Jerusalem residents were told to stay off the streets during the recent, highly unusual, heavy snowstorm. Only plows and emergency vehicles were allowed to get through.
And only in Jerusalem would a “Purity Mobile” count as an emergency vehicle.
Ynet reported that Taharat Habayit (purity of the home), a Haredi organization, sent a 4x4 jeep-like vehicle out in treacherous road and visibility conditions last Thursday and Saturday nights to pick up women and take them to local mikvehs so they could immerse immediately following their monthly periods of ritual impurity.
“The organization’s top priority is raising awareness to the importance of the family purity mitzvah. We see it fit to operate even with such serious conditions like rainy weather and heavy snow, so that as many women as possible adhere to purity laws and manage to reach the mikveh in the easiest and most convenient way,” said Taharat Habayit chairman, Rabbi Yehezkel Mutzafi.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.
Until my kids starting loosing their teeth, I considered myself a Jew without any Christmas influences. Sure, I’ve always given and received Hanukkah gifts, which one could argue is the most blatant Christmas influence of all. But I’ve draw the line when it comes to buying Christmas-inspired blue tinsel, blue and white lights, and other Christmas decorations in Hanukkah disguise.
My husband and I teach our kids to respect Christmas and all the traditions of other faiths, but we’ve been careful to create their Jewish identities from the holidays and customs we do follow rather than what is not ours. Before those dang lost teeth, for example, I took pride in knowing we stress the significance of the story of Hanukkah without inflating the holiday’s importance. I was self-congratulatory about our sukkah and the fact that we celebrate Shavuot and all the holidays. I felt assured that Shabbat happens in our home every week, both on Fridays nights and on Saturdays. We were so full of positive Jewish action here that I assumed we had no trace of trappings of Christmas.
Enter the Tooth Fairy.
“Our Tooth Fairy is a lot like Santa Claus,” I recently heard my daughter, Rebecca, say to my oldest son, Sam, who at 9-years-old has stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy. We still leave him letters and money to keep up appearances for his siblings, and Sam has been a good sport about his end of the gig, penning notes about why he should get a later bedtime and a higher allowance or whatever grievance he’d like to negotiate with the powers that be.
“She’s not like Santa Claus,” I said, interrupting Sam and Rebecca’s conversation. “First of all, the Tooth Fairy is a woman. Second, she flies with wings, not reindeer.” Case closed, as far as I was concerned.
Rebecca wasn’t finished. “But you’re always telling us she knows if we’re naughty or nice.”
Sam nodded. Apparently he had received this message too.
I knew that I had been optimizing the Tooth Fairy to encourage the best behavior possible, but I had never intended to usurp the Santa Claus mythology, to borrow “naughty or nice,” to that end.
Sam ran to his room to find his pile of letters from the Tooth Fairy, intending to prove that the connection between Santa and the Tooth Fairy was strong. He handed me the letter he had received earlier in the school year.
One of the most important components of the Forward’s annual Salary Survey — in which we research and publish compensation figures for the leaders of American Jewish organizations — is looking at gender disparity. In fact, as Jane Eisner, our editor-in-chief wrote in the Washington Post today, she got the idea for the survey after meeting with male leader after male leader when she first started at the Forward in 2008.
As in years past, the 2013 Salary Survey found that there are many fewer women than men running Jewish organizations. On top of that, female executives make less than their male counterparts. One reason for this is that some of them run smaller organizations that pay less. But as a first-ever analysis showed, even when controlling for organizational size, women still earn less — 81 percent of what men earn.
Back in 2011, I wrote about a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice that allowed couples that already had several children to apply to have an additional child by surrogacy. Until the ruling, preference had always been given to childless couples by Israel’s surrogacy approval committee overseeing applications and protocols.
I wondered whether this ruling spoke to the fundamental right to parenthood, and whether it would have an impact on the rights of gay couples to start families in Israel.
(As of right now, the only way for gay couples to have children is to pay exorbitant amounts of money to do surrogacy abroad. One Israeli couple even took to crowdsourcing resources over the internet. It is virtually impossible for a gay couple to adopt a child either in Israel or in another country.)
Well, it does look like things are moving in the right direction. Health Minister Yael German announced on December 11 proposed legislation that would allow gay couples to engage surrogates in Israel. The bill will be introduced to the Knesset on January 15, 2014, and it is based on May 2012 recommendations by the Public Committee for the Legislative Evaluation of Fertility, that if enacted, would make Israel one of the world’s most liberal countries in terms of fertility law.
However, the panel, known as the Mor-Yosef Commission, recommended that gay couples only be allowed to engage a surrogate if the arrangement were “altruistic.” In other words, the woman who would bear the same-sex couple’s child would not be paid.
In their latest book, “The New Soft War on Women”, academics Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett take on the notion that the end of men is imminent — as posited in Hannah Rosin’s book. They argue that while women have made some gains, particularly early on their careers, we are still a long, long way from parity.
The Sisterhood emailed with Rivers and Barnett about what women are still up against and what we need to do about it.
Throwback Thursday is a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.
Last week, my post on why Jews should care about the Hobby Lobby contraception case, and my subsequent defense of its points, caused a furor on right-wing Twitter. The collectivist principles inherent in insurance, the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s expanded coverage is associated with President Obama, and the promotion of women’s bodily autonomy is always a toxic combination for this particular crowd of angry folks.
They were mainly incensed because I put forward the idea that contraception, like all preventive health care, should be treated as a human right and therefore its cost taken on by society rather than the individual. This was received with widespread outrage frequently bordering on vitriol. “Slut, pay for your own birth control” was the most common message I received. The second most common was, “Fine you pay for my Cadillac!” I was privy to the very special ultra right wing talking point that contraception is analogous to cars. Fancy cars.
As a young Jewish woman privileged to have grown up in the new multi-racial South Africa, I like most of my fellow citizens, mourn Nelson Mandela’s passing like that of a family member. Mandela brought out the best in those around him. Women and children always held a special place in our beloved Madiba’s heart, and few leaders around the globe have done more to ensure the respect, freedom and equality of women.
South African women played a crucial role in the fight against apartheid. In 1956, women of all races marched against the discriminatory laws of apartheid with the rallying cry of “Wathinta umfazi, wathinta imbokotho.” (“You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”) In a speech commemorating this event on Women’s Day in 1996, Mandela stated that, “As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.”
Edie Windsor, the plaintiff who toppled the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, was named the number three runner up for Person of the Year by TIME magazine; she’s also the only woman on the list of five. (Number one was Pope Francis, and number two was NSA leaker Edward Snowden.)
The Forward also named Windsor in its top five list on the Forward 50, our annual ranking of people who have made the biggest difference in the American Jewish story. (We placed her at number two, after Newtown mother Veronique Pozner.)
The recent New York Times story about breast cancer in Israel focused, in part, on the low percentage of women who undergo the surgery after being told they’ve tested positive for BRCA1 or 2, which indicate a much greater risk for breast cancer. The story suggests that this is in part because doctors in Israel are reluctant to recommend women get mastectomies, because the (mostly male) doctors in Israel are sexist, and don’t want women to remove their breasts. The article also mentions how the Times op-ed written by Angelina Jolie about her own double mastectomy sparked a lot of debate in Israel, and caused many women to start thinking about and asking for the surgery.
Implicit in the article is a message that high risk women like myself are told over and over again: get a double mastectomy to save your own life. Angelina Jolie did it — why shouldn’t Israeli women? (Other things Angelina Jolie has done: have six children, wear a vial of blood around her neck, wear black rubber pants at her first wedding.)
It’s been a good (or perhaps bad) year for normal-woman outrage. I’m still pretty irked about being told to “Lean In,” and now there is yet another book by an uber-successful (and uber-lucky) woman who thinks her life lessons apply to the rest of us. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about former Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg’s “Dot Complicated,” in which a one-percenter who was born in 1982, went to Harvard, and thinks her hometown of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. — which the New York Times once called “Exclusive on the Hudson” — is “typically suburban,” tells the rest of us how to live online.
Unlike “Lean In,” which was treated as a manual for all working women but truly applied only to those who wish to join a very select group of leaders in particular fields, the work-life balance tips in “Dot Complicated” are meant for everyone. Women, men, children, and even unborn babies; there is a frankly icky paragraph with the heading “Digital Identity Begins Before Birth.”
And some of the advice, though painfully unoriginal and obvious, is decent. You can’t go wrong telling people to avoid burying their faces in their cell phone screens while conducting face-to-face meetings, or pointing out that it’s unwise to lie about personal details in a social media profile.
Can we please stop pretending that stay-at-home-dads are a viable, large-scale solution for gender equality? Fifty years after Betty Friedan encouraged women to get out of the house, men have not, in any statistically significant way, come to take their place. And yet, the stay-at-home dad continues to live on in our cultural imagination as a feminist success story when really it’s hardly anything resembling a trend.
The New York Times ran a story yesterday about the stay-at-home husbands of Wall Street in which we got a glimpse into the lives of the men who make their banker wives’ lives possible. Writers Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg looked at the domestic arrangements, and masculine malaise, of the men who tend to the kids and home while their wives work 14 hour days reeling in serious dough.
According to the BBC, a quiet revolution is taking place among ultra-Orthodox women in Jerusalem. They have discovered the power of mascara.
There are, of course, numerous strict restrictions on these women when it comes to their appearance. They must wear modest clothes — no elbows, no collar bones — cover their heads, and many even cut off their hair. And yet, whether it is pressure from the secular world to look a certain kind of pretty or some deep-rooted desire in women to beautify oneself, they are heading to the beauty salon.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.
Last week the Supreme Court agreed to hear Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases about the conflict between Obamacare mandates and religion. Specifically, they examine whether for-profit corporations can refuse to provide employees with certain types of contraception (those that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting), which they object to on religious grounds, as part of their health insurance. The new healthcare law requires all employers, with exception of certain types of non-profit religious institutions, to offer contraception or be subject to fines.
Naturally, the Court’s acceptance of this case has caused many to speak up against the notion of “personhood” for both corporations and fertilized eggs, and, once again, breathlessly, for women’s right to affordable and accessible contraception for the many, many health-related reasons we require it.
While the matter at hand here is, unequivocally, civil law and the separation of church and state, the case still piqued my curiosity about Hobby Lobby’s interpretation of religious texts. What exactly does the bible say about contraception? How does the Jewish tradition differ from Christianity on the topic? And how does it relate to religious notions of personhood, or when life begins?
From what I could find, there is no direct mention of birth control in the bible because birth control, as we know it today, didn’t exist back then. The closest it comes seems to be when Onan withdraws before ejaculation and God punishes him for “spilling his seed on the ground” by killing him. (Long story, but Onan doesn’t want to impregnate his wife Tamar, the widow of his brother Er, because he doesn’t want to share his inheritance with a child they they might produce.)
I asked sometimes Sisterhood contributor and always awesome feminist Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (pictured below) to explain, over email.
Linor Abargil, of Netanya, Israel, was 18 years old when an Israeli travel agent raped her in the car on the ride to the train station in Milan, where she had been for a modeling event. Seven weeks later, she won the 1998 Miss World beauty pageant in the Seychelles. She reported the crime to the authorities in Rome and Israel, and the rape trial in Israel ended with her rapist Uri Shlomo receiving a 16-year prison sentence in October 1999.
A new documentary called “Brave Miss World,” directed by Cecilia Peck (the daughter of Gregory Peck), follows Abargil’s story from about 2008, when she began a website asking rape victims to submit their stories. She was swamped with emails, and journeyed to various parts of the United States and South Africa to meet with other victims and attend fundraising and outreach events.
These interviews with rape survivors make up a substantial part of the film. The stories are powerful, moving and sometimes hard to watch; there’s the 12-year-old girl in the Teddy Bear Clinic in Soweto who tells Abargil that some people rape virgins because they believe it will cure them from AIDS. There’s the college student at Princeton University who never reported her rape, there’s actress Joan Collins, who later married her rapist (Irish actor Maxwell Reed), there’s Fran Drescher, who, when recounting how two men broke into her home and raped her and a girlfriend while their husbands were present, began to cry and said, “There goes your makeup.”
It looked, at first, like another chapter in Israel’s gender segregation wars.
On Monday, an Open Zion/Daily Beast headline screamed that Ben Gurion University of the Negev had prohibited women from lighting the Hanukkah menorah. If a university rabbi had his way, that would have been true.
Even the president of the university, Rivka Carmi, hadn’t realized she was being excluded when she had not, in years past, been invited to say the blessing over the Hanukkah lights, according to former Sisterhood writer Allison Kaplan Sommer’s report in Haaretz.
Late last week a group of female students approached Carmi protesting that women were not allowed to recite the blessing at the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the student center. Carmi agreed that it is unacceptable, and told them that she would have a man and woman jointly light and bless the candles this year, and next year have the genders take turns on alternate nights.
When many of his students looked unusually well-groomed, New York City high school teacher Steven Mazie wondered why. Mazie, an associate professor of political studies at Manhattan’s uber-competitive Bard High School Early College (where kids spend two of their high school years on a college curriculum, hence their teachers’ professor titles), soon learned that it was senior portrait day. Students showed him the card they had been given with strict instructions as to how boys and girls should show up for their photo shoot. Mazie was shocked — both by the gender disparities and by what appeared to be his students’ passivity.
Girls were instructed: “Prepare yourself as if you were going to your senior prom. This means that your hair, nails, makeup, eyebrows etc… should all be done. Remember, the photo will only look as good as you do… please wear a tank top beneath your attire as the yearbook photo will require you to have bare shoulders. (If for religious purposes you cannot show your shoulders, please wear black attire including any head covering.)” Boys did not get the warning that the pictures will look good only if they came looking good. They were told to get a haircut and shave the day before, to make sure their nails were trimmed and to wear a fitted and ironed shirt and tie, with a jacket optional but highly recommended.
The holiday season tends to be the time of year when many of us feel the urge to give a little. For some, it is a way to pay forward the abundance of love and joy they are experiencing themselves. For others, it is a way to temper the guilt from all that conspicuous consumption. And for those who give Jewishly, it is out of an obligation to creating a fairer, more just world rather than an act of goodwill.
Whatever drives you to give, and for many of us it is a combination of all three, it can be hard to find a cause worthy of your hard-earned dollars. So, just in time for Giving Tuesday, the Sisterhood put together a list of lesser-known, mostly smaller, but still very worthy organizations that work to create tzedek in the world around us: