Sisterhood Blog

The Bible's Other Child Sacrifice

By Susan Reimer-Torn

Finally, after 3,000 years, the public is invited to the trial of the century: Forefather Abraham will be tried for endangerment of a minor and attempted murder in connection with the near sacrifice of his son Isaac at Temple Emanu-El’s Skirball Center on November 16th. The indomitable Alan Dershowitz is arguing the defense, while the ever-confident Eliot Spitzer is prosecuting. What will we take away from this combination of tainted celebrity and shrewd legal minds overlaid on a biblical shocker of almost murder that is central to the spiritual consciousness of Jews (and Christians and Muslims, as well)?

If nothing else, the trial is an ingenious publicity stunt. The Sacrifice of Isaac is a perennial. The centerpiece of last week’s Torah portion and read several weeks ago on Rosh Hashanah, it is one of the most discussed story of our tradition. Yet, there are many other stories—arguably as thought-provoking, certainly every bit as appalling—that tend to lie a little fallow. What about the lore of child sacrifice that involves a daughter and ends in tragedy rather than featuring a son and invoking eleventh-hour salvation?

Read more


Weekend Roundup: All-of-a-Kind Family Edition

By Sarah Breger

First for Orthodox Rabbinic group. In a sign of changing times, Dr. Michelle Friedman of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), has been invited to join the board of the Beth Din of America, the religious court of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). Friedman, founder and chair of the Department of Pastoral Counseling at YCT, a progressive Orthodox rabbinical school in New York, is the first woman invited to serve in this capacity. This follows RCA’s decision last week to appoint a new conversion committee, including five women. (It is worth nothing that there are no YCT-ordained rabbis who have been accepted to the RCA). I imagine Rabbi Pruzansky is thrilled. [The Jewish Week]

Single in San Francisco? This is your chance. In this week’s San Francisco Craigslist “personals section,” a self-described “Shaygetz” seeks a “Zaftig, Politically Progressive, Shy Submissive Jewish Woman.” He warns, “I do not need to hear from (sometimes irate) Jewish women, informing me that Jewish women aren’t submissive.” How could you not be interested in someone who writes: “I still mourn…the-not so recent passing of the brilliant Edward Said.” Don’t we all? Alas, this ad is location specific as he does “not have a car or drive. So, it would be best if you lived in S.F., too. Or nearby, within BART range.” Enjoy SF ladies! Read the full ad here. [Craigslist]

Read more


Throwback Thursday: The Actress Who Could Hold Her Own

By Chana Pollack

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

The image of Yiddish theatre diva Sonia Nadolsky depicts a stiff, haughty looking woman who could easily play everyone’s favorite serpent-tongued bubbie —the Dowager Countess of Grantham on television’s Downton Abbey. According to Forverts journalist and screenplay author Mendl Osherowitch, Nadolsky’s powerful gaze might be due to her impressive ability to stare down and attack any director unjustly critical of her performance.

Nadolsky was born Sore Katz to a family of ritual slaughterers in 1867 in Ukraine’s Kaments Podolski, one-time home to the writer Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, who under the pseudonym, Mendele Moykher-Sforim or Mendel the book peddler, became one of the founders of modern Yiddish literature. Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a creative one, Sonia reportedly organized theatricals as a young girl, and charged the local kids to attend. Payment in the form of buttons was accepted.

Read more


How Katha Pollitt Helped Me Break Abortion Silence

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

A woman shouts claiming for her abortion right during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain // Getty Images

My abortion was a secret that I kept for almost 20 years. When I decided to terminate my pregnancy in 1995, I was happily married and the mother of a six month-old baby girl. I was also dealing with post-partum depression and knew that I could not handle two children fifteen months apart. I was also well aware that having an abortion was a right that women like my grandmother didn’t have. In 1940s Havana she had tried to abort a pregnancy by ripening her cervix with olive oil and taking scalding baths. Abortion wasn’t a medical procedure that Katha Pollitt’s mother was entitled to either. “I never had an abortion, but my mother did…it was in 1960, so like almost all abortions back then, it was illegal,” begins Pollitt’s new book, “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.”

I am— Pollitt tells me— part of a striking, even comforting set of statistics. Three in ten American women have had abortions by the time they reach menopause. Most of these women are not victims of rape or incest. Six out of ten of them are mothers like me who have elected to have an abortion because they cannot have a child at that moment. For Pollitt, these women are making a reasonable and even a commendable decision.

Read more


Don't Judge Hasidic Seat-Switchers

By Tova Ross

Thinkstock

I know I run the risk of relinquishing some modicum of feminist street cred and incurring the wrath of all those up in arms over the situation, but here goes: I am not offended when the Hasidic gentleman next to me asks to switch his seat so he might not fly an entire flight to or from Israel next to a woman. I might think he’s an extremist, and I might think he’s not practicing a very halachic form of Judaism, but as for taking personal offense, so long as my uncomfortable Hasidic or Haredi male neighbor asks politely if he can switch his seat, and so long as he doesn’t hold up a flight should it be impossible to find an empty seat or willing passenger ready to switch, then I have bigger things by which to be offended than his preference not to sit next to me.

I write this in response to the media frenzy surrounding Sisterhood contributor Elana Sztokman’s recent account of an ultra-Orthodox male passenger delaying her flight for over half an hour while he insisted that another seat, one not next to a woman, be made available for him. Obviously, this was extremely rude, inconsiderate and the absolute wrong thing to do. But it seems that the ire this account has generated—a petition demanding El Al change its policy on accommodating those who desire a gender-segregated seat, incensed comments about the accumulated societal ills of the ultra-Orthodox and a video mocking this phenomenon, complete with offering Hasidic men a condom-like body vest to protect themselves from female neighbors—is directed more at the general practice of asking to switch seats and less so at the extremes to which this particular male passenger took it. Sztokman herself says: “What offends me is the premise that sitting next to me is a problem.” The premise—not the problematic way this man expected his proclivity to be accommodated.

Read more


New York's First Female Crime Boss

By Sarah Breger

The press called her a “Queen Among Thieves” and the person who “first put crime in America on a syndicated basis.” In 1884, The New York Times named her “the nucleus and center of the whole organization of crime in New York City.” During the Gilded Age, Fredericka Mandelbaum, a German-Jewish immigrant, rose to power as the country’s premier fence—seller of stolen goods. Described as “a huge woman weighing more than two hundred and fifty pounds” with “extraordinarily fat cheeks,” Mandelbaum was the head of one of the first organized crime rings and a driving force behind New York City’s underworld for more than twenty-five years. J. North Conway, who has written the new biography “Queen of Thieves: The True Story of “Marm” Mandelbaum and Her Gangs of New York,” talks with The Forward’s Sarah Breger about life in the Gilded Age, chasing the American dream and why no one has turned Mandelbaum’s life into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Courtesy of Skyhorse

Sarah Breger: What brought Fredericka Mandelbaum to New York?
J. North Conway: A combination of factors including the infamous potato famine of 1848 and increasing restrictions against Jews in Germany brought Fredericka to the United States in 1850. Her husband Wolf, had sailed a few months earlier, so she was traveling alone in steerage with a new baby. She was so tall that some documents I’ve seen said she had to stoop the whole time.

SB: Why did Mandelbaum enter a life of crime?
JC: This is a story of coming to America for whatever reasons and trying to make good. Like every immigrant she was trying to make a better life for her children. She came for the American dream and it happened to be the only job she could get was in crime. And she was good at it. I couldn’t find where she learned the ropes or if she had an innate ability but she knew how to set up this criminal network. She knew enough to bribe the right people, and she knew protecting her interests meant protecting a cadre of criminals; if they went to jail, they couldn’t steal things, if they couldn’t steal things, they couldn’t sell to her, and then she couldn’t sell to other people. If you were to do a flow chart of her enterprise, it would look like a very functioning business today. As a business model you would say she would be up there with the Bill Gateses of the world.

Read more


At 97, Holocaust Survivor Plays Lincoln Center

By Rachel Delia Benaim

97-year-old Emily Kessler shows off her mandolin technique / Courtesy

When Emily Kessler escaped the Nazis, she stopped enjoying the music she used to sing with her parents in pre-war Ukraine. But after 40 years, Kessler finally returned to the songs she loved so much. Since then, she hasn’t stopped.

Now, this 97-year-old Holocaust survivor will fulfill her dream of playing Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on Monday night.

Kessler’s debut concert will be the special performance at the annual charity dinner of the Blue Card Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides support to Holocaust survivors. In her melodic voice, Kessler, who has personally been a beneficiary of the Blue Card Fund for nearly two decades, will sing the Yiddish and Russian folk songs of her childhood, and play her beloved string instrument, the mandolin.

Kessler remembers the first time she was exposed to this sort of music in her shtetl, Khmelnik, in Ukraine. “I was singing at home since I was a child with both of my parents,” she recalled. “They had very nice voices.” Kessler learned to play both the mandolin and the violin in 1927 when she was just ten years old.

“Her music expresses the ghetto, Ukraine, and losing family,” said Masha Pearl, the executive director of The Blue Card Fund, explaining why Kessler will be this year’s special performer. Pearl believes that Kessler’s music “represents both sorrow and hope.”

Read more


A First in the Jewish World

By Dorri Olds

Jordan Cassway

Rabbi Deborah Waxman has been many firsts in her life. She was one of the first bat mitzvahs to be celebrated on a Saturday morning in her hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut in 1979 and now she is the first female rabbi, and the first lesbian, to lead a Jewish congregational institution.

Waxman, 47, took office as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities on January 1, 2014. Since then, Waxman has made it her business to bring a Reconstructionist perspective to a broader public conversation. She has been invited to speak at a number of settings from the JCPA Plenum to the WAMC public radio station in the Berkshires that broadcasts to 6 states.

Growing up in a Conservative Jewish family, Waxman is a middle child of a family of five. Her father was a traveling salesman and her mother was involved in their synagogue. Waxman earned a Ph.D. in American Jewish History from Temple University after her M.A. in Hebrew Letters from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Before that she’d earned a B.A. in religion from Columbia University.

Waxman now lives in Philadelphia with her partner, Christina Ager.

The Forward’s Dorri Olds caught up with Waxman ahead of her October 26 inauguration ceremony to find out about the changing culture of Judaism. When asked why she puts an orange on the Seder plate every year Waxman quotes an Orthodox rabbi who once said, “A woman on the bimah is like an orange on the Seder plate.”

Dorri Olds: When did your orange on the Seder plate tradition begin?

Rabbi Deborah Waxman: We’ve been doing that in my home for the past 30 years. I see the orange as both a symbol of celebration and of challenge. In the Reconstructionist movement we can celebrate [this change]. In the wider Jewish world it’s still a challenge. One of the things about bringing a Reconstructionist analysis more fully across the wider Jewish community would be a shattering of what seems to be a glass ceiling. Instead, it should be what I see at the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.

Read more


Throwback Thursday: From Stalinist to US Spy

By Chana Pollack

Copyright Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

Seemingly waiting for her thoughts to fuse, Ruth Fischer’s photo in our archive depicts her with notepad in hand at the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1946, in a painfully dull side profile for a former revolutionist. And yet, Fisher’s blazing life force, absent in such a quotidian image, hovers in the imagination like an afterimage with the power to warp the very negative used to create the print.

In 1948, only two years after this image was made at the hearing, Fischer authored a vast tome entitled “Stalin And German Communism.” Published by Harvard University Press and ranging 687 pages, it was received as an authoritative work on German communism and its Stalinist influences, and was considered both readable, and even riveting by some.

Ruth Fischer was born Elfriede Eisler to a Jewish father, a philosophy professor at the University of Leipzig, and a Lutheran mother who supplemented the family’s income with work as a domestic aide. Along with her brothers, the noted film composer Hans and Gerhart, also an activist, Ruth is credited with founding the Austrian Communist Party in the early years after World War One. But then, in 1919, after reportedly incensed at criticism of her as being too rightist, Fischer and brother Gerhart departed for Berlin where she led the German communist party, was elected to the Reichstag and remained active there, despite burgeoning internal party tensions.

Read more


Malala Gives $50K to Gaza Schools

By JTA

Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said she will donate $50,000 to a U.N. agency in the effort to rebuild damaged schools in Gaza.

Yousafzai, an advocate for worldwide access to education, was awarded the World Children’s Prize on Wednesday and promptly said she would donate the prize money to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to assist its efforts to repair schools damaged by this summer’s fighting in Gaza.

“Innocent Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long,” said Yousafzai, a 17-year-old Pakistani, in remarks posted on the UNRWA website. “We must all work to ensure Palestinian boys and girls, and all children everywhere, receive a quality education in a safe environment. Because without education, there will never be peace.”

In the Gaza conflict this summer, UNRWA schools served as civilian shelters. Several schools were shelled, killing dozens of civilians and workers. UNRWA officials accused Israel of targeting schools, but Israel denied the claim while acknowledging that some of its shells had hit schools.

However, rockets were found stored in UNRWA schools and then subsequently disappeared, leading to Israeli accusations that agency officials had given them back to Hamas.


When the Mikveh Is an Ordeal of Faith

By Frimet Goldberger

Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh

The first time I prepared to immerse in the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath, I was 18 years old and four days away from my wedding. I sat naked in a white bathtub as the mikveh attendant scrubbed my back with a washcloth and a dollop of baking soda.

“You’re lucky you will only have your hair this one time,” the “mikveh lady,” as she was commonly referred to, informed me in Yiddish. (Satmar Hasidic women shave their heads after their weddings and cover them with a wig or kerchief.)

Scrub, scrub, scrub. I pulled my hands in over my chest. Scrub, scrub, scrub. As I wondered if she was looking at my naked body, I shifted uncomfortably, making ripples with the water beneath my feet.

My mother accompanied me on this first visit to the women’s mikveh in the Satmar Hasidic village Kiryas Joel, one chilly December evening 11 years ago. She rang the doorbell of the vast grey brick building that sits on the corner of one of the village’s main roads and is surrounded by tall pine bushes to obscure the views of passersby. There was a buzz to let us in.

“Welcome to the woman’s palace,” the attendant at the front desk exclaimed cheerfully in Yiddish. “This is the place to relax.”

Read more


The Bat Mitzvah Girl Who Made Kotel History

By Rita Kashner

Bat mitzvah girl Sasha Lutt reads from a tiny Torah scroll smuggled into the Kotel / Haaretz

I am sitting in front of my computer, talking via Skype with three women in Israel — Irina Lutt, her 12-year-old daughter Sasha, and Shira Pruce — who are kicking back after a day of school and work. Sasha made history at her bat mitzvah last week when she became the first female to read Torah at the Western Wall in 25 years. The fact that she’s a celebrity doesn’t seem to have registered with her. “You made the New York Times!” I tell her. She looks quizzically at her mother; she has never heard of the Times.

Shira, who is translating for us and trying to get Sasha to eat something, is director of public relations for Women of the Wall (WOW), the organization that has been fighting for a quarter century to secure the rights of women to pray at the Kotel. She and Irina know what a hard-won victory this bat mitzvah was for WOW and for the rights of women in Israel.

To begin with, they had to smuggle in a tiny Torah, because women have been aggressively and sometimes violently blocked from reading Torah at the Wall. Surrounded and sheltered by a circle of women, Sasha had to use a magnifying glass to read the text. She shrugs off my comment that this must have been tough. “I knew it really well,” she says.

Read more


So a Jewish Woman Got on an El Al Flight ...

By Roz Warren

So a man boards his El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, but when he sees that Elana Sztokman is in the seat adjacent to his, he refuses to sit next to her.

Was she holding a howling baby? Did she have a hacking cough? A touch of Ebola, maybe?

No. The problem, simply, was that she was a she.

The man, an ultra-religious Orthodox Jew, was so certain that God didn’t want him to sit beside a woman that he demanded a seat change. Other Orthodox men onboard took up his cause, and the ensuing bru ha ha delayed take-off until, finally, another seat could be found for him.

Sztokman just happens to be the author of a new book, “The War On Women In Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting For Freedom” in which she calls for an end to “the religious extremism that is hurting women” in that country.

Proving? God, if he does exist, has a sense of humor. Or, at the very least, a deep sense of irony.

The outraged essay that Sztokman wrote about the incident quickly went viral.

Will this help Sztokman sell books? I certainly hope so.

Seating flaps like this aren’t unusual for El Al. It happens often enough that instituting gender-segregated seating on their planes has been discussed.

And playing musical chairs with airplane seats, of course, is nothing new. It usually results when families who have been assigned seats all over the plane actually want to sit together. But seat shifting happens for other reasons too. To maximize leg room. To move away from a bathroom.

Read more


Throwback Thursday: Novellas About Sexy Tel Aviv

By Chana Pollack

Regina Kolitz // Copyright Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

Publisher Heinrich H. Glanz created the Juedisch-Politische Bibliothek [Jewish-Political] series of books in Vienna before it was “confiscated” after Nazi Anschluss in 1938. After emigrating to safety in Washington Heights, New York City, in 1949, he released “Passport to the Past,” a 126-page novella by Regina Kolitz. The book promised a “tale of an indestructible love between an Arab and a Jewess.”

Set in 1930’s Palestine, where Kolitz herself settled, the novella sets the main character, Rina, adrift between her romantic suitor, Pierre whose upper class family hails from Alexandria, Egypt and her father, scion of a Rabbinic dynasty back home in her native Lithuania. But such conflict pales in the face of Rina and Pierre’s passionate bond and we are convinced to read on by the cover flyleaf text stating that “exaltation is all that remains.”

Posed in an archival image besides a desk in the Forverts offices sometime in the 1940’s, Kolitz herself similarly appears to a deeply romantic figure. Despite or perhaps because of the white paste-up ink blocking out more of the background in the image, with her wide light colored eyes focused just slightly offside the camera’s lens, full lips not quite framed in a pout, her arty bohemian halo of tight curly hair and herringbone patterned jacket — she herself is simply put — exalted looking.

Read more


Gossip Queen Margo Howard Talks Serial Marriage

By Julie Wiener

Margo Howard

(JTA) — When your mother is the world’s most famous advice columnist you wouldn’t think you’d have to learn any lesson the hard way. But Margo Howard — daughter of the late Ann Landers and the niece of Landers’ twin sister Dear Abby (née Esther and Pauline Friedman) — had to marry four times before she finally felt she’d gotten it right.

In her new book “Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife,” the 74-year-old Howard, a Jewish former journalist and Slate’s former “Dear Prudence” advice columnist, details her matrimonial history and the various adventures and lessons learned along the way. One lesson she didn’t need to learn was thrift: thanks to her high-profile parents (her father, Julius Lederer, founded Budget Rent-A-Car) and high-earning hubbies (hotel investor, funeral director, actor/TV star and heart surgeon), money has never been a concern. The book includes abundant descriptions of Rolls Royces, boarding schools for her three kids (from marriage No. 1), live-in nannies, swanky vacations and celebrity-studded social gatherings. The memoir contains plenty of Yiddish phrasing, and some Jewish revelations, too — like how her famous mother had long dreamed of her marrying a Jewish doctor.

Howard — the surname comes from her third (and only non-Jewish) husband —spoke with JTA by phone from her Cambridge, Mass., home the day before Yom Kippur.

I noticed three of your four husbands were Jewish. Was that a conscious decision? Did you care whether or not you married a Jew?

Read more


Did Rabbi Freundel Build Mikveh for Own Fantasy?

By Haviva Ner-David

Photo by Nir Keidar/Haaretz


(Haaretz) — When I first heard about Rabbi Barry Freundel’s arrest on grounds of voyeurism, I was upset, but not horrified. If the allegations are true, I thought, we have a case of a sick man who couldn’t control his sexual urges. Sad. Especially since he carries a title that would make us expect he should know better.

But then I heard how he allegedly carried out his crime: Placing hidden video cameras in the mikveh, the ritual bath, to watch his female conversion candidates practicing their nude immersions. Horrifying! I cried when I heard this. The ultimate abuse of male rabbinic power, yet an unsurprising symptom of a patriarchal system that sexualizes and objectifies women in so many ways. A prime example is the exclusively “women’s mikveh”, where all know that women are going to immerse in the nude to purify themselves for sex, but where men make the rules.

Twenty-three years ago, I was a creative writing student living in Washington, D.C. and took a part-time job running one of the (if not the) first mikveh located in a Conservative synagogue, Adas Israel. It was the only mikveh in Washington, D.C. Yet Freundel told his congregants not to come to our mikveh, but rather to travel to Silver Spring, Maryland, to a mikveh that was located in an Orthodox synagogue there. This too was upsetting but not horrifying. An expression of Orthodox Jewish distrust of and disrespect for anyone not Orthodox, especially liberal Jewish rabbis and institutions.

But Freundel always wanted his own mikveh, which is probably one reason he did not want to acknowledge that there was a perfectly kosher mikveh already existing in Washington, D.C. A few years ago I heard that his dream had come true; there was now an Orthodox mikveh in D.C., and he was its rabbi.

We know that sexual predators are not created overnight but rather develop patterns over time. If the accusations about Freundel are true, I wonder if even back then he was plotting this extreme abuse of his rabbinic power and fantasizing about the women’s bodies he would have access to once he had his very own women’s mikveh.

Read more


After Mikveh Scandal, Make Us Feel Clean Again

By Elyse Goldstein


It’s time for Simchat Torah, but I don’t feel much like dancing. A promise I made long ago has been broken.

In the summer of 1986, I wrote what many consider the first piece about non-Orthodox women using the mikvah. Published in Lilith Magazine, in “Take Back the Waters” I proposed a feminist re-appropriation of mikvah and all its symbolism. I suggested that the mikvah no longer be considered the domain only of married women; its rationale not only to make us “kosher” for resumed sex with our husbands but to mark important moments in our female lives: first menstruation, menopause, lactation. After that article I started taking women to the mikvah for all sorts of experiences: after chemotherapy, after marital infidelity, after rape. I went before my ordination and again after shloshim for my sister. I wrote other articles and suggested many times that mikvah be considered “spiritual therapy.” I found myself on panels with psychologists speaking about how helpful mikvah could be for these non-traditional uses.

In effect, I promised women that the patriarchy which controlled our bodies and the mikvah itself could be overturned with our good feminist intentions.

This week proved me wrong.

Rabbi Barry Freundel, a once-highly respected Orthodox rabbi, is accused of peeping at women through hidden cameras in the mikvah. Much has been said and written already about all this.

Let me add my voice in this direction: we must continue to see this travesty not as an isolated incident but as a result of a system which continues to both sexualize and desexualize women concurrently, and all within the name of Jewish law.

Read more


We Are All (Fill in the Blank) Jews

By Leigh Shulman

Courtesy Leigh Shulman


I was recently e-mailing with a woman I know and told her how I planned to take a couple days off for Rosh Hashanah. I haven’t been to synagogue in years, but I do mark the holiday by spending time with family.

“You’re Jewish?” she asked surprised, immediately mentioning the ultra-Orthodox crowd in Brooklyn who screamed at her for wearing shorts in their neighborhood. “Then you’re one of the only Jews I’ve ever liked.”

She’s not the first to say this to me, and I’m sure she won’t be the last. Yet every time, it signals the end of a friendship. When I hear people say that they don’t like [fill in the blank] Jews, it makes me very uncomfortable. In part because I cannot serve as a representative of all Jews. But even more so, because I have to wonder where they draw the line between the Jews they like and the ones they don’t like.

I grew up Orthodox and spent a year in an ultra-Orthodox community in Israel where I lived a with people from different sects of Hasidism. There are many reasons I’m not observant anymore, not least of which the limitations, segregation and misogyny you’ll find in many of those communities.

So, yes, I understand why people often look at Orthodox communities with distaste. They’ve had stones thrown at them or people shout at them for transgressing an observance about which they knew nothing.

Still, I always say that how those people choose to observe, treat women and talk to other people is not a function of Judaism. It is instead the reactions of individuals making specific choices and then using “god wants” as an excuse to act like shitty human beings.

Read more


Bringing Malala Into Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

By Jeffrey Salkin

You would have to have a heart encrusted with cynicism to not be moved by Malala Yousafzai.

It is, in many ways, a modern miracle. An activist for equal education for young girls in her native Pakistan, Malala survived a Taliban bullet and expanded her local quest into an international movement for women’s education in Muslim countries. This past week, she became the first Pakistani and the youngest person – seventeen years old – to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is, in fact, the most famous teenager in the world.

But the proof of a truly inspirational story is that it moves beyond its own national and cultural boundaries, and that it becomes universal. I am going to suggest that this is truly the case with Malala – and that, more than that, her story needs to become the story of young Jewish girls as well.

Take the case of bat mitzvah.

Most Jewish girls who become bat mitzvah have little sense of how revolutionary that rite of passage once was – and how, comparatively speaking, it is one of Judaism’s most modern rituals. It is, in fact, “only” 92 years old – “born” when Judith Kaplan, the daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, was called to the Torah at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York. Or, to put it in generational perspective: bat mitzvah is only slightly older than many of the grandparents of young women who are becoming bat mitzvah now.

Why was bat mitzvah revolutionary? Because it symbolized, and continues to symbolize, that Jewish women would have equal access to the Torah, that their minds and souls would no longer be locked behind the mehitzah of ignorance, and that they would be able to see their own lives reflected in the beauty of the sacred letters.

Read more


How Glamsquad Brings the Makeover to You

By Maia Efrem

Courtesy of Glamsquad

Your local salon is about to look emptier when you walk by, because all those former clients will now be getting dolled up at home. On the heels of Rent the Runway and Uber comes Glamsquad, another on-demand service provider that makes house calls for hairstyling and makeup application at affordable prices. All with just a swipe on your smartphone.

The woman behind the company is Victoria Eisner, the founder of Glamsquad. The Los Angeles native spent most of her career as a certified holistic health coach, counseling clients on health, wellness and beauty. Now Eisner, 29, is bringing her experience to thousands of customers.

Much like Rent the Runway, Glamsquad may have just changed the game for every woman planning a wedding, attending an event or just looking for a glamorous pick-me-up after the gym. The network of hairstylists and makeup artists are accessible by web and range in price from $50 for The Bombshell blow-out to $125 for an elegant updo with The Prima. And makeup application is $75 for all the different looks. Not only will the trained stylists go to your home, but they will also go to your office, your gym or, really, wherever you want them to go.

Courtesy of Glamdsquad

Having officially launched in New York during this past January, Glamsquad is launching in L.A. next and has its sights on other major metropolitan centers, like Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C.

The Forward’s Maia Efrem spoke with Eisner via email about the glamorous future of Glamsquad.

Maia Efrem: How did this idea come to you?

Victoria Eisner: It was New Year’s Eve, and I was dreading doing my hair; it takes so much of my time, and I can never get it to look the way I want. Since I get everything else delivered, I wished there was a beauty delivery service app that would send a blowout stylist to my home. I Googled it and was shocked to discover that nothing of this nature existed. I knew then that there was a huge hole in the marketplace for women to have access to high-quality, on-demand beauty professionals, trained by the pros, and at an affordable price point!

Read more


Would you like to receive updates about new stories?






















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.