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Felicia Berliner on Shmutz with Abby Stein

June 2, 2022

Jewish Book Council and The Neighborhood joined The Center for Fiction for a special literary program featuring Felicia Berliner, author of the debut novel Shmutz, in conversation with author and activist Abby Stein (Becoming Eve). They discussed sexual identity and discovery within Orthodox communities as well as the process of writing as both an insider and outsider.

Felicia Berliner lives in New York City. Shmutz is her first novel. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she was awarded a Teaching Fellowship and the Henfield Prize, and a BA from Yale University. She grew up in Los Angeles and attended yeshiva high school.

Abby Stein (she/her) is a Jewish educator & rabbi, author, speaker, and activist. She was born and raised in a Hasidic family of rabbinic descent, and is a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism. Abby attended Yeshiva, completing a rabbinical degree in 2011. In 2012, she left the Hasidic world to explore a self-determined life. In 2015 Abby came out as a woman of trans experience. Since coming out, she has been working to raise support and awareness for trans rights and those leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy. Her story has been covered in the New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Jewish Daily Forward, Daily Mail, NBC, Vogue, InStyle, and more, as well as live appearances on CNN, Fox News, HuffPost Live, Showtime, NowThis, PopSugar, and internationally. In 2016, Abby was named by the Jewish Week as one of the “36 Under 36” young Jews who are inspiring change in the world, and in 2019 she was named by the Forward as one of the “Forward 50” most influential American Jews. In 2018 she was awarded the Pride Award by the Brooklyn Borough President. She studied gender studies and political science at Columbia University in New York City. Her memoir Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman was published by Seal Press in November 2019. She speaks regularly at universities, synagogues, and Jewish organizations across the globe, including the 92nd Street Y, Koffler Center for the Arts in Toronto, OUT@NBC Universal, and at the 2019 Women’s March in Washington, DC.