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
Fourteen years after its first performance, “The Vagina Monologues” has become a February tradition. Eve Ensler’s award-winning play is a series of monologues drawn from interviews with hundreds of women of all ages and nationalities about that most intimate part of themselves — their vaginas. The resulting monologues are funny, angry, triumphant and painful. They represent a wide range of experience including pleasure, shame, abuse and empowerment. Performances are staged around the country, and many Americans find meaning in celebrating V-Day instead its commercialized counterpart, Valentine’s Day.
Eve Ensler, featured in “Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution,” created V-Day to address a number of global issues including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sexual slavery. The money raised from V-Day events is distributed to anti-violence organizations around the world. Since its inception in 1998, V-Day has raised more than $50 million. In 2001, a performance of The Vagina Monologues at New York City’s Madison Square Garden raised $1 million.
But every year, V-Day faces opposition from conservative and religious groups that think it’s vulgar to talk about vaginas.
Before leaving for Israel, where she will take part in the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations’ annual mission to the Jewish state, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld reflects on the recent debacle over women’s prayer at the Western Wall — responding both as the Rabbinical Assembly’s executive vice president and as the mother of two young boys. What follows are excerpts from her essay:
What will happen when my sons are old enough to accompany me to Israel, where I will attend the Conference of Presidents’ annual Mission next week? A highlight of every trip to Israel is a visit to the Kotel, the symbolic site of Jewish yearning for centuries. My boys are young enough to stand with me in the women’s section, where they would expect me to don the tallis and tefillin they are accustomed to seeing on their mom. How long until the heckling and threats of the ultra-Orthodox begin? How long until the police come to intervene and in front of the horrified gaze of my children do what is only done with “bad guys,” — to arrest me. This is what Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum has tragically coined, hatradah datit — religious harassment.
Imagine a politically minded groovy singer-songwriter, an electric rock musician whose work is infused with her deep sense of spirituality and a Ladino chanteuse — all women, all working toward the common goal of supporting the aspirations of other Jewish, female musical talents. Throw in other songstresses and female-led groups — performers of such musical genres as reggae, punk, jazz, Sephardic, klezmer and children’s interest — and what you have is a diverse roster, worthy of its own music label.
Why is a Jewish women’s music label needed? Well, there is a plethora of professional Jewish female-led bands. But until now, there has been no significant communal infrastructure to support and nurture female musicians whose work is inspired by the unique Jewish female experience. While there are highly esteemed Jewish music labels, they are (for the most part) dominated by male managers and rosters. Many Jewish music festivals, series and communal holiday shows often only have one “token” female group on the bill. Jewish female musicians deserve a chance to play more and larger venues; moreover, audiences deserve a chance to hear them do so.
I am 30 — the age when, among other things, you begin to stop hearing from your friends for about three months. Then finally, at the end of 12 weeks, you get a Sunday afternoon call announcing what you knew already: She is pregnant, and at the end of her first trimester. I’ve experienced this disappearing act a few times already with relatives and good friends. Each time, I’ve been thrilled to hear the now-public news. But at the same time, I was uneasy about the fact that it was a kept from me.
I know that this sounds kind of selfish, but it’s not. The reason this news is usually kept private during the first trimester is because that is the timeframe in which miscarriages are most likely to occur. If someone I am close to miscarries, I want to be able to be there for her. I want her to know that while it is undoubtedly sad, it is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not her fault — just a biological malfunctioning in the tough and risky endeavor that is making babies.
I love the phrase that Sarah Seltzer uses in the previous post to give voice to the immature sexism found in some of this year’s Super Bowl ads: “women, ugh.” Maybe it’s more than just the ads — judging from a women’s half-time match up that competed with The Who for viewers, I’m beginning to think that, on some level, sexism colors the whole sport.
Sunday’s Super Bowl match up between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints was most watched event in television history. But on that same day another football game was being played … by 14 women … in lingerie.
This year, the coveted commercial time during the (exciting and inspiring) Superbowl was filled with ads that made women, and male viewers, uncomfortable with their implied or overt misogyny. Twitter feeds and blog comments were filled with viewers marvelling at the unceasing, unvaried tone of the ads. While beer ads are traditionally less than friendly to the fairer sex, something about the parade of she-hating spots following the controversial anti-abortion Tim Tebow ad from Focus on the Family — an ad that ended up being “meh” — really ticked people off.
There are too many posts around the Web about this to count, but here are a few that demonstrate the way the night went: Jezebel’s Hortense compiled the first grouping of sexist ads. Gotcha media made a YouTube video putting all the violent acts from the ads together. Irin at Jezebel rounded up the media’s astonished reaction to this parade of sexism (to various degrees).
Nothing is more important to my husband and me than sending our kids to Jewish day school. Nothing besides keeping them healthy, sheltered, fed and clothed. But as a family struggling to keep ahead of the bills, it’s a commitment that comes with a growing struggle to pay for it.
My husband makes reasonable money at a solid, mid-level corporate job. He works hard, and I’m proud of him. His company has instituted a salary freeze and requires that we pay increasingly high health insurance premiums. I’m a writer, and writing for Jewish publications (and these days, most other publications as well) pays poorly. Sometimes it seems as if Jewish day schools, at least here in New York, are meant only for the children of lawyers and investment bankers.
I read “The Catcher in the Rye” this week. I should say, “re-read” because I did, actually, read the book in high school, though the fact that I couldn’t remember anything about the plot or characters beyond the name “Holden Caulfield” is a reflection either of my poor reading habits or my high school English class — or perhaps just my bad memory. In any case, J.D. Salinger’s recent death prompted me to find out what all of the fuss was about.
In the many Salinger threads on the Internet following his death, the dominant theme of “The Catcher in the Rye” analysis of is “disaffected youth.” The New York Times ran an interesting collection of comments from teenagers about whether the book — published 59 years ago, before most of their parents were born — resonated with them. The comments were articulate and thoughtful, and I cheered as the writers contested the tone of prevailing public opinion about “youth today.” I hate that, too. I live with three teenagers, and I find them (and their friends) to be thinking, engaged, aware, articulate and capable of emotional complexity in ways that some of my own peers are not. Tellingly, the reason why the Times ran this series is because they had run a previous debate several days earlier in which they asked five adult “experts” on teenagers whether Holden Caulfield is relevant to “youth today” — and several talkbackers pointed out that the failure to consult teens about teens is exactly the kind of “phoniness” that Holden Caulfield would have hated.
I’ve been thinking she’s Jewish but this Web site claims that she was raised Catholic.
Say it ain’t so! (It’s all part of my irrational pride in any Jew who does good or does well.)
In any case, Margulies has begun collecting awards (Golden Globe) and nominations for awards (Screen Actors Guild) for her performance as the estranged wife of a high-profile state attorney (played by Chris Noth), who screwed around on her and is in prison after having been convicted of political corruption.
It’s all very of the moment, reportedly inspired by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace two years ago. But Margulies’ character seems even more closely modeled on Jenny Sanford, on-her-way-to-being-ex-wife of former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who is emerging from her husband’s scandalous affair, with a future of her own, starting with a new memoir.
Here’s what I want to know: when did parenting become entitlement to impose young children on people around you in places which were, not long ago, understood to be adult spaces?
A mom recently posted on a local listserv, called Park Slope Parents, that she’s offended by a neighborhood pub with a sign on its door that bans children after 5 p.m.
“So, does anyone know if this practice is legal? Obviously kids can’t order a pint, but what about a burger?” she posted.
She goes on to explain that regardless of the ban’s legality, she doesn’t plan on going back, and adds, in what seems to be a huffy tone, “There are many other places where my business would be welcome.” Hesitant though I am to step into something that might get me flamed on this listerv, to which thousands of people subscribe, I just had to respond.
This week’s Oscar nominations have been kind to the Nick Hornby penned film “An Education,” which netted honors for acting, writing, and even Best Picture. The film tells the story of a bright middle-class schoolgirl in a humdrum town in mid-century Britain, who falls into an affair with a cultured, attractive and winning older man named David Goldman. Yep, he’s Jewish. He also ends up being a sneaky, lying, conniving criminal who has deceived our naive protagonist and her family and led her off her dogged path to success which includes an Oxford acceptance.
I enjoyed the earnest acting and the quiet drama of the film, which was so accurate and true to the mindsets of teenage girls. In fact, I could almost overlook Hornby’s somewhat obvious writing and the stereotypical portrayal of the Jewish character, but not quite. Gabrielle Birkner did a great job interviewing Hornby for the Forward back in December, but his responses didn’t quite clear away all my discomfort with the way the Goldman character fits into problematic conceptions of Jewishness. I’m not saying it’s a blatantly antisemitic film, because it has a very sympathetic and humane approach to all its characters, even towards Goldman who’s played brilliantly by Peter Saarsgard. I’m just saying it’s a little too close for comfort to antisemitic tropes.
Feminism has no doubt transformed Orthodoxy over the past three decades. Women have gone from begging to hold a Torah on Simchat Torah to holding their own services, to creating partnership synagogues in which women take active roles alongside men in running the service. It’s not only about women learning Talmud, but also about being acknowledged with proper titles for the roles — from religious leaders who argue cases in the rabbinical courts to the most recent breakthrough of calling women (almost) rabbis. Gender roles in Orthodoxy are rapidly being redefined in homes, communities and synagogues, where men and women share the tasks of preparing for Shabbat and educating children, leading prayer and giving a D’var Torah. The list of changes goes on, and it’s all quite exciting.
Yet, remarkably, these changes have failed to find parallel expression in the Orthodox school system. Notwithstanding tremendous efforts by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) and other groups to address these issues, the fact remains that from preschool on, schools continue to send the message that women are predominantly charged with the home, and men are in charge of prayer and ritual. School books show men as active and women as passive — a message compounded by school decors that have walls plastered with pictures of men/rabbis and women’s pictures few and far between, if at all. The issues surrounding how teachers relate to gender in the classroom, how girls are treated in math and sciences and how boys are treated in art and literature — issues that blasted open in America with the 1992 AAUW report “How Schools Shortchange Girls” and have since contributed to a complete evolution of gender in education in America — have barely been noted in the Orthodox day school system.
Nearly 2,000 people in New York State recently received an unusual bookmark in the mail, from a mysterious group that calls itself Jewish Women Watching.
The bookmark, which can be seen here, calls attention to what it calls “Jewish racist voices” by pointing to the difference in response by Jews to the creation of two public schools in Brooklyn: the Arab language and culture-focused Khalil Gibran International Academy, which opened in September 2007, and the Hebrew Language Academy, which opened its doors this past September.
It seems a change in direction for the group, which began its activism a decade ago when it sent a Jewish New Year card to some 1,500 leaders in the Jewish community, declaring that “sexism is a sin.”
Jami Attenberg’s new novel “The Melting Season” (Riverhead, 2010) is about a young Nebraska woman who leaves her husband and small town for Las Vegas with a suitcase filled with cash. On the road she meets a very un-small town Nebraska cast of characters — including a cross-dressing Prince impersonator and a cancer-surviving flamboyant woman named Valka. Attenberg’s original title for the book was “The Prick,” and was originally conceived as a feminist response to Phillip Roth’s “The Breast,”. Attenberg spoke recently with The Sisterhood about the formation of her Jewish characters, her own breast cancer scare and her conscious efforts to be more of an American writer — and less of a New York writer.
Elissa Strauss: You have written before about how Jewish characters always pop up in your books, even if, unlike your parents who are founders of their local synagogue, being Jewish isn’t a central part of your identity. Well, it happened again in “The Melting Season” with Valka, the cancer-surviving friend and occasional savior to the main character Catherine. Why make Valka Jewish?
Israeli politicians love reports. They love commissioning them. They love pontificating over them. Oh, but when it comes to taking notice of them, that’s another matter.
Over the last decade Israel’s busses have become highly controversial. A committee of haredi rabbis has been working hard to make as many bus lines as it can separate-gender. This means that women enter at the back and sit at the back while men enter at the front and sit at the front. Dozens of bus lines operate in this manner — you can see more on this phenomenon and the controversy it has spawned here.
More than two years ago, a group of women filed a Supreme Court petition claiming that the segregation is illegal and must be stopped. The judge passed the buck to the Transportation Ministry, telling it to come up with a coherent policy. The ministry in turn appointed a committee. The committee released its report in October, and said that any enforcement of segregation is illegal — though passengers who wish can segregate themselves.
The Sisterhood blog began in 2009 with an idea to create a forum where Jewish women — from across ideological and denominational spectrums, in different cities and stages of life — could come together to discuss the issues impacting their lives. We’re enormously proud of how the conversation has taken shape, and the unlikely common ground that it has unearthed.
The Sisterhood is, therefore, a natural venue for exploring the ideas that have the potential to improve the lives of Jewish women and girls. That is why we have joined forces with six other blogs and organizational partners, which, during the month of February, will be putting forth ideas (of all sorts, not just those that focus on Jewish women) to transform the Jewish future. The project is called “28 Days, 28 Ideas” — and it’s an outgrowth of Jewish blogging pioneer Daniel Sieradski’s recent “31 Days, 31 Ideas.”
The Sisterhood Digest:
• In the spring of last year, Sara Hurwitz became the first Orthodox Jewish woman to be ordained as a rabbi. Sort of. Her mentor and teacher, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, in the Bronx, didn’t call it an ordination; he called it a “conferral ceremony.” And he didn’t call her a rabbi, either; he called her a Maharat, a Hebrew acronym meaning “Leader in Jewish Law, Spiritual Matters, and Torah.” Now, Weiss and Hurwitz — who announced shortly after Hurwitz’s conferral ceremony that they were founding a new school to train Maharatot — say that the title just hasn’t stuck. Instead of Maharat, Hurwitz will now be known as rabbah. “This will make it clear to everyone that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff,” said a statement issued by Weiss’ office, “a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.”
• Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects first-person stories of soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories during the Second Intifada, has released a new booklet of testimonies from women soldiers. In interviews with more than 50 women, the organization found that “the girls try to be even more violent and brutal than the boys,” the organization’s director Dana Golan told Ynet, “just to become one of the guys.”
Women can solve the world’s problems by just being a little quieter. That is the message emerging from the resolution of a little fracas in the Religious Zionist world recently. The conflict revolved around the traditional IDF event memorializing the “Lamed-Heh,” the 35 men from the Haganah convoy who gave their lives to protect Gush Etzion in 1948. Bnei Akiva announced their withdrawal from the event because there are to be women singing in the choir. After some hemming and hawing and a few angry responses even from within the Bnei Akiva constituency — including condemnation of the boycott from Bnei Akiva World head Daniel Goldman, as well as Kibbutz Hadati youth, Kolech, and others —the groups reached a “compromise” in which women would not sing at the event, but would sing after the event (once all of the Bnei Akiva kids have left).
Actually, this event is just the latest in a series of national religious boycotts of women’s artistic expression — boycotts that, for the most part, have resulted in public capitulation to demands of religious men, amounting to victories for anti-woman rabbis at the expense of women’s well-being.
The New York Times recently ran a fascinating editorial essay by Adam Cohen on scientific research that soon may make it possible for a baby to have three biological parents.
Scientists have created baby monkeys with a father and two mothers. Their goal was to eliminate birth defects, but increasing the number of biological parents beyond two could add a futuristic twist to an area where the law already is a mess: the question of who, in this age of artificial insemination and surrogacy, should be considered the legal parents of a baby.
Researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center were looking for ways to eliminate diseases that can be inherited through maternal DNA. They developed, as the magazine Nature reported last summer, a kind of swap in which defective DNA from the egg is removed and replaced with genetic material from another female’s egg. The researchers say the procedure is also likely to work on humans.
The people from whom this potential baby would spring would be called “fractional parents,” to use a term coined by University of San Diego Law School Professor Adam Kolber.
It makes a baby sound like a jet, or a time-share.
There are big changes at America’s most overtly Jewish fashion line. Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, founders of Juicy Couture, are stepping down as creative directors — leaving the company in the hands of its parent company, Liz Claiborne, which bought Juicy three years ago. The buzz is that Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy, both Jewish, aren’t thrilled with the direction Liz Claiborne has been taking company, and decided it was time to leave their brand behind.
While Jews have never been strangers with the fashion business, Juicy is the first line that felt Jewish. A 180-degree turn from Ralph Lauren’s (né Lifshitz) adoption of the WASP lifestyle, Juicy represented a flashy and flamboyant full-on embrace of the newly-moneyed JAP lifestyle. The culmination of this, likely being their 2007 Juicy American Princess advertising campaign, which Sisterhood contributor Rebecca Honig Friedman wrote about here.
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