By Sara Marcus
On March 4th, the Poetry Club, Feminists Club and Jewish Activism Club co-hosted Professor Joy Ladin for a poetry reading and discussion. The “Letter to Joy” event was attended by more than twenty students. Professor Ladin, an English professor and the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair at Stern College, is the author of nine books of poetry, as well as a memoir and a book of creative nonfiction essays.
Professor Ladin read from The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems and a poem still in progress. After concluding her poem, she opened the floor to discussion about her piece and a larger conversation about writing and the creative process. Students were encouraged to contribute their own interpretations and experiences, and all those interviewed for the article found that the event was first and foremost a safe and welcoming environment to voice their own perspectives.
Though the flyer for the event advertised that Mexikosher would be served, the food never showed up. Instead, Yakov Stone, co-president of the Poetry Club, went to Dunkin’ Donuts to purchase donuts and decaffeinated coffee, which became a running joke throughout the event and a welcome surprise for the vegetarians in the audience.
“The event attracted students from a wide variety of religious and political perspectives,” said Molly Meisels, co-president of the Feminists Club. “It allowed students interested in progressive issues to voice their opinions in an environment of minimal judgment. As always, Professor Ladin shined in her ability to lead discussions and make students feel comfortable to share their views on identity and progressivism.”
Sarah Ben-Nun, an English major who attended the event, described it as having been the perfect open forum. She said, “I’m super grateful for it because I got to be exposed to her [Professor Ladin’s] work, which was moving and dripping with feeling and symbolism.”
Shayna Herszage, co-president of the Jewish Activism Club, wrote, ”We were instantly on board [for co-sponsoring the event] because we feel that [Professor] Ladin has a great perspective on Jewish identity and gender equality, two things among the main values of JAC…and the transgender Jewish voice is all too often ignored.”
Professor Ladin said, “I was moved that so many students came, and thrilled that…so many contributed to the discussion. It took a lot for students to make the event happen and create that kind of space, and I know that it wasn’t easy for some people to show up. That determination and courage is inspiring.”
“I heard Professor Ladin read her poetry uptown a year or so ago and I loved her poetry,” Stone said. “She speaks about understanding people’s differences and I think that’s an important message for the YU student body to hear. I think the students who came to the event made it meaningful. Everyone participated in the conversation…Professor Ladin always asked for students’ opinions when explaining concepts.”