by Susan Shapiro Barash
Pitching My Tent by Anita Diamant
The Committed Marriage by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
The subtitle of Anita Diamant's collection of essays that comprise her latest book, Pitching My Tent, reads "On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith." This clues the reader in to the fact that this is a medley of Diamant's essays from a time when she was a columnist, before her nonfiction books on Jewish life were published. In her introduction she tells us that this "collection" is "culled from those publications" and thus we are offered a sampling of life according to Anita Diamant.
If one did not already know, Diamant is divorced from her first husband and remarried to a man she describes as a "lapsed Presbyterian." It is not as if I am disclosing any secret, for each of her essays reveals parts of her personal life, simultaneously offering a universal truth.
The topics, which Anita Diamant deals with, are crucial to the lives of women and her style, warm and inviting with a bit of a confessional tossed in, only makes it more reassuring for the reader. For instance, those who read an essay entitled "Nagging," will quickly see themselves (and many other wives), through the author's experience.
The role of mother is especially visceral in her essay, "Learning to Let Go." Mothering is not only about raising a child, and how the writer feels as her daughter hits a milestone. It is also about the knowledge that life is forever altered for women by the responsibility of mothering. And of course, due to her own personal experience, the author writes about how the world perceives one child families versus having at least two or three children, if not a brood.
While the challenges of marriage are known to any woman who is married, Diamant writes of those links that last beyond a divorce. These include the tie to one's former in-laws and the repercussions of a divorce, even an unmessy divorce without children. She takes a look at what Christmas means to American Jews. In a section entitled "Time Zones", she writes of the major Jewish Holidays as they affect Jewish families, each with its own personal style and value system. When Diamant moves seamlessly to the topic of becoming middle aged, how prosaic and profound it is, we move right with her.
Similarly, she takes a look at female friendship, emphasizing the need that women have for these relationships, which she describes as "one of the greatest secrets of the social universe." In an uplifting and revealing voice, we are told, in the latter section of the collection, about her sense of Judaism. Anita Diamant describes this as an "essential lens through which I understand myself and my place in the world." Her belonging to a temple is a community, and represents her commitment to her faith and lifestyle.
For a female readership, Diamant's essays offer solace and inclusion, forcing us to question and accept, the realities of modern day life. While she looks at a world with an open mind, one is conscious at all times of the role that her religion plays in it.
In an earnest and true believer's voice, THE COMMITED MARRIAGE, by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, advocates a life committed to Judaism, and of course, to marriage. As a matchmaker and counselor, as well as the founder of Hineni, an outreach program to connect Jews to their heritage, Jungreis has made it her life's work to advocate Jewish marriages and successful ones at that. She tells us that matchmaking is an art which she learned from her father, a rabbi in Hungary.
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