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
Our lives can change in an instant, which is exactly what happens to Rahel bat Yair, a 17-year-old girl about to be engaged to be married. Mere minutes after her father’s enemy arrives at her home as she gets ready to meet her betrothed, the sheltered teenager is forced to flee and assume a new identity. Her journey is dangerous — even brutal — but it is also expansive.
Rachel is the protagonist of Janice Weizman’s debut novel, “The Wayward Moon,” which was recently named a finalist for the Midwest Book Award. In the novel, Weizman, the founder and managing editor of The Ilanot Review, transports us to what is now Iraq in the 9th century, the Golden Age of Islam — an unusual period for a Jewish historical novel with a female heroine.
The Sisterhood asked Weizman how she accurately evoked her novel’s historical setting, how the book is a reclamation of women’s history and the challenges of writing from a Medieval perspective when you live in a post-Enlightenment world.
According to the New York Times, the latest parenting trend among those who seem to shun every innovation ever made to ease childbirth and child care is raising babies without diapers. Yes, “elimination communication,” as it is called, is trending in Brooklyn. Doulas now see it as a job qualification to be able to train their clients in the art of predicting poop.
Elimination communication devotees say they are doing it to help the environment and be more in touch with their babies’ “intimate functions.” The big idea is that you can start predicting when your baby is going to pee or poo and then take them to the toilet so they can go there, instead of in a diaper. One mother interviewed in the story says she was able to get her baby to poop on command by associating a “sss” sound when he started cueing that he had to poo, and now poops on command when she makes the sound. Pediatricians interviewed for the story expressed deep skepticism over a baby’s ability to control his or her toilet behavior before the age of one.
I want to not judge, I really do. Parents should be able to raise their kids however they want (as long as they are not causing harm) without me or anyone else telling them what to do. But I am going to judge, and this is why. The decision to go diaper-free isn’t a one-off freak decision by a fringe group, but rather a product of larger cultural forces that have emerged over the past 10 years that are turning motherhood into a bigger job than ever before. I’m talking about the breastfeeding until age three, sleeping with their kids, no epidural or even hospital, all homemade baby food lifestyle that has put the martyr back in mother.
Rebecca Kanner’s new novel, “Sinners and the Sea,” imagines the experiences of that woman. In a recent interview with The Sisterhood, Kanner, who is based in Minneapolis, talked about the book.
THE SISTERHOOD: Rebecca, I understand that your interest in Noah’s wife can be traced to your early education in a Jewish day school. Please tell us about that.
I attended Talmud Torah Day school as a child. The women of Genesis were very present for me, especially Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, because my teachers added them to the Amidah each morning. I got to begin each day with these women. They were the teachers and friends of my youth.
As an adult I was surprised to find that I couldn’t remember any details about Noah’s wife. I went back and read the story of the flood, and saw that she was only mentioned in passing. She was never even named. Without a name, it’s hard to talk about her, or even to think about her. I wanted to bring her to life. If she raised her family amongst sinners and brought them through the flood to the new world, she performed a great task and surely had a story to tell.
My whole life I had always planned to break the chain and be the Jewish mother who didn’t worry, the one who played it cool. With the stoicism of the British or the indifference of the French, I would be the one who told everyone that things were going to be okay and then figure out how to make them that way. I would speak slowly and softly, while squeezing shoulders and patting the tops of heads. I would keep it together, for all of us.
And then I had a child.
Becoming a mother allowed me to discover something every parent who ever came before me already knows — that when it comes to your children it is absolutely impossible to totally play it cool. You can act cool. You can speak softly, nod gently, even appear to be breathing. But when you feel that your child is at risk, either directly or abstractly, there is a part of you that will just freak the you-know-what out.
The rebuttals to Julia Shaw’s Slate article titled “Marry Young: I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for?” began almost immediately. There was Amanda Marcotte, also writing in Slate, who slyly pointed out that young marriage often leads to young divorce. There was Tracy Moore in Jezebel, who deftly dismantled several aspects of Shaw’s advice, most notably that marriage alone will not magically confer maturity, and that it is “obviously ludicrous to tell people what to do” regarding an institution that is so different for each individual. There was Ta-Nahesi Coates in the Atlantic, a rare, nuanced male entry into the sport of women judging other women’s lives, who generally related to Shaw’s position but couldn’t support her “certainty and determinism.” (Coates’s post is called “If You Want to Be Married Young, You Should Marry While Young.”)
All along, I was waiting for someone to say what I was thinking.
I read the many responses as my single 36-year-old self — and simultaneously as the single 23-year-old I used to be. Thirty-six-year-old me had many conflicted thoughts, but 23-year-old me simply wanted to hunt down Julia Shaw and scream in her face, “Tell me who the hell I’m supposed to marry!”
For 6’1” German filmmaker Edda Baumann-Von Broen, being a very tall woman is one thing. Being the mother of a young daughter who is also going to be exceptionally tall is another.
Looking at her daughter, she realized that being tall is not something unique, but rather a trait and experience shared by many young women and girls. She wonders, “As a mother I can’t help but ask, will my daughter have to go through the same struggles I did? How do I guide her in the right direction?”
Baumann-Von Broen made the 2012 documentary film “Tall Girls” in an attempt to answer these questions. In it, she profiles seven German, Austrian, Dutch and American girls and women to learn more about how they see themselves in a world where they can’t help but always be seen.
Although Arianne Cohen is Jewish, it is not explicitly mentioned in the film. But there are other Jewish women of such height and The Sisterhood spoke with three of them to learn about their experiences and to gain their perspectives on the issues the film raises.
When MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry recently called for a more communal attitude towards raising children in a TV commercial, it provoked a rather bizarre outrage among conservatives. (Mary Elizabeth Williams sums it all up perfectly in her piece, “Melissa Harris-Perry Doesn’t Want to Steal Your Children.”)
While the backlash from the right was without a doubt ridiculous — Rush Limbaugh called it a “communist manifesto” and Sarah Palin thought it was “unflippingbelievable” — these fiery responses do reflect how unusual it is for us, the right and the left and everyone in-between, to discuss the ways in which we can share the responsibilities of our children.
There is no shortage of parenting methods to choose from these days. In the past few years we’ve seen Tiger moms, Parisian moms, attachment parents and the free-rangers all make their way onto national magazine covers and the pile of books on our bedside tables. But none of these philosophies place much emphasis on the roles our friends, families and communities can play in making awesome kids.
So, in the spirit of Harris-Perry’s commercial, I would like to throw a new parenting method into the mix, one that shows us how much better life can be when we help one another out. I’ll call this the “Fight Song of the Sabra Parent.”
This week, Dancing with the Stars threw yet another monkey wrench into the season. They added a “side-by-side dance,” where celebrities and their partners had to dance alongside two pro dancers and try to look good in comparison. That’s a new trick for DWTS and, in my opinion, a pretty mean one — especially since we’re early in the season and have only had three eliminations.
This week, Aly Raisman had the samba. The samba is a super-sexy Latin dance, and Aly admitted that she was having some trouble pulling it off. Considering that one of Aly’s “storylines” this season is that she’s tired of people viewing her as a little girl, having a sexy dance and executing it well could really help her stand out this week.
When it came time for the side-by-side dances, Aly and female pro Witney were apparently given two halves of the same dress. This is where I think the conceit of the episode failed Aly: On her own, she looks like a pretty competent newbie dancer, but forcing her to dance next to a slender, lithe pro dancer with insane hip movements is really unfair. My own personal dislike of Aly’s pro partner Mark Ballas — who likes to ham it up for the camera instead of letting the celebrity have the spotlight — also made it hard to love this dance, since his bright orange socks and over-the-top gestures were incredibly distracting.
Last week, after a steady Twitter campaign by the right wing, several journalists — I’m looking at you, Dave Weigel and Jeffrey Goldberg — spoke up for the first time about the continuing tragic case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, now on trial for murder in Pennsylvania. In their minds, apparently, Gosnell’s nightmare of a law-flouting abortion facility in impoverished West Philadelphia, run by a callous (alleged) killer of women and babies, had not been covered by their peers.
This provoked astonishment from female journalists on Twitter who had, in fact, both read and created coverage of the story.
After finishing Jonathan Cohn’s new story, “The Hell of American Day Care” about the potential tragic consequences of the abysmal day care policies in the United States, it took everything I had to not get up from my desk and wrest my baby boy away from his caretaker’s arms. The fact that they were only in the other room, and I could hear him happily babbling away, kept me seated. I had a moment of deep gratitude that I could afford a nanny I trusted and had a flexible career that allowed me to work from home. But still, my chest was tight with the vulnerability a parent feels when they entrust someone else with the well-being of their child.
Cohn’s piece begins with the story of Kenya Mire, a single mother who, due to a lack of other options, put her toddler girl Kendyll in a home day care center in Houston. On Kendyll’s second day, there was a fire in the home and Kendyll and three other children died. It was later discovered that the caretaker left the children home alone with something cooking on the stove while she made a quick run to Target.
Mire’s story is a deeply powerful and devastating indictment of our messy and inefficiently monitored day care system. Though perhaps it is a little too powerful and devastating to really make, what I believe, is Cohn’s intended main point: that improving our day care system would help working parents and our economy.
Hungry for a nice steak? An advertisement for the Israeli restaurant Angus Meat may just turn your stomach.
It features an attractive, skinny woman, photographed naked with her body marked up like that of a cow chart on a butcher’s wall. Body parts are labeled: shin, shoulder, foot. Her bottom is labeled “fat.” The banner line overhead reads, in Hebrew, “Do you ever have the desire to bite a choice piece of meat?”
The full-color magazine ad promotes a pair of Angus Meat restaurants, one in Haifa and the other in Nes Ziona.
“It’s disgusting. In this day and age? They should know better,” said Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, when shown the ad. Kaufman said she plans to send it to friends in Haifa, to see if there is any kind of local reaction to the image. “I hope they can organize a protest,” she said.
When that phrase first started to turn up in every article aimed at a female audience, I rolled my eyes at it too. There has been much conflation of the two ideas (alongside claims that Sandberg did not intend to conflate them.) But it’s clear that “am I leaning in?” has, at least for now, replaced “can I have it all?” as the issue we’re supposed to worry about.
What tipped my “you just don’t get it” frustration into full-on rage, though, was not one of the numerous news articles about what Sandberg’s book means for women in the workplace. It was this question on Ask MetaFilter, an online forum where users ask each other about almost anything and receive long and — mostly — thoughtful answers. The question, titled “Not Leaning In,” was posted by a woman with a well-paid and flexible job, a young daughter, a husband and a sense of contentment. It was the contentment that bothered her. “With all this “Lean In” stuff going around these days, I feel kind of like I should want more, but I really don’t,” she wrote. “I’m sure society can spare one woman, we don’t all have to [be] high-achieving, go-getters, right?”
According to YourJewishNews.com, Kiryas Joel’s Satmar Hasidic community has built on 283 acres on the city’s outskirts a playground that completely separates boys from girls. More accurately, the space is divided into four areas: one for fathers with their sons; one for mothers with their daughters; one for boys, and one for girls. The sections are located a considerable distance apart from one another. There are also separate walking trails for males and females.
Kiryas Joel Mayor Rabbi Abraham Wieder approved special funding for the playground, and the Committee of Modesty of Kiryas Joel, overseen by the Grand Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, is strictly supervising its operation.
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal’s largest and oldest Ashkenazi synagogue, has become the first Canadian congregation to hire a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, the Bronx yeshiva that ordains women.
Rachel Kohl Finegold, 32, is one of three graduates of the yeshiva’s inaugural class. She will be moving with her family from Chicago to Montreal, where she will begin serving as Shaar Hashomayim’s director of education and spiritual enrichment on August 1. In Chicago, she has been the education and ritual director of the Orthodox Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation for the past six years.
Although graduates of Yeshivat Maharat may assume the honorific of “Rabba,” Finegold has chosen to be known as “Maharat,” which is a Hebrew acronym for “manhigah hilchatit ruchanit Toranit,” a teacher or leader of Jewish law and spirituality.
The five women arrested at the Kotel Thursday morning while participating in a Rosh Chodesh prayer service with Women of the Wall were released by the judge before whom they appeared in a Jerusalem court in a move described by the women’s prayer group as “groundbreaking precedent.”
About 300 women, including two members of the Knesset, participated in the Rosh Chodesh service with Women of the Wall. About 50 wore prayer shawls, according to a press release from the group. It was the first time that singing out loud was listed by police as among the reasons they detained Women of the Wall service participants.
According to this English translation of the court proceeding’s transcript, the attorney representing the police described the women as “brazenly stomping on the law” and “carrying out provocations” at the Kotel.
In court, the attorney representing the police faulted Women of the Wall for causing problems: “Each month and up until the present time, the prayer services have become more and more tense, and more and more publicly defiant, and the women arrive from the outset wrapped in tallitot and wearing tefillin on their arms, with the objective of creating a fait accompli. This causes a disturbance of the peace at the Western Wall, as well as incitement.”
Have you heard about “senior washed up girls” — or “SWUGs”? They’re the latest acronym for a sexual trend that affects Ivy Leaguers, in this case young women at the end of their college careers discovering that (either due to free will or lack of options) they do not care anymore: about grades, hookups, relationships or anything but having a good time.
Is this cool or pathetic? Or as Raisa Bruner, a student writer at, Yale put it philosophically:
Is SWUG-ness a…fuck-‘em-all, let’s-do-what-matters-to-us kind of attitude that has nothing to do with the images of lackluster sex and desperate partying that it’s grown to encompass?
I wish. Maybe it was that way once. But right now, SWUG’s social meaning at Yale remains about the hooking up that we women are — and aren’t — doing, and how little we’re supposed to let that bother us. It’s become a signifier of not caring. Alas for the golden era of SWUGs. It was over before most of us out in the real world even knew what it meant.
Yes, another long and rambling “trend piece” in an Ivy League newspaper has been picked up and analyzed, complete with a campus visit, by New York Magazine. The next link in the chain? An older Ivy graduate (that would be yours truly) sits at her keyboard trying to make sense of what the youngsters are up to these days. Is this trend ephemeral or eternal?
A young woman from a strict Orthodox family clashes with her father, leaves home and finds a home of sorts in the “Movement” — first the New Left of the 1960s, then the explosion of radical feminism out of that group’s fed-up female contingent. Her forward-thinking writing and organizing electrifies this new “wave” of feminism, but after infighting and teardowns within its ranks, she finds herself exiled and suffering from mental illness — and despite comrades’ efforts to intervene (efforts that are successful for a time), she ends up dying alone.
Pioneering feminist Shulamith Firestone’s life, as chronicled by Susan Faludi in a compelling New Yorker piece, reads like the outline of a tragic 20th century novel, an inside-out “American Pastoral” where the radical woman is the put-upon, misunderstood genius of a heroine and the domineering, “straight” male figures the ruiners of her life.
For this heroine in particular, the personal was disturbingly political. Firestone’s abuse and control at the hands of the men in her religious family led her to theorize that the family unit itself was an extension of the brutal class oppression that another brilliant Jew, Karl Marx, described, with women and children as the kept-down proletariat.
In February 1997, Ellen Jaffe Gill’ s essay on not wanting to have children, was published in Moment Magazine. In the piece, Jaffe Gill (then McClain) discussed how her decision not to have children did not prevent her from engaging fully in Jewish life. As a writer, she was in fact transmitting the covenant on her own terms.
“I don’t remember a lot of reaction to the piece in Moment,” she recently told The Sisterhood via email. “What was telling was that a few years later, I tried to write a feature story about childlessness by choice for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and couldn’t get it off the ground because very few peoplewould talk to me on or even off the record.”
Jaffe Gill, who entered Jewish professional life at 44 and is now a cantor and rabbinical student in her 50s, had a tubal ligation at the age of 31, “after ten years of being sure I never wanted to have a baby.”
For a very long time, I thought I wanted to be a rabbi. There are a lot of reasons why I changed my mind, but a big one is that I could not find the role model I needed — a child-free female rabbi. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to have kids, but it was so hard to say it out loud, and saying it in front of people who were committing their professional and personal lives to the Jewish community seemed impossible.
I’m super glad that these fraternity boys at the University of Maryland wrote this letter to their brothers about how to talk to Jewish women, because otherwise, I would not have known how! Also, apparently I’ve been talking to myself and other Jewish women the wrong way this entire time.
The guys’ egregious “instructions” are divided into sections, including “hometown,” “major” and “topics of conversation.” Here’s a hint of what they think it takes to talk to a Jewish woman:
If from an allowed hometown you are fine. If not, lie and say you are from an allowed area. Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.
Areas you can be from: New York, New Jersey, PA (only Philadelphia area, sorry redacted), Massachussets, Rockville/Bethesda area, Pikesville
Not Allowed Areas: The rest of Maryland (especially rural counties, looking at you redacted), Baltimore, Atlanta, anywhere in the south, Connecticut are from an allowed area. Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.
On a college major…
You are a business major or an econ major or a communication major
You want to “do something with business, maybe finance” or start your own business
Alternative 1 to that: Some science major, but you are going to med school to be a doctor (why? because both your parents are doctors)
Alternative 2: You are a crim major and plan on going to law school
In summation: No matter what, do whatever you have to do to create and maintain the aura of wealth. Sadly, this letter isn’t a joke.
Dancing with the Stars loves their theme weeks, and this week didn’t escape unscathed. The contestants were asked to do dances that tied in with “The Best Year of My Life.” While that’s actually a pretty decent theme for a dance, the celebrities still have to work within the constraints of the show; if you’re assigned a super sexy dance but your Best Year is about, like, recovering from cancer or giving birth or something, you have to somehow make it work. Luckily, Aly and her partner Mark Ballas were assigned Contemporary for this week, and that style is pretty open and malleable.
Unsurprisingly, Aly chose 2012 as the best year of her life, because it’s the year that she won two freaking Olympic gold medals. “Aly was the underdog,” Ballas said to the camera. “No one thought she would place.” Their song is one that Aly picked: “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. The lyrics, which Aly says she listened to all the time when she was working out in the gym, are pretty standard pump-up fare: “I’m strong, and no matter what you do to me I won’t give up.” Contemporary dance, unlike a lot of other styles on this show, allows fancy lifts, so I expected to see quite a few of Aly’s signature gymnastics moves repurposed into this dance.
You've successfully signed up!
Thank you for subscribing.
Please provide the following optional information to enable us to serve you better.
The Forward will not sell or share your personal information with any other party.
Thank you for signing up.Close