
I like it just the way it is."
you do, huh? Let me ask you something, do you work?"
replied the woman.
a man ever have your job?"
much money do you make in your job?"
bucks a week."
the man who was in your job, what did he make?"
hesitated before answering. "Come to think of it, he made
Well, we believe in equal rights for equal pay. That's what we
'liberators' are all about. Let me ask you another question. Do
you have any children?"
but I take care of them."
when you go off to work do you leave them in a free day care center?"
laughed: "Are you kidding? I pay someone to watch them."
you see, that's another thing we liberators are all about."
Abzug, can I have your telephone number?"
retold this tale, faces in the audience stayed glued to her every
move. Heads nodded in agreement with Abzug's causes and the young
woman's plight. As the stories went on, it was difficult to tear
myself away from Hankin - her performance was mesmerizing.
word the audience of nearly 70 sat glued to their seats, eyes
affixed to Hankin and her spellbinding portrayal of these fascinating
magical words and expressions of Vered Hankin, these three women
were once again brought to life, their stories told and sometimes
retold and their lives enlightened to inspire a future generation
of Jewish women ready to take on the world.