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This is the home page for Tamar Kaufman. It was difficult to plan this page, as it was not clear that Tamar had any desire for a home page. She was someone who took much pleasure in reporting, and in writing about others. She was never fond of the limelight for herself. This is a home page for those of us who are friends and family of Tamar Kaufman.
Tamar was co-host of the Jewish conference here on the WELL, and was one of the pioneering participants. To the world at large, she was also a friend, a journalist, and a writer. As we prepared this page, she was battling cancer for the third time, and this time, cancer won. She passed away at about 11am on Saturday, October 22, 1994.
Tamar grew up with brothers Stuart and Bobby in Westchester County, New York. Today, Stuart is in Queens; Bobby is on Long Island. Tamar moved around. She left home right after high school, running away to Connecticut and setting up as a farrier with a high school friend. A summer later, they had scads of horses to board and train. In May 1970 Tamar decided it was time to go to Israel.
In Israel she put some time in at Hebrew University, wrote for various and sundry publications like the Jerusalem Post and for the Ministry of Tourism, worked for the Jerusalem Hilton, helped found the Women's Party, and met and moved in with her future husband Daveed Mandel. She may have had her first bout with cancer here, although she told friends that it had just been a cyst. She and her co-host (of the Jewish conference, here on the WELL), Ari Davidow, first crossed paths at a party in Jerusalem at this time, twenty years ago. Despite attending the same demonstrations (many organized by Tamar) and hanging out with the same friends, they did not actually meet until many years later in the Bay Area.
Her husband, Daveed, is blind and had trouble finding paying work. More important, opportunities for women to earn a living in Israel sufficient to support a family were inadequate. In 1980 Tamar and Daveed had moved to LA. A year later Tamar won her first (next?) bout with cancer. In 1983 she and Daveed resettled in the Bay Area. In 1985 Tamar began writing for the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, eventually becoming its East Bay Bureau chief. As such, she was responsible for the Bulletin covering every aspect of the Jewish community, no matter how far removed from the mainstream, or from the Jewish Establishment. There are few, if any, Jewish newspapers that can claim to represent as broad or as inclusive a community.
It wasn't just the Bay Area that has perceived her quality as a journalist. By the 1990s she was regularly winning Rockower Awards--the annual awards given to outstanding journalists in the Jewish community.
- In 1991, she won for her editorial, Why can't women pray? about the women of the wall.
- In 1993, she won for her editorial, History repeats itself comparing the war in Bosnia to the human rights atrocities of the Holocaust.
- and for her article, Fire victims tell of life and loss, which described how East Bay Jews were dealing with the aftermath of the Oakland fire.
In 1988 Tamar discovered she had breast cancer. She had a complete mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy and a serious dose of Chinese herbs. The cancer forum on CompuServe became one of her virtual homes as she exchanged support messages, and researched alternative cancer treatments. After the course of treatment, the cancer appeared to go into remission.
In the Spring of 1993, it was discovered that cancer had returned, this time, metastasizing into her brain. She took a leave of absence from the Bulletin, and continued to fight. Her most common complaint was that now, when she no longer had to work full-time, she had time to write, and she didn't feel well enough to write. In between her treatments, she was working on a Bay Area-based mystery novel featuring a Berkeley bubbe as detective.
Among her last stories were some that reflected the problems of the aguna, the 'abandoned wife" in Jewish religious law. Although she considers herself a traditional Jew and regularly attended services with Berkeley's Conservative Netivoth Shalom congregation, Tamar had little patience for those hide-bound Jews who would use tradition to deny women their rights. According to Tamar, it is especially outrageous that women may not divorce their husbands, no matter how abusive, neglectful, or loathesome, and should a husband disappear, a woman may be forced to live like a widow, with no legal option of remarrying, or of having children by a new companion recognized as other than bastards.
Tamar was one of the pioneering participants of the Jewish conference here on the WELL. Indeed, she liked to recount the slack period, after the initial excitement about the conference had subsided, when she and co-host Ari spent their afternoons bouncing from topic to topic, disagreeing with each other, until their activity finally bore fruit and brought in additional participation. She was good at it not just because of her infectious caring, but also because even then she was an online veteran. Her first online presence was on CompuServe in its Writers Forum. It was there that she did her first online organizing, trying to bring the Writers Union online. In recent years, in addition to her hostly duties here, she moved beyond the WELL to mailing lists such as "Bridges,," the list sponsored by the Jewish Feminist Journal of the same name, and frequently posted information on the WELL about new Jewish resources that she discovered in cyberspace.