Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a pioneer of the women’s rights movement and was involved in the founding of Ms. Magazine. She is a woman who writes about her evolving Jewish identity over many decades. And she is once again at the forefront in her groundbreaking book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, which teaches that “empathy translated into action equals kindness” for a friend who is sick.
Last week Letty spoke at Temple Isaiah in Lexington. JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections was delighted to be a community partner for this event, which was sponsored by the New Center for Arts and Culture. More than 200 people filled the sanctuary to hear Letty share personal stories as she was interviewed by NPR’s Robin Young.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer at age seventy, Letty began her treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Realizing that her fellow cancer patients were a revolving population, she started to interview them about their struggles. What she gleaned from nearly eighty interviews and from her personal experience was what to do and what not to do with regard to friendship and illness.
She emphasized three things that we ought to be able to say to someone who is sick:
- Tell me what’s helpful and what’s not.
- Tell me if you want to be alone and when you want company.
- Tell me what to bring and when to leave.
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