Pushing the Agenda Forward for Wage Earning Women

 

The Women’s Bureau is a voice for working women. The Bureau was created by Congress in 1920 to promote the welfare of wage-earning women. The Women’s Bureau has been meeting its mandate by identifying, researching and analyzing the topics working women care about most; pioneering innovative policies and programs to address them; and enhancing education and outreach efforts to raise awareness on key issues affecting women in the workforce. Their two main goals are to reduce barriers that inhibit or prevent women’s access to – and retention in – better jobs, and to ensure women’s fair treatment in the workplace.

My coursework as a legal studies student has exposed me to a wide range of controversies regarding the discriminatory treatment of distinct interest and minority groups. As I dived deeper into my studies and independently read books about systematic workplace discrimination, I developed a profound interest in employment law. Soon thereafter, I realized my passions not only consist of advocating for improved conditions and equal opportunity, but also one-day sharing my knowledge and advocacy skills with minority and low-income workers so they can acknowledge a situation of discrimination and subsequently self-advocate. Education and advocacy are entangled, and crucial to banish discrimination in the workplace and achieve economic stability and security. Hence, my goals coincide with the mission of the Women’s Bureau because they publish educational materials that are both concise and comprehensible to the average worker and employer. Moreover, they empower women by aiding them with the proper tools to self-advocate in the face of discrimination or inequality. Additionally, the Bureau hosts multiple community outreach events and focus groups to understand the impact of modern cultural dynamics on issues concerning women.

I am responsible for assisting on specific project initiatives by drafting policy memorandums to underscore issues concerning women in the labor force, including maternity, childbirth, and postpartum policies and rights. I help compile research and data on current sociocultural and economic issues to support policy initiatives, refine methodology, and expand upon the outlined agenda. Additionally, I attend legislative hearings, interagency workgroups, and community events to understand regional constituent concerns and provide information on upcoming initiatives. I am also expected to collaborate with other regional offices to formulate solutions for community-specific issues.

I have recently been asked to look into issues concerning lactation spaces in the workplace by observing federal buildings, hospitals, and private businesses. By conducting this research and analysis, I am able to discern best practices in lactation spaces that should be implemented to help new moms feel supported during their breastfeeding experience. After addressing these best practices and my research with other regional office coordinators, we were able to refine the objective and ultimate goal of my project. My work will hopefully help the Bureau encourage management and other personnel to create effective and comfortable lactation spaces for nursing moms. Additionally, by devising a best practices/educational fact-sheet for supervisors, I hope that this will encourage dialogue and more training surrounding lactation rights provided under the law.

I look forward to continuing my work on this project and also helping the Bureau in some other areas of focus, such as occupational licensure reciprocity in various states. I hope the preliminary research and analysis I conduct this summer will help the Bureau continue to advocate for change and push the agenda forward long after my internship is over!

 

The Trifecta: Bernstein, Faith, and Music

Yes, Bernstein was born Jewish and fully admitted to his Jewish roots. Even Serge Koussevitzky, his longtime mentor, urged Bernstein to change his last name because it sounded “too Jewish” but Bernstein resisted and said, “I’ll do it as ‘Bernstein’ or not at all” (1).  However, his attitude towards religion was still quite complicated and a mysterious part of his identity. Nevertheless, many of his composed works symbolized religious and Jewish elements — and the interplay of faith and humanity. Specifically, the “Kaddish” symphony magnifies his convoluted journey with religion, but the underlying tension between himself and his devout father is strongly understood as the main focus. The symphonic foundation of the piece allows for the theatrical and conversational elements to come to life: “…in a sense the symphonic form is hardly there for its own sake, but as a kind of stage set, in front of which a dramatized debate—or interior monologue—takes place” (2). However, does the “Kaddish” only illustrate an inner dialogue and intense conversation between father and son…or something else entirely?

Leonard Bernstein (L) and his father celebrating his opening night concert at Lincoln Center. (Photo by Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

“Every son, at one point or other, defies his father, fights him, departs from him, only to return to him,” Bernstein expressed at the 70th birthday party for his father (3). Although Bernstein candidly spoke to the news media and interviewers about his work, his composed music expresses deeper, more intimate and raw emotions. For instance, the text of “Kaddish,” which Bernstein wrote himself, exposes Bernstein’s contested relationship with his father and dives deeper into the meaning behind his off-the-cuff quote from his father’s 70th birthday.

Ironically, the Kaddish is the traditional Jewish mourning prayer — but the prayer never mentions the term death, only “the word chayei or chayim (“life”) three times” (4). Moreover, the prayer praises God and the spirit of life, not the absence of life. This symbolic dualism runs throughout the piece; chromatic textures (twelve-tone techniques) contrasts “simple expressive diatonicism — for instance, during the Din Torah section (literally meaning judicial trial of two Jewish parties), the Speaker has an outburst of emotion “in which God is accused of a breach of faith with humanity” (5). Moreover, the dualism appears when human immortality by God’s divine power contrasts humanity’s imminent suicide by reality (6). The dualistic and contrasting undertones purposefully emphasize the lows and highs, mountains and abysses of his turbulent father-son relationship but also of American life. 

Album Cover – Bernstein – Symphony No. 3 Kaddish

The “Kaddish” is viewed as an argument with God, as the Speaker “takes him on in the prosecutorial manner of an angry Job,” but his father’s discontentment and disappointment are obvious throughout the text (7). Bernstein’s father hoped he would leave his music aspirations behind and pursue something more respectable, like carrying on the family business. Although his father eventually came around to his son’s career choice, the beginning of “Kaddish” (Part I – Invocation) emphasizes the Speaker’s despair and bitterness towards his father, as the Speaker addresses God as “angry, wrinkled old majesty,” — perhaps this is Bernstein’s disobedient voice coming alive (8). However, is the Speaker only addressing his familial pressures and rollercoaster relationship, or is he also making accusations against God and humanity? Perhaps, Man and God are dueling on the battlefield of life, amidst all the conflict, chaos, and evil of reality. Prior to Bernstein finishing the piece, JFK had just been assassinated and he was taken aback by this horrendous act; a wave of hurt and despair settled over the world, adding another powerful dimension to this already tense and passionate piece before it premiered in Israel only three weeks later (9). Bernstein’s “Kaddish” is trying to illustrate the internal struggle between ourselves and any higher power (moral, spiritual, physical) but also … the cognitive dissonance we experience every day. He wanted the audience to look within and reevaluate their interaction with reality and the politically charged environment. 

Beyond the higher power, regardless if it does or does not exist, the piece also tried to ignite a conversation around the internal struggle with oneself and all the isms: racism, sexism, socialism, capitalism, etc. It is not just Jews or religious people that need to look within and reflect, but all of humanity — the moral struggle is areligious, apolitical, and appears in all facets of life. The pure beauty of this piece is broken down into two components or takeaways: 1) faith and relationships are neither cookie cutter nor black and white, but moral behavior isn’t either and, 2) it transcends time and place, as the principle or idea does not change (i.e. morality and cognitive dissonance between our actions and beliefs) but the subject certainly does (i.e. ourselves and the world around us).

By Mollie Goldfarb

  1. “Reckoning with Leonard Bernstein’s Faith on the Centennial of His Birth,” Religion News Service (blog), August 22, 2018, https://religionnews.com/2018/08/22/reckoning-with-leonard-bernsteins-faith-on-the-centennial-of-his-birth/.
  2. Neil Levin, “Symphony No. 3,” Milken Archive of Jewish Music, accessed October 14, 2018, http://www.milkenarchive.org/music/volumes/view/symphonic-visions/work/symphony-no-3/.
  3. Anthony Tommasini, “Review: Son Confronts Father to End a Leonard Bernstein Festival,” The New York Times, November 12, 2017, sec. Arts, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/arts/music/review-leonard-bernstein-festival-new-york-philharmonic.html.
  4. Jack Gottlieb, “Works | Works | Leonard Bernstein,” accessed October 14, 2018, https://leonardbernstein.com/works/view/48/symphony-no-3-kaddish.
  5. Jack Gottlieb, “Works | Works | Leonard Bernstein.” 
  6. Jack Gottlieb, “Works | Works | Leonard Bernstein.” 
  7. Anthony Tommasini, “Review: Son Confronts Father to End a Leonard Bernstein Festival.”
  8. Anthony Tommasini, “Review: Son Confronts Father to End a Leonard Bernstein Festival.”
  9. Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” accessed October 14, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRZkXMlyKzg.

A Tale of Critique and Chutzpah: Leonard Bernstein as a Conductor

 

By Mollie Goldfarb

Classical music was commonly danced and listened to in the Jewish shtetl, otherwise known as Brooklyn in the 1930s. My grandparents’, Bubbe and Opa, respective family living rooms were filled with the sounds of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven when they practically lived down the block from one another (before they even knew the other existed and way before their first date). Their teenage memories consist of the sweet sounds of classical music, none of that rebel rousing jazz music of the 1930s. Obviously, it only made sense their honeymoon include a stop at Tanglewood, the premier spot for classical music during the beautiful, breezy summer months in the Berkshire Mountains.

 

Bubbe & Opa. Tanglewood – Summer 1955.

 

Bernstein was revered as a God in the heavenly tree-lined landscape of Tanglewood, according to his son Alexander: “The entire exertion of the place revolved around him–his work, his needs–and everyone was happy to oblige.” (1) However, his relationship with the NY Philharmonic from 1958 – 1990 was much more tempestuous compared to his consecutive teaching summers spent at Tanglewood. Although many music enthusiasts were discontent with his unmistakable style, some orchestra members applauded Bernstein’s dynamic behavior and mannerisms. He adamantly rejected the stuffy, unrelatable pretenses of classical music, specifically because the NY Philharmonic was declining in popularity and lacked sufficient energy to interest its patrons or compete with the more “prestigious” symphonies in Boston & Philadelphia. For example, the late Walter Botti, a New York Philharmonic bass player from 1952 to 2002, believed his charisma transformed the orchestra: “Lenny loved everybody and he wanted to be loved by everybody, but music came first. He pushed the Orchestra, but he never, never embarrassed anybody or put people on the spot. He was a real mensch.” (2) He constantly nudged the musicians to their physical and emotional limits by demanding long-hours and intense rehearsals, as he tried to solve the oxymoron of “American classical music.” (3) During this time, classical music was rooted in Eurocentric ideals and principles but this did not discourage or halt Bernstein in his tracks to Americanize classical music; rather, he began to have wild dreams to conduct American canons distinct from the far-flung arrangements in Europe: “More than the Russian-born Koussevitzky, more than the English-born Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein tackled the oxymoron head-on.” (4) His programs consisted of an interesting mash-up between 19th-century romantic music and modern American works. To grasp the diversity of music during his time with the NY Philharmonic, his first subscription program included William Schuman’s American Festival Overture, Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 2, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. (5) Nevertheless, even though his position with the Philharmonic spanned over many years fraught with political turmoil and social revolution, his desire to conduct great American canons and regenerate American patriotism did not digress. However, his sense of urgency was sometimes overshadowed by his splashy behavior and presence onstage.

In his distinct quest to solve this oxymoron of American classical music, he faced many critiques from scholarly peers and longtime NY Philharmonic subscribers, such as my grandparents. His larger than life personality often frustrated many patrons; my grandparents always felt he would “eat up the applause” once onstage and even worse, distract from the music with dramatic theatrical mannerisms, “excessively swaying and stomping his foot to the music.” Patrons began to wonder, “Was the main attraction the man on the podium or the music he was conducting?” His overwhelming conducting style played to a specific audience while it simultaneously soured others opinion of him: “At his worst, Bernstein was the Barbra Streisand of conductors, an ego-filled blimp who used the classics as a backdrop for his dramatic posturing.” (6) His polarizing style was fervently felt throughout the audience, leaving those similar in opinion to my grandparents isolated and annoyed by his takeover and grand upheaval of classical conducting.

That Mahler feeling … Leonard Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1970. Photograph: Bettmann Archive

Although his personal conducting style did not win over my grandparents’ hearts, his programs as a conductor drastically (consciously or subconsciously) altered their attitude towards American classical music–one of the most explicit and important goals in Bernstein’s professional career, specifically as a conductor. I recently asked my grandparents if they thought NY Philharmonic patrons of that era truly enjoyed his eccentric programs with an interesting Eurocentric and American mix. Their answer neatly sums up the long-lasting impact of Bernstein as a conductor and more or less, a revolutionary: “It is hard to say, as we do not have access to patron’s views…and do not remember if Bernstein introduced more modern American music…That is not to say he did or didn’t. We just do not remember. However, if you were to ask us today if we enjoy the aforementioned music the answer would be yes.”

  1. Donald L. Trott & Alexander Bernstein, “Leonard Bernstein Remembered: A Lecture/Interview with His Son, Alexander,” American Choral Directors Association, November 1993.
  2. Joseph Horowitz, “A Wunderkind at 100,” The Weekly Standard, April 27, 2018, https://www.weeklystandard.com/joseph-horowitz/a-wunderkind-at-100.
  3. Joseph Horowitz, “A Wunderkind at 100.”
  4. Joseph Horowitz, “A Wunderkind at 100.”
  5. Joseph Horowitz, “A Wunderkind at 100.”
  6. Terry Teachout, “How Good Was Leonard Bernstein?,” Commentary Magazine (blog), October 1, 1994, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/how-good-was-leonard-bernstein/.