After writing my dissertation in Literacy Studies I realized that I have a treasure in my hands: the concept of the multiplicity of literacies and the awareness that every person can and wants to learn. I wanted to get the word out to groups in schools and society that are marginalized due to perceived “lack of education”, to show them that they had the right to hold their heads high as any others and that their voices mattered.
Since then (2003) I have been voluntarily working in communities to raise voices through literacy. Most of the work has taken place at Glory House – a home and shelter for women in NY where I have been teaching a weekly literacy class.
Work on similar issues is being carried out by Jenny Horseman in Canada, looking into the connections between learning and violence, trauma, and fear among adult women learners and you can find this important work on her site http://www.learningandviolence.net/
I have also worked with youth at a local Juvenile Detention Center attempting to engage them in critical reading and writing on an empowering path. This proved too challenging for me to continue doing on my own. But for the 2 courses of several months each that I did teach these classes, more than anything I did for the children (ages 11-16) they taught me about a monsterous iceburg of which they represented the tip, that is inflicting increasing damage to our society: poverty, limited access to meaningful education, violence, incarceration, senseless deaths… All these create a cyclical trap the juveniles are mostly born into and are socially powerless to escape (the power of semi-automatics definitely can’t help them).
I have initiated, developed and am currently implementing two university-community sharing-of-knowledge programs: 1) In cooperation with Lehman College, we are working in a struggling high school in The Bronx, NY, with “highly at-risk” 9th graders – The Bronx Project Teach Us to Teach You; 2) In cooperation with the Dept. of Social Work at Tel-Chai College in Israel. we are working at Atidim, a youth development center in Hatzor, Israel, implementing a pedagogy of empowerment.
A basic milestone in my work were the understandings that emerged from research I conducted among Orthodox Jewish women regarding the possibilities of finding personal power through critically reading and responding to traditional, patriarchical and seemingly oppressive texts. I found that power can be found and appropriated by those who are willing to see it as such. The study Literacy and Power: The Shiyour as a site of subordination and empowerment for orthodox Jewish women, was published in The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 27(1), Spring 2011, pp. 53-74.