The Sisters Weiss

St. Martin’s Press 2013, 336 pages

In 1950s Brooklyn, sisters Rose and Pearl Weiss grow up in a loving but strict Ultra-Orthodox family, never imagining to defy their parents or their community. Rose dreams of a world outside of her sheltered life and leaves behind her younger sister, Pearl, her family and her way of life at age 17. The story picks up 40 years later, when Pearl’s youngest daughter, Rivka, discovers that her Aunt Rose became a renowned photographer. Rivka decides to repeat the past and, like her aunt, sets off to discover life outside of her strict upbringing.

Growing up as a Conservative Jew, the story opened my eyes to an unfamiliar world. In my Jewish upbringing, men and women were equal. The author portrays a strong judgment of the Ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and how it impacts women. She paints a picture of a world in which women are powerless and their only goal is to get married, support their husband and raise lots of children to continue the traditions. Individual desires and dreams are irrelevant.

Even with the criticism, you can see that the author has a deep passion for Jewish religion and customs. The message I take from this thought-provoking story is that women’s rights and needs should not be sacrificed on the altar of religion. Women should not have to choose between religion and individual dreams and aspirations. Women in all religions should be encouraged to express themselves fully and creatively and empowered to achieve their goals and desires.

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