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Searching for God in the Garbage

Bracha Goetz

W & B Publishers


Searching for God in the Garbage © 2017. All rights reserved by Bracha Goetz.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any informational storage retrieval system without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

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ISBN: 9781635549621

Book Cover designed by Melissa Carrigee

Let’s begin at the end. I became an Orthodox Jew.

This book tells the story of how that happened through actual records I kept, though some details have been changed.

Psalm 113, Verses 7-9

From the trash heaps He lifts up the needy

to seat them with nobles,

with the nobles of His people.

He returns the barren woman to the home,

a joyful mother of children.


Chapter One: 1966-1968

June 8, 1966 Class 4-A

Joanne Singer Mrs. Avidon

“When I Was a Butterfly”

When I was small, not pretty at all,

I wished I could be pretty, pretty and tall.

I made a cocoon, then went inside.

It was so short, not at all wide.

All winter long I cried and I cried.

For I wanted to go back outside.

Finally, here was spring.

I felt myself turning into a wing.

I could not fit in the cocoon anymore,

So I bit and I bit, and I tore and I tore.

Do you know what? I was outside again.

I felt like an egg that popped out of a hen.

I looked all around me. What were these things?

“Oh gosh,” I said, “These are my wings!”

I was pink, green, and blue,

A beautiful butterfly, bright and new.

December 22, 1967

Dear Diary,

I am going to call you Twilly for the time being because it sounds magical. It’s short for twilight—a time of changes. And I am changing a lot now. I am Joanne Singer and I’m going to be twelve on January 19th. I love to print and not write in script. And I love magical people like Mary Poppins. My favorite food is kishke—stuffed derma.

I always thought writing in a diary was dumb, over-girlish, but since then I’ve changed my mind. One reason is because I’m growing up and the other reason is because I just finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank. When I grow up I want to join the Peace Corps and help people in Togo, Africa. Why did I pick that tiny country? I don’t know, it just seems like the perfect spot!

I love to think about how long is forever and how long is never. Is there an end to everything, like time? I used to, but now I don’t really care what happens after you are dead. Is life just a test?

February 10, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Today was very strange. I am not at all the way I am writing in this diary. I am what people call “a very popular child.” I run around always talking, laughing, teasing, giggling. Everyone likes me. Today I brought out the inner me and switched my outside personality. Nobody liked me. They thought I was odd. Nothing can comfort me or make me forget what’s inside.

I will always only be inside my own head. I’ll never see the world through someone else’s eyes. I wish I could see how Susie and Roberta and Eva and Lisa see. Why can’t I be really happy like other people?

Anne Frank wrote: “Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within and that you will still find happiness.”

I feel pure when I talk to God in my bed, just before I fall asleep. But I am starting not to believe in God anymore.

Was there ever complete peace, love, and belief in God on Earth? If this diary is ever found by someone a long time in the future, please write in this blank space below.

March 4, 1968

Dear Twilly,

A bunch of boys followed me home from school today shouting dirty things over and over. I heard one of them say, “Let’s find out if she really does or not.” I ran so fast to my apartment building and raced up the five flights of stairs. ‘Til I got that key into the door! I was shaking so much.

It feels like overnight I got a different body. How could this happen so suddenly? I’m afraid to go to school tomorrow.

March 8, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I often see someone in a dream drifting farther and farther away, saying, “Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Remember.” But believe it or not, I forgot what it is I’m supposed to remember! It feels like I’m looking for something. I like to wander through the streets. But after a while, I don’t know what to do with myself.

What I want most of all is to find who I really am.

April 21, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I hate when my relatives come over because they never ask me about anything important. So I end up slamming my bedroom door and just looking out the window. I talk to My Tree and feel the fresh air, letting my hair fly around my face. I pretend it is country air and sometimes it really smells that way. I put my favorite album on the record player and play only this one song about a woman growing older. It says how young girls’ lives are like April, full of changes. “But one day they grow up and April is over forever.” I don’t know why I love that part of the song. I guess because I feel like April now.

I love my room. I like being alone, but I get lonesome when I am. I have so many problems.

May 4, 1968

Dear Twilly,

My Aunt Trudy has a kosher kitchen in her house. So when we go to Aunt Trudy’s and we’re in the mood for Chinese food, we get those white containers from Sun Luck’s take-out place. We take down the set of traife (non-kosher) dishes and silverware that they keep way up on the highest shelves in their kitchen cabinets for these special occasions. Then we set up the bridge table in Aunt Trudy’s bedroom and we eat the Chinese food in there.

But before we can start to eat the Chinese food, Aunt Trudy always tells me to make sure the venetian blinds are closed shut on their bedroom windows. It usually feels so secret and sneaky. But today I felt angry when they asked me to do it. What do they think? That God can’t see through venetian blinds? I hated all the hypocrisy! But I still ate up all the pork chop suey.

May 30, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I’m not going to stop writing to you. I feel like I’m talking to you although my lips aren’t moving. I could never give up these spilling moments. But Twilly, I’ve been forgetting My Tree lately. This tree has shared my loneliness. And I’m afraid she’s very sick now and I don’t know what to do for her. What do they do to sick trees on city streets that don’t give leaves anymore in the spring? Every morning when I get up I rush to the window to see if any leaves have come, but every branch is empty.

I think she is dying. Will they chop her down? I won’t let them. But I’ll probably be in school when they do it.

June 2, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I don’t like tranquility. It’s too quiet. I want more exciting things. I’m very insecure now. I always need something to chew on. I’m afraid to be alone with myself. I have to turn on TV or something. That’s why I talk on the telephone so much. I need something secure to grasp. I’m afraid of getting lost in the world. I’m afraid to let myself go.

Writing here makes me understand myself more. But I’m even writing now so I won’t find myself alone. I’ll be kept busy so I won’t think too much.

June 6, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Robert F. Kennedy was shot. Pick someone you don’t agree with and kill him. After all, this land has freedom. How could someone kill another human being? I just feel kind of sick of life, with no purpose. All my ideals seem so far off in an evil world like ours. And look at Martin Luther King, Jr. Why should anyone want to try to help this world be better? Look what happens.

Last night I felt left out. Odd, because I was staying out of trouble. All my friends were hanging out in the schoolyard and I wanted to go down and join them. But my patents wouldn’t let me. Even though I wouldn’t do the junk they were doing. I don’t really want to get corrupted. I guess my only dream in life is to find myself.

But then as I looked at all the kids in the schoolyard and how they are all getting corrupted, I thought maybe I could understand how easy it can become for people to just pick up a gun and kill someone else.

June 19, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I am shocked at my best friend, Carol. Ugh. How could they all kiss like that? Why? How could I have thought of her as my best friend? All that making-out doesn’t mean anything. I don’t understand why people act like that. Why do people make beautifully created things into dirty, disgusting ones?

I’m afraid to grow up. I don’t want to see what it will be like when our generation becomes grown-ups. I want to close my eyes and keep dreaming. My friends take all the joy out of being a kid.

July 3, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Boys aren’t that important. I must convince myself. They aren’t. But they are.

July 15, 1968

Dear Twilly,

We just had another “social” on the boy’s side of the camp. Nobody asked me to dance again. I hate going to these things, but they make us. I just sit there the whole time either wishing for someone to ask me to dance or wishing I was invisible. What’s wrong with me? Am I really so weird? Maybe they just see how anxious I am to get asked. Even if I try so hard not to look that way. Do they all see that I’m practically sitting on the edge of my chair all the time ready to leap into the arms of any boy who will even look in my direction? I don’t see how I can pretend that I’m not interested. What is it that I’m supposed to be doing? Is something very wrong with me?

July 28, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Another social. Not one dance. Will I ever get married?

August 8, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Hi! I was very happy today with a regular kind of life. I had a lot of fun today. Winning the raffle, rolling down the big hill, playing games in the Social Hall, the Peanut Hunt. Is this what life is all about? We’re supposed to have fun and not think too much?


Raffle #46!

August 9, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I think regular life is becoming more a part of me. I’m conforming. But I still love quiet, beautiful things. I feel so much closer to people when I find their inner true selves. I love the inner people.

I don’t want to put on a false cover smile. I want to know which smiles are real.

But I can also enjoy the “regular life.” I love playing this double game. This was The Gigantic Secret being hidden from me! Everyone wears masks.

I see the choice now. Give up my friends and think seriously, living within me, or give up me to have friends. Will I leave myself behind when I grow up? Remember who the real me was?

November 6, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I hate Junior High School. I am so lonely, lost, and confused there. I want to hold onto my past, to elementary school. I’m not happy. I can’t look fearlessly up into the heavens and face God. I don’t believe in God. And I don’t like flirting like the other girls.

December 3, 1968

Dear Twilly,

I’m becoming very different lately. I’m not so nice. I don’t want to, but I end up telling strings and strings of lies to my mother. I want to do all the things considered “wrong” by society. I want to be fresh and tough. And trampy.

December 5, 1968

Dear Twilly,

Junior High is very cold. Do some people live in coldness all their lives?

December 9, 1968

Dear Twilly,

My class is a bunch of phonies. But I don’t hate them. I’m one too. I wish I didn’t have to be.

There’s nothing to hold onto. I just have to keep drifting with the waves, drifting far away. There is nothing I believe in or that I can depend on or trust.

Why is it important to go to school? It doesn’t teach me anything anymore. Maybe it does…sadness.

Somebody carved some filthy words about me into my desk in homeroom. How come I feel like it’s carved into me?

December 20, 1968

Dear Twilly,

We are going to land on the Moon. But that will destroy it. We will stop it from being unreachable in a child’s dreamy eyes.

December 31, 1968

Dear Twilly,

The people I see when I stick my head way out my window at night are my Nighttime People. They are the exciting nighttime life I can’t have. They are everyone else in the wide, wide world.

Chapter Two: 1969-1970

January 15, 1969

Dear Twilly,

Junior High is ruining me. But then again, it’s stopping me from thinking so much.

Every day feels like when the swimming counselor pushed me off the dock into the water that was above my head. I wasn’t ready. She came from behind when I wasn’t expecting it. I felt such terror underwater because I had no idea how to rise up out of it.

January 17, 1969

Dear Twilly,

I have lost myself under the phoniness. I’m trying to recover my feelings, but I can’t. What’s so great anyway, about finding who I am? Someday I’ll die anyway. So what if I die as a person I don’t know! I haven’t had any time to think. I’ve been rushing around doing nothing lately. Real me, are you still in there?

January 19, 1969

“Behind the Nothingness Lies Something”

So beautiful inside,

so locked up,

unable to pass through the door

so many others


pass through.

Unable to show

her real feelings

hidden in shadows and

felt like an unforgettable pain…


Like a clock constantly ticking that

nobody hears.

When it stops ticking

nobody misses it.

February 9, 1969

Dear Twilly,

Today I was the most popular thing on earth. I sort of felt so high that I was falling over. How have I changed? I see the ugliness in life. I’ve gotten used to it. And I’m becoming ugly, too.

March 3, 1969

“Once upon A Time”

A child on a summer morning can laugh at the silliest thing.

And for no reason at all, she can skip or dance or sing.

A child catching a snowflake can smile when she is glad.

A child watching the leaves fall can cry when she is sad.

A child hearing carousel’s music can love without feeling pain.

A child smelling a flower can make sunshine out of rain.

A child on a summer morning can have all her dreams come true.

It’s so unbelievable to think

that once





March 14, 1969

Dear Twilly,

What if we all were covered with white sheets? Then we could just touch each other’s inner people and not have to look and judge everybody from the outside.

Please don’t let me stop searching. I will find whatever it is someday.

March 15, 1969

“Reach Out In the Darkness and You May Find a Friend”

I reach out and I want a Hand to grab me,

To hold me tight and secure.

I reach out and I want a soul to touch me,

And understand that I’m not being pure.

I reach out and I’m searching for something to grasp,

So that I won’t keep sinking.

I reach out and pray for someone to listen,

To share all these thoughts I am thinking.

I reach out and finally find someone

That wants so much to hear,

So I cry on my shoulder,

And comfort each lonely fear.

March 16, 1969

Dear Twilly,

Today I wandered into a Jewish Center that was unlocked and deserted. Most of the time I don’t feel God. I don’t even believe in God. But I guess part of me keeps hoping.

In the dark synagogue, there was just one bright “eternal light” lit up at the front. The absorbing darkness was scary. I felt as if God’s Presence was around me. I felt so small, so nothing and yet part of everything gigantic; a never-beginning and never-ending Universe. I got very frightened in there and I ran out.

What I felt today doesn’t seem important enough to tell to anybody. Even though it may be all that is important.

March 17, 1969

Dear Twilly,

I think this generation is making people phonier and further apart. And we are rebelling because we think we are doing the opposite. When we grow up, I bet this generation will be even more phony and commercial.

We are all lonely, tired, and searching. We really don’t know how to go about changing the world because we want to jump into things without knowing what we are doing. Things like life.

March 22, 1969

Dear Twilly,

I think I’m really very grown up. This is a year for “experimenting.” I want to act free. Yesterday I tried smoking. God, do I hope no one reads this. Bye!

March 23, 1969

Dear Twilly,

Last night the principal called my parents because I got in some trouble at school. I wish someone would smother me in warmth. When I stare at myself in the mirror, I don’t look the way I feel. I don’t look like me at all. Why am I so mixed up?

May 3, 1969

And then I realized that The Choice had come down to me.

It was the moment for me to decide whether I wanted to

become just a member of the crowd,

indistinguishable within a mob,

leading a forgotten life,

like all the others -

Or stand out.

And be someone special and


and make something remembered of my life.

But all I felt around me was this great, secure feeling

of Belonging.

(to at least something, even if it was nothing)

(to at least some people, even if it was not myself)

To something with no feelings, not sad or happy.

Just at least, if nothing else

I would be part of


A feeling that you are not alone,

Even if you are.

And then I realized, too late, that The Choice had been decided. I screamed with all my soul and let out everything. The people passed me on the street and shook their heads at the “crazy girl” on the corner. And when I saw this, I sort of laughed between my tears, catching the sad joke. It was a “different” kind of way to say good-bye to being different.

June 2, 1969

Dear Twilly,

School means so little to me now. I love getting on the subway and going to Central Park. Hanging out there is so exciting and free. I have learned that if you’re very quiet and obedient and follow all the rules, you won’t have any fun. You’ve got to enjoy yourself and really live! You also have to let yourself go and not feel inhibited.

I cut school again today! Bye!

June 5, 1969

Dear Twilly,

Hi! Everything is so great! I’m having so much fun. I have so many friends that really like me. All I want to do is suck up as many friends as I can get. I think I have the most friends in the seventh grade. To be popular, like in politics, you have to be very clever and phony. My phone never stops ringing.

I gave a report on “Peace” today at school. It was great! I’m cutting school and going to a Peace Rally on Wednesday. Everything is so cool! But still something is missing. I’m missing something like crazy.

June 19, 1969

Dear Twilly,

I grew up a lot last night. I saw some other worlds exist that I don’t yet know much about. I think the worlds end wherever you want.

Have fun, Twil!

September 2, 1969

Hi Twil!

I’m back! I went camping out this summer all across the country with a teen tour. We had a van and a tent and we had a blast. All the way out to California. I was the youngest in our group and everyone called me the “flower child.” We were all into being free and natural and loving everybody.

We slept in youth hostels and also in parks and on beaches. I loved the Haight-Ashbury scene. One day, out in San Francisco, though, we ate lunch in the fanciest hotel, The Fairmont, and we took some of their fancy silverware back with us afterwards, as “souvenirs”! Oh, it was so much fun!

One rainy night we camped out in this laundromat and one night we slept in a church. And I slept in the first row of the church in one of those velvet pews. So when I opened my eyes in the morning, I saw J.C. standing over me, standing right over me, all stretched out on the cross. The first thought I had was that I had died. And then the second thought I had was, “Oh no! I am in the wrong religion!” It was really far out!

January 13, 1970

Dear Twilly,

I hate my parents so much. How could they do this to me? They showed up at the party last night. They drove over there, and in the middle of the party, walked right into the apartment, waiting until I left with them. How could they do such a thing? Nobody else’s parents care. Why do I have to have embarrassing parents like this? I feel like such a goody-goody jerk. How can I face my friends now?

January 16, 1970

Dear Twilly,

I feel beautiful and ugly at the same time. Everyone makes me feel so beautiful. I make myself feel ugly. I know when I’ll look back on these pages, I’ll think it was funny that I was writing all these things when I was really so young. But please try to remember I was. I am more alive now, at almost fourteen, than I’ll probably ever be again. I am still secretly alive.

February 1970/ 50 cents

McCall’s Magazine

“A Space for Silences”

My grandfather and I

Go walking in the rain

And thinking.

I can tell that he’s remembering.

His face seems softer and so far away.

There’s a space between us as we walk,

And though he will not notice it,

I can feel it’s always there.

My grandfather and I

Go walking in the rain

And thinking.

He sees his own silent, lonely world,

But when the rain stops and

We’re still walking,

Only I can see the rainbow.

February 17, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Spring has to come soon. Hey Messiah, don’t you know, “There’s a new world coming—coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love!”

February 26, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Elliot overdosed on heroin last night. How can it be? I just saw him the night before at a party in The Village. I can’t believe one of my friends is dead from doing drugs. Where are we all heading?

February 28, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Ha! Your name doesn’t fit anymore, Twilly. That is an untouched name. I’m no longer seeing with a dreamy vision.

What is it that I am missing? Where is it? What is the way I really want to be? I am artificial. But what is real?

March 4, 1970

Dear Twilly,

We have a very weird Social Studies teacher, Mr. Meade. In the middle of everything last week he says, “I want everyone to write a composition about someone who raised the dignity of mankind.”

I like writing about weird topics, so I got a book out of the library on Hasidism and I wrote about a Rabbi Isaac Meir of Ger, a contributor to Hasidism. Today he begins the class by saying that all the papers were garbage except for mine. He gave me an ‘A’ and said I was the only one who wrote about someone who genuinely raised the dignity of mankind. I was so shocked. I always thought Mr. Meade didn’t like me.

April 3, 1970



Maybe, but I’m protesting inside anyway.


Each little drop of pain is falling in and overflowing. I can’t even feel one singular drop anymore. My whole world is flowing with pain.


Thank you. But it isn’t.


I wish I knew and could put it in words.

May 24, 1970

Dear Twilly,

I overheard my mother crying and whispering to my father in their bedroom. She was saying, “Why can’t she just accept things like other girls her age? Why can’t she be happy? Why can’t she be like everyone else?”

I wish I wasn’t making my mother cry.

October 2, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Today was Yom Kippur. Last night, I had a dream that I don’t understand. But somehow, I feel like in the future I will. I feel like this dream is years ahead of me. It goes like this;

I could hear this boy calling me

in his sweet and liquid tongue

to rise up.

I could see him frown at my clothes and tell me I didn’t belong where I was and ask me why I felt the need to hide what was beautiful. I could see him tell me how I always seemed to move in shades of violet. I could see him want to pull me into his mind and show me everything he wanted me to see and then become the way he’d always dreamed I’d be.

I could feel his eyes wandering through my eyes for the Answer. I could feel his soul stumbling through the darkness for my Reason. I could feel his constant Question running through him, pounding on his brain and destroying everything that had made him. For he could not understand why I did not go with him, why I did not follow my heart and be free.

Then I could hear her calling me

tired and hurt

to come back.

I could see her frown at my clothes and pray that none of the neighbors had seen me. I could see her fold her trembling arms around me and pretend she was still holding her little, frightened child. I could hear her whisper she would take care of me. Then I could see her slowly pull herself away and study me carefully, not wanting to believe. I could see her come straight up to me and laugh into my eyes and tell me I still hadn’t changed. Then stepping back, watch the tears gently flow over her eyes and down her softly wrinkled cheeks into her lips that were already crying out the words, “Why don’t you follow your heart? Why did you have to change?”

And now I wander the streets

all alone

and with each turn in the road

I am home

But still wandering

I can see them both

so vividly.

Their voices echo.

For how could I explain

to those who have

opened themselves

to me,

expecting me

to enter that it was not I

who was meant to enter.

It was not really me they loved but

their own hearts.

How could I explain to the ones

blocking my path

that I was not their Answer. How could I

explain to those who

stood there so


that I could not

help them; that although they

were both so sure I fit into

their very different dreams,

I didn’t even

have a dream.

And the heart

that they both

begged me to follow

didn’t even exist.

It was lost

and found

such a long time ago

in some bottomless box



October 18, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Over the weekend I went to a Buddhist Center with Carol, and then last night I went to a Nikirun Shoshu meeting at someone’s house. We were all barefoot and they gave everyone beads to chant with. Everyone was chanting the same words over and over again. People stood up and said how when they chanted for something, they got it. I asked what if two people are standing at two different bus stops, both chanting for the bus to arrive at the same moment. I didn’t understand the answer. Then everyone put their arms around each other, swaying together and chanting. I hated it. I wanted to get away from them as fast as possible. When I ran out the door, an overly friendly woman with strange blue eyes ran after me for blocks ‘till finally I got away and jumped on the first bus I could. They have my phone number and address from the Buddhist Center. I hope they don’t come after me.

October 20, 1970

Dear Twilly,

The woman with the blue eyes who was after me at the meeting, so sickeningly friendly, keeps calling me on the phone. I feel really frightened of her. Now I’m leaving the phone off the hook. She called all through last night.

October 25, 1970

With my own two hands and my soul I had made it.

It had silly things like dreams and hope and reaching,

and crazy things like love.

It was made of little bits and Big Enormous Things.

Once I had built it, I went on a search to find other Mountains, but I couldn’t find any. So I went back to my Mountain—but I couldn’t find it.

All I could find were mountains and mountains

November 11, 1970

Dear Twilly,

Stan Cohen started going to the Christian Science Church near here and he gave me a great book to read about it. There are many beautiful things in it like, “Every listening ear can hear God speak.” I think I will start going to the Sunday school classes at the Christian Science Church with him next week.

December 18, 1970

Dear God,

Tonight, with Stan Cohen at the Church, there was music by a man named Larry Gross. I felt like there was an uplifting Presence around us, and we were aware of it. The Presence is always there, but we are not always awake to sense it. There is no need for fear in this real world. What could there possibly be to be afraid of with a totally loving God? God is like a mother hugging all her children. And I am another one of God’s perfect children.

Tonight I was with so many good and receptive people. I feel lonely and different from other people so often, but tonight I met so many people like me. Tonight I met some of God’s Ideas and I loved them all. There is so much I want to become. And forever to become it.

Just to know there are other people like me is comforting.

Chapter Three: 1971-1973

January 15, 1971

Dear Twilly,

I was afraid to bring you along. What if I would lose you? But luckily I found this hotel stationery in the bureau drawer here, so now I can write to you, Twil. I’m with my parents at a resort hotel up in the Catskills called Kutscher’s. We’ve never gone to a place like this. My parents probably never could have afforded to come to a place like this before now. This is where we’ve heard a lot of Jewish people come to have a good time. They have swimming pools, saunas, massage parlors, exercise equipment, exercise classes, dance studios, square dancing, skiing, snowmobiles, ice-skating rinks, roller-skating rinks, art auctions, trivia contests, BINGO, and all kinds of entertainment. Everyone stuffs themselves at the smorgasbords at least three times a day with mountains of gefilte fish, matzo balls, knishes, kashe varnishkes, kishkes, kugels, borscht, pastrami, salami, baloney, chopped liver, corned beef, apple strudel, rugelach ad nauseum, not to mention all the bagels and lox. The guests all leave the dining areas complaining that they ate too much, and four hours later they’re at it again. Must be all the roller-skating works up a big appetite.

You’re supposed to keep having fun every minute here. Twilly, it’s unbearable. You’re lucky you’re not here. My parents don’t seem too happy here either. How come it seems so purposeless? I don’t understand why people need to be distracted all the time to enjoy themselves. But, distracted from what?

March 8, 1971

walking in the

cool, damp woods,

I need to

look at everything.

And share the feeling of becoming alive.

I like to walk

in the woods

and feel so beautiful.

I wonder

why every soul doesn’t long

to wander here,

in God’s woods,


to blue

in a gray world.

March 24, 1971

Dear Twilly,

I love my teacher in the Christian Science Sunday School. She is such a warm, loving person. She is so encouraging, not at all like any of the teachers I used to have in creepy Hebrew School. And I love what I have learned about how God is all-powerful and that when we realize this, as God’s children, we have unlimited potential. That changed my whole view of school. Since I’ve started going to church my grades have shot up from a 78 average to a 98 average! All of a sudden, it is like my head has opened up and I see how I can “plug into” God’s infinite potential and just get 100 on every test!

The only thing I don’t like about the Christian Science Church is that they keep mentioning Jesus’s name. We have to recite certain things from the Bible about him, and I don’t want to do that part. For some reason, I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach every time his name is mentioned and I can’t bring myself to say it along with everyone else. Why should I feel like this? I actually get very queasy when we’re standing and reciting those things and I feel almost like I am going to faint.

May 21, 1971

Dear Twilly,

Why am I always split in two? Why can’t I hang out with friends who are smoking and really be there? Why do I have to be home loving my parents? Why can’t I cut school and be there? Without that other part of me wanting to be in school, being good?

Why do I have to have that other consciousness always following me when I want to have fun?

June 1, 1971

Dear Twilly,

My parents told me today that they want me to go on a teen tour to Israel for the summer. Nobody in my family has ever gone there. I know it’s because they want to try to pull me away from Christian Science. But I am also really hoping I can get to go.

Application for U.S.Y. Israel Pilgrimage July-August 1971

I would love to go to Israel. Many people would love to go because of a lifelong dream they have had. When they even say the word, “Israel” something pulls strongly inside them. I respect these people greatly. I would love to feel something and believe in something as strongly as they do. I admire these people, but I don’t share in their understanding.

I feel, somehow, that Israel could help me. I want to be in the spiritual city of Jerusalem. I want to go to the land where dreams are fulfilled. I feel drawn to Israel like a magnet.

When I was in temple, I saw an old religious man sitting in the back. He was praying with such emotion, such love, that it made my own emotionless state very evident to me. His face was filled with so many years of thought. I want to go to Israel because when I come back and say “Jerusalem” in my prayers, I will really be there, along with the old man in the back.

July 1, 1971

Dear Twilly,

I am here.

I know very strongly inside of me already that Israel and I were made for each other. After we got off the plane, the bus took us straight to Jerusalem, straight to the Wailing Wall and the beautiful night hit me. The Bible actually came alive. It was spectacular.

I felt so guilty for turning away from Judaism last year. I belong to it so much. It’s me. Just by being here, I feel creativity growing in me already. Touching the Wall touched something in me that is buried deeply, afraid to come out. Can I find deep within me the strength that helps that Wall to keep standing?

I can hardly believe it’s for real. The Old City looks like a fairy tale village I’ve been dreaming about for years.

July 5, 1971

The big why is hitting me in the face.

I am so spoiled.

Today we saw the memorial to the Holocaust

at Yad Va Shem.

And now we are sitting around the dining area,

complaining about the food

and our hotel rooms.

But that photo of the man with tallis and tefillin praying,

surrounded by laughing Nazi soldiers,

keeps staring at me.

How strong his prayers must have been,

With a feeling that even went beyond death,

can we still have that kind of strength?

July 16, 1971

There is still an ember glowing which I have been trying to smother. But it will just keep on glowing, probably sinking deeper and deeper into my being. I don’t feel at all safe with it. It is also the free spirit inside of me, which I am trying to hold down with earth-bound chains. It is almost a sacred part of me; too much for me ever to speak about or even think about. It is the Song of Songs of myself.

July 21, 1971

Dear Twilly,

When I am praying

When I am listening and learning

I feel like me.

July 23, 1971

Dear Twilly,

Today, this Saturday morning, I was thrown out of a little Orthodox synagogue in Mea Shearim. It hurt a lot. We were told we had to cover our arms to go there, so I wrapped my crocheted shawl around my shoulders, over my sleeveless dress. All the women there started screaming at me and calling me names in a language I didn’t understand. I found out afterwards what they were shouting at me: something like “shameful woman!” And you know what? Suddenly that’s what I felt like there. They pushed me out of the synagogue and chased me away,

Could this be God’s world?

August 13, 1971


land of hidden hopes and dreams;

dreams to become a little rich America.


land that is constantly searching

for money.


land of the chosen people



what happened to your dreams,

your searching, your



maybe you lost something

in translation?

August 16, 1971


God is somewhere…

September 9, 1971

I just got glasses.

I can see narrow lines,

precise lettering and make

accurate descriptions.

But now I wish that the moon still had a haze

surrounding it,

and I could always imagine

people were smiling in the streets.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t just get glasses.

The world was so much softer then.

February 4, 1972

Dear Twilly,

It’s so unbelievably easy to make someone happy. People are embarrassed to show their real feelings. When you give away feelings, you leave yourself open to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt someone else unless they were hurt themselves by someone.

How come I can’t just walk up to a person I love and let them know that I love them?

February 15, 1972

Girls and boys

start again,

playing hide-and-go-seek.

But we are no longer children

and the game has lost all of its joy.

February 27, 1972


Arming myself in boots and gloves and a coat and umbrella

to go out to meet the wind and snow and ice

makes me wonder,

maybe you also clothe yourself in armor

but in protection

from my warmth.

January 6, 1973

When I am most honest with myself,

I don’t pretend I make the sun shine.

I wonder if you would still be my friend,

Once you knew how I was empty.


How could I ever take that chance?

March 11, 1973

Dear Twilly,

They make all the girls take a Home Ec cooking class. Some nerve! I’ve been refusing to do any cooking in the class and I’ve gotten everyone else to rebel against the teacher, too. But today she tells me she is going to fail me if I don’t participate and stop instigating everyone. And if you fail this stupid class, you don’t graduate. She told me I don’t have to do any cooking, but if I would just help set the tables and decorate them and stop instigating everyone, she’ll still pass me. I guess I’ll do that, but it just bugs me that the boys don’t have to take cooking, and I have to study something that is not relevant to my future life. I want to be a scientist.

May 7, 1973

Sometimes I think that girls can never be free.

Perhaps they weren’t meant to be.

The boys ran down the mountain, faster and faster as they grew.

But when the girls grew,

their running faltered.

August 10, 1973

Dear Twilly,

I just finished reading my Seventeen magazine. Soon I’ll switch my subscription to Glamour. Then I guess I’m supposed to gradually move up to Ladies Home Journal or Good Housekeeping.

On one page there was an article, “Count Your Calories! Diet Tips from the Experts” A few pages later, there’s a glossy photo of a double-layer chocolate velvet cake with huge globs of whipped cream on top. This was followed by several pages of recipes entitled: “Indulge!” Then there was an ad for super sheer panty hose worn by a super skinny model. Next a lipstick ad, “Exercises for the Tummy!” and “Go Italian: Have a Lasagna Party Tonight” Then came another skinny model offering appetite depressant sucking candies. God, I’m confused. Am I supposed to be skinny or eat?

October 14, 1973

Over forty young women packed into a small, dimly-lit room in the basement of Forest Hills High School today. Everyone sat cross-legged on the floor. Our first “Women’s Forum” meeting took place today and I couldn’t believe so many women showed up. All I did was put up a few posters. But the time is right. The views expressed by radical feminists years back have seeped down into the minds of young women like us, in high schools across the nation. We are now questioning the traditional woman’s role in our future. I was nervous to get up and speak in front of everybody, but also much too happy to care.

This is what I said: “First, I want to thank everyone for coming. It is very important that women get together to share ideas and goals and problems. Just by getting together we become stronger. Later on at this meeting, I’d like to talk about some important changes that we could work on right here in our high school. Like getting girls, I should say, women, to be allowed to take ‘shop’ classes here like woodworking and drafting and printing. But I want to begin now by reading you a story I have just written which I think expresses fears that many of us have. Afterwards, I’d like to hear your comments and questions; what you all think about my essay. It is called:

“A Dollhouse Reality”

When a little girl receives her first miniature kit of make-up, her first Little Miss Happy Homemaker ironing board set, or her first Betsy Wetsy doll, she does not realize the huge price that she will eventually have to pay for them. She can hardly wait for the day when those plastic playthings will become their real selves, and she will be able to spend her mornings to evenings involved in an endlessly long game of playing house.

All that the little girl ever dreams about is one perfectly wonderful day. The day of the pure white lace gown, surrounded by plenty of admirers, and topped with one single, eternal promise; that alluring promise of contentment.

Ever since the day when a certain little girl felt the eyes of a certain little boy shyly looking at her from across her fourth grade classroom, and she couldn’t stop herself from blushing furiously, she knew she wouldn’t ever be the same. She had just been caught up into something much larger than herself and she would never again be free.

Suddenly her mad passion for secret clubhouse meetings, treasure-hunting expeditions, and squirrel chasing would be put aside forever. Bill, in fourth grade, Jeff, in fifth grade, Gregg, in sixth grade, and all the others until Mike, in college, would become her main objectives. The contest got uglier as the years went on. At first it was new and innocent enough, but over the years it got more desperate. The goal was to get the best prize of all, a cute and successful one. It was generally accepted that the girl who came in last would get the booby prize. Those who never made it to the finish line had to pick up all the scattered pieces of confetti strewn around, after the winners had passed by. Nobody wanted to be left in that lonely and degrading position, so everyone kept running in the race as fast as they could.

Along the way, the little girl would learn a lot of helpful hints. She would learn how to apply make-up skillfully in order to cover up her inner beauty. She would learn how to be charming and irresistible and how to hide her true personality. She would learn that the most important thing in life is to catch a great guy, even if that means sacrificing herself in the process. She would learn her lessons very easily, without much effort. Because all around her would be advertisements, movies, parents, and pals pointing out the road that would lead her to guaranteed happiness.

If she failed to learn her lessons well, she would be laughed at and ostracized. She would get her most important education from billboard posters or have to live with the terrible pain of being alone. If she was smarter than she was supposed to be, or if she preferred to play basketball on weekends, she could never attain the contentment that all the others would be able to achieve. She would be made to suffer for not losing what they had all lost years before.

When a little girl finally does receive her long-pursued playthings, lo and behold, they somehow don’t manage to bring the same kind of happiness that they did when they were only toys. An ironing board now means piles of wrinkled laundry, which means dreary, boring afternoons without ever feeling the sunshine. Betsy Wetsy is still a joy to the little girl grown older. But now, to her surprise, the life-size doll has an endless list of needs and demands that can only be met by her mother, day in and day out.

The little girl is no longer a little girl, and she wonders where her life has gone. It has been a long time since she has done something she could feel proud of. Now she is like a machine, a spiritless body that gets up each day and goes through the motions of being alive. She feels hardly any emotions anymore, except for a dull pain that goes through and through her.

Sometimes it’s hard to smile with the children, and so she screams at them and blames them for her unhappiness. Sometimes she’s angry at her husband for chaining her down into this deadening life. At first she stops doing little, barely noticeable things, like baking her special cakes for the family or organizing weekend picnics. Then she stops trying futilely to hold onto her waning beauty. And as she stops, she starts slowly falling apart. She begins to cry silently whenever they’re not watching and she starts wondering more and more often how she got deceived; cheated into believing in The Great Lie.

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