If the Hanukkah story reminds us of the power of resistance, then Russell Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent fits with the #Readukkah! spirit of the Association of Jewish Libraries and with perhaps our own thoughts this season. This nonfiction book nominally for older children (but with a topic suited for teens and adults) follows the White Rose student resistance movement in Nazi Germany from its rise through the execution of its leaders shortly before the fall of the Third Reich.

The “we” in We Will Not Be Silent began with a handful of high school and college students, led in part by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, both former members of the Hitler youth movement. They and others wrote, mimeographed, and distributed leaflets denouncing their nation’s treatment of Jewish citizens and other “undesirables.”

The leaflets soon flooded all parts of Germany and called for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. […]

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I was on vacation on May 23rd, ten time zones away from home. I had no idea that the United Nations, after years of discussing and planning, had declared May 23, 2013, as the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Countries around the globe participated. Yes!

Here are the basics about a condition that has pretty much disappeared in the United States, but plagues many impoverished women and teen-age girls in poorer countries. A fistula is essentially an abnormal passageway between two organs in a person’s body or between an organ and the surface of a body. An obstetrical fistula can happen during a very long and difficult childbirth. Tissue in the birth canal is so damaged that it dies, leaving a hole between the canal and the bladder or rectum. This condition results in permanent incontinence of urine, or feces, or both. Often the baby dies as well. Most of the women and girls are shunned by their families or communities because of their foul smell and inability to bear more children. […]

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Dear Readers,

About this time last year, when Blue Thread was nearing publication and this blog was only a few months old, I made a commitment to donate a tenth of my writer’s income for 2012 to organizations that “help girls and women attain education, health, citizenship rights, housing, and the opportunity for a self-supporting livelihood.” I listed several of them on the Pursing Justice page. One of these organizations is Micah House, which I highlighted last March.

I had an opportunity to travel East this past fall and to meet some of the amazing women who have used their stay at Micah House to turn their lives around. After that, the decision was easy. Micah House became gets my 2012 tithe.

Which organization will get my tithe for 2013 income? That’s up to you. Cast your vote for one an organization on the Pursuing Justice page, or tell me about one of your favorites. […]

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With thanks to education students at Portland State University, I can now offer you a teaching guide to Blue Thread.  The guide is wide-ranging and thorough, with activities that include curriculum-framing questions, writing prompts, lesson plans, bio-poem worksheets, and brainstorming charts. I expect I’ll use some of these activities myself in school visits. Yo, dude, see for yourself. […]

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The dead rose up at Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery last Saturday. And they had a lot to say. Century of Action and other groups working with the staff of Portland’s oldest cemetery brought four local suffragists to life to celebrate the centennial of woman suffrage in Oregon. Standing before us in full 1912 regalia and telling us about themselves were: Harriet (Hattie) Redmond (embodied by Kimberly Howard); Harry Lane (courtesy of Rex Burkholder); Martha Cardwell Dalton (thanks to Melissa Sandoz); and Esther Pohl Lovejoy (through the corporeal form of Judy Litchfield).

Kimberly Howard as Harriet ("Hattie") Redmond

Hattie Redmond’s headstone looked all shiny and new because it was. Two years ago the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery went looking for Hattie’s gravesite. Public records showed that she was buried at Lone Fir, but where was the marker? Determined volunteers set about poking expected places with knitting needles and some such. Sure enough, they found a small marker, about the size of a brick, buried about six inches near the roots of a magnificent tree. […]

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Hi, it’s Michael again with a guest post.

Every Jewish house of worship has a cabinet or Ark which contains one or more Torah scrolls. Each scroll is made of parchment, on which the entire Hebrew text of the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament)—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—is meticulously hand-lettered with a quill pen by an expert scribe. It typically takes a year and a half to write all 304,805 letters; no mistakes are allowed. The scroll is wound on two rollers and stored in the Ark robed in protective fine fabric. The use of parchment has enabled some Torah scrolls to survive intact for over 800 years.

It is traditional to study one section (called a parshah or portion) of the Torah each week. At least a part of that week’s section is read or chanted aloud in Hebrew and/or translation during the Sabbath worship service. […]

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In Blue Thread, fictional Miriam Josefsohn and the Osborne sisters (Charity and Prudence) joined the real crowd who waited at the railroad station in Portland to meet suffragist leader Anna Howard Shaw on Saturday, September 29, 1912. During the rally, Miriam tells us:

The people around us commenced to recite a poem and Charity joined in, her voice high-pitched and clear. Prudence touched my sleeve. “This poem has been popular since the textile strike this past winter.” She searched my face. “In Lawrence, Massachusetts? The strikers there kept walking a picket line. They didn’t stand still, so they couldn’t be arrested for loitering. Clever women.”

…We all stood together as Prudence, Charity, and the rest of the crowd recited the last lines of the poem: As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days. The rising of the women means the rising of the race. No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes, But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! […]

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As some of you know, Blue Thread is about a 16-year-old girl who discovers an ancient prayer shawl. Embroidered on this magical garment is a phrase from the Bible with the commandment to pursue justice. One of the organizations that pursues justice for women in the here and now is Micah House.

I asked Ed Lazere, president of Micah House and the executive director of the  DC Fiscal Policy Institute in Washington, DC, to tell us more.

What is Micah House? Micah House, is in fact, a house.  A single family home in Washington DC with four bedrooms.  We use those bedrooms to provide transitional housing to women in recovery from substance abuse.  Working with a case manager, the women build confidence, work on job skills, address credit problems, and rebuild family connections. After two years, most are ready to live on their own.

Micah House provides the tools for success–a nice home and case management–but the women have to do all the work.  […]

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History is all about links. So is the Internet. This blog post offers you both. But first, if you live around Portland, Oregon, here’s an opportunity to visit with women authors and artists, to celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 1, 2012: Meet and Greet

The First Thursday evening of every month is a Big Deal in Portland’s Pearl District. Join me with other Portland authors and artists as we celebrate Women’s History Month. We’ll be featured at Albina Community Bank’s First Thursday reception, from 6 pm to 9 pm at 430 NW 10th Ave. You’ll have a chance to meet and greet me, of course, plus authors Carmen Bernier-Grand, Pamela Smith Hill, Barbara Kerley, Michelle McCann, and Elizabeth Rusch. Artists Addie Boswell and Sine Morse will display vibrant oil paintings and paper designs inspired by children and by Portland. Their work, as well as Blue Thread, will be available for sale for the month of March. […]

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Hull House, 2010

Sad news today. Hull House, the settlement house that Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr started in Chicago in 1889 to help immigrants and poor families, has run out of money and is closing its doors. The original Hull House was modeled on a reform movement in England, in which rich and or middle-class settlement workers, or residents, would live in a poor neighborhood and share their knowledge with their neighbors. There were classes in everything from basic childcare to citizenship.

By 1912, there were hundreds of settlement houses across the Unites States, including one in Miriam Josefsohn’s Portland:

I retrieved a caramel from the basket and gave it to Prudence, who clearly needed cheering up. “You know, Portland has a settlement house, too, like Hull House, only smaller. It’s called Neighborhood House, and it runs the same kind of programs for immigrants and poor families. I…um…volunteer there. […]

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