Remember the good ole’ days of Middle School? Oy Gevalt! Don’t remind me! Unibrows are out of control and you have been to 20 Bat Mitzvahs, and still no one has asked you to slow dance. Through these tumultuous times, there was one woman who got it all—Judy Blume.
For young American girls, Judy Blume, is something of a hero. She authored books like Tiger Eyes (1981) and Summer Sisters (1998) that cover a range of topics from puberty to relationships to sex. For pre-teens, Blume’s books double as entertainment and a biblical guide for navigating the rocky waters of life, and though these “bibles” speak a universal language, Jewish themes seep through the sheepskin. Her most popular novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970) tackles the issue of understanding religious identity and relationships to God—Issues that hit close to home for Blume, who was born in 1938 as Judith Sussman to Esther Rosenfeld and Rudolph Sussman in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Growing up, Blume attended Synagogue, but didn’t understand much of what was going on, as it was all Yiddish to her! Most of her aunts and uncles passed away during her youth, so she attributes much of her philosophies on religion to the fact that her family seemed to be in a perpetual state of Shiva sitting.
Blume grew up culturally Jewish, but like the character of Margaret, God was more of a personal confidante, rather than an omniscient religious being. Confidante or not, Blume could not escape the wrath of Jewish guilt, and when she fell for a goy named Fred in ninth grade, she was told it was okay, “since they weren’t getting married.” Story of every Jewish girl’s life.
Coming from a Jewish community, but having gentile friends and boyfriends at school, made the world seem split between two faiths (Judaism and Christianity) for the young Blume. This limbo between religions was the inspiration for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, where the protagonist sixth grader tries to reconcile her half Jewish and half Christian identity, all the while waiting for her own red sea to rise (her period ahem ahem).
Blume’s heritage and understanding of the trials and tribulations of being a young adult made her a best-seller amongst Jewish girls, so it’s no wonder that every girl at JCA Shalom sleepaway had their Judy Blume paperbacks nestled between their Lisa Frank folders!