Episode 3: CAMP

Content Warning: Strong language, homophobic language. 

Growing up, I went to day school but I never attended Jewish camp. Instead, I attended a slew of artsy camps where I spent my days tap dancing and oil painting sternly in the woods. I was a serious kid, even back then and two months of sleepaway camp with many of the kids I was already attending school every day with seems just a bit excessive. Working now and playing now, in spaces full of Jews in their 20s and 30s, I attend retreats on summer campgrounds, facilitate countless icebreakers, and eagerly don a matching t-shirt for color war. I feel like in adulthood, I'm finally getting my fill of the Jewish camp experience. But growing up, though I never attended, I heard about jewish camp non stop. The songs and chants and special tunes and dances for prayers, the inside jokes and informal uniforms of layered tank tops, soffee shorts, and sugar shoes (anyone else remember those puffy tempurpedic- like flip flops that looked like pool floats on ou tiny tween feet?!?!) Regardless, reflecting on that space now, as many of us know, Jewish camp serves many purposes. These spaces provide a temporary immersive Jewish educational space for kids that spend most of the year in secular spaces, teach them to pray and appreciate jewish culture, and on the low (but not that low), Jewish sleepaway camp creates spaces for young people to meet, date, and cultivate relationships with other Jews. There are many different kinds of sleepaway camps but one thing they all have in common is providing a space away from the prying eyes of parents for kids to experiment, get weird, and try really really hard to find themselves. Sometimes they succeed. Other times, these spaces and the memories now budding adults hold on to give us fodder for countless awkward, uncomfortable, kooky, and sometimes heartfelt stories to tell into adulthood. Today on Miss Mitzvah, we’re going to be sharing stories from three very different young people on their camp experiences. Stories of Bat Mitzvahs and mean girls, hookups in torah rooms, and true love. 


Music and Production by Sophia Lanman

Creative Direction by Zoe Penina Baker and Sophia Lanman.

Special thanks this week to Emily, Alex , and Yakira.

Miss Mitzvah is on view through January 21st at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

 

Minisode: Best Foot Forward for 2018

Hey listeners, happy new year!  We know it’s been a while since our last episode and before we put out a new one later this week we just thought we’d touch base and let y’all know how we’re doing. For me, 2017 was a super productive year full of meaningful work. Watching Miss Mitzvah come to fruition as a real-life exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Montreal  and through this podcast have been huge.

I’ve spent almost two years now collecting objects and stories from young women across North America. Making new friends, sharing intimate moments, and learning about them- and myself- throughout the process. I’ve collaborated with museum professionals, storytellers, and my amazing producer Sophia, and I’ve put my heart and my ideas out into the world on a larger scale than I could have ever imagined. I can’t tell you how much all of your support has meant throughout this process.

As you might imagine, Episode 2, “ Boys Behaving Badly” was really really tough to make. This was a conversation we didn’t just want to have, Sophia and I felt like we needed to have this conversation and we really hope we did it justice.

 My grandmother's shoes (left), as part of the Miss Mitzvah exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. 

My grandmother's shoes (left), as part of the Miss Mitzvah exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. 

On a personal level, the week we recorded Episode 2 was one of the hardest weeks for me, that I’ve had since starting this project. In order to get down to the two  interviews with young men  featured on the show we had to speak to a LOT of dudes- so this meant I spent all week speaking with my closest guys friends, speaking about sexual harassment, assault, and all the shitty things they’ve thought, said, and done. By Sunday, when we did Saul’s interview, I was really bogged down with the emotional labor of it all, and feeling really frustrated and disheartened by my own relationships. Then I got the call. A pair of my grandmother’s shoes which were on view at the museum were stolen.

The silver strappy sandals I’d included as part of the exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Montreal were some of the first high heels I ever owned. My grandmother gave them to me while she was still alive. Worn from years of wear already, the shiny crisscrossed silver material was faded and  soft, showing hints of the fleshy original leather underneath. The diamond shaped mesh inserts squeezed my toes, the heel crumbling and still, I wore them to my own Bat Mitzvah, and countless other formal affairs moving forward. I included these shoes in the exhibition as an homage to my grandmother, assuming that the only person who’d placed any value on them was me. With this entire project, I’ve put myself out there in a way I’d have never felt comfortable with before, I’ve been vulnerable, and tried to give you, my audience, my most honest, authentic self. Overall, the reception and support has been amazing. But when this happened, I felt violated and de-valued. Why should I keep doing the work if people don’t respect it?

We did everything we could, and still, the shoes were never recovered. But, as stolen shoes walk away, the show must go on. After a few weeks cooling down, mourning my shoes, reflecting on these tough conversations, and taking a much needed break for the holidays, I’m here, trying yet again, to give my all. After tackling some tough topics, we’ll be back later this week something a bit lighter- our camp episode. So roll over those Sofee shorts, don your finest tie die, and harken back to times riddled with bugbites, friendship bracelets, and  awkward first kisses away from the prying eyes of parents back home.

We’ve got lots of exciting surprises for all of you in 2018, so definitely stay tuned.

Teaser: Introducing Miss Mitzvah (the Podcast)!

I’ve been working on Miss Mitzvah as an interactive art project for almost two years now and I wanted to do this podcast to share not just my story, but the stories of so many of the women that I have spoken to and engaged with over the course of the last couple years. Tune in for a short teaser of the season to come. This 8 minute mini-episode tells a bit of my tale as a tweenage Jewess growing up in New York and helps create context for the project at large. Get ready for 10 episodes chock full of nauseating nostalgia and cringeworthy coming of age stories from across North America.

xxo,

Zo

Host and Creative Direction: Zoe Penina Baker

Music and Production: Sophia Lanman

Editing: Julie Berube

Special thanks to the Museum of Jewish Montreal

Archival images courtesy of the Jewish Public Library Archives