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
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?
An independent Israeli documentary that takes a close look at an Israeli firm outsourcing on a global scale every aspect of baby-making has been picked up by HBO and will air in prime time on June 16, according to this article in Haaretz.
He dispatches the sperm of Israeli men to America, where it fertilizes donor eggs, and then the embryos are sent to India, where they’re implanted in women who work as gestational surrogates and live in special clinics until they give birth. The Forward wrote about the phenomenon here. The most involvement that the American would-be parents have, until they pick up their baby in India, is providing their credit card information.
The Sisterhood Digest:
• For all of you with two Jewish mothers — or two mothers, period — consider yourself lucky: A new study shows that children raised by lesbian mothers have fewer behavioral problems than their peers.
• An Egyptian court has ruled that men who marry Jewish Israeli women — and children born of those unions — are to be stripped of their Egyptian citizenship.
• The FDA will mull the approval of a new “morning-after pill” — this one, from France — that is said to be effective five days after having unprotected sex. Plan B, the only emergency contraceptive pill now on the market, is thought to work only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.
The Knesset passed a revolutionary egg donor law this week, easing the path for women to use egg donations from Israeli women. As Sisterhood editor Gabi Birkner wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article, egg donation in Israel has been a topic of major controversy in Israel, due in large part to rabbinic statements and rulings that have placed considerable obstacles in front of women seeking out egg donations as well as surrogate mothers. The religious issues compounded the many ethical, logistical and economic issues that infertile women face worldwide.
The new law, which had been stalling between Knesset readings for 10 years before it was passed, enables women up to age 54 to receive egg donations, and thus offers tremendous assistance to women who have trouble conceiving. Until now, women seeking egg donors, for the most part, have had to go outside of Israel, at tremendous expense and hassle. The law, which goes into effect in six months, allows Israeli women ages 21-34 to become donors, allows women to begin the process even if they have not been undergoing fertility treatments, and enables the donor to receive several thousand dollars in payment in order to cover missed work days, the same way sperm donors receive compensation. Women can donate eggs up to three times during their lifetime, with a mandated six months’ gap in between donations. They can donate their to no more than three women.
Although for most of the world, the Israel story of the week was about flotillas, for Israeli teens, the big story of the week was math.
It’s bagrut season, matriculation time, when high school students endeavor to pass exams that will likely make or break what university programs they get into, and have a direct impact on their long-term future success. The two big subjects are undoubtedly English and math. This year, two days before the math bagrut, it was discovered that part of the exam had been leaked. Of course, gone are the days when exam theft had a mysterious and unconfirmed air about it, like when I was in 10th grade and the Chemistry Regent was reportedly floating around. I thought it was only a rumor, until New York State actually cancelled the exam. No, times have changed: This math bagrut was being passed around on Facebook. Had Israel’s Ministry of Education been even the tiniest bit more social-media savvy, they may have discovered it a few days earlier and not suffer a mad rush of recreating a test within 24 hours.
As the investigation into the source of the leak was underway, the story that began to emerge was only in part about greed (or maybe not greed, but rather economic desperation of radically underpaid teachers). Beneath this was a striking story about gender: about women and math, and about women and professional confidence.
Like any little girl growing up in the 1970s who dreamed of a career in journalism, I couldn’t but help but look up to Helen Thomas. There she was, front row to history, president after president, asking her questions and closing each press conference with her signature “Thank You, Mr. President” and earning the title of “Dean of the White House Press Corps.”
Those of us with Lois Lane fantasies who nonetheless doubted our ability to ever resemble the poised and perfectly groomed Barbie doll TV anchorwomen, drew hope from the determined dowdy, slightly kooky lady who dared to challenge presidents with her questions. She was the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman officer and first female president of the White House Correspondents Association.
In my 20s, while the Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, I had the opportunity to sit in the White House press room — albeit numerous rows behind Thomas and the other veterans.
Derek Jeter came down my stairs this morning.
Well, not the man himself, but his scent. Moments before I see Boychik, I smell him, and these days he smells of the cologne “Derek Jeter Driven.”
Boychik, an avid fan of the Yankees, got his mitts on a sample at the World Series Parade in downtown Manhattan last fall and, as soon as he arrived back in Brooklyn, made for the computer like a player on third base running for home. Already thrilled after having seen star Yankees wave in his direction at the parade, he got as high as a pop fly when he saw that Avon was running a “buy one, get another for 1 cent” deal. Now, even with the copious amounts of “Derek Jeter Driven” he applies each morning it seems like he’ll never run out. Thanks, Avon.
Boychik, who is now 16, is definitely not alone among male teenagers in his interest in scented personal grooming. In fact, the teen and ‘tween demographics are a burgeoning market, and according to this article, is a worldwide phenomenon.
Just last week, your grandmother was at Dr. Finklestein’s office for her regular teeth cleaning and Sarah, the dental hygenist, told her all about her nephew who just met the nicest Jewish girl on JDate. Can you believe it? JDate! You know, you should really try JDate. You’re not getting any younger, you know.
Enter the modern-day Jewish fairytale: Nice Jewish boy meets nice Jewish girl on JDate. They have a beautiful Jewish wedding, a couple beautiful Jewish babies and live happily ever after. And now that JDate is going mobile, we can carry the fable around in our pockets.
Well, take it from someone with more online dating experience than she is comfortable admitting, JDate is not the magical matchmaking entity it appears to be in these contemporary fables. In fact, there are quite a few pitfalls of JDating that your grandmother probably doesn’t know about. I know this because I am a JDater and I feel like the time has come to add a more realistic voice to burgeoning myth.
In his new play, “The Housewives of Mannheim,” Alan Brody tells the story of four Jewish women living in a Brooklyn tenement during World War II. With their husbands gone to fight the war, the women begin to break out of their domestic shells and discover their inner lives are much more complicated than they had imagined.
Elissa Strauss: The entire play takes place inside a Jewish women’s kitchen. Why did you chose this setting?
Alan Brody: “The Housewives of Mannheim” is a memory play. I grew up in an apartment house in Flatbush that was very much like the extended community these women live in. The kitchen, of course, was the center of that community. I find that the memory of childhood places is a rich source for the imagination. As a kid, I believed that everything of significance happened in the kitchen. Will I knew there were things happening in other places, too, but I wasn’t allowed there. As a 10-year-old, I believed that my mother and all her friends were most fully themselves in the kitchen — not just because it was a place of nurture but it because it was social place, too.
The characters in the play use the relative freedom bestowed upon them by their husbands’ absence in order to explore their own desires and needs. How was this a period of change for American Jewish women — and for American women in general?
I began my phone call to my friend Karen with the same question that has launched all of our recent conversations: “How’s Noah?”
And so I get the latest report on her 18-year-old son who recently entered training for a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces. Noah is the first child of a close friend to enlist in the IDF.
Her answer is a unique mixture of happiness and apprehension. “Well, he is so happy. He loves it. He’s exhausted. His last text message to me said, ‘I’m bruised, I’m sore, I’m exhausted, I’ve never been happier.’ He came home last Shabbat with a prize for his skills in shooting a really big gun. Shooting!?? I think of him as my son, not a soldier. I’m thrilled for him, but I’m scared, too. I worry how much he is going to have to give to this.”
Does your film have two women in it? Do they have names? Do they talk to each other? About things other than men?
These are the questions, the only questions, of the Bechdel Test, otherwise known as the Mo Movie Measure. Like the APGAR test, it’s a flawed system. But in the same way that the APGAR is a pretty good gauge of the health of a newborn, the Bechdel Test is a pretty reliable, though by no means infallible, gauge of how seriously a film takes women.
While most comments about Jewish control of the media are clearly paranoid, there are a number of important Jewish filmmakers — almost exclusively male — in Hollywood and their portrayals of women are influential. But the films that these nice (and, presumably, some not-so-nice) Jewish boys are making all too often fail the test, perhaps to the detriment of their real and virtual communities.
What would you do if you were an American Christian woman and your 9-year-old daughter decided to start donning the hijab, a scarf completely covering the head and shoulders worn by traditional Muslim women?
Married to a Libyan Muslim, they live with their daughter and younger son in Carrboro, N.C. When Aliyah (which means “exalted” in Arabic, not much different from the word’s meaning in Hebrew) first arrived, Bremer had an idealistic — even naïve — vision of how she and her husband would raise their daughter in their interfaith family.
The Sisterhood Digest:
• Israel has become a major battleground in the Democratic primary fight between incumbent Jane Harman and challenger Marcy Winograd. Both women vying to represent California’s 36th congressional district are Jewish, but Winograd is much more critical of Israeli policy than is her opponent, and she has accused Harman of being beholden to AIPAC; Harman is taking her offensive to the airwaves.
• The New York Times reports on the new Oklahoma law, which, much like one enacted in Alabama in 2002, requires a woman seeking an abortion to “be presented with an ultrasound image and with a detailed oral description of the embryo or fetus.” Anti-abortion advocates hope this will encourage women to carry to term; those in favor of abortion rights say the directives are just cruel.
• Ynet columnist Rivkah Lubitch advocates the establishment of alternative rabbinic courts in Israel. Her call to action comes in the wake of the Chief Rabbinate’s new rules requiring the marriage registrar to send converts and those whose parents were married outside of Israel to go to religious court, in order to determine their status as a Jew or a non-Jew.
Some great music artists have been performing in Israel. Madonna’s 2009 concert and Elton John’s concert in two weeks are definite highlights, although I suppose this admission reveals that I am in fact just a teeny-bopper at heart.
Given the political context, I feel like I should probably be grateful for any artist willing to stand up firm against those who advocate for a boycott boldly take the stage in Ramat Gan. But, as much as I’m loathe to admit this, I’m less excited about some artists than about others.
Rihanna, for example, who is in Israel at the moment, makes me bristle. She is a walking advertisement for how to become a battered woman. It’s not just that she reportedly went back to the man who beat her so badly that he reportedly gave her a black eye and broken teeth. It’s not just that she reportedly “forgave him” before he began serving his sentence for assault. After all, he wrote a song for her, so how could she not forgive, right? At least that’s what throngs of talkbackers said. It’s not just her real life but also her music that truly turns me off. Rihanna’s hit “Russian Roulette” is one of the most chilling, anti-women songs I have ever heard.
Look what just hit the Internet — the Tichel Cuties (tichel being the scarf that traditionally observant Jewish women wear over their hair once they are married) singing a kosher version of some Lady Gaga songs. Well, it may be kosher, but it’s not so innocent. The sexual overtones — not to mention some of the lyrics — in this video caused me to be pretty sure that this is all a satire. … Right?
The video was posted to YouTube as an “Ofn Tisch” (Yiddish for “on the table”) production by site member “dugree” (Hebrew/Arabic slang for “telling it straight” – as in, no bullshitting around). But if you look closely, you can see that it bears the mark of the Bible Raps Project duo Matt Bar and Ori Salzberg. Salberg can be seen in some of his videos wearing a T-shirt imprinted with “dati l’lo kippah,” which means non-yarmulke-wearing religious Jew.
Most importantly, it’s stated at the end of “Chagaga! (Tichel Cuties)” that “No actual married women appeared in this video.” Whew, what a relief.
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