Sisterhood Blog

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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.”

Read more


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.”

Read more


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.

Read more


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.”

Read more


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.

Read more


How I Learned My Opinions Matter

By Frimet Goldberger

Frimet Goldberger and her children at her graduation from Sarah Lawrence College

Three weeks ago, I learned that Barbara Walters gets her gumption from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College.

The legendary female doyen of American media made a surprise appearance to rousing applause before Fareed Zakaria’s keynote address.

In her two-minute speech, Walters quoted Joseph Campbell, her professor at Sarah Lawrence College all those decades ago, who exhorted his students to follow their “bliss.” “If you’re like me [at graduation],” she said, “and you have no idea what your bliss is, get a job. I promise you that bliss will come.” Then she mentioned her famous interview with Vladimir Putin in 2001 in which she asked, rather boldly, if Putin ever killed anyone during his tenure at the KGB.

He said: “No, that was not my department.”

Read more


Take Your Sons to the Dishwasher Day

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

I’m part of the first generation to have experienced “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” founded by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation in 1992. We were taken to (mostly) our Dad’s offices, allowed to scribble on yellow legal pads with a bevy of ballpoint pens and highlighters, and then later taken for tuna sandwiches at the local lunch spot. Somewhere during all those truly fun activities, we were supposed to absorb the message that we could one day work at an office too.

Read more


Queen for a Day at My Daughter's Wedding

By Dotty Brown

Dotty Brown and her husband walk their daughter down the aisle.

Transitions… I feel as if I’m moving through a new one I hadn’t considered before.

Recently, my “baby” — the youngest of my three daughters — got married, following in her sisters’ footsteps. It was a moment we had long anticipated, encouraged, hoped for, and — finally — celebrated.

Yay! And yet….

Read more


Jenny Slate Takes on Abortion in 'Obvious Child'

By Sarah Seltzer

In the new romantic comedy “Obvious Child” Jenny Slate’s character, Donna, is a self-described “menorah on top of the [Christmas] tree that burns it down.” She’s referring to her prospects with a nice goyishe boy from Vermont, with whom she proceeds to have a wacky one night stand resulting in an unintended pregnancy. Indeed, Donna, recently dumped by her boyfriend (or “dumped up with” as she calls it), crashes and burns through her young life, cracking jokes along the way, until an unlikely event — an abortion, a moment of truth-telling about her abortion — signals that she’s taken charge in a new way. The menorah ends up back on top, or at least, it’s allowing the Christmas tree to comfort it. This is progress.

Read more


Teaching Horror of Shoah Rape With Crochet

By Elissa Strauss

Gil Yefman’s TumTum

For nearly six months last year, Dr. Rochelle Saidel, founder and executive director of Remember the Women Institute, and artist Gil Yefman met weekly to talk about a topic deemed untouchable by many in their respective communities of academia and art: rape during the Holocaust. Saidel, who along with Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth, edited a book on the topic, initially met Yefman at a panel discussion on forced prostitution at Auschwitz. “I wondered why there was a young man in the front row who was crocheting as he sat and listened,” Saidel said.

The weekly meetings eventually fed into the work Yefman created for his new show “TO ME YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL {BAY MIR BISTU SHEYN},” now at Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York City. His first solo exhibition in New York, the show takes a sharp look at gender identity, sexuality and violence through the soft touch of traditionally feminine formats methods like crochet, soap-making and glamour shots. While walking through the exhibit I found myself seduced into believing I was safe amidst these mediums often associated with domestic crafts, and then would soon feel ripped open by the subject matter of rape, trans-identity, and prostitution. To Yefman’s credit, the power of pieces lies in their intimate, rather than political, approach to the subject matter.

The Sisterhood spoke with Yefman about the new exhibit, which is up through June 14.

Read more


Robocall To Orthodox Women: Keep Wigs Short

By Frimet Goldberger

Nate Lavey

Two weeks ago, the rabbis of Lakewood, N.J. called a gathering of female educators to provide words of encouragement in the area of — what else — tznius, or modesty.

Among the many dire tznius issues discussed, the rabbis suggested that women cut their wigs shorter to make them less provocative to — whom else — men.

Read more


Before the 'Big Bang' With Mayim Bialik

By Dorri Olds

Getty Images

Mayim Bialik, 38, is part neuroscientist, part actress, part superhero and 100% Jewish Renaissance woman. Known for her starring role on the CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” she’s been nominated for Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards. What fans may not know is that her experience as a neurobiologist is not limited to TV; she earned a doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles after majoring in neuroscience with a minor in Jewish studies and Hebrew. Bialik was also a leader at UCLA Hillel.

This wonder woman grew up in Southern California. At 12 she played sassy, cigarette-smoking younger CC Bloom, Bette Midler’s character in the 1988 movie “Beaches,” then landed a starring role in the popular ’90s sitcom “Blossom.” She’s written two books, is the mother of two children, writes for the Jewish parenting blog Kveller and takes being a role model for young girls very seriously. The Forward’s Dorri Olds caught up with Bialik to talk about her acting, tzniut [Jewish laws of modesty] and her work to empower young girls.

Dorri Olds: Can you tell me about your new book?

Mayim Bialik: It’s a cookbook, “Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes From My Family to Yours,” which actually started with me sharing recipes on the Jewish blog that I write for, titled Kveller. I wrote the book with Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatric nutritionist. It’s basically the 100 recipes that I make most often for my kids.

Read more


Sheryl Sandberg Leans Out of Hotel Worker Meeting

By Elissa Strauss

UNITEHERE Local 26

Earlier this week, a group of housekeepers, nightclub servers and other employees from a Hilton DoubleTree hotel in Cambridge, which is on a property owned by Harvard, gathered outside the gates of the university while Sheryl Sandberg delivered a speech to this year’s graduates. It was a last ditch attempt by these workers to score a meeting with the Facebook COO, who had already declined their invitation to meet with them and host a “Lean In circle,” saying she didn’t have the time.

Read more


Maya Angelou, My Sister and Me

By Erika Davis

Getty Images

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure my experiences are positive.” — Maya Angelou

My first experience of Maya Angelou, who died this week at the age of 86, happened in high school. We weren’t required to read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in a literature class and my all-girl’s private Catholic school definitely didn’t have a Black History course. No, the first time I heard Maya Angelou’s words was out of the mouth of young black women about my age performing “Phenomenal Woman” at an event for the black social organization I was a member of, Jack and Jill. I’d definitely heard poems read and recited aloud, but this was the first time I felt the words of a poet come to life. We were in our teens, so the material was a bit mature, but the fact that the artist put her own spin on Ms. Angelou’s timeless words of black female empowerment and an awareness and pride of the female body left an impression on me.

Read more


Susan Reimer-Torn on Coming Back To Jewish Life

By Elissa Strauss

Joan Roth

In her new memoir “Maybe Not Such a Good Girl: Reflections on Rupture and Return,” Susan Reimer-Torn chronicles her return to Jewish life in New York after years of living as a formerly-Orthodox woman in France.

Elissa Strauss spoke with Reimer-Torn about freedom, healing and what the current generation of formerly-religious writers like Deborah Feldman and Leah Vincent can learn from her experience.

Read more


On Jewish Women and Facial Hair

By Chanel Dubofsky

Thinkstock

The first time I thought about facial hair was in high school, when a boy, whom I considered a friend, informed me that I had more hair on my upper lip than he did. I didn’t do anything about it then — it had been enough of a fight with my mother to let me shave my legs, and even when I was allowed to, going above the knee was still always out of the question.

When I mentioned this to my friend Julia, whose family is Sicilian, she told me that her mother wouldn’t let her do anything about her facial hair, either. (She was once referred to as “Chia Pet” by the boys in her middle school.) “The people from the hairiest cultures don’t want you to shave,” she said, shaking her head.

By college, I had become a tyrant about getting rid of mine. I burned the hair on my chin with a chemical in an attempt to eradicate it and it had left a weird scab. At a gynecologist appointment at Student Health Services, my doctor said, “If someone’s hurting you, you can tell me.”

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.