Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz

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Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (1945 – July 9, 2018) was a Jewish-American essayist, poet, academic, and political activist against racism and for economic and social justice.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born Melanie Kaye in 1945 in Brooklyn, New York, her parents had anglicized their last name from Kantrowitz prior to her birth.[2] Her grandparents emigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe.[3]

She later added Kantrowitz to her name to honor her Jewish roots. Kaye/Kantrowitz was active in the Harlem Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. When she was 17, she worked with the Harlem Education Project. About this she said "It was my first experience with a mobilizing proud community and with the possibilities of collective action."[4]

Kaye/Kantrowitz associated her activism with her Jewish upbringing,[5] stating that it was related to her family's Jewish cultural and political heritage "as much as the candles we lit for Hanukkah, or the Seders where bread and matzoh shared the table." She wrote in her essay "To Be a Radical Jew in the Late 20th Century" that her "parents had not pushed [her] into activism, yet clearly they raised [her] to do these things".[3]

In 1966, she left New York to attend graduate school in Berkeley, California. Later, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she remained until 1979 before spending several years in New Mexico.[6]

Activism[edit]

Kaye/Kantrowitz described herself as a "Conscious Jew".[5] Along with Irena Klepfisz and Adrienne Rich, among others, Kaye/Kantrowitz was a member of Di Vilde Chayes (English: The Wild Beasts), a Jewish feminist group that examined and responded to political issues in the Middle East, as well as to antisemitism.[7][8]

In 1990, she served as a founding director for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), a progressive Jewish organization focused mostly on anti-racist work and issues of economic justice.[9][10] Kaye/Kantrowitz served on the JFREJ board from 1995 to 2004.[10] Of her work with JFREJ, Kaye/Kantrowitz said: "Though the content of our mission is not specifically feminist, we have modeled feminist activism and included a feminist spin on issues such as hate violence, right of workers to organize, police brutality, and educational equity."[10]

Around 1990, she also co-founded Beyond the Pale: The Progressive Jewish Radio Hour, a radio program that aired weekly on WBAI (99.5 FM) which "mixes local, national, and international political debate and analysis, from a progressive Jewish perspective with the voices and sounds of contemporary Jewish culture".[11]

Kaye/Kantrowitz also served on the steering committee of New Jewish Agenda.[12]

Academia[edit]

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz taught the first women's studies course at the University of California, Berkeley. She also taught at Hamilton College, Brooklyn College/CUNY, Vermont College.[5], and Jewish studies, history and comparative literature at Queens College.

Death[edit]

Kaye/Kantrowitz died on July 9, 2018, of Parkinson's disease, aged 73.[2]

Publications[edit]

Kaye/Kantrowitz's works include:

  • We Speak in Code: Poems and Other Writings (1980, Motheroot Publications)
  • The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology (1989, Beacon Press; editor, with Irena Klepfisz)
  • My Jewish Face, and Other Stories (1990, Aunt Lute Books)
  • The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence and Resistance (1995, Aunt Lute Books)
  • The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism (2007, Indiana University Press)

She contributed to anthologies, including:

Kaye/Kantrowitz also edited the lesbian periodical Sinister Wisdom from 1983 to 1987.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature". Retrieved July 14, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Jewish activist for racial equality, dies at 73". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 12, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  3. ^ a b Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz. The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology, 1986, ISBN 0-931103-02-9, pg. 264.
  4. ^ Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz. The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology, 1986, ISBN 0-931103-02-9, pp. 266, 286.
  5. ^ a b c Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz. The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology, 1986, ISBN 0-931103-02-9, p. 324.
  6. ^ Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz. The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology, 1986, ISBN 0-931103-02-9, pp. 267-68.
  7. ^ Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz. The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology, 1986, ISBN 0-931103-02-9, p. 7.
  8. ^ Mankiller, Wilma Pearl. The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, Houghton Mifflin, 1998; ISBN 0-618-00182-4, pg. 339.
  9. ^ Dykewomon, Elana. "Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz: Phone Interview from NYC, Nov. 27, 1993", Sinister Wisdom, Issue 52, Allies, Spring/Summer 1994, p. 27.
  10. ^ a b c "Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved November 28, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Beyond the Pale: The Progressive Jewish Radio Hour". Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Archived from the original on February 13, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2017. 
  12. ^ Barrington, Judith. An Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on Sexuality, The Eighth Mountain Press, 1991, ISBN 0-933377-09-6, p. 289.
  13. ^ Masthead, Sinister Wisdom, Issue 52, Allies, Spring/Summer 1994, interior cover page.