Last year, the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta decided to memorialize the experience of Atlanta’s Jewish women and girls during the pandemic with a collection of essays written by those in the community. On May 20, during a virtual launch event, the group will unveil the aptly named anthology “2020 Hindsight: A pivotal moment in history, through the eyes of Atlanta’s Jewish women and girls.”
The 49 essays chosen for the book focused not just on the experience of living through the pandemic, according to JWFA project manager Dina Fuchs-Beresin. “It became clear that the pandemic was having an inordinate effect on women. Their experiences were not limited by COVID but were shaped by it.” Some of the writers were sick with the virus; some lost family members. Some focused on their marriages or jobs, and “some were humorous,” Fuchs-Beresin said.
One Orthodox woman wrote about how her potential for marriage was impacted because she couldn’t date during the pandemic, Fuchs-Beresin added.
A woman who was part of JWFA’s Agents of Change Training cohort, which came up with the idea for the anthology, described it as “deeply personal and cathartic.” Julie Mokotoff said the book “is beautiful in its authenticity and diversity of perspective. It acts as a time capsule and a literary way to document this singular part of history.”
Fuchs-Beresin said JWFA pointedly chose to publish the essays anonymously. “We gave permission for people to be true and authentic. We wanted readers to focus on the stories, not on the people.” Fuchs-Beresin noted how some readers may have wanted to Google the names of the authors had they been disclosed. “Anonymity afforded them a chance to be braver than they might have been.”
Mokotoff, who contributed her own essay, said the project “resonated with me. I was fortunate to touch this project at multiple points, including inception and discussions on how to bring it to reality. I participated in the blind selection process and discussed the artwork and images we wanted to display. I will also promote” selling of the book. It will be available for order on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format.
“This project was a natural extension of what we explored through the Agents of Change Training program,” said Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, manager of the Jewish Camp Initiative at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “We found our own voices and lifted one another up. We connected with diverse Jewish women from across Atlanta.
“From a Jewish standpoint, there have been moments of intense challenge in 2020 that may have shaken our faith, and other experiences where Judaism may have anchored us and provided respite and solace,” Scholten-Gutierrez said. “Ultimately, this project is about sharing and elevating even more women’s voices while remembering that we are always connected to one another in a deeper way than we think. There is little in the world stronger than Jewish women united together.”
Scholten-Gutierrez, who is also clergy advisory chair for MACoM (Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah), said she contributed to the book because “I kept asking others [to contribute] and how could I keep asking people to do something I hadn’t done. And of course, I believed in what I was telling them, that this project was a unique opportunity to lift up the variety of unique experiences of Jewish women and girls in this extraordinary year.”
Fuchs-Beresin expects readers will see pieces of themselves in some of the stories, and she believes “there’s potential to start a conversation beyond the book.”
She also noted that the book contains a disclaimer that it does not serve as a substitute for therapy. “It’s therapeutic, but not therapy,” she said.
The launch event, entitled The Power of Women’s Voices, will include a panel, headlined by the author of the book’s forward, bestselling author Zoe Fishman. It will be a free event, but pre-registration is required.
Purchase 2020 Hindsight: A pivotal moment in history, through the eyes of Atlanta’s Jewish women and girls on Amazon.
More details are available at https://jwfatlanta.org/book.