Sisterhood Blog

Hasidic Rock Band Takes to Stage — No Men Allowed

By Gabe Friedman

Bulletproof Stockings // Facebook

It isn’t everyday that Arlene’s Grocery hosts a show for women only. But that’s what will happen Thursday night when the all-female Hasidic rock band Bulletproof Stockings takes the stage at the iconic Lower East Side venue.

The modesty prohibition of kol isha states that Hasidic women cannot sing in front of men. The group — led by Perl Wolfe, 27, and Dalia Shusterman, 40 – has had trouble booking gigs restricting male attendance in New York City after forming in Brooklyn a few years ago. The manager of Arlene’s Grocery was hard to convince at first, but she warmed up to the idea after seeing how devoted Wolfe and Shusterman were to gaining fans. They hit the streets to promote the show and got signatures from women who promised to see them play.

“We did take a little bit of a risk on them,” the venue’s manager, Julia Darling, told the New York Post. So far there have been no complaints. The Post notes that Arlene’s male employees are exempt from the ban.

The band says their style is influenced by blues, jazz, rock, and even classical music. Wolfe’s piano playing is front and center.

Thursday’s show will be filmed by the Oxygen Network for their upcoming series “Living Different.”


#TBT: Rosa Hilferding's Haunted Gaze

By Chana Pollack

Dr. Rosa Hilferding, June 1941 // Forward Assocation

Peering into Dr. Rosa Hilferding’s eyes as she gazes directly at the camera, posed in front of the Forverts’ photo file cabinets in this riveting seated portrait, one might grasp but a hint of what transpired prior to the photo session in our old East Broadway building one June day in 1941.

A physician herself, Hilferding was born into a Hungarian Jewish family and married to Austrian Jewish Marxist economist Rudolf Hilferding. They eventually expatriated to Berlin, Germany in the early 1900s, where he eventually became Finance Minister and then Reichstag spokesman for the Social Democratic Party in the Weimar Republic.

The Hilferdings fled Germany with Hitler’s rise to power, along with other party members — first to Denmark, then Paris and Zurich. Returning to Paris in 1939, Rudolph Hilferding remained the focal point of the German Socialist Party in exile. When France fell to the Nazis, the Hilferdings successfully escaped to Marseilles. Eventually, Rudolph Hilferding was turned over to the Gestapo by Vichy police.

At that point in February 1941, Rosa Hilferding told the Forverts, having survived a Paris so congested by the occupation that all one saw there were Nazis — the French basically acted as “kidnappers” for the Gestapo, happy to hand over their prey. Since then, there had been no word from her husband. She remained in Arles in Provence, attempting to establish contact with him to send him clothing, food and cigarettes —  to no avail. She left the country.

By the time this photo was taken, she had journeyed to safety from Marseilles first to Martinique where she applied for a US visa only to witness her ship being overtaken by the Dutch who sought out Nazi agents reportedly on board.

Diverted to Trinidad where the captured agents were detained, the ship was forwarded to Winnipeg, Canada and finally — New York City.

By the fall of 1941, it was understood that Rudoph Hilferding had been tortured to death by his Nazi captors. Rosa Hilferding eventually resettled herself in Boston where she was employed in her field.


She's a Bird. She's a Plane. She's Ilanit.

By Nirit Alderman

(Haaretz) — A woman named Ilanit, wearing a black bodysuit, is suspended on a rope and swinging in the air. During a routine tour of the roofs of Tel Aviv, she notices a man standing on the roof of a nearby building. “This is Nahid Abdallah-something, the second most wanted man in Jenin,” Ilanit calls out. She and Nahid begin to fight, and Ilanit kicks him off the roof to his death. But then she sees that his twin brother, Fahid, the most wanted man in Jenin, is standing on a nearby roof.

Several chapters from “Ilanit, the Spider Woman from Reut,” the comic book by Boaz Kadman, have been published in recent years on various platforms. Now they are being published as a book, with all the old stories appearing beside several new ones. Published a few weeks ago, the book will be on sale at the traditional annual comics fair, which opens Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. The fair, which is part of the 14th annual Animix Animation, Comics and Caricature Festival, runs until Saturday.

haaretz/tomer applebaum
Boaz Kadman

The excerpt cited above is taken from the first chapter of the book, “Ilanit vs. the Explosive Twins,” the first story in the series, which was created about a decade ago. “I sorted through comics I had bought many years before and I saw that they spoke in so many cliches,” Kadman says in an interview in Tel Aviv. “Then, one day, I read an interview in the political supplement of the newspaper, and the interviewee kept repeating himself, speaking in awful cliches about the historical connection to the Land of Israel — and suddenly it looked like a comic to me. What motivates the superheroes is always one very simple thing, ‘the war on crime,’ and political talk in Israel is the same. There’s something ridiculous about political texts and superheroes.” In that same moment, Kadman decided that his next comic strip was going to star political cliches alongside cliches about superstars. At the height of the battle between Ilanit and Fahid on the roofs of Tel Aviv, both contenders take a short breather. “Terrorism against Israeli citizens is a war crime,” Ilanit says, and Fahid retorts, “You’re continuing the occupation. You strengthened the desire for revenge. Settlements are terrorism.”

Kadman, who was born in 1971, enrolled in the Midrasha School of the Arts at Beit Berl College when he was 25. “I did comics about Joseph Beuys, for example, a prominent artist who was always being mentioned to us, and to me he’s something comic, really exaggerated. I did excerpts from his autobiography in Bazooka comics format and called it Bazooka Beuys.” Between 2003 and 2004 Kadman published several works in the A4 Booklets of the well-known cartoonist, illustrator and comic book creator Dudu Geva. For two years Kadman had a comic strip in the art magazine Studio, and then moved to Time Out magazine. In 2001 he began editing Plan B, an alternative comics magazine, with Guy Lavie. Plan B was published every few months, and several days later it changed its format and became an online blog.

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The Fight Against 'Immodesty Signs' in Beit Shemesh

By Nili Philipp

Nili Philipp (third from right) and other residents outside the Beit Shemesh court house / Courtesy of Nili Philipp

Beit Shemesh has featured prominently in the news over the past several years as a hot spot for violations against women and girls, from the Orot school scandal to several highly publicized assaults against women, to routine harassment of women in the city’s streets.

But June 16 marked a new phase in the struggle for gender equality in Beit Shemesh, three years after I was attacked by a Haredi man who threw a rock that hit me in the head as I cycled along a main thoroughfare, and two years after a mob of Haredi men attacked Vered Daniel, who was holding her infant in her arms at the time, alleging that she wasn’t dressed sufficiently modest, which prompted three other religious women and myself, all residents of Beit Shemesh, to demand that the city address the increasingly frightening attacks against women and girls.

With the help of our lawyer, Orly Erez Likhovsky from the Israel Religious Action Center, we sued the Beit Shemesh municipality for 100,000 shekel (29,200 US dollar) after they repeatedly ignored our pleas to remove the large and imposing illegal signs that harass and threaten women in public areas of the city. The signs loom over main commercial centers and are signed by the local leading Haredi rabbis, ‘requesting’ that women dress modestly. The signs also define modest dress: long sleeves, long skirts, high necklines, no pants, nothing tight. Other signs instruct women to avoid walking or lingering on certain sidewalks, public city sidewalks that were built and maintained with taxpayers money. Not coincidentally, in these very same areas where the illegal signs hang, women deemed insufficiently modest have been habitually harassed, threatened and attacked, lending strength to the thesis that one law violation abates another.

We had several reasons for requesting that the city remove the signs. First, the signs are illegal and intimidating. Their harassing message is an invasion of privacy and freedom. Second, they promote an atmosphere of anarchy by blatantly violating the rules of the State with the tacit approval of the municipality. Third, we wanted a clear public statement that violations of women’s rights wouldn’t be tolerated.

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Secrets of the Sheitel Stylists

By Frimet Goldberger

Gneshe Bron of Wigs by Gneshe / Martyna Starosta

On the Wednesday evening before Passover, Gneshe Bron sent out the last freshly washed and styled sheitel from her salon, Wigs by Gneshe. She swept the tan linoleum floor clean of hair, washed the styling table and chair and plopped down on the black leather couch to breathe a sigh of relief.

“There is nothing like the feeling of sending out that last wig and closing shop for Pesach,” she said.

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When Atheists Talk About Rape

By Elissa Strauss

Richard Dawkins / Getty Images

Earlier this week prominent atheist Richard Dawkins said some pretty insensitive comments about sexual assault on Twitter. “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”

This was a follow-up line to an earlier assessment on the social media platform that “Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.”

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Throwback Thursday: Carole King, Civil Rights Crusader

By Chana Pollack

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.

At a time when supporting the rights of the accused in deportation and civil rights cases frequently invited harassment, Jewish New York City attorney Carol King was a noted expert on both.

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Was 'Bachelorette' Andi Dorfman Slut Shamed?

By Maia Efrem

Getty Images

As the rose petals settle from the aftermath of the “Bachelorette” finale earlier this week, the blogosphere is on fire dissecting Jewish Bachelorette Andi Dorfman’s acceptance of Josh Murray’s proposal. The finale had all the makings of good TV: A heart wrenching profession of love and an angry confrontation between Andi and scorned bachelor Nick Viall and an appearance by Grumpy Cat.

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Why We Don't Need Period Talks

By Elissa Strauss

British artist Francis Wheatley’s depiction of mother and her children, probably not having a period talk / Wikimedia Commons

In a recent Sisterhood post, fellow contributor Frimet Goldberger writes about how her mother never had a menstruation talk with her until after she got her period.

“There was no big fuss made; she didn’t sit me down and explain anything to me. You were going to bleed every few weeks because, nothing — just because.” And later: “The friendship grapevine is how I learned about puberty, the birds and the bees and many other things not customarily introduced by mothers in the Hasidic community.”

Now Frimet, who is no longer part of the Hasidic community she was raised in, is wondering how to best talk about puberty and periods with her daughter. Here’s my advice: don’t have a talk at all.

My mom never gave me a period talk. Does this mean that I didn’t know about menstruation and, by natural extension, how babies are made until I got my period? No way. Just that we never sat down over muffin and smoothies, or whatever else people ate back in the mid ’90s, and had a dedicated conversation about what happens to girls when they become women.

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Let's Talk About 'Sects'

By Frimet Goldberger

Facebook

Brenda Rosenberg, who goes by the online moniker “Brenda Turtle,” is a social media celebrity with thousands of followers. She posts photos of herself in suggestive poses, often repurposing religious paraphernalia like tefillin (phylacteries) or a tallis (prayer shawl) for the added shock value, since no Hasidic and few Orthodox women utilize those items. Many of Brenda’s fans are Hasidic men hiding behind fake virtual profiles. So when Brenda was in a tragic car accident with a few friends last week, some of her followers, operating from covert locations where the Internet is banned and where God is a swift and predictable punisher, said she deserved it. Hashem wants you back on His good side, they beseeched her.

What ensued was a mini social media firestorm, with Internet denizens arguing for and against her shtick. Some suggested she is deeply disturbed, while others said that she is young and naïve and is being taken advantage of by repulsive and perverse Hasidic men. Others, still, insisted that she is a Jewish Madonna, a misunderstood artist.

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Meet Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto's Gay, Right Wing Columnist

By Michael Kaminer

Photo by Michael Peake/Toronto Sun

Sue-Ann Levy doesn’t sound like the devil, which a 2012 headline in a Toronto publication, The Grid, suggested she might be.

In fact, the woman who picked up the phone to chat with the Forward’s Michael Kaminer has a sweet, chirpy voice and an endearingly cheery manner. But these qualities belie the Toronto Sun investigative columnist’s steel spine. An out lesbian and relentless advocate for Israel, Levy’s also a dogged reporter whose scoops on municipal corruption and cronyism have made her both an idol and a punching bag.

Detractors have pounced on her more outrageous actions, like her 2012 tweet implying Barack Obama may be Muslim. Enemies have called her “an Internet troll, but in real life.” But those jabs just seem to stoke her. “Either you love me or you hate me,” she told the Forward from the home she shares with her wife, interior designer Denise Alexander, and dachshunds Kishka and Flora.

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In Vitro and Me

By Talia Liben Yarmush

Talia Liben Yarmush and her family

I always imagined having a large family. I was the middle child of five, and although I can’t honestly claim to have loved every moment I’ve had with my siblings, I feel immensely blessed to have them. Growing up, they were always my biggest role models. I emulated the way my older brothers spoke, I listened only to the music they listened to, and I even wore their hand-me-downs. My younger siblings were my most treasured playmates; we climbed trees in the front yard and played make-believe in the basement. My brothers and sister were allies against our parents, they were my confidantes and they were my refuge. Today, they are my closest friends. And when I need advice on something, I know just who to ask for each problem.

Six years ago, when I was hit with the shock of infertility, and I knew it would be difficult to have children, my expectations of family size changed dramatically. A little after a year of marriage, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, one of the leading causes of infertility. I had two surgeries to remove the growths inside of me, but they grew back with full force each time. My doctor was clear: in vitro fertilization was the only way I would get pregnant. I went into my first cycle of IVF without a clue I thought, This is it! I’m about to grow the family I always dreamed of! I suffered through the daily injections and the blood drawings and the vaginal ultrasounds, because I knew that in the end, I would have my baby. But after two full cycles, I was left alone with just another negative pregnancy test and I thought maybe I was asking too much. I stopped dreaming of a large family.

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Joanna Rakoff's 'Salinger Year'

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

Joanna Rakoff

Joanna Rakoff’s lovely memoir, “My Salinger Year,” brings to mind an image from the Talmud in which an unopened letter stands in as an uninterpreted dream. Rakoff, a poet, novelist and founding editor of Tablet Magazine, has written a book that braids together a stint after college assisting JD Salinger’s literary agent with her coming of age story. It’s about the year that she was one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of young women in New York City carrying tote bags bursting with manuscripts while balancing a cup of coffee from the Greek deli on her subway ride to work.

I was one of those girls too. I read manuscripts for Harper & Row, forerunner of Harper Collins, and then for GP Putnam & Sons. I was in publishing before the confusing mergers — when everyone used blue pencils to edit and typed press releases on Selectric typewriters.

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Sexy for Soldiers

By Sarah Seltzer

Facebook

When I read the story of Israeli women sending sexy photos off the to IDF to wish them luck and boost morale, my reaction was more of a bemused shake of the head than anything akin to the outrage, confusion, and energy-draining sorrow I’ve been experiencing while reading a lot of recent war-related stories.

The same can be said for my response to the tale of the observant women in New York who are campaigning for an Israeli victory by holding a modesty contest at home, convinced that immodesty brings bad events to brethren abroad. Good luck covering those elbows for your cause, ladies. As Talia Lavin writes, her tone laced with irony, “The way to “help our brothers in their time of need,” apparently, is to suppress every inch of skin their sisters possess.” She even suggests an Iron Dome over women’s flesh.

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Gisela Werbezirk, Viennese Star in America

By Chana Pollack

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.

“Actress Gisela Werbezirk Arrives In America” announced the Forverts in a 1938 headline, with a photo of the cherubic face of the Viennese comic film and musical theater star.

The Forverts identified her to readers as a hyphenate Jew — “the German-Jewish actress” and located her amidst her fellow artists-in-exile who, it was noted, were “currently escaping Hitler’s Germany.” Leaping over what that might have entailed, the item ended by citing a forthcoming performance by Werbezirk along with “other actors rescued from Nazi barbarism.” You could catch their acts at Nathanson’s National Theatre in the epicenter of the Yiddish theatre district on Second Avenue and Houston Street in New York City — she’d truly arrived.

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The Male-Led Campaign To End Female Stereotyping in Hollywood

By Emily Shire

Robert Shepyer

The supportive girlfriend. The doting mother. The devoted daughter. These simplified roles are too often the only options for women trying to catch a break in Hollywood.

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When Women Bully Other Women

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

The road to the corner office isn’t an easy one for a woman. There is the glass ceiling to break, and then the maternal wall to mount and then, if you get that far, there are glass cliffs to avoid. Oh my!

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Having the Period Talk

By Frimet Goldberger

Thinkstock

The queries “What is the right age to talk with your children about puberty?” and “How to prevent precocious puberty” — thanks to a friend who scared the living daylights out of me recently — have filled my Google search history of the past few weeks. You see, my daughter, who is seven, was rummaging through her mommy’s bag while sitting on the table in the orthopedist’s room last week (she broke her poor little foot, but that’s a story for another time), and pulled out a tampon.

“What’s this, mommy?” she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag.

Oh boy, how do I answer? I wondered, as I hurried to gently pry her hands loose of the mysterious thingamajig and put it back in its hiding place.

“Something, I’ll explain later,” I said.

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A Work/Life Balance Ketubah

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Slate’s Rebecca Onion thinks so.

Concerned about the potential negative effects procreation might have her on her life and her relationship with her husband, Onion wonders whether a “legally binding document, outlining expectations and setting a course for periodic re-examination of the division of labor, [might] alleviate [her] fears, and prevent aggravation, or fights, or divorce, in the future?”

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Those Boys on Gaza Beach Remind Me of My Brother

By Sarah Seltzer

Sarah Seltzer with her twin brother as children.

I have a twin brother who, as a kid, frequently ran around outside with a ball and his friends — usually in New York’s parks. Woe to the teachers at our Jewish day school who denied them gym or recess: they acted up extra-rambunctiously when they were cooped up. One of the cardinal lessons of my childhood was this: If you don’t let kids run around, everyone suffers. So that, in part, explains why the boys on the beach in Gaza proved my breaking point — boys who had been shut in for over a week and just wanted to kick a ball around, for a blessed few hours, and feel the air.

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