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
Women cannot win.
If we have children, we are criticized about the way we raise them, how many of them we have and who they turn out to be. If we don’t have them, we are pathologized, essentialized and told that we don’t know what we want. Most insidious, I think, is when these painful attacks comes from other women. In her recent Sisterhood piece, “Why Being ‘Childless by Choice’ Often Reflects Jewish Disengagement,” Debra Nussbaum Cohen contemplates the ability of Jewish women who elect not to have children to be active members of Jewish communities.
For me, this piece zeroes in one of my worst fears as a Jewish woman who has made the choice not to have children — the accusation that because of a very personal choice that I have made, my Jewish commitment will never be sufficient. This is what we do to each other, Jews, we compete with one another to be “enough”: religious enough, Zionist enough, and in this case, to have enough children, or any.
The sexism endemic to Israeli corridors of power has finally made it to front-page news. The all-male commission investigating the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Turkel, has been ordered by the Supreme Court to add a woman to its ranks. Turkel, however, has thus far responded by refusing to comply. The commission has already started its work, and this whole appoint-a-woman thing is just a thorn in his side.
Supreme Court justice Miriam Naor, who issued the ruling, gave Turkel until August 29 to comply.
This entire incident, which was brought about thanks to a petition brought by women’s groups Itach Women Lawyers for Social Justice and WePower, among others, reveals just how deep sexism in Israel runs, and exposes some of the rhetoric that works at disguising misogyny.
Never thought I’d be saying this about Fox News, but I witnessed what may be a watershed moment for women — in a good way — on the Fox Sunday News show “Panel Plus.”
The show on August 15 was guest-hosted by Bret Baier and featured four politically conservative talking heads discussing the current news. And three of the four panelists were women.
The title of Elissa Strauss’ essay in the Forward, “Embracing My Inner Balebuste,” caught my eye. Perhaps it’s a reflection of what I assume are a few years of difference in our age that I find the term “balebuste” loaded with provocative associations and Elissa can embrace the title with pride. On the other hand, maybe it simply reflects what housework meant in our respective homes, growing up.
My mother didn’t know much Yiddish, but she would have cringed at being called a balebuste, as do I except on those occasions when it’s applied with affectionate irony.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the heavy-handed conservative radio host, is in the news for using the n-word 11 times during her Tuesday show. Schlessinger told an African-American woman, who is married to a white man and who called in for advice about dealing with her in-laws’ racist remarks, that if she doesn’t have a sense of humor, then she should not “marry outside your own race.”
The tirade recalled this 2003 Forward story about Dr. Laura, as she is known — specifically about the Jewish convert’s defection from Orthodox Judaism. Here is an excerpt from that piece:
Schlessinger began her August 5 program by noting that, prior to each broadcast, she spends an hour reading faxes from fans and listeners. “By and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive,” she said. “From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99% of it, or two of the nastiest letters I have gotten in a long time. I guess that’s my point — I don’t get much back. Not much warmth coming back.”
… Of her conversion to Judaism, Schlessinger said, “I felt that I was putting out a tremendous amount toward that mission, that end, and not feeling return, not feeling connected, not feeling that inspired. Trust me, I’ve talked to rabbis, I’ve read, I’ve prayed, I’ve agonized and I came to this place anyway — which is not exactly back to the beginning, but more in that direction than not.”
The Sisterhood Digest:
A group of Israeli women recently smuggled 12 Palestinian women and four children into Israel for a day of leisure. The women dined out in Jaffa and swam in the Mediterranean before the Palestinian women returned to the West Bank via Jerusalem. Among the excursion organizers was the Israeli writer Ilana Hammerman, who earlier this year wrote a magazine piece about another such gathering.
Barbara J. Zakheim, founder of the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse of Greater Washington is undertaking what is believed to be the first national survey of agunot, or women who, unable to obtain a Jewish divorce document, are stuck in unwanted marriages.
Haaretz introduces readers to Israeli psychologist Edna Foa — a pioneer of “Prolonged Exposure Therapy.” The technique is being used by the U.S. military on soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The monthly gathering of the prayer group Women of the Wall Wednesday morning — the first since last month’s arrest of the group’s leader for the crime of “praying with a Sefer Torah” — was a study in contrasts.
The sound of women’s voices singing psalms of praise — the Rosh Chodesh Hallel prayers — competed with the sound of screaming men and women scattered around, cursing and hurling intended insults: “You’re all Christians!” “Lesbians!” “Blasphemy!” “Impurity!” “Go away!” The protesters encircled the prayer group.
More than 100 women were at the prayer service, along with some 20-30 men behind partitions. Many of those who gathered were regulars of the group. But others had come out show support for Women of the Wall on the heels of the July arrest of group’s leader, Anat Hoffman, while she was singing and carrying a Torah. A 2003 Supreme Court decision prohibits women from reading Torah and from wearing a tallit over their clothes in the Kotel plaza, which many ultra-Orthodox Jews say violates Jewish custom. Hoffman was not reading Torah when she was arrested, but police, at the time said, “Anat Hoffman was arrested by police because she violated the agreement of the high court by praying with a Sefer Torah.”
When it comes to giving tzedakah, doing so anonymously is considered the most virtuous way to go. By the standards of the Rambam’s ladder of tzedakah, Henrietta Lacks would be one of the greatest tzaddikahs of all time. Lacks gave of herself by way of cells that have enabled scientists to conduct research to create the polio vaccine, uncover mechanisms of cancer, test the effects of the atom bomb, develop cloning and in vitro fertilization techniques and map genes.
She gave of herself so not only anonymously, but also unknowingly. And therein lies the crux of the ethical dilemmas relating to human tissue donation and use that underpin her story, as it is expertly and caringly told by Rebecca Skloot in her recent book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (Crown Publishers, 2010).
There are those childhood pictures that are reminders of our cuter selves. Aw, There I am with the freckles! And that’s me with chocolate sundae smeared all over my face! Precious.
And then, of course, there are those pictures of yesteryear that have a more humiliating bent. A particular one comes to mind: I’m wearing a bat mitzvah dress with shoulder pads that were about two and a half times the width of my upper arm. But I look so cheery, braces and massive glasses and all. Everything was so much bigger in 1992 — the glasses, the dresses, the bows (a baby-pink one on the dress and a lighter pink one on my head). No micro-minis on the bimah back then. (Case in point, the fashions seen in this recent Sisterhood video of a bat mitzvah that took place the same year as my own.)
I know she was just trying to look like Streisand, and not pretending she could sound like her, but still. If anyone has the right to model herself after Streisand, it sure isn’t Jennifer Aniston. It’s Lea Michele.
Have you seen her on “Glee”? Or were you lucky enough to catch her performance on Broadway in “Spring Awakening”? (That’s where Boychik and I saw her opposite Jonathan Groff, who also plays her evil love interest on “Glee.”)
Sisterhood News Roundup: Israel Edition:
“The job is not for mothers”: A woman from the religious town of Elad received the equivalent of an $8,000 payout for gender discrimination in job hiring. The woman had applied to work as a security guard in the town, but instead of being properly interviewed, she was ridiculed by her potential employers. “This is not a job for a young mother,” they reportedly told her. “And anyway, you cannot do the job wearing the skirt.” She thought she could, and thankfully the courts agreed. She may wear a skirt and push a stroller, but she is tough and knows how to stand up for her rights.
Protesters in tank-tops are not welcome: Apparently pro-Palestinian activists and ultra-Orthodox Jews have something in common: women’s bodies. Last week’s protest in solidarity with residents of Sheik Jarrah included some unusual instructions. Protestors were told that women wearing tank tops would not be allowed to participate.
The personal is political, said feminist writer Carol Hanisch back in 1969, and while reading Renee Ghert-Zand’s recent blog post on childbearing, I couldn’t help but think that procreation is political, as well.
That’s especially true when it comes to Jewish parenting; anyone who is Jewishly engaged is aware of the cultural/religious imperative to have children.
And it is an imperative. Being fruitful and multiplying is not only in the first book of the Bible, it’s also a way to respond to those who, through annihilation or assimilation, would see the Jewish people winnowed away to nothing.
It has been an incredible week for Jewish women. The confirmation of Elena Kagan as the next Supreme Court justice, bringing the total number of women to three and the total number of Jewish women to two, has the effect on me of lighting fireworks in my soul. Despite all the rubbish women have to put up with in society and in Judaism, this is a moment when I can put that all aside and think, “Yes, Jewish women can!”
One of the greatest moments for me in the process that began with President Obama’s May 10 announcement of her nomination, was watching law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler on PBS NewsHour analyze the significance of her appointment. After coolly describing some of her many strengths — pragmatism, moderation, swift negotiation, mental agility, and wit — he diverted from his dispassion, smiled and said, “She’s brilliant and she’s charming!” Wow, I thought. Really smart people love and appreciate her. That is just so wonderful.
On August 24, the Forward and the Sixth Street Synagogue will present three accomplished Jewish artists — all named Alicia — whose work extends across generations and genres. The event, called “3 Alicias 3,” will feature:
• Alicia Svigals
Svigals is a virtuosic klezmer fiddler, who was a founder of the Klezmatics and the band Mikveh. Svigals is a native New Yorker, who studied with the legendary Leon Schwartz. She has been called “the greatest living exponent of the klezmer fiddle.”
It’s Funny Girl redux. Or, at least, kind of. Jennifer Aniston has been transformed into Barbra Streisand for the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar. (See the pictures here.) Donning looks from Streisand classics like Funny Girl and What’s Up Doc?, Aniston does her best Babs impression, manicured nails and all.
The article explains that Aniston has long admired Streisand, the “patron saint of stage and screen (two Academy Awards, eight Grammys) and the exemplar of times-they-are-a-changing feminism, and that the homage was largely inspired by her hairdresser.
Ayelet Waldman makes up half of one of America’s most prolific Jewish literary couples. (She is married to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon.) Her most recent novel, “Red Hook Road,” is the story of two tragically intertwined families: the Jewish Copakens, from New York, and the Yankee Tetherlys of Maine, led by matriarchs Iris and Jane, respectively.
Sisterhood contributor Allison Kaplan Sommer recently interviewed Waldman via email about writing Jewish characters, raising daughters, how the novel has been received in Maine, where her family is summering, and why she decided to immerse herself in the world of wooden sailboat-building.
Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Red Hook Road” was published on July 13 to numerous positive reviews. And the same month you organized and celebrated your son’s bar mitzvah. Which was more challenging — putting together a bar mitzvah or writing a novel? Which was more satisfying?
Somehow, I am not surprised that just as I find myself at what has for me been the hardest stage of parenting (working mom with three boys, ages 9, 14 and 16), studies are showing that fewer women are choosing to be mothers.
A recently released Pew Research Center study shows that a quarter of American women in my age and demographic group (40-44 , with an advanced academic degree) are childless. While that percentage is down from 31% in 1994, there is evidence that choice, and not just infertility, is involved.
The recent report cited a 2007 poll, showing that 41% of respondents felt that children were essential to a successful marriage, down from 65% in 1990. A recent, much-talked-about article in New York magazine titled, “All Joy and No Fun,” covered the supposed revelation that parenting is hard and captured the zeitgeist of today’s young parents hating to be parents.
Eleven women’s groups got together last week to challenge gender discrimination that is written into Israeli law. As it stands, the Law for Appointing Judges bans women from applying for the position of Executive Director of the Rabbinical Court. Although such a law would have no doubt have been thrown out long ago from the American legal system, in Israel Version 2010, getting this law revoked is harder, it seems, than bringing the mountain to Moses, so to speak.
Last Wednesday, a group of women’s organizations, including the Israel Women’s Network, the Center for Women’s Justice, Naamat, WIZO, Kolech, ICAR, and several others, appealed to the Supreme Court in a suit against Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman, to repeal the law on the grounds that it violates the basic human rights of women and women’s freedom of employment.
Before Paul Rudd broke into television and movies, the “Dinner for Schmucks” star was working the bar and bat mitzvah circuit in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. He emceed my bat mitzvah party, back in 1992 — months before landing a recurring role on the NBC drama “Sisters.” (“Clueless” was still a few years off.)
The soft-spoken aspiring actor whom my mom and I met on the hunt for bat mitzvah DJs — I took an immediate liking to Rudd — turned out to be the perfect choice for the event. Rudd, donning a yellow tuxedo jacket, a ruffled shirt, shorts and Doc Martens, ably and energetically led us through all of the bat mitzvah staples: candle-lighting, Coke & Pepsi, toasts, limbo, “Hands Up,” challah-cutting and “YMCA.” And as the “Today” show-themed bat mitzvah party came to a close, he invited my friends onto the dance floor to sing a moving rendition of “That’s What Friends Are For.”
In “Afterworld,” a novella that closes the new story collection “Memory Wall,” O. Henry Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr imagines life inside a Jewish girls’ orphanage during World War II. The novella tells the story of Esther, an epileptic grandmother in Geneva, Ohio, whose seizures bring her back to the time she spent in the orphanage.
Doerr spoke recently with Sisterhood contributor Elissa Strauss about the powerful inspiration for the piece, the universal appeal of Anne Frank’s diary, and the way made-up stories can preserve real-life events.
How did you come to set this story at a Jewish girl’s orphanage during WWII?
While doing research for another project, a novel I’ve been working on for years, I came across a deportation manifest with the names and birthdate of 13 girls on it. None was older than 16, and the youngest was under 5. All were sent to Auschwitz. I left the manifest pinned to a bulletin board in my office for over a year, and every now and then it would percolate back up in my thoughts. It wasn’t until I started reading about temporal lobe epilepsy, for yet another project, and the visions that some of its sufferers have, that I began to think: Maybe I can make fiction about these two things.
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