Sisterhood Blog

On Not Wanting To Become a Mother

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

A friend of mine had an abortion this week. She wasn’t raped, she is not underage, and she is not experiencing a mental breakdown. She simply does not want to have children. She is not mean or cold or super-ambitious. She’s lovely and smart and funny. She just never felt the “urge.” She is 38-years old, has been married for two years, and says simply, “If the rest of my life is spent with just my husband and me, I would be really happy.”

But the decision not to have children is not so simple for a Jewish woman, especially for a Jewish woman in Israel. First of all, there is enormous family pressure. My friend’s parents do not understand her position, and they are relentless in offering their opinions on the subject. Of course, “family” also refers to distant cousins, co-workers and occasional passengers on the train who have no compunctions about asking, “So, when are you planning on starting a family?” Even the assumption of the question is that two people do not constitute a family, like there is something wrong with you. (See The Sisterhood debate about being Jewish and childless by choice here, here and here.)

Then there is the position of the State of Israel. True, abortion is legal in Israel. But in order to obtain that legal right, women who seek to terminate a pregnancy are put through the ringer. They have to apply to a committee, which usually includes a social worker, a rabbi, and perhaps a doctor, and, as if sitting before a parole board, women have to recount in gruesome and invasive detail exactly why they want an abortion.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Motherhood, Childless by Choice, Abortion, Parenting

Ruth Madoff's Marital Bed May Be Returned

By Gabrielle Birkner

GETTY IMAGES
The bed, on the auction block.

The 10.5-carat diamond ring that once graced Ruth Madoff’s hand, and the Steinway piano that once graced her living room are likely gone for good. But the elaborately draped, four-poster bed that she slept in alongside the world’s most famous Ponzi schemer could soon be hers again — that is, if the woman who purchased it Saturday at an auction of Madoff family possessions is serious.

Tally Wiener, an Upper West Side resident who put in the winning bid for the ornate bed, told CBS-2 News: “My heart goes out to Ruth Madoff and I would be happy to give her back her bed.”

Wiener is a bankruptcy attorney, who in February 2009 wrote an article explaining the legal framework for “clawbacks,” as a means to compensate victims of Bernard Madoff’s fraud. According to this article in The New York Times, Wiener and a fellow bankruptcy lawyer attended another Madoff auction about a year ago, where they purchased “a tree stump that had been turned into an end table for $500.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tally Wiener, Bernard Madoff, Ruth Madoff

'To Pee or Not To Pee' and Other Womanly Dilemmas

By Hinda Mandell

A critically wounded woman’s decision to become a single mother; a grandmother’s Holocaust-era story told through live action and animation; and an Incan family’s conversion to Judaism and subsequent move to Israel are among the subjects of this year’s Jewish Women’s Film Festival selections. The one-day event, organized by the National Council of Jewish Women – New York Section and its Eleanor Leff Jewish Women’s Resource Center, takes place Sunday at New York City’s Baruch College.

On offer will be eight short films about the lived experiences and aspirations of Jewish women. There will be two sessions, each featuring four films — 5 to 61 minutes each — and a Q&A with the filmmakers; a session costs $18 a person at the door.

Personally, my eye’s on the 5-minute short “To Pee or Not To Pee.” The festival describes the film as “the briefest of comedies depicting a worldwide problem with which all women can identify and have often experienced.”

And to that we can all say “Amen.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: National Council of Jewish Women, Film Festival, NCJW

Are Women or Communal Structures to Blame for Economic Disparities?

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

A year after the Forward reported on how women in the Jewish communal workforce lag behind their male counterparts in pay and promotion, a new study released this week reinforces the economic discrimination against women in American Jewish communal life. “Profiling the Professionals: Who’s Serving Our Communities?” authored by Steven M. Cohen for the Berman Jewish Policy Archive demonstrates that women in Jewish communal work earn on average $28,000 a year less than men for equal work – or $20,000 a year when mitigating factors are considered. At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to say that $28,000 is a lot of money. In Israel, that is considered a decent annual salary.

“Although women comprise about two-thirds of the professional workforce,” the report states, “their salaries, on whole, continue to lag significantly below their male counterparts. This pervasive issue remains a concern for attracting and retaining the best talent for the field.”

Economic discrimination against women is so rampant and so widely reported at this point that it’s surprising that the problem has not been redressed yet. In Israel, the problem seems to be getting worse, as women’s wages of 62 agurot for every man’s shekel has remained almost constant since the early 1980s. So the question on everyone’s minds seems to be, why aren’t women’s economic lives noticeably improving?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wage Gap, Steven M. Cohen, Salaries, Economics, Gloria Feldt

Gene Simmons: Jewish Husband of the Year?

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Wikimedia Commons
Gene Simmons

Did I ever think that I’d be calling a studded codpiece-wearing demon the best Jewish husband on television? No, but after developing a mild addiction to the A&E cable network reality show “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” starring the KISS bassist, his long-time girlfriend and their two young-adult children, I must.

Simmons was born in Haifa to a Hungarian Holocaust survivor and given the name Chaim Witz. He came with his mother, Flora Klein, to Jackson Heights, Queens, when he was 8. Shortly after arriving in the U.S. Chaim adopted the name Eugene Klein. He later attended Sullivan County Community College, in the Catskills, and in the late 1960s started calling himself Gene Simmons after rockabilly performer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons.

With another Boychik, Paul Stanley (né Stanley Harvey Eisen), Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, they formed KISS, which even now occasionally tours. Simmons is a merchandising maven and has countless KISS product deals putting the band’s name and logo on everything from guitars to action figures to condoms.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Husband, Gene Simmons, Family Jewels, Kiss

The Timeless Lessons of Broadway's 'Driving Miss Daisy'

By Lillian Swanson

Annabel Clark
Vanessa Redgrave as a Southern Jewish widow in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’

Prejudice is so easy to embrace when it’s seen at a distance, and nearly impossible to sustain when viewed up close. Thus, in the story of “Driving Miss Daisy,” the revival now playing on Broadway, we watch a 72-year-old Southern Jewish widow drop her guard and learn over the decades to trust her black chauffeur. A true friendship blooms between them on the roads of Georgia and Alabama, and the play ends with a tender moment.

It’s a simple story with simple staging, which makes it possible to fully appreciate the magnificent gifts that the stars, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones, bring to the stage. Their gentle banter and the nuance and restraint they bring to their roles allow us to ponder anew the terrible thoughts that underlie what they say.

They are, in fact, navigating some of the most explosive thoughts — about race hatred and anti-Semitism — in the annals of human prejudice. But because the dialogue is delivered with a side of humor and a few helpings of hope, we come away feeling good, feeling that some progress has been made.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Vanessa Redgrave, Prejudice, James Earl Jones, Driving Miss Daisy

In Israel, Attempts To Remove Women From the Public Sphere

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

Rahel Jaskow
On Israel’s gender-segregated buses, women are relegated to the back.

When the first gender-segregated buses appeared on the Israeli roads in 1997, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how far the phenomenon would spread. Today, not only are there gender segregated buses in many Israeli cities — and even on bus lines that go through non-Haredi neighborhoods — but there are segregated post offices, banks, health care centers, police stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, candy stores, conferences, elevators, Luna Parks, cemeteries, city streets, schools, courtyards, tours of historic sites, and the Western Wall. There have been conferences of the Education Ministry and events from a variety of local municipalities that demanded segregation. And there is currently pressure to introduce separate trains and buses as well.

“This is actually against the law,” said Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz on Tuesday at a special Knesset session dedicated to examining this troubling and growing phenomenon. In fact, all of these locations are meant to be public spaces that, according to a 1949 decree of the first government — signed also by four religious parties at the time — must be guaranteed full equality. In addition, a 2000 law forbids “discrimination in products, services and entrance to places of entertainment and public spaces”.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Gender Segregation, Discrimination, Buses, Israel

Germany's Pioneering Female Rabbis

By Gabrielle Birkner

Getty Images
Alina Treiger at her November 4 ordination.

Alina Treiger made headlines last week, when she became the first woman rabbi to be ordained in Germany in 75 years. But Treiger, 31, is not the first woman rabbi to serve in Germany since World War II.

That would be Bea Wyler, who was trained and ordained at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary during. Her 1995 appointment to serve the Jewish community in and around Oldenburg, in northwestern Germany, caused considerable controversy — amid the rabbinical establishment’s refusal to accept a female rabbi into its ranks. The Ukrainian-born Treiger, whose rise has been more warmly received than that of her predecessor, will also serve the community of Oldenburg.

Treiger’s appointment has revived interest in Regina Jonas, Germany’s first woman rabbi, ordained in 1935 — nine years before she murdered at Auschwitz. “When I look at [Jonas’s] photograph I’m reminded of what a significant step this is,” Treiger told The Guardian.

Several more women, studying in Germany to become rabbis, are expected to be ordained in the coming years.

Mazel tov, er, Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Rabbi Treiger!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Regina Jonas, Germany, Bea Wyler, Alina Treiger

What the Bush Family 'Fetus in a Jar' Says About the 'Culture of Life'

By Sarah Seltzer

By this afternoon the internet is quite beside itself — or perhaps befuddled is the better word — with the story told by George W. Bush about having to drive his mom, former First Lady Barbara Bush, to the hospital after a miscarriage. Apparently on the way she showed him the remains of the miscarriage — a fetus — in a jar she was taking with her. From that moment on, Bush says, he opposed abortion because he saw the miscarriage as the loss of a sibling.

Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory points out that the incident didn’t seem to have the same effect on Bush’s mom, who has said she’s pro-choice (as is his wife, Laura). Meanwhile my colleague Robin Marty at RH Reality Check notes an inevitable comparison to the behavior of former right-wing Senator Rick Santorum, who brought his wife’s deceased 20-week-old fetus home to cuddle and pose for pictures with the family before returning the body to the hospital.

There’s nothing wrong with mourning the loss of a pregnancy for any reason. But whatever your views about abortion are, there’s something decidedly strange going on with all this fetus-preserving and fetusworshipping in the name of anti-abortion views. This may be particularly true for those of us with a Jewish sensibility about death, coming from a tradition in which we’re instructed to bury our loved ones soon and simply — without delaying the end of their physical existence.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Abortion, Anti-Abortion, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush, Miscarriage

On HuffPost, D-I-V-O-R-C-E Gets Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

By Elissa Strauss

Divorce is almost always presented as a prickly topic, one that imbues it survivors with bitterness and regrets. And so when I first heard about The Huffington Post’s new section devoted to divorce, I expected ranting. But most of the contributors on the site appear to be reasonable and sincere grown-ups — a mixture of financial experts, religious figures and everyday people who have experienced divorce; their content provides readers with sound advice on how to move through a period time that is almost always difficult. They make divorce sound, well, okay.

As a child of divorce I have felt, even with my new husband, the shame associated with divorce. My parents’ divorce is not just sad, but a little embarrassing — as if it could have avoided if they had exhibited a bit more rationality and restraint. There’s a sense that they, and we as a family, failed.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Huffington Post, Divorce

Haredi Rabbi Talks 'Kosher Feminism'

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Sunday was the enormous Lubavitch Kinnus HaShluchim, replete with 3,500 of the rebbe’s emissaries in Crown Heights for Shabbos and coverage in The New York Times, of the banquet meal at Brooklyn’s cruise terminal, the only space large enough to accommodate the crowd.

I write this while watching a live feed of the speakers. The shluchos, or female emissaries, have their own convention in Brooklyn in February. Shluchim are only sent out as married couples, and in the Lubavitch community both the husband and wife are regarded as full partners in the work.

Seeing this weekend’s convention reminded me of the speaker I heard at a recent Shabbos dinner, where Rabbi Chaim Miller spoke about “kosher feminism.” It was held at the synagogue where my husband and I were married, 20 years ago, which is being revitalized by a young Lubavitch shaliach named Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Haredi, Feminism, Emissaries, Chaim Miller, Chabad, Lubavitch

In Israel, Civil Marriage Is on the Horizon — But Only For a Few

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

L’Chaim! It’s nearly time to celebrate for the 60,000 Israelis who, until now, were unable to marry in their own country because they are not Jewish according to Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law.

And thousands of Jewish couples will be extremely jealous.

A new marriage registrar, expected to be approved by the Israeli government within days, will pave the way for civil marriage, which, until now, has been non-existent. Right now, valid marriages are only those performed by an official representative of the religious community to which the couple is affiliated — Jewish, Muslim, Druze or Christian.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marriage, David Rotem, Israel, Civil Marriage, Chief Rabbinate

My Grandmother's Obsession Becomes My Own

By Marla Brown Fogelman

Beit Hatfutsot
A photo of some of the Jews of Nicandro.

It was because of my late grandmother and her 40-year obsession with a book called “The Prophet of San Nicandro” that I was sitting at Columbia University’s Café 212, in the middle of a bone-chilling December afternoon, having coffee with professor John Davis.

Davis, who holds the chair in Modern Italian History at the University of Connecticut, had agreed to meet with me several hours before his seminar on “The Jews of San Nicandro: A Curious Tale of Collective Conversion in a 20th Century Mediterranean Community.”

As I sat listening to Davis talk about how he first came across the existence of the San Nicandro converts, I thought how thrilled Bubby would be that a bona-fide scholar was resurrecting the improbable tale that had had such a hold on her for decades — of how a group of Catholic peasants in a remote southern Italian village came to practice their own form of Judaism during the rise of Fascism, and converted en masse after World War II.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: San Nicandro, John Davis

Rethinking That Infamous 'Glee' Photo Shoot

By Elissa Strauss

gq.com

I, too, thought “uh-oh” when I saw the now infamous “Glee” photo shoot in GQ — see our earlier, related post here — nodding my head in agreement to the chorus of critiques deeming it sexist and even pornographic. But then I remembered what I used to dress like in my early 20s and realized that perhaps I had been too quick to judge. Fine, I never wore underwear as pants while suggestively sucking on a lollipop like Lea Michele does in the photo shoot, but you could certainly say that my wardrobe as a married woman is considerably more modest that many of the Friday night get-ups I used to wear in my early 20s.

Because I am slow to learn, I had a similar knee-jerk reaction when reading Dodai Stewart’s response to the article “The Truth About Beauty,” by Amy Alkon on Pyschologytoday.com. I instantly sided with Stewart that the article, which encourages women to remain mindful of their outer-beauty and promotes the damaging messages put forth by mainstream women’s and men’s magazines.

Like Stewart, I was revolted by the closing line from Alkon’s piece.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Glee, GQ, Beauty

A Close Look at the Bigotries of Reality TV

By Sarah Seltzer

Jennifer Pozner’s new book, “Reality Bites Back,” is out this week. In its pages, she takes our favorite “guilty pleasure” genre of TV to task for racism, sexism and manipulation of its audience. Pozner spoke recently with The Sisterhood. Her satirical book trailer is below, and the interview follows.

Sarah Seltzer: How did your interest in paying close attention to reality TV develop?

Jennifer Pozner: I basically started monitoring reality TV in 2002 when “The Bachelor” began to air. I sensed a new backlash meme was about to start. People were saying “oh, it’s just a fad.” But I knew that wasn’t the case because of media economics. It’s really easy to think shows come and go based on what viewers want to see but that’s not true. It’s more what advertisers want to pay for and what networks want to design for their advertisers. And reality TV is up to 50-75% cheaper than scripted shows, and it nets networks hundreds of thousands of dollars of product placement. So I thought we’d see more of this kind of show. I was hoping I was wrong but unfortunately I wasn’t. And I thought someone had to write this book.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: TV, Jennifer Pozner, Reality Television

Bill Seeks To Make Israel's Paternity Leave More Generous

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

Until recently, only women in Israel received automatic parental leave following childbirth. The husband, while entitled by law to up to 6 weeks of leave, could only take off from work once the mother returned to work, and only after a period of six weeks from the birth date. But this may be about to change. According to a bill introduced by Kadima MK Robert Tiviaev, new fathers will be entitled to a seven day leave with pay, starting on the day that a new baby is born.

Tivaiaev explained that the bill comes from request from testimony of many men who appeared at the Knesset committee meetings on the subject, testimony which he believes is confirmed by research collected on paternity leave practices around the world.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Parental Leave, Paternity Leave

New Curriculum Highlights Work of Jewish, Female Civil Rights Activists

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wallace Roberts, via JWA
Heather Booth plays guitar for Fannie Lou Hamer during the Freedom Summer Project in Mississippi, 1964.

When we think of Jews who played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, names like Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel immediately come to mind. Few of us would name Judith Frieze Wright, Heather Tobis Booth or Beatrice “Buddy” Mayer. A free, new online curriculum called “Living the Legacy,” written by Judith Rosenbaum and published by Jewish Women’s Archive is attempting to change that — by shedding light on Jews and the Civil Rights Movement through a distinctly feminist lens.

“Living the Legacy” is a robust guide to the questions Jewish teens today should be considering — not only about Jewish participation in the Civil Rights Movement of 50 years ago, but also about their own political identity and commitment to social justice and human rights.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Judith Frieze Wright, Heather Booth, Freedom Summer, Civil Rights, Beatrice Mayer

Our Rack: Yeshiva Girl YA; Bios of Bernhardt, Alcott

By Elissa Strauss

Some of the books on ‘Our Rack.’ (click to enlarge)

NON-FICTION

In “Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt Robert Gottlieb,” Robert Gottlieb trims away the fat from the storied life of the legendary actress, who was born Jewish and who was later baptized a Roman Catholic. Gottlieb presents a peppy and concise biography rooted in facts and recorded accounts. The book, the debut title in Yale’s Jewish Lives series, looks at the people and places central to Bernhardt’s rise. Read the Forward’s review here.


Novelist Elisa Albert has edited a book of literary essays on the complicated relationships among siblings. In “Freud’s Blind Spot,” writers such as Erica Jong and Julie Orringer examine the powerful yet often complicated bond between brothers and sisters. (Elisa Albert will be a guest on an upcoming Yid Lit podcast.)

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sarah Bernhardt, Our Rack, Nicole Krauss, Louisa May Alcott, Elisa Albert, Books

Does Tony Blair Sister-in-Law’s Conversion to Islam Highlight a Trend?

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

It didn’t come as a utter surprise to the British public when Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, decided to convert to Islam. The journalist, activist and all-around political gadfly demonstrated against the war in Iraq, and in 2008, she was on one of the first boats headed to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade. She made headlines when she declared Gaza “the largest concentration camp in the world.”

And now, just after starting her new job as a newscaster for Iran’s English-language Press TV, Booth says that she has become Muslim, after experiencing a “religious awakening” in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

But if her conversion wasn’t all that stunning, seeing the outspoken blonde, wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf has sparked spirited conversation as to why modern Western career women would be attracted to Islam.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Lauren Booth, Islam, Conversion, Tony Blair

Teaching My Daughter To Take Risks

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

Together, my 11-year-old daughter, Naomi, and I took the plunge. Nervous and uncertain of what lay before us, we waded into the water of the Sea of Galilee and began swimming, alongside thousands of Israelis — young and old, all shapes and sizes.

The annual tradition of swimming across the Sea of Galilee predates the State of Israel. In 1944, a few dozen competitive male and female swimmers crossed a nine kilometer course. In the early years, the swim was only for the very athletic and competitive. Over the years, it has evolved and been transformed into a massive event, that enjoys corporate sponsorship by Speedo.

Early in the morning there are the competitive legs, with prizes and medals for individuals and combined times of swimming leagues from across the country. But the big event, open to the public, is the “People’s Swim.” It is anything but a race. Every few meters, there is a raft where swimmers can hang on, climb up, or take a rest. Teenagers stop and dive or do cannonballs off of the cruise ship anchored halfway across the course. Families swim together — some of them holding ropes and pulling younger children along on rafts. For locals, it is an annual tradition.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Risk, Sea of Galilee, Swimming



Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

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.