Through books, articles, performances, ceremonies, and feasts, I create opportunities to examine and re-imagine the stories by which we have lived our lives.
"It’s important to understand the history of our popular culture, of the myths that shape who we are, and to unpack the damage that’s been done. But at a certain point I wanted a positive way in to culture building, not just culture dismantling."
In A Beginning
My newest collaborative work, In A Beginning, is an ecocritical translation of the biblical creation myths. The project aims to shift our culture’s relationship to the living earth by harnessing the power of ancient myths and revealing new ways to understand them.
For this work, my partner Risa Alyson Cooper and I have stepped away from prevalent interpretations of Genesis, which see humans as separate from and in charge of the rest of the natural world. Instead, we are uncovering a different story, one that is both rooted in the oral traditions of our ancestors and that speaks to us here and now, as settlers on this land in North America. What is emerging is a translation which re-tells the biblical creation myths in English while also hewing closely to the Hebrew text and the land and culture from which it emerged. The translation – and the research supporting it – is emerging textually and also visually. Working with artist Rochelle Rubinstein, we are creating a series of images which echo the 70 legendary translations of the Greek Septuagint, and which help us to engage with the extraordinary multiplicity of ideas and tales that underlie this foundational text.
(Artwork by Rochelle Rubinstein)
"Our exploration into the book of Genesis is revealing a world built not just of, but with heaven and earth. The extractive Western approach to understanding the human-nonhuman relationship changes drastically when we consider creation as an act of
The Persephone Project began as a research project on memoirs by North American professional women who seemed to epitomize the success of liberal feminism, but were actually suffering an epidemic of hormone dysfunction and chronic illness. I saw a connection between the exhaustion of these women and environmental resource collapse: whether draining bodies or aquifers, a culture predicated on the rampant depletion of resources was by definition unsustainable, even for its most privileged members.
With the help of a SSHRC grant, I gathered a team of writers, artists and scholars to explore new models to challenge this ethic of depletion. Employing permaculture principles and an embodied, land-based approach, we created a research method -- the Home Workshops -- that joins scholarly investigation with creative collaboration, humans with the more-than-human world. With Persephone as our standard-bearer and the Farmers Almanac as inspiration, we have embarked on a new phase of the work: collecting and re-imagining stories, rituals and practices rooted in the rhythms of the Earth that can help us to restore balance to the land that sustains us, and the communities that call it home. Learn more about our research here.
"Traveling into the underworld of the medical system, into exhaustion and breakdown, and emerging into a new way of being through experiences at Bela Farm and listening to the land... A Pain in the Neck tells a descent and rise story much like Persephone's. There's a reason that myth speaks to me."
A Pain in the Neck
My ongoing memoir-in-progress, A Pain in the Neck, demonstrates the crucial link between the stories we tell about our bodies and those we tell about the earth. It connects the chronic exhaustion of contemporary working women with society’s inability to implement real solutions to our looming environmental crisis.
A Pain in the Neck begins with a tale of a mysterious neck injury I suffered following a supposedly routine hysterectomy. This pain in my neck – and my attempts to heal it – led me from a personal crisis to a wide-ranging exploration of the powerful cultural mythology which elevates mind over body and culture over nature.
Living Under Water
In the Fall of 2018, I travelled to Venice to work with a group of artists in creating Living Under Water, a compelling Jewish response to climate change. Sponsored by Beit Venezia the project takes the rising waters in the Jewish ghetto in Venice as a jumping-off point for an urgent Jewish response to this human-created crisis. The second volume, Living Under Water 2, published in the summer of 2022, includes "The In-Breath," a prayer Risa and I wrote and recite during each research session for In A Beginning.
"These books tell stories of immigration, of the desire to wander home as a collective culture, to feel rooted in land, body, and community.
Can we give up the wandering at any point?
Do we have to give up the wandering?"
Books: Making Americans & Theatrical Liberalism
Published by Harvard University Press in 2004, Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical launched a public conversation about the Jewish roots of the musical theatre in the media and the academy.
I have always been fascinated by how cultural forms shape the lives of real people. Theatrical Liberalism explores the connections between Jews, popular entertainment, and American liberalism. It was published by New York University Press in 2013 and nominated for an American Jewish Book award.