Anti-Semitism In My Own Back Yard
Being A Mom in the Midst of War
Hanukkah's Hottest Hebrew Hotties
Jews Far More Promiscuous Than Muslims
What Makes A Family?
Why I Screened Myself for Breast Cancer Markers
Police Shackle Anat Hoffman
Defending Michelle Obama's Arms
Why I'm Nostalgic for Hasidim
What's Wrong With Modern Dating?
The Case for Premarital Sex
When DIY Was More Than DIY
Sisters in Skivvies: A Graphic Review of 'Unterzakhn'
Chabad 'Likes' Facebook, But Not for Girls
Meet the 'First Lady of Fleet Street'
Video: Meet Chaya Mushka, Yet Again
'Raising a Bilingual Kid Is Harder Than I Expected'
Nir Hod's Anguished 'Mother'
Attachment Parenting's Star Evangelist
A Male-to-Female Jewish Journey
How Men Cornered the Baby Manual Market
Bubbe Cuisine Goes Local
Editorial: Defending Contraception
Should You Be Blogging Your Baby's Illness?
Video: Where Fashion Is Frum, Not Frumpy
The Case for Jewish Daycare
Saying Farewell to Filene's
The Bintel Brief Takes Comic Form
Editorial: Where Are the Women?
Video: Mah Jongg's Jewish Journey
Podcast: Adrienne Cooper's Musical Life
America's Most Influential Women Rabbis
Disney has come under fire for “feminizing” and “sexing up” Merida, the spunky Scottish princess of the Pixar film “Brave,” in order to add her to its much-maligned princess collection.
Martha Kempner describes the abortive makeover perfectly:
Disney changed her hair from wild curls to silky tresses that cascade suggestively over one shoulder. Her simple dress was replaced with an off-the-shoulder gold and turquoise number that includes a low-slung belt to emphasize her now thinner waist. Her skin exchanged its ruddy red hue for porcelain white. She’s wearing lipstick and rouge. There were also changes to Merida’s demeanor; she now stands with one hip out and her head cocked seductively to one side. Her bow and arrow are nowhere to be seen.
Everyone, including the character’s creator, Brenda Chapman, chastised the company, forcing it to pedal backwards with the promise that we’d see the old, spunky Merida soon.
This is the third post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
As I reported last month, I’ve made some progress in cutting my iPhone time in half. I started charging my phone in the kitchen instead of my bedroom, which eliminated any phone use in the early morning and during the last moments of the night. (And by “moments” I mean an hour, which is true for many late-night smartphone abusers.) I increased my iPhone-free time on Shabbat and stopped placing my phone on the table when I’m out with friends or family at restaurants and coffee shops.
Progress! Right? From the way I brag about my new habits you would think an awards reception was in order. Unfortunately, my progress has stalled since implementing the aforementioned measures. While I have not backtracked on the changes I made, what’s happening is something I like to call The Spanx Effect.
Sexual assault cases don’t occur in a vacuum, even when they are so egregious that they defy the imagination. For example: the recent Cleveland story involving the long-term imprisonment and rape of three local women by an alleged perpetrator who comes across as a complete sadist. Coverage of this story has been rife with speculation, yet there are few answers available — partly due to the survivors’ understandable desire for privacy.
We can’t examine the details yet, obsessing as we so often do. But we can examine ourselves.
As I noted when I wrote about sexual assault in the military (a scandal which continues to evolve), these kinds of crimes occur in a rape culture. Rape culture doesn’t mean only that there’s a high incidence of sexual assault, but also that sex is treated as a commodity, one for women to withhold and men to take, a commodity that also comes to represent women’s entire value and worth. Pure or defiled. Virginal or slutty — so slutty that consent is implied, not sought.
On June 16, three young Orthodox women will receive a title that no woman (or man) before them has ever held: maharat (short for Manhiga Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit, which means leader in Jewish law, spirituality and Torah). The graduation of the first class from Riverdale’s Yeshivat Maharat, which trains Orthodox women to be spiritual leaders, has sparked some controversy in the Orthodox community. But, beneath the debates are three women in their late 20s and early 30s who are dedicated to the study of Jewish text and finding a role for women in traditional Judaism.
My former college classmate, Ruth Balinsky Friedman, is one of these women. This summer, she will become a member of the clergy at Ohev Sholom, The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C. I spoke with her about her decision to become a maharat, what it’s like to follow in her father’s footsteps and her thoughts on women’s prayer at the Kotel.
In a recent post on Slate’s DoubleX, Katherine Goldstein provides tips for female summer interns on what exactly is appropriate to wear to a workplace. The advice on how to avoid looking like a “skintern” includes avoiding see-through anything, concealing undergarments and leaving the four-inch heels at home. Goldstein ends the post by telling women that by following these rules and focusing on impressing everyone with their “hard work” and “keen intellect” they will be sure to break the glass ceiling.
Was this sexist?
Sure, this is set of codes and rules that only apply to young women, or more specifically, their bodies. It told them that some parts of their bodies are considered vulgar and that wearing a pair of high platform heels might give others the wrong idea about their, well, purity. It is putting the responsibility on them to cover up, instead of on men to stop gawking. As another DoubleX contributor put it a few months ago in response to a call for longer skirts at a middle school, “If you don’t want girls judged by their hemlines, stop judging them by their hemlines.”
Like Israeli men, women are required to serve in the military, and they make up about 3 percent of combat soldiers in the I.D.F. In the Sisterhood, Noga Gur-Arieh wrote that while she didn’t serve in a combat role, she’s glad other Israeli women have the right to do so.
This week, NPR took a look inside the I.D.F.’s elite Caracal Battalion, which is 60 percent female.
Earlier this week, Sisterhood contributors Sarah Seltzer and Chanel Dubofsky published a fantastic back and forth on professional jealousy over at the Billfold. In their conversation they talked about how to remain confident and stay focused on your work, even as others might get the professional breaks you long-desired. They also discussed how it is important to not function in a mindset of scarcity, but instead share opportunities and promote others’ work.
I was thinking of this conversation when I read the Book of Ruth this week for Shavout. This scroll tells the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman who returns with her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem after Naomi’s husband and son (Ruth’s husband), have died leaving them without, literally, a breadwinner. Naomi tries to convince Ruth to go back to her people, since Naomi is now poor and Ruth’s likelihood as remarrying as a Moabite widow in Jewish Bethlehem are slim. But Ruth insists on staying with Naomi, explaining, in one of the most quotable passages of Torah:
Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.’
Taking advice from Naomi, Ruth makes her way to the fields of an older kinsman and relative of her deceased husband named Boaz, who takes an interest in her. Ruth and Boaz ultimately marry, which allows Naomi and Ruth to possess their family land and live comfortably for the rest of their lives. (In ancient times, women couldn’t possess land on their own, so Ruth needed to marry a relative of her deceased husband’s so that she could gain access to his land. Nobody said the ancient world was a feminist paradise.) Ruth goes on to have a son with Boaz named Oded, who would eventually become to grandfather of King David.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a legendary figure in the women’s rights movement, has embarked on a new crusade on behalf of sick individuals and the people who care about them.
Her new book, “How To Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick” (PublicAffairs) pinpoints the awkwardness and inadequacy that many people feel when trying to comfort their sick and bereaved loved ones. “Illness is friendship’s proving ground,” she writes. Yet why do so many of us fail that basic test?
Pogrebin, 73, came up with the idea for a book about “illness etiquette” while she was being treated for breast cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. In the waiting room, she conducted dozens of interviews with her fellow patients about the ways their friends and family both supported and failed them during their illnesses. These interviews, plus Pogrebin’s reflections on her friends’ responses to her own diagnosis, make up the backbone of the book, a “dos and don’ts” of comforting the sick that includes her mantras: “act and ask” and “ask and act.”
Pogrebin talked with the Forward’s Naomi Zeveloff about her policy of total transparency, her relationship with her mother and Judaism’s conflicting messages on caring for others.
NAOMI ZEVELOFF: Why are people inadvertently insensitive to their sick friends?
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: We don’t really get beyond a kind of basic illness etiquette in this culture. We say things like, “I’m sure you’ll be okay” or, “God only gives you as much as you can handle,” or all the clichés that you and I have probably said and have certainly heard that aren’t helpful. You say them because you are at a loss for words; you are afraid of being too positive because that is fake. But you are afraid of being too honest; how dare you ask questions about their test results or symptoms?
My bottom line in this book is to hope that there is a new illness etiquette that simply goes straight for the candor and says from the minute someone is diagnosed and they tell you about it, that you ask that you can establish a policy of absolute honesty. You say to your sick friend, “Tell me what you want and what you don’t want, because if I am going to have to guess I am going to get it wrong and it may become burdensome to you.”
For example, Jewish people are taught to visit the sick, bikur cholim. But what if bikur cholim is in conflict with Hillel, who says do not do unto others what you would not have done unto you? What if you don’t want to be visited because you are in a funk and the idea of seeing anyone is anathema or you are feeling hideous or you are oozing and strung up and in bandages and you don’t want to be seen? If you have established this honesty policy you won’t visit inappropriately. The person won’t feel they have to receive you because otherwise it looks unfriendly. You will be on a plane of absolute sincere communication from the start.
This year, like other years, I am doing nothing special (read: nothing at all) for Shavuot. It is not, as Marissa Brostoff recently noted in Tablet, not hugely popular as Jewish holidays go. Every year I see Shavuot on the calendar and think, What’s that one again? And then I remember, That’s the one about the Torah. And cheese.
Coming from a secular background, all-night Torah study isn’t really my thing. Cheese, however, is totally my thing. Or was, until a few months ago, when I figured out that cheese (along with some other types of dairy food) was responsible for my skin’s return to a state of teenage agitation. Sad as it made me, I decided to seriously limit my intake of dairy. To paraphrase an overused motto, nothing tastes as good as clear skin looks. But this development gave my non-celebration of Shavuot a new significance. What if I was one of those Torah-studying, special-dairy-meal-eating Jews? I wondered. What would I do then?
Been wondering what’s behind all those artisanal chocolate bars cluttering check-out lanes and tattooed women knitting booties for the babies permanently strapped to their chests? Or, as the show “Portlandia” so acutely captured in one of its most hilarious skits, the undeniable urge that crafty young folks have to put a bird on it?
So has journalist Emily Matchar.
In her new book “Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity,” Matchar examines why women in their 20s and 30s are increasingly passing up the corner office and even the corner bar, à la Carrie Bradshaw, for all things domestic. She investigates the rise of do-it-yourself everything — things like attachment parenting, crafting, homeschooling and raising chickens in the backyard — and how it is a symptom of the disillusionment young people, mostly women, feel with the institutions that they had once hoped to rely on. These institutions include workplaces that fail to be family friendly, public schools that fail to educate our children and a food system that fails to provide us with affordable, healthy and sustainable food.
This week, we’re treated to something everyone’s been waiting for this season of Dancing with the Stars: Aly Raisman’s parents. They became mini-celebrities during the Olympics as they freaked out excitedly during her performances, and though they’ve been in the audience a lot during “Dancing With the Stars,” this is the first time they’ve appeared in one of Aly’s pre-recorded segments.
This week we were down to five contestants, but oddly Aly’s entire segment was about how she came in fourth place a bunch of times and it was really depressing. Could it be a giant sign asking America to make sure she lasts until at least third? The show certainly pulled out all the stops this week, with Shawn Johnson (a previous “DWTS” champ), Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, and walking meme McKayla Maroney all showing up to talk about how awesome Aly is.
As soon as this week’s first dance — a crowdsourced Afrojazz selection — comes up, I realize why Aly needed all that support this week.
A few months ago, a friend from college told me about her miscarriage, which happened between her first and second child.
“It’s so common,” she said. “I just think people should know that.”
After this friend’s disclosure, another friend told me she had had the same experience. And then another. Miscarriages are common, which was something I knew theoretically, but not in a way where I could attach the experience to a face. It made me wonder how many of my other friends had had miscarriages and just never said anything — because of the pain, the shock and the fear of sharing it with people. Suddenly, it felt like an avalanche: women telling stories of miscarriage so that people would know that it really did happened, so they would feel less alone, and so silence didn’t perpetuate stigma.
The personal piece actress Angelina Jolie published today in the New York Times should put to rest any question as to her seriousness. Say what they will about her in the tabloids, it is clear from her sharing that she has recently undergone a preventative double mastectomy that she is a woman of conviction.
Convinced that she has a better chance of living a long life without her natural breasts (she has had a series of three surgeries, the last being reconstruction with implants), Jolie has gone where most, if not all, other Hollywood actresses would not. I guess it’s hardly surprising given that she, as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, has already readily traveled to dangerous places.
Jolie carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, common among Ashkenazi women. Her mother also died of cancer at age 56. And so Jolie, only 37, decided to not wait to see if she would eventually develop breast cancer herself. She wrote that doctors originally told her she has an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. “My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
Could it get any worse? On June 2nd Bravo will debut a new reality show titled “Princesses: Long Island,” starring half a dozen spoiled women in their late 20s, all of whom are Jewish, according to the show’s publicist. If the series can be judged by the promo, they will give the already-offensive term Jewish American Princess a bad name.
The promo starts off with some woman who sounds like the love child of Fran Drescher and Joan Rivers screaming, “Guess what I have? Manischewiiiiiiitz!” and moves into a scene of bikini babes jumping into water when one girl screams “I think I broke my vagina bone!”
The stereotyping comes fast and furious: One girl says “My farklemptness is making me shvitz” and then another, who appears to be sitting in a limo, says, “Hasidic Jews, how do they get their curls so perfect?” At a bar, one of the characters says in a thick Lawng Oyland accent, “Are you guys Jewish?” Then someone named Erica drunkenly sings “Hava Nagila,” before falling flat on her face.
One of my clearest memories from childhood is peeking around the doorway from the kitchen to the den as my mother ironed and watched “Days of Our Lives.” A couple lay in bed, the woman in a negligee, the man bare-chested, a patch covering one eye. I was a little scared — what if he lifted the patch! — but more than that, I was totally enthralled, both by the scene and that I was watching television at all.
My parents placed strict limits on what shows my sister and I could watch. Had my father known that we were sneaking peeks of soap operas, he would have been massively displeased. The knowledge of just how illicit my action was, combined with my immediate fascination with these people and their stories, left me wanting more.
Over the next several years, my mother gradually allowed my sister and me to watch soaps with her during school vacations. Maybe she was bored, maybe she was tired of coming up with ways to entertain us, or maybe she simply wanted to carve out some time to do what she wanted. But whatever the reason, I was too happy to bother thinking about it too deeply. I couldn’t get enough of the outlandish plots and intricate family trees, and eagerly listened to all the backstories that my mother could offer.
This past week, the true extent of the problem of rape and sexual assault in the military came to light, and the numbers were stark and ugly. A new Pentagon report found that nearly 26,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted last year — a 35% increase from 2010. The numbers sent shock waves everywhere, prompting furious editorials from major papers and a particularly angry-sounding President Obama at a press conference saying, “I have zero tolerance for this,” and vowing a top-down culture change.
Easier said than done, of course. The Los Angeles Times editorial board notes the deepest irony in the case, which is that a major point person in the military was caught, so to speak, with his pants down.
Mother’s Day, 1983. I’m sitting in our cramped apartment kitchen in Philadelphia with my husband and two older friends who were, I guess, substituting for our own parents that day. The crazy traffic along the Northeast corridor on that Sunday in May often meant that we skipped visiting my mother in New York and my mother-in-law in Virginia. We were never big on Hallmark holidays, anyhow.
But this day was memorable because we excitedly told our friends that we were expecting our first child. Mazel tov and hugs all around. Champagne. I probably took a sip, in defiance of the admonition to avoid alcohol while pregnant. I have always made exceptions for champagne.
It’s now 30 years later. That baby-to-be is grown up, married and expecting her own child. Besides acknowledging the stunning passage of time, I find myself contemplating motherhood today in an entirely new, confusing, wonderful way.
Motherhood is easy.
Okay, it isn’t really, but doesn’t it feel so good to hear that it might be? That it could be? That, maybe, it should be? Those words, together, motherhood and easy — just writing them allows me to breath deeper. It gets me thinking that, maybe, things really are all right.
Like many new mothers, before I had my first child I was kind of terrified about becoming a parent. This is partially because taking care of children is legitimately quite hard and partially because most of the discussion surrounding motherhood these days is about how difficult it is and how much sacrifice it requires.
Criminals. Troublemakers. Attention seekers. These are just a few of the names that Women of the Wall have been called. I’ve met these women. I’ve prayed with these women. And you know what? I call these women discrimination-fighting superheroes with the guts to stand up for the human right to pray.
As an OTZMA participant and a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I am blessed to have the opportunity to intern with this social advocacy group and experience the magic. Women of the Wall seeks to achieve the rights of women to conduct prayer services, read Torah while wearing tallitot or tefillin, and sing out loud at the Western Wall. Their quest is to change the current status quo that prevents women from doing so — and to educate Jewish women and the public as well as empower Jewish women to take control of their religious and prayer lives.
At Rosh Hodesh Iyar, the first of the month, I prayed in the women’s section of the Kotel. Surrounded by a couple hundred women pushing up against me with their prayer books, I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. I enjoyed feeling close to them. I like feeling part of a team — one united army of women from all different branches of Judaism with the common goal of freedom in prayer.
Yet the Kotel was swamped with photographers, reporters and police officers watching us as if we were plotting evil. Orthodox men stood on chairs in the men’s section screaming at us to pipe down and to stop the racket. They stared us down as if we were parasites.
Remember the good old days, when everyone hated prom? Okay, maybe everyone didn’t hate it, but for a long time there was a deep and widespread cynicism of this (forced) rite of passage— and those who took it too seriously were considered out-of-touch or uptight. (See basically every high school movie from the last 25 years.)
Well, luckily for local florists and limo drivers, and unluckily for all of us who prefer our teens a little angsty and anti-establishment, prom has a made a major comeback.
The reports from this prom season have been rife with tales of teenagers really loving — and spending big money on — prom. The New York Times had a story on teenage boys seeking out increasingly complicated and expensive ways to ask dates. Some are even paying companies upwards of $400 to help them with their “prom-prosals.” Even boys at Jewish high schools are getting into the spirit, as evidenced by the elaborate prom-posal by Jake Davidson of Milken Community High School in Bel Air, CA. in which he asked actress and model Kate Upton via Youtube. The video earned him a 2.5 million hits and a “no thank you” from Upton.
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