Sisterhood Blog

The Dead Mothers Club

By Chanel Dubofsky

Molly Shannon in ‘The Dead Mothers Club’

This morning on the train, I started reading “The Goldfinch,” Donna Tart’s enormous novel that won the Pulitzer this year. Five pages in, you learn that Theo, the protagonist, has a life that’s been separated by the “dividing mark” of his mother’s death, Before and after. This would ring familiar to anyone with a dead mother, or a dead parent, or a sick parent or friend. The moment before the death, in hindsight, seems like it was lived by an entirely different person, someone who’s now unrecognizable.

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Goodbye, Dov Charney

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images // Dov Charney

Goodbye, Dov Charney. Last week, trendy t-shirt and legging manufacturer American Apparel said genug to the antics of its “controversial” (and Jewish) CEO Dov Charney, known for being the sleaziest head honcho in an industry hardly known for its puritanism. I’ll never forget reading the profile of him in my favorite lady-magazine that included the detail of him masturbating in front of the reporter. Gross. Combine his rumored and non-rumored antics with the porn-resembling, discomfort-producing exploitation of his company’s ad campaigns and brand and you get a pretty big disincentive from shopping at American Apparel.

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Debating My Boyfriend Over Israel's Orthodox Rule

By Noga Gur Arieh

Noga and her boyfriend

When I imagined my wedding day as an Israeli Jew, I envisioned choosing one of the alternatives to the Orthodox process. It would be a non-religious or a Reform ceremony, in which my partner and I would be treated as equal, a ceremony in I could express my love, and not stand as an empty, smiling vassal. To my disappointment, I recently learned that my partner does not share this wedding-day vision of mine.

Not long ago, we attended a wedding, and during the ceremony, I spelled out my dream to him. Then, in what turned out to be a part discussion/part argument, he told me he was not willing to skip the traditional Jewish Orthodox wedding. I explained the humiliation I feel just by thinking about all the processes I would have to go through as a Jewish woman. He said he was sorry I feel this way, but that he must put his foot down: tradition is important to him, and he was raised to respect it. The thought of this matter threatening to break us up sometime in the future was unsettling, but I just couldn’t see myself choosing his path.

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When Fanny Brice Made the Follies

By Chana Pollack

Forward Association

Fanny Brice (born Fania Borach) of Forsyth Street, and later on, further uptown and even New Jersey, opened her career-making act as the Yiddish “Salome” with this line: “I’ve been a bad woman, but such good company, Nu?”

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Hey, Are You Proud of Raunchy Comic Kid?

By Frimet Goldberger

America’s Got Talent

Dear Tina Orlian (Former Sword-Swallower),

I would like to begin my letter by thanking you for allowing your son, Josh Orlian, to entertain us on America’s Got Talent the other night.

As every good Jew, I watched your 12-year-old son, whom your family has embraced as Naughty Josh in these cute Instagram photos, shock the judges and audience with lewd jokes about the size of his penis and his parent’s sex lives.

One of the better lines came when Josh related that he came back from circus camp and asked to learn the trick of sword swallowing, which you immediately dismissed. “So I was upset and went to talk to my dad about this. He said ‘I’m not surprised; your mother has not been interested in sword swallowing since we got engaged.”’

I watched you calm his nerves before the show, assuring him that tatty and mommy will laugh, even if no else does. I watched you shep Yiddish nachas while sitting in the audience, and gloat when the four naughty judges voted him through to Vegas, where I am sure he will perform more brilliant vulgar jokes related to his man parts and his parents’ sex lives. I particularly enjoyed your second blurb before he went onstage, in which you said that your little schmekel has never done anything public before, but you always laugh at his jokes, because, you know, you’re his mother.

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Why Vaccination is a Jewish Thing To Do

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

A recent report out of California informs us that a Whooping Cough epidemic continues to grow in the state, with more than 3.400 reported cases so far this year, already topping 2013’s totals.

The health department reports that two-thirds of the people hospitalized have been children four months or younger, and two infant deaths have been reported. Infants, who are too young to be immunized, are most vulnerable to the highly infectious bacterial disease.

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Why I Broke Up With JDate

By Jen Glantz

Jen Glantz on JDate

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I said, waving my mouse over the “delete you profile” button on my JDate account. Like all cheesy and overused break up lines, that often serve as our first strike of defense when we’re eager to avoid the real reason why we’re picking up and running in the opposite direction, this one had a whole lot of truth to it.

JDate was the very first online dating site that I joined. I had been living in New York City for a year and found that meeting quality guys was not as easy as finding a quality slice of pizza in this city.

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It's Time for a #Balebuste Revolution

By Frimet Goldberger

When I am asked to write a bio of myself and my very short career as a writer, I am always tempted to add “balebuste” next to “writer” and “mother.” But instead of using a word that connotes housewife, I settle for “baker,” because, let’s face it, bakers can be learned and cultured, whereas balebustes are stereotypically standing over a pot of soup while the challah dough is rising and the baby is latching onto the hem of their frumpy punjelos (Hungarian Yiddish for a housecoat or robe).

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#FreetheNipple for the Win

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

Ladies and gentleman, the nipples have been freed. A few weeks ago Facebook quietly changed its policy on allowing pictures of breastfeeding moms.

A Facebook representative told CNET: “We have always allowed breast-feeding photos — it is natural and beautiful and we know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook.”

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Daughters of Russ and Daughters

By Elissa Strauss

The new documentary “The Sturgeon Queens” explores the history and legacy of Russ and Daughters, the Lower East Side’s famed purveyor of smoked fish which has been appetizing its way into our mouths and hearts for one-hundred years now. The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke with writer and producer Julie Cohen about why she decided to tell this story, the shops unusual and proto-feminist name and how she got the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mario Batali to get really personal about smoked salmon.

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A Son for Ayelet's Parents

By Uriel Heilman

Akiva Galena

(JTA) — In January 2012, Hindy Poupko and Seth Galena shared the tragic news with tens of thousands of readers that they had lost their 2-year-old daughter, Ayelet Galena, to a rare bone disease.

For months, the couple had chronicled their daughter’s struggle with the disease on a Tumblr blog, amassing tens of thousands of followers in the process.

Now the couple has a reason to rejoice: a new baby, Akiva Max Galena, named yesterday at his bris. Like the story of their daughter, they shared news of Akiva’s birth on their blog, Ayelet Nation.

Here’s some of what Seth Galena said in his bris speech:

So for our Akiva, I know you are in a little pain now, but we want you to know your big sister Ayelet will always be looking out for you. She has given us and everyone here a life affirming strength and now you have provided the ultimate comfort of knowing that our prayers, that everyone’s prayers, were not left unanswered.

”Akiva Nechamtanu, Akiva Nechamtanu”

On behalf of Hindy and myself, I just want to thank everyone for being with us, now and for the past few years. You kept us standing…

And special thanks to the NIH, who told us to give them 5-10 years to find the genetic mutation, and finding it in less than 2 – for making our dreams come true.

What father’s day gift. Hashem has truly blessed us.

Ayelet Galena


I Fainted at My Nephew's Bris

By Zachary Thacher

Zachary Thacher

My father and I arrived late to the synagogue in the Bronx. It was the morning of my brother’s son’s bris, the Jewish ritual circumcision. There were 60 people crammed in an annex meant for half that many. We took the only two chairs left, in the first row. When I sat down I realized why they had been empty. We were inches from the table where the mohel would slice the foreskin from my newborn nephew.

We were late due to the fact that I had come down with the flu, and also because my father, Fred, had made the trip from Boston starting at 4 am in his beater car.

The day was cold and sharp but inside the air was thick with the heat of bodies.

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To The Father Who Raised Us — My Husband

By Frimet Goldberger

Frimet Goldberger’s children, Shloimy, age 9 and Rachel, age 7.

While the daughters and sons of America are celebrating their fathers, I am spending my Father’s Day celebrating my husband, the man who raised us — our family — and stood by me through the tumultuous journey to help me build a new foundation from the ground up.

My husband, for those of you who don’t know him, is an unlikely match for a woman like me. Where I am loud and willing to share deeply-personal stories, he is a fiercely private man who loathes publicity. (He asked not to have a photo of him appear with this blog post.) Where I am the gregarious half interested in meeting others, he is the homebody who prefers to spend time with his loved ones.

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Q&A With the Co-Creator of Feminist Phone Intervention

By Sarah Seltzer

bell hooks

Aggressive men in bars, get ready to have your minds opened by feminist texts. An anonymous radical activist pair has started a project called the “feminist phone intervention.” How it works? Essentially, it’s a hotline that’s also a fake number. If someone asks for a woman’s digits too aggressively, she can offer this number instead, and any texts or calls sent to the number will receive a randomly-generated quote from feminist thinker bell hooks in response. As the site says, “protect your privacy while dropping some feminist knowledge when your unwanted ‘suitor’ calls or texts.“

The Sisterhood’s Sarah Seltzer conducted a Q+A with one of the two Jewish feminists who set up the hotline, which is soon to go open-source so it can be used internationally. She refers to herself as a “Bronx-born Latina activist researching the history of the US radical press, especially the Yiddish anarchist newspapers” and is thrilled with the response her project is getting. “I hope that this rather modest project will offer another simple option for talking back to the sexism of everyday life,” she said.

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Frieda Wunderlich, Professor in Exile

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.

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Why Mila Kunis Should Be Grateful for 'Pregnant' Dads

By Elissa Strauss

Getty Images // Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher

On Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, actress Mila Kunis delivered a mock PSA announcement to future fathers of the world calling on them to quit using the phrase, “we’re pregnant.”

“You’re not pregnant,“ she said. “Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady hole? No. Are you crying alone in your car listening to a stupid Bette Milder song? No.”

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What '10 Things' Taught Me About Secular World

By Tova Ross

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’

I would be remiss if I let 2014 whoosh by without pausing to commemorate the 15th anniversaries of three of the most seminal coming-of-age stories of our time. I’m referring, of course, to “She’s All That,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” and “Never Been Kissed”: the trifecta of teen movies from 1999, a banner year for helping to perpetuate the misinformed fantasies of hormonal adolescent girls throughout the world.

I had forgotten about this momentous anniversary until my friend Frimet Goldberger, who regularly illuminates what it’s like to find your way in the world after an insular Hasidic upbringing, wrote about her regret at never getting to attend a prom, “that quintessentially American rite of passage.”

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Why Women Are the New Gatekeepers of Modesty

By Frimet Goldberger

Getty Images // Ultra-Orthodox women in Israel

Who are the gatekeepers of the conservative religious ideal of tznius, or modesty? This question has been argued and parsed on social media and on blogs in recent years as radicalism in the ultra-Orthodox communities has taken on new and more visible forms.

A common misperception is that rabbis and male community leaders are fueling the radical surge. But are Haredi women indeed victims of a patriarchal culture that puts extreme and outsized emphasis on tznius? Are Hasidic and Yeshivish women merely oppressed by fanatical males fervently trying to control their flock of subservient women?

Yes and no.

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A Kiss in the Anne Frank House

By Sarah Seltzer

Hazel and Gus, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, share an embrace in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’.

Is the Anne Frank House a scene of one girl’s hopeful coming-of-age in the face of evil, or is it a memorial to the genocidal murder of children? Is thinking about Anne’s life in the last place she lived before she was sent to the camps a testament to humanity’s best traits — or too painful to bear, an icon of humanity’s darkest moments?

This week, critics and observers are deeply divided over a over a climactic kiss in teen cancer weepie “The Fault in Our Stars” which is staged in the Anne Frank House. Is it “egregious” or affirming? One critic who had no problem with the book on the page was horrified: “… on the page, with your imagination at work, this plays as dramatically romantic. But on a screen, made real, all I could think was: OK, are these teens really making out in Anne Frank’s attic? Are they that cluelessly self-absorbed?” But another says the scene is powerful, turning the film for a moment into a statement “about the heroic moral search for meaning in suffering.”

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To My Husband on Father's Day

By Minna Dubin

Photo credit Carolyn Stanish

Dear Ben,

Before I asked you to be with me forever, on that rock in that river, I considered whether or not you’d be a good father. I felt pretty sure then, six years before Oscar, that you would be. But you don’t really know until that baby comes. And you really don’t know until it’s been a whole year of never sleeping for more than a few hours in a stretch, til you wake up for the thousandth time to that baby crying, and the only thing you can say is a loud angry, “F–K!” And right before you leave to go get the baby, you stand up and hear a sharp Smack! Smack! Smack! and are surprised and not surprised to realize it is your own fist punching the palm of your other hand. You don’t know until you seriously consider closing the apartment door behind you and never opening it again, so you never have to hear that cry and you never again have to feel that tug of the relentless never-ending need.

That was, of course, me I was describing, not you. You are exactly who I married — calm and helpful and committed, always holding my hand through my own internal insanity. You get stressed and irritated, but you have not backed down, not one imperceptible inch from this insurmountable task of being a husband and father. You have not retreated from this life we now live of 5 am mornings and 9 pm bedtimes, of constant backaches from no exercise and a very healthy one-and-a-half-year-old, of housework always creeping its way back from the clean corner where we left it, of our new obsession with TV — the only form of self care it seems we can manage.

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