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
“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.”
It’s been a long, strange journey for Tali Fahima. From a Likud-voting legal secretary from the southern development town of Kiryat Gat to a Palestinian rights activist in the West Bank city of Jenin to an inmate in an Israeli prison. Now, the Jewish-born Israeli has converted to the religion of Islam. News of her conversion appeared this week on the Israeli Islamic Movement’s website — and according to Jack Khoury in Haaretz:
Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. Afterwards, she visited the home of Sheikh Raed Salah and informed him of her conversion.
Fahima, a square-faced woman with distinctive eyeglasses, was never your mainstream Israeli peace activist. Unaffiliated with any group, she spontaneously decided to seek out Palestinians and ended up corresponding with Zakaria Zubeidi, the former Jenin chief of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
The most surprising and pleasurable thing about watching Carole King perform with her dear friend James Taylor on their reunion tour Thursday night was how fresh it all seemed. Her music was not simply the soundtrack to my life in high school and college, when “Tapestry” burst onto the music scene and suddenly this Jewish woman from New York with curly hair and exceptional talent gave voice to all our generation’s emotions.
It is just as alive today — especially in the way King performed, often jumping away from the piano, microphone in hand, and criss-crossing the stage, prancing, dancing, clapping, beckoning the audience to join in with such exuberance that it was impossible to resist. And who can resist singing along with “Jazz Man,” and “Smackwater Jack,” and especially the magnificent “Natural Woman”?
A new anthology, titled “Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires,” includes essays by 14 women who identify themselves as part of the GLBQT community. Some remain part of the frum community, and write anonymously. One is from a prominent politically conservative family and talks about her family’s gradual acceptance process of her and her non-Jewish partner. One woman easily passes as a man in Israel, while she doesn’t in America. While most of the essays are personal coming-out stories, one is a scholarly review of Torah sources and Jewish legal literature on lesbianism.
The book is edited by Miryam Kabakov, a founder of New York OrthoDykes. Kabakov now lives in St. Paul, Minn. with partner Mara Benjamin and their two daughters, who are 4-years-old and 10-months-old. Kabakov directs the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival and calls herself “post-modern Orthodox,” attending Conservative movement-affiliated Congregation Beth Jacob.
She answered a few questions for The Sisterhood, and will be the subject of a forthcoming episode of our podcast interview series.
I agree with Conor Friedersdorf, who in The Atlantic wrote that women should rebel against engagement rings. Friedersdorf argues:
Why should women want to end diamond engagement rings? Well first of all, it’s your money too, presuming the wedding eventually occurs, and more than that, you’re the ones who are silently judged by status conscious people every time they look at the size of your rock — in other words, either you’ve got reason to feel bad about what other people think of you, or else you’re complicit in a system that makes people with less wealthy fiancés feel bad about themselves.
A male friend recently told me a story about how a buddy of his was instructed by his fiancé to not buy her engagement ring. She wanted one, but knew that her fiancé could not afford a rock that she would feel proud wearing next to the less modest versions worn by the other women at her law firm. This did not make her fiancé feel very good about himself, and that’s not a good way to start a marriage.
M., a 28-year old Eritrean woman who grew up in Ethiopia, decided to emigrate with her husband in May 2009 in the hopes of a better life. Trying the Sudan and then Egypt, they eventually hoped to make their way towards Israel. A group of Bedouins took their money in exchange for a promise to bring them to Israel, but instead, they allegedly abused them terribly.
“My husband was tortured by them,” M. told workers at the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel, where they recorded her testimony from her cell in Saharonim prison. “In front of my eyes, they slowly burnt parts of his body until he died of his wounds. His body was tossed on the road. I was raped and badly beaten by them.”
This week, the testimony of M. and nine other women currently in the Saharonim prison awaiting deportation will be heard by the Committee on the Trafficking of Women in the Knesset. The goal of the Hotline activists is to grant women status as victims of sex trafficking in order to allow Israel to provide the women with a safe haven rather than send them back to where they came from.
Flare-ups and screw-ups in the Middle East reveal peoples’ biases much closer to home — and I’m addicted to discovering them. The last few times there’s been a flare-up of violence and controversy between Israel and its antagonists, I’ve taken to quietly but obsessively scrolling through the comments sections of blogs discussing the topic. I get a perverse kick out of witnessing people desperately trying to avoid a flame war and eventually getting sucked into one anyway. Of course.
Each thread has its guaranteed characters: Those for whom the mere mention of conflict in Israel seems to cause steam to come out of their ears, those who immediately complain about undue criticism of Israel and point to far more autocratic regimes, their foes who repeatedly list human rights abuses Israel has allegedly perpetrated, and the would-be mediators, the proudly rational “let’s all calm down” folks.
And then there are the bigots — on both sides. Yes, occasionally people write something really intelligent after a fiasco like the recent flotilla raid. But more frequently the internet gives one access to a whole bunch of anti-Semitism on one side, and equally vicious anti-Arab racism on the other. My husband and I call it the “Zionism is racism vs. the racist Zionists” phenomenon.
I’m very disappointed in Feministing. One of the leading feminist blogs out there, usually a courageous voice in calling for justice and fairness, has come out on the wrong side of the Helen Thomas story. I would have expected some wisdom and understanding, a bit of passion in the fight against hatred, bigotry, and oppression. But when it comes to the Jewish people, Feministing is apparently not interested in standing up for the victim here:
I’m deeply saddened that a woman journalist who broke such incredible barriers in the field is retiring over something like this. As inappropriate and offensive as her remarks were to people, I just can’t help wondering with PunditMom about all the other newsfolks who have gotten away with the most racist, homophobic and abhorrent commentary for years without even a slap on the wrist.
In college, I abandoned a sort of mystical, wishy-washy Reform Jewish with a touch of nature-worshiping belief system to embrace happy, unabashed non-believer status. Nonetheless, I retained a deep love for Jewish tradition and spirituality and a fierce commitment to Jewish self-identification and ritual.
So when my avowedly atheist but equally culturally-proud Jewish fiancé and I started talking wedding plans, it should have been easy to come up with a compromise. And yet, I found myself agonizingly loathe to part with the idea of having a rabbi officiate. My latent hunger for an authoritative religious figure reared its head, even though I knew I wouldn’t believe much of what came out of his or her mouth.
You see, since I was raised in the Reform tradition and attended a progressive Jewish day school, I had grown pretty comfortable with a kind of selective filtering. A large percentage of the crowd at my synagogue probably felt quite dubious about what they were singing, saying, chanting or hearing at any given time. In fact most of the sermons I heard over the years openly addressed everyone’s profound discomfort with elements of the text we were reading. And it was all good: We celebrated; we ate. So for a major life cycle event, I thought, why not just keep it in the faith?
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