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
Newsweek is just out with its 4th annual list of what it deems to be “the 50 most influential rabbis in America.”
This year, as last, few women have made the cut and all but one are in the bottom half of the list.
The first woman to appear — Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, the president of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis — comes in at position number 17. Still, it’s one higher than her ranking on last year’s list, when she was also the highest-placed member of the female rabbinate.
In all, six female rabbis were included this year. With one more than last year, at least there’s an upward trend, even if it is slow.
The others dubbed worthy of the 2010 list are Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s GLBTQ synagogue Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Sharon Brous, founder of the progressive Los Angeles congregation Ikar, Naomi Levy, a well-known speaker and founder of L.A. outreach organization Nashuva, and Jill Jacobs, a social justice visionary and rabbi-in-residence at the Jewish Funds for Justice.
Thinking back what I’ve written recently on my blog condemning the prohibition on women drivers in some parts of the Jewish and Muslim worlds, I realized that ever since, I’ve had a strangely guilty conscience for having voiced my opinions on this issue.
There’s a small, persistent voice in me that’s saying: Maybe it’s their culture, their tradition; maybe I just don’t have the right to criticize and impose my feminist views on them. But then my more dominant voice argues back: No, of course, as a woman, I do have the right to criticize and demand change for my fellow women denied the right to drive a motorized vehicle. We’re talking about a very real injustice against women, which should override any cultural sensitivities.
And then, by chance,I came across “Nomad,” a new memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali campaigner, feminist and outspoken critic of Islam, who raises these very questions when discussing the muted response of Western feminists to issues of female circumcision, honor killings and other injustices to women that are most commonly associated with (but, by no means, relegated to) the Muslim world.
A woman in Israel recently won the equivalent of about $8,000 in a lawsuit against her employer on the grounds that his habit of routinely calling her into his office to watch porn on his computer constitutes sexual harassment. Although he had not requested any sexual “favors” from her, the District Tel Aviv Labor Court ruled that his actions created a hostile working environment for the woman.
In another recent case, a government employee received a demotion and a 50% pay cut for making sexual jokes, commenting on his co-worker’s perfume and attire and calling her “sexy.” Once again, the court ruled that even if the employer did not actually solicit sexual acts, his actions were nevertheless against the law.
Paradoxically, Israel has one of the most progressive and stringent laws in the world regarding sexual harassment — and yet, the law does not seem to have influenced workplace norms all that much. According to a report released this month by the Ministry of Trade and Commerce, 40% of women in Israel have experienced sexual harassment at work, a third of whom had the experience within the last year.
One of my neighbors died recently, a Jewish woman known best for her commitment to the cause of another minority, the Kurds.
I want to honor the memory of Vera Saeedpour, who died early this month at 80, after turning a grand Prospect Heights townhouse into an institution called The Kurdish Library. The Kurdish Library, which she began in 1986, was best known by researchers and journalists, but Vera was well known around the neighborhood as well.
I would occasionally see her walking down the main shopping street, though less in recent years. Tiny, gray haired and indomitable, she often walked around in a long Victorian-looking dress that I assumed was traditional Kurdish clothing.
Though she was a colorful and tireless advocate on behalf of the Kurdish people, she told me that her motivation came from a Jewish place. She would often compare persecution of the Kurds to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust.
As the congressional confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan take center stage, one headline leapt out in its oddity: “Jewish Clergy Group: Elena Kagan Isn’t ‘Kosher’ to Serve on Supreme Court.”
Indeed, a group called the Rabbinical Alliance of America is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee not to confirm Kagan. Spokesman Rabbi Yehuda Levin said that “a great deal has been made about the fact that she would be the second Jewish woman on the court, and we want to signal to people across the country that we take no pride in this.”
He continued with the following pearls of wisdom. “We feel that Elena Kagan turns traditional Judaism on its head — from a concept of a nation of priests and holy people, she is turning it into, ‘Let’s homosexualize every segment of society. And by the way, partial-birth babies have no right to be delivered.’”
It is indeed horrific that even one rabbi, let alone an alliance of rabbis, would use the excuse of a Jewish nominee to hammer at their obsessive opposition to homosexuality and abortion. The group Levin represents claims to include “800+ members … congregational leaders, religious teachers, chaplains, heads of Jewish organizations and communal leaders.”
I had the privilege of meeting Martin Ginsburg only once. It was in March 2008, and I was directing the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martin’s illustrious wife, was our keynote guest, and I had the honor of bringing the couple around the Constitution Center’s wonderful permanent exhibit.
He walked slowly, more slowly than she did, and stayed a few steps behind, almost as in deference to a queen. He was kind and unpretentious, and but for the presence of a federal marshal, they looked just like any elderly Jewish couple with a deep interest in the law touring an exhibit devoted to the relevance of the U.S. Constitution.
I thought of that scene last night, when I read that Martin Ginsburg died at 78 years old, after fighting cancer. A stellar legal mind and professor in his own right, he embodies the kind of man that is both rare and noble — a man who, long before it was fashionable, supported the career choices of his wife, no doubt sacrificing his own shot at the limelight along the way.
Singer and songwriter Sara Kamin jokes that she never sleeps. That’s because she’s juggling a burgeoning music career with teaching college-level psychology classes and completing her post-graduate studies in psychotherapy. The Toronto-based Kamin, 30. has three folk/pop/blues albums under her belt. And her music has been getting increased attention — and airplay — thanks in part to her new hit single “Superhero.” Kamin, whose summer calendar is packed with gigs in the U.S. and Canada, recently spoke with Sisterhood contributor Renee Ghert-Zand about the balancing act that is her life.
Renee Ghert-Zand: How long have you been singing and playing music?
My Ebay habit was short but intense. For about six months, a few years back, I browsed the bidding web-marketplace for my favorite designers several times a week and ended up buying quite a few clothes that didn’t look as good once they arrived as they did on the site. But the next week I’d be back again anyway.
Now there’s a whole new genre, adding to the temptation by landing in my e-mail inbox each day: the “invitation only” shopping websites that offer short-lived sales on top-name clothing, accessories, even furniture. They have fixed prices rather than bidding, but the time-limited nature of each sale and the awareness that some of their goods sell out quickly leads to the same feeling of “gotta buy it now” urgency.
“Where are you heading?” a friend asks.
“I’m on my way to pick up Naomi from her bat mitzvah lesson.” I reply. The response is silence and a slightly confused look. “She’s going to read from the Torah at her bat mitzvah and she’s started studying for it. You know, I’m American and all, and I grew up in a Reform synagogue; I read from the Torah at my bat mitzvah and so my daughter is going to do it, too.”
Afterwards, I kick myself for sounding so apologetic, as if my eccentric immigrant ways somehow needed justification in Israel.
Maya Vered-Lev has been on a hunger strike since June 5. Perhaps for someone like her whose body has experienced some of the greatest horrors in human existence, extreme hunger may not be so terrible. Still, she has been sitting in front of the Knesset for weeks trying to get someone’s attention. She’s competing with the World Cup and 100,000 Haredim protesting in front of a jail. But she hasn’t given up. She is on a mission for justice, a mission to protect children from sexual abuse and incest.
Vered-Lev, a survivor of incest, is protesting the statute of limitations on crimes of sexual abuse of children. Like many survivors, she only came forward as an adult. After all, a child does not have the language, the skills or the understanding to say how wrong it all is. As Dorit Abramowitz, incest survivor and author explained in an op-ed in Tuesday’s Ynet, when the person who is supposed to be protecting you and sheltering you in life is the very one committing all the atrocities, how can a child ever feel safe coming forward? The amount of courage and resilience needed for a child to say to the world, “Someone in my family is sexually abusing me,” is unimaginable. Add that to the immense shame and guilt that children in this situation feel, and it’s astounding that any children ever come forward.
Yet, the law in Israel is remarkably dense about this entire dynamic. The statute of limitations effectively means that an adult seeking to bring her childhood abuser to justice is doomed from the start.
Father’s Day has just passed, but it’s always interesting to look at the ways in which parenting roles are changing.
True, I live in Greater Park Slope — a progressive neighborhood that may be unlike most other parts of the country. But it’s now common in my neighborhood to see hipsterish young dads carrying their babies in Snuglies in the middle of the day.
Things for sure have changed since I was a kid. My husband is a much more involved parent than our fathers were. In fact, coming from a Hasidic family, he had more experience with babies than I did when our first was born, and he showed me how to bathe and dress Boychik when I was still trying to figure out how to get a onesie over his head with one hand while holding him with the other.
I can’t quite describe the sock in the gut I felt over the weekend when I read about “In Shifra’s Arms,” which is apparently the first crisis pregnancy center targeting young Jewish women. The story was first reported in the Washington Jewish Week by Sisterhood contributor Sarah Breger. As a reproductive rights advocate, I’m strongly opposed to the CPCs, because they spread misleading, incorrect medical information about abortion, couched in feminist-friendly terms like “help” and “your decision.” As Emily at Jewesses With Attitude wrote:
Women and girls visit CPCs at the beginning of an unplanned pregnancy, one of the most vulnerable states in which one could be, and they are given false information and limited choices. And it angers me.
I feel the same way. It’s particularly upsetting that women who really need abortion referrals or women who actually might want help with adoption or child-rearing support, are getting ideological spin instead.
The world has seen some moving mass protests. Anti-war protests, civil rights marches, rallies to release Natan Sharansky from prison. The mass protest has drama, heroism, poignancy and the potential to achieve real results. Consider how Mahatma Gandhi led millions of Indians in protest against British rule through noncompliance. Indian public officials resigned, parents withdrew their children from British schools and participants boycotted British goods. Eventually, around the same time they left Palestine, the British decided to stop colonizing India. They left people to create their own autonomous democracies. These are amazing moments in modern history.
Watching Haredi protests in Israel over the past few days, with the image of hundreds of thousands of black hats creating powerful impressions of solidarity and determination, it is tempting to invoke the nostalgia from those amazing moments. But here, the cause célèbre that the Haredim are rallying around is the right to be free from the Sephardic girls in their midst.
Over the past year I have been researching a book on the state of marriage today, known mostly as the clinical-sounding “companionate” marriage. I have been looking at the way today’s marriages differ from the marriages of previous generations, how it seems laden with expectations, and yet is wonderfully fluid and democratic. During this time I have also been navigating my own young marriage, carving out my role in the partnership, and watching my husband carve out his.
It is due to both of these experiences that I find Newsweek’s “The Case Against Marriage,” a polemic against matrimony by Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison, to be both silly and often wrong.
For starters, they begin their essay with a critique of the thick cream-colored envelopes that fill their mailboxes during the early summer, marking the beginning of the extravagant wedding season to come. Sure, weddings can seem interchangeable and rife with conspicuous consumption. But weddings and marriage aren’t the same — in fact, in many ways they have little to do with one another, and the most wedding-ready brides can often be the least marriage-ready wives. My husband and I went out of our way to think about marriage when prepping for our nuptials, and to not become distracted by flowers and cake.
Israel can point to one indisputably successful international export, which so far, no one has shown any interest in boycotting: drop-dead gorgeous models.
Sports Illustrated bikini-wearing, DiCaprio-dating Bar Rafaeli may be the current the leader of the pack, but she is part of a long and glorious tradition, following in the high-heeled footsteps of those who went before her like Shiraz Tal and Michaela Bercu, who conquered and occupied the covers of fashion magazines and billboard before her.
The unrealistically slender proportions of fashion models often further reduced by photographic touch-ups, the international culture of fashion and music videos and the simple fact that Israel is a coastal bathing-suit wearing culture means that at any given moment, most of the female population here is on a diet. Like the rest of the world, body-consciousness develops at an alarmingly young age and eating disorders are a growing problem among Israeli youth, just as they are worldwide.
Girlchik’s best friend is moving away next week. Her friend, who I’ll call SweetGirl, and her family are moving all the way from Brooklyn to Portland, Ore. – about as far away as someone can move and still be in this country.
And my heart is breaking. Not for me, though our families are good friends. But for my daughter. She and SweetGirl have been best friends nearly all their lives – since her mom and I met in a neighborhood moms’ group when they were both 1, and they’re now 11.
I have never seen another relationship like the one they share. Both girls also have other close friends, but there is something different about theirs. They are close, but also deeply connected and tuned-in to one another. At an age when I hear little snippets of occasional – let’s face it – bitchiness – in the tone of some of Girlchik’s other good friends, it’s not like that with SweetGirl. They are completely kind to each other, totally at ease and without self-consciousness.
Bloomsday, the semi-official holiday dedicated to the celebration of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” has become a favorite festival for both Irish and Jewish folks of the literary persuasion. And why should the holiday, celebrated the 16th of June (when all of main action of “Ulysses” takes place), not appeal to both groups? The novel’s incredibly likable everyday hero, Irishman Leopold Bloom — the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother — has a deeply empathetic outlook on the world and a good comeback on hand to hurl at antisemites (reminding them their Savior was a Jew). He also has an amusing streak of sexual voyeurism and an abiding love for his curvaceous bombshell of a wife, Molly Bloom. Leopold adores Molly even though their marriage is on the rocks. And she loves him too, despite infidelity and tragedy, as revealed by her famous stream-of-consciousness monologue that closes out the novel — and usually closes out Bloomsday readings as well.
Molly Bloom, born Molly Tweedy, is a beloved feminist heroine, an unforgettable character in the literary pantheon and an enigma, since most of the novel is from her husband’s perspective. But what I never realized is that, in the maze-like text of “Ulysses,” there are a few clues that she may be a Jewess too. Apparently it’s a matter of unsettled scholarly debate because Molly’s mother’s name, Lunita Laredo could well be Sephardic.
Only men — over age 20 if they’re married or 30 or older if they’re not — are permitted to vote for the new leadership of the Vaad Hakohol (Community Committee), which runs the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The CHJCC runs and facilitates access to government programs like food stamps and housing subsidies, and serves as a clearinghouse for the local Jewish community, as well as represents it to government officials.
The voting rules that require the one representative of a local Jewish household to be male means that women who are divorced, widowed or never married have no voice in choosing their communal representatives.
During the past eight years, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice has been a key ally in Domestic Workers United’s fight for fair treatment of housekeepers, nannies and other caregivers. As part of its Shalom Bayit [peace in the home] campaign, JFREJ has assisted the organization in determining best practices for employers of domestic workers, and joined DWU in Albany to lobby for a domestic workers bill of rights. Now their work is paying off.
The New York Senate earlier this month passed the bill of rights, a year after the Assembly passed a similar bill. The legislation affords domestic workers — nannies, housekeepers and home assistants — basic workplace rights, such as termination notice and sick pay, as well as legal recourse to take action against an abusive employer. Domestic workers were not included by President Roosevelt in the National Labor Relations Act, and have since been excluded from the protections given to most other workers in the United States.
Sarah Fields, program coordinator at JFREJ, spoke recently The Sisterhood about the organization’s involvement in the campaign for domestic workers’ rights.
There are no halachic problems with women becoming rabbis, and virtually no rabbinic functions that women cannot perform. So argued Dr. Hana Kehat last week at the inaugural Limmud Modi’in conference — a Jewish learning festival modeled on the famous Limmud conferences of England. Kehat, the renowned scholar and founder of the Orthodox feminist organization Kolech, spoke on a panel (along with yours truly) about the subject of Orthodox women rabbis.
“Women are already performing many of the ‘rabbinic’ functions,” she said. “There are poskot [arbiters of Jewish law] and religious pleaders, and of course teachers and counselors.” When asked about the issue of women serving as witnesses, which is prohibited by halacha, she replied, “The rabbinic courts have already found ways to accept women’s testimony. Even though that has nothing to do with the issue of leadership, it shows that the problem with women’s religious roles has nothing to do with halacha and everything to do with social barriers.”
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