This is Heather Robinson, assistant editor of The New Jersey Jewish Standard, writing my maiden post. As the frenetic Tuesday/Wednesday deadline rush is not yet upon us, I figured I would introduce myself.

I’m a journalist who’s been in the business for fifteen years, having started out as a stringer for The Forward under tutelage of Seth Lipsky. Most recently I worked as a senior writer for the Big Town Big Dreams section of The New York Daily News, where I profiled immigrants who were making charitable or humanitarian contributions to the city (an inspiring beat). I have also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Examiner, The New York Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York magazine, Time Out New York, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jewishworldreview.com, The American Spectator, The Huffington Post, and others. In addition to holding my new position, I continue to freelance for publications across the political spectrum.
People who visit my own blog, www.heatherrobinson.net, and who read my work often try to categorize me politically and find it difficult. That is because I am a political independent.
While I confess to a soft spot for the ideals, and ideas, of figures including former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky and the great American philosopher and author Ralph Waldo Emerson, as a journalist and an analyst of world affairs I believe it is of great value to strive for objectivity and not be bound by a rigid political ideology. Good ideas come from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, from red staters and blue staters, from religious folks and secular ones. I don’t want to miss out on any worthwhile facts or points of wisdom, or to be blinded to any possibilities. There are many truths, and open-mindedness in too short supply.
If I have any bias, it is towards the nonconforming, the voices in the wilderness, the individuals who are unafraid to champion a cause, a philosophy, or a lifestyle, that in some way uplifts the world, and who are willing to endure society’s condemnation – or worse – to be true to themselves. That passion has led me to profile courageous individuals within the Muslim world – true moderates and reformers – who are willing to stand against the currents within their own societies to promote human rights, for instance, or cooperation between Arab nations and Israel. I believe they are the trailblazers and political visionaries who, when peace finally does come to the region, will be viewed as heroes.

Today, on the subject of individualism, I thought I’d write a few words about the late Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away last week.

One thought recurs when I think of her life, and her death – she really lived.

She may not always have been happy, she certainly was not always healthy, and she may not have been a perfect judge of character (or to have always exhibited perfect character) in her private life. But who among us is perfect?

She graced the world with her ravishing beauty and glamor, reached great heights as a dramatic actress, and dedicated herself to humanitarianism. Notably, her causes”“the rights of individuals with HIV/AIDS and, to perhaps a lesser but undeniable extent, the rights of Israelis”“were not causes celeb or chic fads when she came on board, but issues that required a champion possessing that most rare of qualities: the character to be criticized and even demonized.

She married eight times, bore three children, and adopted another. What perhaps she lacked in steadiness and sobriety as a wife, she reportedly possessed as a fiercely loyal friend. She earned and experienced a great deal throughout her life.

Her death reminds me above all that mind, body, talent, spirit, and energy are meant to be used and experienced to their fullest. Life is no spectator sport.

In a world that all too often prizes conformity and expects gradual ossification of older folks, she did it her way. And kept on doing it – even later in life. I saw her once on Fisher Island, just off the coast of Miami, around 2000. She must have been about 68 then. She wasn’t lit up or surrounded by a crowd of paparazzi. She was walking along serenely, looking beautiful, alone at night. She looked happy.

May she rest in peace.