Yes, I Was Named After Barbra Streisand and Yentl Changed My Life
My Mom named me as per Jewish custom after her maternal Grandmother, Bella Weinstein Gardner. My given name is Barbra Lyn Hollander. If you look closely to the unique way that I spell my name: B A R B R A, I also hold the honor of being named after Barbra Streisand. My Mom’s a HUGE fan! She owns every album and DVD and belted Barbra’s songs into the mirror with a hairbrush when she was a little girl. I’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan too and it’s a special bond that we share. My Dad enjoys Barbra too and wasn’t left out when it came to the naming of the kids. He gave my older brother, Paul, the honor of being named after his beloved mentor and maternal Grandfather, Paul Lewin.
I have always felt a special kinship to my namesake. The connection that I have with Ms. Streisand is not limited to the spelling of our name. I am also a strong woman. I am independent. I am a creative spirit who is a: Performer, Director, Writer and Producer. I am Jewish. Barbra is not considered conventional and often called “difficult” to work with but has proven the position she holds as one of the greatest talents today. Gliding through my own journey of self-discovery, I admire her innovation and dedication as a passionately proud Jewish woman and Artist.
Ok…now we are going to discuss how Yentl changed my life. Thank you Glee! Millions of people around the nation are now humming Papa Can You Hear Me from their poignant episode about Religion. I have probably been listening to the soundtrack of Yentl since infancy. As a little girl, I would sit on my floor in the dark pretending to be running away, frightened and alone in the woods. I recreated the scene by striking a match and bringing the flame towards the wick of the candle emotionally singing Papa Can You Hear Me into my hairbrush. Looking back, this may have been the first conversation I had with Adonai. I was always considered a pretty deep little girl and embodied the character when I performed alone in my room. Having grown up watching Musical’s, release of emotion and justification that vulnerability was acceptable was experienced through singing. I’d channel my personal feelings into the character I was emulating. I told you, I was a deep kid which some would call that having an “old soul”.
One thing from the movie that I immediately recognized and embraced was the defiance our heroine had while questioning the laws against Women studying the Torah. Yentl cut off her hair, a symbol of beauty and confidence, to look like a young boy. She sacrificed her identity and isolated herself from falling in love to fight for the right to study and speak to Adonai. I am lucky to follow in the path paved by Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Golda Meier and many other early feminists who fought for Jewish Women to have the freedom in their own voices. I will never take for granted the education that I received in Hebrew and Sunday school. My parents never had to drag me to Synagogue. I beautifully embrace the memory of the moment when the Torah was passed from my Grandfathers’ to my Father to me during my Bat Mitzvah. I became the first woman in my immediate family to join a covenant with Adonai on the Bimah.
Barbra Streisand, Yentl and Barbra Hollander are all powerfully strong and individually spiritual Women. Would I still have such a strong connection to my Jewish faith if I wasn’t raised watching Yentl fight for the freedom to learn the answers to her questions?…Probably. Along with having crushes on the boys in my Hebrew school class, I bragged that my namesake was a Jewish celebrity and loved chanting the Hebrew melodies at services. I was born traditionally and spiritually a proud Jewish woman and lucky that the gift of storytelling and music pointed me towards the path I was destined to follow. “…Tell me please, why have a mind if not to question why”? (Yentl).