“Thinking Inside the Box”: Framing My Grandmother’s Life

I had never taken the time to learn much about my grandmother, Esther Rebeca Leibowich de Bortz’s past. While I knew that something in her history must have gone right—she became a renowned gynecologist in Argentina—large gaps existed between each of the detailed but disconnected anecdotes that she recounted to me over the years.

My grandmother—or Bobe as I call her—and I have never lived in the same country. She was born in Argentina and has lived there for her entire life, while I was born in Chile and have lived in Atlanta for most of mine. With each of her visits, I learn more about this woman I have always been taught to revere, but in truth never knew much about. Consequently, I welcomed the opportunity to take the course, “Jewish Women in Modern America,” at The Weber School in Atlanta, where I am a junior.

While I knew Esther was notorious for making a short story long, I never expected that an interview estimated to last one hour would occupy three. I also never expected it to be the most meaningful conversation I’d ever had. Each question I asked uncovered more of my grandmother’s rich past. She told me about the time she was discriminated against by a priest for being the flag bearer on the day that every child in the country entered the church for a national ceremony, an honor she earned for having the highest grade point average, and the way she prevailed by standing up for her rights as a student and a proud Jew.

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