Book Reviews, Words of Wisdom

An Interview With Elana Zaiman, Author of The Forever Letter

In the fall of 2017, BooksandBlintzes shared a review of Rabbi Elana Zaiman’s book “The Forever Letter”. We followed up with the author to find out more about her work and inspiration, and are excited to feature this follow-up interview.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS with Rabbi Elana Zaiman, Author of The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love

What is a forever letter? The Forever Letter

I conceived of Forever LettersTM as a process for self-reflection that focuses on healing, uplifting and deepening our most important interpersonal relationships. One of the outcomes can be letters that share our values and wisdom, ask for forgiveness or forgive, and express our gratitude and love. We hope that our letters are treasured as enduring, timeless gifts.

Why are Forever Letters so meaningful for you?

I have seen so much pain in families and in relationships. I know people who haven’t talked to family members or friends for years, not even remembering why they had not been speaking. I have found that sometimes these letters can open a door that has been closed for years and give a defunct relationship a jump start.

Do you think the letter writing process can be adapted for those who aren’t able to read and/or write due to disability? How do you think this could enhance or complicate the process?

If an individual cannot read or write, that person may still be able to speak their words for someone else to write them down.
This can be an amazing process, helping someone to get their thoughts and feelings down on paper in the form of a letter. Not only does the letter have the possibility of deepening the relationship between author and recipient, it also has the possibility of creating a deeper bond between the author and the person transcribing the author’s words on the page.
A complication can emerge in helping anyone write down their thoughts and feelings, and that is this: that the written word ends up sounding more like the person writing and transcribing the words than it does like the individual speaking them. Great care needs to be taken to hold onto the voice of the author.

What are the longest and shortest letters that you have ever written/seen others write?

I have seen letters of a few sentences, a paragraph, a few paragraphs, a few pages, many pages, book length. It depends on the desire of the author and the purpose of the letter.

Have you personally, or do you know of anyone, who has regretted something he/she wrote?

I don’t know of anyone who has expressed regret. In my book, I emphasize the importance of taking the recipient’s feelings into account before writing, as well as, putting aside the letter for a while and then re-reading it a couple times from different perspectives. Despite our best efforts, having regrets may still happen. If our heartfelt intention is to heal, uplift, and deepen our relationship then we can always reach out again.

You are a writer. What is it in you that impels you to write?

The need to know myself. When I don’t write for extended periods of time I lose a connection to myself, I feel less whole.

Elana Zaiman loves connecting wiElana Zaimanth people. She is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. Elana travels throughout the U.S. and Canada as a scholar-in-residence, speaker, and workshop facilitator. She teaches and lectures at social service agencies, law firms, women’s organizations, private salons, synagogues, churches, interfaith-gatherings, geriatric residencies, and elder-law, health-care and financial and estate-planning conferences. She’s a chaplain at The Summit at First Hill, a retirement community in Seattle; a certified Wise Aging instructor (IJS), and Adjunct Faculty at Seattle’s Harborview Hospital CPE Program. In addition to being the Ethics and Spirituality columnist for LivFun, a publication for Leisure Care retirement facilities in 10 states, her writing has been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Sun, Post Road, American Letters & Commentary, and elsewhere. Elana also volunteers as a co-partner in the Seattle Limbe Sewing Circle, an intergenerational and interracial community which brings together Jews, Muslims, and Christians to create feminine hygiene kits for girls in Cameroon, Africa. Elana lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and their son.

 

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Jewish Text Art Challenge Galleries, Kislev "Nes Gadol Haya Sham", Poetry, Words of Wisdom

Dreams and Responsibilities – Schwartz

Schwartz Dreams

Remembering Delmore Schwartz, celebrated Jewish American poet, born December 8th 1913.

Do our miracles give us responsibilities like our dreams?

Jewish Text Art Challenge Galleries, Kislev "Nes Gadol Haya Sham", Literature, Poetry, Words of Wisdom

Search for Reality – Paul Celan

11-23 PCelan

Jewish poet Paul Celan was responsible for some of the most striking German-language writing about the Holocaust. His experiences as a survivor led him to compose such heart-wrenching works as “Todesfugue” (“Death Fugue”).

This quote brought to mind the idea that believing in miracles may require a break from “reality”. That we can only find miracles where we search for them, or that miracles can happen for those who can immerse themselves in the unknown, illogical, even chaos.

There is such grief and darkness in Celan’s writing that the journey towards the hope of victory seems infinite. And yet if reality can be won, can it be the reality that we yearn for?

Celan’s poem “Todesfugue” is available on-line in English here: https://www.celan-projekt.de/todesfuge-englisch.html

 

Kislev "Nes Gadol Haya Sham", Words of Wisdom

Miracles are Waiting

Singer Miracles and Treasures

Words of wisdom from nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer. Born November 21st, 1902 in Warsaw, Poland.

Are the miracles and treasures the ones we take the time to see?