Sisterhood Blog

Prime Ribs: Missing Waitresses and 'Taliban Women'

By Gabrielle Birkner

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Where are the … waitresses? Not at one popular Jerusalem eatery, at least not on Thursday evenings. That’s apparently when yeshiva boys descend on Heimische Essen to get their fill of kugel and kishka. In an effort to secure the über-strict Badatz kosher certification, Heimische Essen has agreed to employ an all-male wait staff on that night.


In related news, a teenager from Dimona, deep in Israel’s Negev desert, was expelled from her religious school for working at a fast food restaurant. The franchise was kosher, but the job required her to work alongside men, an apparent violation of her high school’s modesty code.


Nose jobs, and tired, old “shiksa goddess” stereotypes get the punk-rock treatment, courtesy of the Miami plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is investigating the self-billed “Dr. Schnoz” for his new music video about a yarmulke-clad “beak like Jewcan Sam” keeps him from winning over the girl of his dreams. The music is courtesy of the Jewish punk band The Groggers.


Forget the Aspirin: Three years after winning FDA approval, the second-generation female condom has arrived in the Jewish state.


Was Anne Frank “a brat”? Over at Tablet, Betsy Morais tells the story of Frank’s childhood classmate and neighbor Helga Newmark, who is now a rabbi. Frank’s sin, according to the rabbi, inviting all the girls on their block to her 12th birthday party — well, all the girls except Newmark.


Kveller, a staple of the Jewish mommy blogosphere, has a special daddy edition, featuring an interview with Steve Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, about his journey to fatherhood; a first-person account, written by a stay-at-home dad, about being the only man in a circle of breastfeeding mothers, and a list of the sexiest Jewish dads. (Moses makes the list.)


They’ve been called “Taliban women,” members of Lev Tahor, an Orthodox Jewish sect so fervent that their religious leaders insist that they don burka-like garb. Haaretz is running an investigative series about the sect’s controversial spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. The convicted felon leads a tiny, and uber-insular community of extremists outside Montreal. But Helbrans’ influence can be seen more widely, particularly in Beit Shemesh, Israel, which has been ground zero for the fight over ultra-Orthodox efforts to exclude women from the public sphere.


Sure, Orthodoxy keeps women out of the rabbinate and, mostly, out of the business of interpreting Jewish law. Increasingly, though, Orthodox women are permitted to serve as Jewish legal advisors on issues of “family purity” — that is, sex. And now a leading Israeli university is offering a course for these would-be bridal counselors. Here’s the thing: It’s open only to women who have been married a year or more, a prerequisite that the head of Israel’s Masorti, or Conservative, movement called “discriminatory and patronizing, with a dash of Jewish fundamentalism.” But university officials stressed Bar-Ilan’s commitment to academic freedom, and touted a similar course offered to unmarried women.


Before bat mitzvah became what it is today — and I don’t mean a launching pad for Paul Rudd’s career — the ritual got its start with a simple for Judith Kaplan, the eldest daughter of Reconstructionist pioneer Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan. That was on March 18, 1922, and to mark the 90th anniversary of the occasion, the JCC in Manhattan is hosting the exhibit “Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age.” The show, a project of the National Museum of American Jewish History and the non-profit Moving Traditions, traces the evolution of the now-popular religious ceremony for girls. (Read some real-life bat mitzvah confessions here.


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