Sisterhood Blog

How To Interview a Man About His Wedding Night

By Frimet Goldberger

Like every member of the female species, I read Tuvia Tenenbaum’s interview with Racheli Ibenboim, an up-and-coming female Hasidic politician, with great excitement. This is the interview in which Ms. Ibenboim answers deeply personal questions, thereby revealing everything Tuvia ever wanted to know about Hasidic sex.

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The Rebbetzin Behind the Golem

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.

Pearl Loew was the wife of magical Rabbi Yehudah Leib ben Betsalel, known as Rav Loew of medieval Prague, and thought to be the creator of the Golem. Like her husband’s creation, the story of Pearl Loew has been imbued with mystery — but most of it due to ignorance. Born to the Reich family, a wealthy merchant Jewish family from Prague, Pearl enabled her husband to pursue his scholarship without worry. She raised seven children, while the rabbi became a highly creative esteemed leader in Jewish law who successfully pioneered scholarly use of source materials based on legends, folklore and aphorisms. Reportedly an intellectual in her own right, Pearl supported her family and her parents while the rabbi traveled frequently to support the yeshiva he established.

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BRCA1 Women Told To Remove Ovaries

By Tamar Fox

We’ve long known that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations commonly found in Ashkenazic Jewish women are linked to higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer. A new report published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology provides more details about ovarian cancer risk.

The report notes that women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and have their ovaries removed (oophorectomy) have an 80% reduced risk of developing ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer. They also see their chances of dying before age 70 reduced by 77%. The best results were achieved by women with the BRCA1 mutation who preventively underwent an oophorectomy before age 35.

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Wear Makeup, Get Expelled From School

By Frimet Goldberger

Last week, I reported that women who wear makeup are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, according to the findings of the Satmar Rebbe, Aaron Teitelbaum, a highly revered doctor from the IOBW (Institute of Blame Women, in case you didn’t read it). Well, sure enough, as his son promised in an announcement of the finding, it didn’t take long for the ban on makeup to follow.

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Jewish Moms Responsible for Making More Jews

By Elissa Strauss

Ah, Jewish continuity. We want it. We need it. We have to have it. And yet, we have no idea how.

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'Broad City' Lady Stoners a Feminist Triumph

By Sarah Seltzer

I love the pot-puffing Jewish broads of Broad City (both of whom the Forward recently interviewed about their very raunchy new Comedy Central show.) The show’s protagonists are “Abbi” (left in the photo) and “Ilana” (right), heightened versions of their creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. These gals are not “strong female characters” in the classic sense, but they are strong female characters in another sense that is too absent from our pop culture: they are total screw-ups.

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Will Millennial Moms End the Mommy Wars?

By Elissa Strauss

Welcome to motherhood, millennials. According to a new report from the parenting website BabyCenter, the newest crop of moms, ages 18-32, are rejecting the helicopter parenting they experienced as children and are opting for a more relaxed approach.

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Cheryl Crawford, Acting Coach to the Stars

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.

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In Search of My Ethel Mertz

By Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

I never seriously considered becoming Orthodox. I like shrimp too much and Florida is way too hot for wigs. But I was tempted twenty years ago by one phone conversation. The Orthodox woman who coordinated the chevra kadisha (burial society) I participated in was calling to request my assistance at a taharah, ritual preparation of a body. Obviously, these events cannot be scheduled in advance. Often, frantic calls such as this one are placed to recruit volunteers at the last minute.

“Can you come now? We really need you.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t,” I said. “My husband is out-of-town and I have no one to babysit my daughter.”

A long period of silence followed. Struggling to understand my response, she said, “You don’t know anyone?”

My predicament was so unfathomable to her, she must have assumed I was lying.

“Really? No one?”

“No,” I admitted sadly.

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Orthodox Feminists Are Not Conservatives in Disguise

By Elana Sztokman

There is a rumor going around that Orthodox feminists are just Conservative Jews in disguise, or perhaps in denial.

I’ve heard this idea in many settings. I was at a dinner last year honoring Jewish feminists when a woman at my table — a Conservative rabbi and prolific writer whom I greatly admire — reproached me. “Why do all you Orthodox feminists think that what you’re doing is so amazing?” she demanded. “The women in the Conservative movement have been fighting these battles for 40 years. You are just barely catching up.” Last month, my dear friend Hillary Gordon echoed similar sentiments in a blog post she wrote about my recent book event in Jerusalem. “Why can’t the Orthodox recognize that other women have come before them and fought the same fight?” she asks. “Why is it that because it was done by Conservative or Reform Jewish women it is not legitimate according to the Orthodox?” Almost the exact same line appeared a couple of weeks ago in the comment section of Frimet Goldberger’s blog post about Orthodox feminists. Frimet dared to write that Conservative Judaism is not an option for her, to which a commenter replied, “Do I detect some judgementalism in those words?? ….Is there a suggestion here that the Conservative observance of Shabbat is less ‘full’ or somewhat deficient from the more authentic Orthodox one??”

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Why My Son Underwent Metzitzah B'Peh

By Frimet Goldberger

The controversial and potentially life-threatening practice of metzitzah b’peh, the oral suctioning of a baby’s circumcision wound by the mohel, is back in the news. As the controversy continues to brew in the secular media, and as Bill de Blasio takes his time coming up with an approach that is “much more effective at protecting the lives of our children,” Hasidic babies the world over are subjected to this dangerous practice each and every day.

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Jill Soloway's 'Transparent'

By Elissa Strauss

Jill Soloway, who has written and produced shows like “Six Feet Under,” “United States of Tara” and, her directorial debut, the movie “Afternoon Delight,” isn’t afraid to get a little Jewy and a little feminist in her latest work. She goes there, straight there, and for this, we love her.

She has a new pilot out on Amazon called “Transparent,” with a brilliant ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Tambor and Gabby Hoffman, playing a Los Angeles Jewish family with secrets to tell. (If you don’t want to know what those secrets are yet, read this interview after you watch the show.)

The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke with Soloway about L.A. Jews, how becoming a Jewish mother made her a better artist and what you can (okay, should — again, this is a Jewish, feminist comedy!) do to help “Transparent” get turned into a full series.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: los angeles, United States of Tara, Six Feet Under, Los Angeles, Jill Soloway, Jewish, Afternoon Delight

Satmar Rebbe Blames Cancer on Makeup

By Frimet Goldberger

Ladies, there is a cure for breast cancer! No more pink Octobers, Angelina Jolie op-eds on mastectomies and suffering the world over.

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A Man in an Apron Is Neither Sexy Nor Unsexy

By Elissa Strauss

There was a whole article about how the more equal a marriage is the more sexless it is by Lori Gottlieb in the New York Times and it didn’t quote one woman in her late 20s or early 30s — the generation for whom equal marriage is most institutionalized. So, Gottlieb, here is what one of us thinks.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: men, cooking, having it all, Lori Gottlieb, Jewish

Throwback Thursday: The Jewish Wonkette of Harlem

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.

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How Tefillin Empowers Me

By Avigayil Halpern

Editor’s Note: This article is a response to Avital Chizhik’s article which called for Orthodox feminism to seek to open the minds of women, not just to emulate the ritual practice of men.

(Ha’aretz) — Dear Ms. Chizhik,

I - a high-school student - write to you from a community in which your proposals for “real empowerment” have already been implemented.

In the Modern Orthodox day schools I have attended all my life, I have been “educated for the sake of education and not simply vocation.” I have been “taught to hold [myself] with dignity and confidence, encouraged to speak and build and succeed, entrusted with the best of secular knowledge, history, literature, sciences, politics.” I am a religious woman who “speaks proper English and Hebrew, and identifie[s] as [a] citizen of a greater society.” I have, because of my education, become “tolerant and unafraid of the outside,” and I “turn to the world with an unwavering confidence in [my] own faith and strength.”

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How Friday Night Dinner Can Save Us All

By Elissa Strauss

When I spoke to Jennifer Senior, author of the new book “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”, I told her that my experience reading her book felt much like the state of being she describes in the title. As a mother of 15-month-old, I am still in denial about the long term struggles inherent to this whole parenting thing and it was often painful to accept her smart analysis of the topic.

The book looks at all the reasons we are less happy than we’d like to be, or at least thought we would be. Some of these, like the fact that toddlers are incapable of rational thinking, we can only battle through acceptance, while others are things we can actually do something about. The one that stood out to me was the decline in community, best known as the “bowling alone” phenomenon, and how the resulting isolation only works to make parents’ lives even less fun than they need be.

I spoke with Senior about why parents are so much lonelier these days and how Shabbat dinner might save us all.

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Russian Ice Princess's 'Schindler' Moment

By Talia Lavin

(JTA) — Julia Lipnitskaia, a 15-year-old Russian skating prodigy, took home the Olympic gold with a routine set to John Williams’ “Theme from Schindler’s List.”

Lipnitskaia skated in a red costume meant to evoke the iconic “girl in the red coat,” who briefly appears in the movie “Schindler’s List” to enhance the pathos of a scene of the liquidation of Krakow’s ghetto.

For many, the slender girl’s soundtrack choice struck a sour note in an otherwise breathtaking routine. “Schindler’s List on Ice,” as one member of the Twitterati called it, was, for some, another strange element in an already bizarre Olympics that has been plagued by malfunctioning snowflakes, toilet troubles and political unrest. Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger at the Washington Post, had a typical reaction:

As Justin Peters pointed out on Slate, Lipnitskaia is far from the first figure skater to use music from “Schindler’s List” for a routine. The movie’s wrenching resonance suits skating’s exaggerated emotional beats.

While it’s hard to deny that the sight of a glittery-Spandex-clad interpretation of “Schindler’s List” does push some iffy buttons, it’s important not to conflate Spielberg’s movie with the Holocaust itself. “Schindler’s List” is significant for raising and sustaining awareness of the Holocaust and its hidden heroes, but using a Hollywood film theme in a figure skating routine is not necessarily any kind of desecration. The red coat-clad girl Lipnitskaia riffed on was a fictional creation, meant to pull on audience’s heartstrings, to a soundtrack of Yiddish folk song.

Strong detractors of Lipnitskaia’s routine might need to be reminded that Spielberg’s creation is just that — a masterfully crafted work of fiction representing the Holocaust, not a historical artifact, and not, indeed, history itself.


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A Mother and Daughter, Raised Worlds Apart

By Frimet Goldberger

Last Sunday, in a glittery princess frenzy, we ushered in my daughter’s seventh year. I love children’s birthday parties and all the fabulous will-certainly-break-tomorrow presents that abound. Yes, I shamelessly admit that I ogle the gifts, lick icing off the birthday cake and become a member of the children’s club, for two kids, twice a year.

Frimet Goldberger’s daughter, Ruchy

My husband likes to tease me, “You are probably more excited than the kids are.”

Much as I love birthdays, I do not enjoy watching my little ones grow up. Accuse me of being an archetypal Jewish mother, but I can’t help worrying about all the little things growing up in a modern environment entails — all the things I know so little about.

I worry because my daughter’s experiences are and will be radically different from my own, having grown up in a strict Hasidic environment. I worry because no self-help parenting book can prepare you to deal with the unforeseen future of a life you have never lived. I worry because I will need to grow up with her, to learn what it is like to be a teenager in this world, to understand the complexities and challenges of a girl’s life. I will relive my childhood vicariously through my daughter’s. In some ways I already am.

Rachel, or as we call her by her Hebrew nickname, Ruchy, is a little photocopy of myself. She has my green eyes, my auburn hair and my freckles; she relishes her food the way I do, is a pleaser by nature, makes friends easily and digs into those relationships. According to her bubbe, she even has my figure, and embraced the challenges of toilet training just the way her mommy did, eons ago. She is a bubbly, independent and loving child who has brought so much light into our lives. She amazes us daily with her maturity and ability to be assertive beyond her years.

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Throwback Thursday: Vicki Baum Wrote a Novel Per Year

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.

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