Susan Pashman grew up in the Bronx, the first grandchild of the New York socialist, Henry Greenfield, manager of the Jewish Daily Forward and of its affiliated radio station, WEVD. Although her parents and most of her close relatives were deeply affected by her grandfather’s uncompromising secularism, Susan was inspired at an early age by her uncle who lived on the top floor of the family home and often invited her to light Sabbath candles with him.
Susan attended the Bronx High School of Science, remaining an apathetic student until, in her senior year, she discovered physics. She entered University College, N.Y.U. intent on becoming a physicist. But a course in metaphysics revealed that physics was not, as she had believed, the study of “everything.” Wanting to master “everything,” she changed her major to philosophy. She graduated as valedictorian, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
She went on to study Philosophy of Science at Columbia, where she earned an M.A., and began to teach philosophy at Adelphi University. At Adelphi, she received four grants from the Humanities Councils of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to head a two-year program about “Women in the Suburbs.” Directing a program that reached 80 public libraries in three states and employed more than 100 humanities scholars gave Susan a taste for big, multi-faceted, educational projects, a taste she now realizes carried into her enthusiasm for writing full-length books.
In her final years at Adelphi, Susan developed a course in Bio-ethics that she taught in co-operation with Adelphi’s Nursing School; it was yet another way to integrate philosophy, her first love, with subjects not usually encountered in a philosophy department.
Susan left teaching for a job as Assistant Dean at Douglass College; her duties there included serving as the college’s Affirmative Action Officer during the year the Bakke decision came down, an exciting year! A taste of the law was enough to get Susan to enroll in Brooklyn Law School in 1979. She graduated three years later summa cum laude as valedictorian, garnering a bouquet of awards including prizes in Evidence, Real Estate Law, Criminal Law, Torts, and Criminal Procedure. She served as clerk for Hon.Richard Owen, S.D.N.Y. and interned at the office of Carol Bellamy, City Council President. At the City Council office, and later in legal practice, she picked up the wealth of insider information she employed in the writing of Upper West Side Story, in a plot that takes us behind the scenes in big city government
Susan was an Associate at major N.Y.C. law firms, and worked on interest rate swaps at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. She longed to return to her first love, philosophy but, as a single mother with two young boys to raise, she persevered in the law until she had provided sufficiently for her sons’ college educations. Her new book, Journey to a Temple In Time: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Sabbath includes several brief memoirs of her struggles as a single mother and her decision to keep the Sabbath as a way to avoid weekend work so she could spend more time with her children. Her humorous memoir of Sabbath-keeping to hold her little family together was published in the Forward and appears in her book about her Journey. (To read it, click at the bottom of the “Journey” page.)
Finally able to quit her law job, Susan moved to the historic whaling village of Sag Harbor, the beloved summer home of her childhood. There, she returned to teaching Philosophy to a local group of adults, joined a writing group where she quickly produced her first novel, The Speed of Light, (See Fiction page) and began a summertime adult education program, one of those huge, multifaceted projects she so enjoys. SUMMERFEST thrived for 18 years, offering more than 35 classes every summer to hundreds of vacationers in the Hamptons.
Susan fulfilled a long-held yearning when she purchased land in Sag Harbor and designed her “dream house.” But a lovely house demands a lovely landscape. Susan had grown up loving flowers, buying seeds for a penny each Spring in school and planting them in the meager soil she discovered in the cracks between squares of Bronx pavement. Now, she had an acre of her very own, but no idea how to landscape it.
Never one to miss an opportunity to learn something new, Susan enrolled in Harvard’s Landscape Institute where she earned a Certificate in Landscape History and Design. She followed that with a year at The Inchbald School of Design in London, earning an M.A. in Landscape. Then, she taught Landscape Aesthetics, her own philosophical take on landscape, at both Harvard and The Boston Architectural College. Along the way, her own home benefited with a lovingly tended landscape.
Encouraged by her mentors at Harvard, Pashman decided to push her philosophical thoughts about the experience of landscape even further. She enrolled at Stony Brook University to earn a PhD with a dissertation on The Kinesthetic Basis of Landscape Art. She is now revising it for general publication.
Once The Speed of Light was published, Susan began work on a novel about children caught in racial conflict. Upper West Side Story, was published in 2015 by Harvard Square Editions. (Read more about this book at Fiction Long and Short.)
Throughout her life in Sag Harbor, Susan had nurtured a growing interest in Judaism, the religion her family had ridiculed. She began to study the Hebrew language and was soon swept into studying for a Bat Mitzvah. That proved a turning point, a moment when she began studying Judaism in earnest. As any philosopher would, she asked endless questions about Sabbath-keeping as she tried to find a modernly acceptable way to observe it. She taught classes about the Fourth Commandment, the one that commands Sabbath-keeping, and started writing Journey To A Temple In Time: A Philosopher’s Quest For The Sabbath. (Read more about this book on the “Journey” page.)
Susan now lives in Sag Harbor with her husband, Jack, a retired attorney whose Yeshiva training helped her find answers to many of her questions about the Sabbath. She has two sons, Joshua, who lives in Brooklyn and Andes, New York, and Benjamin, who lives in Mill Valley, California. You will meet them—and her grandchildren, Jacob and Lily,—when you join her on her journey. You will also learn there what tending a garden has taught her about spending time with “the Divine.”
Susan has traveled extensively in Eastern and Western Europe, Britain, Ireland and China, but she and Jack most enjoy settling into a place and getting to know its people and their culture over an extended period of time. They have sojourned in Lucca, Granada, and Tel Aviv, a city where they have spent six weeks every year for the past ten years. In Journey To A Temple In Time: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Sabbath, you will learn more about Susan’s involvement with the Tel Aviv International Synagogue and about the influence Israel has had on her identity as a Jew.
Join Susan in Israel as she blogs for The Times of Israel and posts articles to Tikkun and Moment Magazine about Jewish identity, history and politics.