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KxBurns
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Rosa

Of all the characters in The Believers, Rosa is the most consciously engaged in the search for a belief system that reflects her values and is consistent with her life experiences and her hopes.

 

What are some of the factors that lead Rosa to seek out religion? What insights does she gain from the meeting with Chianti's mother (in Chapter 9) and her visit to the mikvah (in Chapter 14)? What are some other pivotal moments for Rosa?

 

How are Rosa's own values and prejudices reflected in, or challenged by, her relationships with the young girls at the GirlPower Center, Rabbi Reinman, and her roommate Jane, respectively? How would you characterize her relationships with various members of her family?

 

In what direction do you think Rosa is headed as the book ends?
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IBIS
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Re: Rosa

Rosa, whose conscious search for another belief system, to replace a disenchanted one, resonated with me the most.

 

I found her to be a very sympathetic character... in her search to belong, she merely replaces one stringent belief system with an even more unforgiving one. At the end of "The Believers", she plans to continue her search in Israel for another belief system... in this case, Orthodox Judaism. She is looking to replace the socialist faith that directed her youth... the religion that she learned at her father's lap. 

 

She was her father's star pupil at the family's Sunday breakfast political lessons. Her revolutionary zeal was intense. She was deeply offended by injustice and inequity... she was committed to changing the world.

 

But her four years in Cuba, seeing the injustice there, started her slow disenchantment ... witnessing the flaws in the Cuban system discredited her faith..

 

Now her righteousness is ending... in her disilusionment, she eventually surrendered her political faith... When she first entered the synagogue, on a whim, she was busily charting a new course without the guidance of revolutionary principles.. 

 

She is ashamed to admit that she just another do-gooder; she is reduced to chaperoning underprivileged teenage girls on museum trips.

 

What I like about Rosa is that she is perceptive enough to recognize the paradox... for Joel Litvinoff's daughter, a 3rd generation atheist to wander, on a whim, into a synagogue to find her inner Jew.  

 

IBIS 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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becky_quilts
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Re: Rosa

Rosa was a passionate student to her parents belief system to the point of surpassing them.  She recognized the hypocrisy of their position.  Bourgeois is the term used repeatedly to describe their lifestyle.  She is not satisfied with giving only lip service to her values so she goes to Cuba where she is prepared to live her beliefs.  But she soon sees the flaws of the socialist system in reality, something her parents can't experience from the comfort of their middle class living room.  Returning from Cuba she no longer has a working belief system to devote her life to.  Since the system of her parents failed she turned instead to one that her parents despise, the Jewish faith.  Of course she is not satisfied with just any branch but of the most vigorous, Orthodox.  It seems inevitable that she chose the path that she did.

 

At the GirlPower shelter Rosa feels good about contributing to the progress of underprivileged girls.  Her experience with Chianti's mother proves to Rosa the pointlessness of her current activism.  You cannot help someone who is not interested in improving themselves and who is receiving a counter message in every other area of their life.  It seems it could help push her toward the Orthodox Jewish faith where each person is responsible for their own faith.  She can throw herself into the pursuit of her own holiness.

 

I found Rosa to be the most like Audrey and I think that's why Audrey is so hateful toward her.  Audrey is jealous of Rosa.  Rosa has been Joel's star pupil.  Rosa has lived up to her beliefs while Audrey has declared a liberal view while she lives a very traditional lifestyle.  The degree of contempt between the two of them was sickening.  But I believe that Rosa really wants her parents respect for what she is doing.  She is disgusted by the attention and grace Lenny receives from Audrey for being the biggest flake and living a life completely devoid of beliefs.

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Bonnie824
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Re: Rosa

I see Rosa as a typical woman who is getting older and still hasn't figured herself and her place in the world out. She is unhappy and wants something to give her life meaning. To me, she is going through a kind of late teenage rebellion and pulling away from the family strings. If it hadn't been Orthodox Judism it would have been something else.
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VictoriousMary
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Re: Rosa

I see myself in Rosa.  She is reflective and contemplative.  She has listened to her parents and wants meaning in her life.  She is touched by all of life.  Thus her experience of God and the temple grabs her heart as much as her experience in Cuba and with the girls.  She is mission and purpose driven but she knows there is more to it that drives all of this.  She has a soul or a God sense not given to her by her parents. 

 

I think the Rabbi really knows how to key into her soul searching and ask the right questions of her to help her to keep searching rather than to let her off the hook.  He keeps her coming back for more answers.  She is not satisfied with an easy life without conscience.  She is not satisfied with relativism.  She desires Truth that is universal not a truth centered on self.  I think she can find it in the religion she has chosen.  She is not a half way person.

 

The girls show her naked reality.  They are not half heartedly living life.  They do not have that luxury.  They would not survive if they did.  It has to be giving all or it will be nothing - like the auditorium dance.  They cannot play at being cute little girls - that leaves a few empty applause.  When they give what they know of life and give it all - their full idea of their sexuality - they feel really good about it and that is what makes Raphael so upset about Rosa not seeing that and being happy for the girls.  But Rosa needs more than that.  She needs more than human fallible understanding - she needs a soul truth.

Victorious Mary
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renhair
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Re: Rosa

I thought Rosa was the most interesting of all the characters.  Her struggle to find something, anything, to believe in really reasonated with me.  Why she had that struggle, I'm not sure.  Perhaps it was her parent's lack of belief in anything that pushed her there.  She didn't wish to agree with them....it seems that she needed some support for their ideology in order to go there with them.  In lieu of that, she had to go the exact opposite direction....thus she took on the faith that they had rejected. 

 

Interesting character....

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KxBurns
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Re: Rosa

What fantastic comments! I'd like to hear a little more of your thoughts about Rosa's relationship with the girls she chaperones, and with Chianti in particular.

 

Here Rosa struggles with imposing her own views of sexuality and what life/childhood should be like on girls for whom reality is harsh and childhood is fleeting. (A child of this background would certainly not be the recipient of the same indulgences as Lenny, who continues to be ensconced in the familial safety net although he is a fully grown adult...)  

 

VictoriousMary, I agree with your statement that "She [Rosa] is not satisfied with relativism." Do you think, in this instance, if Rosa had been able to put aside her own views, she would have been able to support Chianti and the other girls' efforts and connect with them in a more meaningful way?

 

I don't mean to suggest that there should be no hope or aspiration for the GirlPower Center. But are Rosa's efforts really as futile as she comes to believe, or does her own relativistic idea of what's appropriate for the girls keep her from helping them in a way that is relevant to their circumstances?

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nikkid
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Re: Rosa

I really enjoyed Rosa's character.  I found her to be extremely likable and very easy to relate to. 

I think that Rosa had always been a very strong and opinionated individual and she was able to realize that what was right for her parents was not right for her.

I also believe that Rosa was respected by Joel because she was able to speak her mind and formulate her own opinion and act on her beliefs without the need of others approval.  This was evident when she went to Cuba, decided to learn about the Jewish faith and when she disagreed with her fathers choice of music.  

Concerning her relationship with her mother....Audrey was always so fustrated and irritated with Rosa because she was the only one of the three children who was able to stand on her own two feet and speak her mind (even if it was to tell Audrey that she was acting in appropriately) and I believe Audrey was jealous of her individuality. 

I think that Rosa sought out religion because she not only needed structure but also a community where she was accepted and part of a family.  I truly believe that she was naturally drawn to the faith.  I did not agree however with Rosa bringing the rabbi to the hospital to give her father a blessing...I did feel that she was out of line doing this as it was obviously against both her father's and her mother's wishes. 

 

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Jennd1
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Re: Rosa

I think Rosa is definetly looking for something to believe in.  She seems hesitant to discuss her new rellgion with her family although I am not sure if she is afraid of her reaction or if she is afraid of them not taking her seriously because of her history as a troublemaker(in the sense that you got the idea that as a child/teenager she did things just to spite her parents.)  Rosa seems reluctant to totally accept ther new religion as quckly as many others (the rabbi etc.) want her to.  I think this is a signal to us that she is looking for the right  thing not that she thinks a conversion to the jewish faith is  the answer for her.  In her work she tries to help the disadvantaged just as her  parents did, but I think she feels unfulfilled or like  the things she is trying to do are not helping but she does not know what to do instead.  I think Rosa is at a turning point both personally and professionally,but she does not yet know which way to go.

 

jenn

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debbook
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Re: Rosa


KxBurns wrote:

What fantastic comments! I'd like to hear a little more of your thoughts about Rosa's relationship with the girls she chaperones, and with Chianti in particular.

 

Here Rosa struggles with imposing her own views of sexuality and what life/childhood should be like on girls for whom reality is harsh and childhood is fleeting. (A child of this background would certainly not be the recipient of the same indulgences as Lenny, who continues to be ensconced in the familial safety net although he is a fully grown adult...)  

 

VictoriousMary, I agree with your statement that "She [Rosa] is not satisfied with relativism." Do you think, in this instance, if Rosa had been able to put aside her own views, she would have been able to support Chianti and the other girls' efforts and connect with them in a more meaningful way?

 

I don't mean to suggest that there should be no hope or aspiration for the GirlPower Center. But are Rosa's efforts really as futile as she comes to believe, or does her own relativistic idea of what's appropriate for the girls keep her from helping them in a way that is relevant to their circumstances?


I think that what Rosa wants for the girls is not necessarily realistic and she is not able to appreciate the small steps if they won't lead to where she wants. She is comparing herself to them and that is not realistic. This was the only side of Rosa I didn't really like, where she seemed so disgusted w/ the girls b/c they didn't want what she wanted for them.

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KxBurns
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Re: Rosa

[ Edited ]

debbook wrote:

I think that what Rosa wants for the girls is not necessarily realistic and she is not able to appreciate the small steps if they won't lead to where she wants. She is comparing herself to them and that is not realistic. This was the only side of Rosa I didn't really like, where she seemed so disgusted w/ the girls b/c they didn't want what she wanted for them.


I agree. I think it's a question of goals. What are Rosa's goals in her job at the GirlPower Center? What is she hoping to accomplish there? How do they contrast to those of Raphael, who has a very different experience with the girls?...

Message Edited by KxBurns on 11-02-2008 02:55 PM
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Zoe-Heller
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Re: Rosa

My feeling about Rosa is that she is a lover, a needer, of systems. To work in a place like GirlPower, where things are a little haphazard and where "progress" is made fitfully at best, is all but impossible for her. She wants a theory, a plan, a program - and without one she is enormously frustrated. As a result, she is terrible at her job!


Learn more about The Believers.

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floreader
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Re: Rosa

I also found Rosa to be the most interesting and likeable of the characters.  She is always searching for a closeness with other people, but she seems to think that "closeness" is evident in Orthodox Jews and their families.  She not only begins wearing Orthodox clothing, but starts taking religious instruction from Rabbis.  I think a pivotal moment for Rosa comes when she goes upstate to a high Orthodox leader's home.  She expects his home to be a "Fiddler on the Roof" type setting and instead finds a very expensive modern home with expensive modern furniture and people dressed in contemporary, expensive clothing/jewelry.  She is disillusioned and realizes this was not what she was looking for.  After this eye-opening visit, she stops wearing Orthodox clothing and stops visiting the Rabbis.

 

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Everyman
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Re: Rosa

I saw it as a bit more significant than teen aged rebellion.  She had been raised in an environment that didn't really give her a chance to think for herself, but that directed her to think only a certain way.  When she had the chance to actually examine these beliefs in action in Cuba she realized how vacuous the ideas were, and began searching for something with more substance, more integrity of meaning. 

 


Bonnie824 wrote:
I see Rosa as a typical woman who is getting older and still hasn't figured herself and her place in the world out. She is unhappy and wants something to give her life meaning. To me, she is going through a kind of late teenage rebellion and pulling away from the family strings. If it hadn't been Orthodox Judism it would have been something else.

 

 

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dhaupt
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Re: Rosa

My opinion of Rosa kept changing during the book. In the first parts of the book I thought she was just playing at faith to upset her parents and I don't know if during her education in being an Orthodox Jew she maybe found something she'd been searching for or if she really did want to expand her horizons. 

As far as her relationship with her family I think she truly loves them all despite themselves. I think she wishes that Karla would stand up for herself and scratches her head in regard to Lenny. As for Audrey I haven't made up my mind yet if she loves her just because she should or if there's something altruistic about it and I don't think she fully understands it either and that is apparent by how undecided by everything she is.

If Zoe did a revisit to this family let's say five years later I see Rosa living in an Orthodox commune with her husband and 2.5 kids. 

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KxBurns
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Re: Rosa


dhaupt wrote:

My opinion of Rosa kept changing during the book. In the first parts of the book I thought she was just playing at faith to upset her parents and I don't know if during her education in being an Orthodox Jew she maybe found something she'd been searching for or if she really did want to expand her horizons. 

[edited]


I see what you mean -- she definitely gets some satisfaction out of pushing these particular parental buttons. But I also get the feeling that she genuinely wants Audrey to understand her religious journey. Though I think by the end, when Rosa brings the rabbi to Joel's hospital room, she has simply given up on her family ever understanding her faith.   

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katknit
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Re: Rosa


I agree. I think it's a question of goals. What are Rosa's goals in her job at the GirlPower Center? What is she hoping to accomplish there? How do they contrast to those of Raphael, who has a very different experience with the girls?...

Message Edited by KxBurns on 11-02-2008 02:55 PM

The way I see it, Rosa wasn't angry b/c the girls wouldn't conform to what she herself thinks is right. She seemed overwhelmed in her attempts to help them break out of their age-inappropriate interests and behaviors, especially since their sexual play is likely to land them in a situation where they remain in a vicious cycle of single motherhood and poverty. Rosa thought she could help, but now sees how intractable those problems can be. I would prefer if she went on to a place where her idealism/caring/ intelligence might be more effective - in parenting training, perhaps, or in alternative ed for girls who dropped out and want to resume their educations.

No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
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KxBurns
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Re: Rosa


katknit wrote:

I agree. I think it's a question of goals. What are Rosa's goals in her job at the GirlPower Center? What is she hoping to accomplish there? How do they contrast to those of Raphael, who has a very different experience with the girls?...

Message Edited by KxBurns on 11-02-2008 02:55 PM

The way I see it, Rosa wasn't angry b/c the girls wouldn't conform to what she herself thinks is right. She seemed overwhelmed in her attempts to help them break out of their age-inappropriate interests and behaviors, especially since their sexual play is likely to land them in a situation where they remain in a vicious cycle of single motherhood and poverty. Rosa thought she could help, but now sees how intractable those problems can be. I would prefer if she went on to a place where her idealism/caring/ intelligence might be more effective - in parenting training, perhaps, or in alternative ed for girls who dropped out and want to resume their educations.


 

But I think Heller may be raising the question of whether idealism can ever be an effective tool for bringing about social change. When she turns away from the GirlPower Center and decides to go to Israel, is Rosa turning inward and effectively turning her back on the idea of social change altogether?

 

How does this put her in contrast with her father? Do you think Joel gave up his ideals over the years in order to accomplish his goals? Is one approach better than the other or are they equally flawed?