Sisterhood Blog

Thoroughly Modern Shidduch

By Daniela Gerson

When I was 23, I interviewed a Lubavitch matchmaker for a story I was writing. The more she explained her profession to me, the more appealing the whole idea sounded: Your parents get together with a professional and find someone for you. You’ve got a say in who you match with, but none of this agony of hoping a mixture of chemistry and fate will bring you your true love.

In the 10 years since that interview, many yentas young and old, across continents and denominations, have tried to play a role in matching me. But most of my actual affairs have been fleeting, foreign and decidedly goyish. My longest relationships have been with a Catholic from Rio, a Muslim from Tunis, and an agnostic from Vermont who shares the name of a very unkosher cut of meat. None have been result of a self-appointed matchmaker’s efforts.

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Rachel Maddow's Feat Times Three

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

Last night Rachel Maddow interviewed Michael Moore at that stalwart Jewish cultural institution, the 92 street Y. Maddow had been under tremendous pressure from the feminist community to bring up the issue of Julian Assange’s rape charges — Moore’s overly flip dismissal of which I wrote about here last week.

Since then, the movement to get Moore to re-address the rape allegations has swelled on twitter under the #mooreandme hashtag and even spawned an intense intra-Jewish feminist smackdown between Naomi Wolf and Jaclyn Friedman on the Democracy Now! program.

So when Maddow and Moore took the stage last night, there was a maelstrom swirling around them, and they both sat under a spotlight of “don’t screw up” scrutiny. Maddow, to her credit, came out of the gate swinging — asking Moore to address the allegations, and getting him to make this statement.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: WikiLeaks, Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, Julian Assange, 92nd Street Y

Israel's Incitement Laws Applied To Incitement of Sexual Violence

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

Four years ago, an Israeli man calling himself “Roso” posted a blog about his “successful seduction” of a Czech tourist in a supermarket in Tel Aviv, thanks to techniques he learned at the Center for the Art of Seduction. These techniques, according to an article by Dmitri Reider in last week’s Haaretz, include putting her down to erode her confidence, ignoring her pleas to stop (“Who listens to girls?” Roso wrote. “A girl is a confused creature with a lot of feelings. She’ll do anything you tell her in this confused state.”), and forcing himself on her to what the course calls a “F**k Close” (FC):

The original blog post, which has since been removed but is being spread with screen-shots on Facebook, contained the following description translated by Dmitri Reider:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rape, Reuma, Sexual Assault, Center for the Art of Seduction

Why Women Are Worse at Networking

By Chanel Dubofsky

The second time I see H. is on a Sunday morning at the bus stop near my apartment. It’s the kind of rainy day in New York that makes you feel hopeless; the rain comes at you sideways, umbrellas blow inside out, and by the time you reach anywhere, you are sopping and angry and frustrated and wish you’d never even tried.

H. and I had met a few days earlier in the middle of woods, at a training for very courageous people planning to journey to remote locations with many young Jewish adults in our charge. She and I, and a few other women, had been part of one evening’s networking group.

Networking is the ultimate demonstration of privilege. That is, if you know what networking is, why it’s important, what to do with networks and know other people who also know these things, you are privileged. You’ve probably been to college, or even graduate school; you probably have had access to some kind of money and/or community that values connections and speaks about how it’s all about who you know. In the Jewish community, this is especially true; if you can manage to penetrate the walls of the organized Jewish establishment, you have a network that might last you as long as you want it, and maybe even beyond.

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Who Needs Civil Unions?

By Elissa Strauss

A recent front-page article in The New York Times looks at how civil unions are gaining on marriage as the preferred method of commitment for heterosexual couples in France. (For homosexual couples, it is their only choice) The pacte civil de solidarité, known as PACS, have become increasingly common over the last 10 years with heterosexual couples, who made up 95% of the 173,045 registered civil unions in 2009.

Some of the couples explain their choice as a generational thing, explaining that marriage, and divorce, was for their parents. They think of marriage as being “very institutional, very square and religious” and that civil unions feel freer. This is despite the fact, as the story reports, that French marriage ceremonies are held in town halls with no religious aspect to them.

Though this dislike for marriage doesn’t seem to be stopping them from taking part in a number of traditions long associated with marriage.

It long ago became common here to speak of “getting PACSed” (se pacser, in French). More recently, wedding fairs have been renamed to include the PACS, department stores now offer PACS gift registries and travel agencies offer PACS honeymoon packages.

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Prime Ribs: BRCA Study; Eating Disorders; Funny Jewish Lesbians

By Elissa Strauss

The Washington Post reports that eating disorders are on the rise in the Orthodox Jewish community — a trend that the Forward wrote about here


In the L.A. Jewish Journal, actress Annie Korzen writes about being too Jewish to play an “Annie Korzen type” in Hollywood.


The lesbian pop culture site After Ellen profiles four rising Jewish lesbian comediennes.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Simone de Beauvoir, Eating Disorders, Breast Cancer, BRCA, Annie Korzen

How Jewish Workplaces Can Right Gender Disparities

By Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield and Renanit Levy

A recent article by Dan Brown at eJewish Philanthropy argues that Jewish communal leaders have a dismal track record of recognizing and rewarding the talented women in their midst. Brown makes an excellent case for taking action to right such disparities — disparities that have been covered extensively in the Forward. But how?

How can communal leaders enable their employees — male and female — to serve and grow to best effect? Our own personal experience informs how we see the answer. We both hold meaningful positions in the Jewish communal world with flexible, part-time work arrangements. These situations afford us opportunities for professional growth, while enabling us to fulfill our responsibilities as caregivers and communal volunteers. We hope and expect that these positions will lead us to positions of top leadership in the Jewish communal workforce. Our central piece of advice to communal employers is this: Make work arrangements flexible, formal and meaningful. Here’s why:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Flex Time, Hazon, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreaat Center, Work

Where in the World Is (Alleged Madoff Co-conspirator) Sonja Kohn?

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Sonja Kohn has been in hiding for about two years.

In photos, accused Bernard Madoff co-conspirator Sonja Kohn looks something between the prototypical bubbe and the Queen of England, though she may be richer than the queen.

Ms. Kohn, the Austrian-born, fervently Orthodox founder of Bank Medici, reportedly steered more than $9 billion from investors into Madoff’s hands for at least $62 million in kickbacks. She and her bank were named last week by Irving Picard, the Madoff estate’s trustee, in a civil racketeering lawsuit as part of his effort to recover $19.6 billion for Madoff’s victims.

The suit was filed a day before Madoff’s older son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide.

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Rosh Hodesh, Maui-Style

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

Somewhere between Philly and Phoenix, I picked up a nasty cold. It started as a small sniffle as I was squished between two large men during the take-off during this second leg of my 28-hour journey. If I had been on my way to anywhere else other than Hawaii, where I was once again invited for by the Jewish Congregation of Maui to consult on Jewish education and development, I might have considered that this wasn’t worth the effort. By the time I took off from Phoenix, I clearly had a temperature, as well as that horrible lump in the throat which felt depressingly like strep, and I begged the flight attendant to switch me to a row with no other passengers so I could just lay down for six hours and nurse myself back to health in the clouds. It’s terrible to be sick anytime. But when you’re on your way to a mere 14 days in paradise, you don’t want to waste even one moment.

I learned this lesson from my relatively new but deeply cherished friend Leslie Granat. Born in Brooklyn — like a remarkable number of people I’ve met here — Leslie retired to Maui several years ago after a series of very successful business ventures. When Leslie realized I was still coughing my second night here, she gave me some tissues to use as a mask, in order to make sure that neither she nor any of her friends would catch my germs. “We’re a bit fanatic here about not getting sick,” she explained apologetically as I breathed out the window. “When you live in paradise, you do not want to lose even one day.”

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About Those Rape Charges Against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

By Sarah Seltzer

It’s been another “bang your head against a wall” kind of week for progressive feminists. Many of us may appreciate the fact that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has done a service for transparency and government oversight and is probably being persecuted for political reasons. But we also fervently believe that the outstanding rape accusations against him in Sweden — for which he is now sitting in a British prison — should be taken seriously, as all rape accusations should be, until the evidence is marshaled and heard.

We’ve watched in horror as the false meme that Assange was accused of having sex without a condom or “sex by surprise” or having a condom malfunction was picked up, spread and run with by erstwhile feminist (and a Jewess who claims to have had a vision of Jesus) Naomi Wolf and progressive heroes like Michael Moore.

In fact, as Jezebel’s Anna North writes, the charges are very serious: “[T]he British extradition hearings make it clear that Assange is accused of such crimes as holding a woman down during sex, and having nonconsensual, unprotected sex with a woman while she was sleeping.”

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Survey Sheds Light on Jewish Adoptive Families

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Dr. Jayne Guberman felt two things when her adopted daughter announced at a pre-bat mitzvah family education program eight years ago, “I don’t know how I feel about being Jewish.” Guberman felt it was incredibly courageous of her daughter to share this in public. She also felt very alone as an adoptive parent in the Jewish community.

Although things are changing, Guberman believes that the message many adoptive parents are still getting is this: “It’s okay to be in the community as long as your kids are feeling the right things.” In many cases, there is “not a lot of room for adopted kids to explore their other identity,” she said in a recent interview.

Her daughter now grown up and in college, Guberman, the former Director of Oral History and Online Collecting at the Jewish Women’s Archive, is partnering with Dr. Jennifer Sartori, Associate Director of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, on the Adoption and Jewish Identity Project. Sartori, like Guberman, has a professional interest in Jewish identity, having focused on the subject for her doctoral dissertation in Jewish History. However, as the adoptive mother of a 4-year-old daughter from China, she, like Guberman, also has a personal stake in the project.

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A Circus Scion, a 'Pretzel Lady,' and Other Jewish Women To Watch

By Jane Eisner

jwi.org
Nicole Feld, producer of Disney on Ice and circus events.

A week ago, I had had the opportunity to question 10 Jewish women, in public, about their lives, their leadership roles and their family secrets. It was an all-female minyan, on stage at a Washington D.C. hotel, for a good cause — Jewish Women International’s annual conference highlighting 10 Women to Watch.

It was a fascinating line-up, including CNN’s senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, environmentalist Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Judaic scholar Arna Poupko Fisher, the U.S. Ambassador to the United National Commission on the Status of Women Meryl Frank, and Kim Oster-Holstein, a.k.a. the pretzel lady, a founder of Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels. (Samples were offered everywhere, to great reviews.)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nicole Feld, Meryl Frank, Kim Oster-Holstein, Dominique Schurman, Jewish Women International, Dana Basha, Arna Poupko Fisher, Nina Beth Cardin

Why I 'Got a Problem' With Breastfeeding a Toddler

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Oh, Blossom. I hate to be critical of one of my favorite actresses who is an “out Jew” to boot, but your recent article in the online Jewish parenting publication Kveller, just raised too many alarm bells for me not to comment here. In the article, titled “I Breastfeed my Toddler, Got a Problem With It?” actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik writes about exclusively breastfeeding her 2½ year old son. He eats no solid food.

Yes, it’s an uncomfortable image. When our first babies were newborns, some friends and I took a post-partum exercise class, and we exchanged stunned looks when, at the end of class, the instructor’s preschooler came in, plopped down in her lap and lifted her shirt to nurse. But I live in the Park Slope area, a Brooklyn neighborhood where attachment parenting is so much the norm that family beds are conventional and people bring their babies with them into bars. So being unconventional isn’t the issue. It’s two other things that Bialik wrote that give me pause.

Her 2 ½ year old son isn’t yet verbal, she writes, unable even to ask in a basic way to nurse (he indicates interest in sign language), but Bialik doesn’t offer any explanation for his lack of speech. She also writes, “I have not slept more than 4 hours in almost 6 years.” She continues, “My son, however, is healthy, happy, and independent, and I see no reason to wean him.”

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Making Paid Parental Leave, Formalized Flex Time the Norm

By Gabrielle Birkner

Last year, the non-profit organization Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community set out to improve work-life polices, such as paid parental leave, job-sharing and formalized flex time, at 100 Jewish organizations. AWP’s founding president, Shifra Bronznick, recently spoke with The Sisterhood about the progress made as the result of AWP’s Better Work Life Campaign, and what remains to be done.

More than a year into the campaign, how close are you to meeting your goal?

We are 40% of the way there. A number of organizations are working on major improvements to their policies — even reaching to our “gold standards.” Others are “works in progress” and are grappling with work-life issues, but are not yet ready to ratify new policies. We think that this is all fairly amazing given the challenging economic environment. Even if it takes us an additional year to reach our goal of l00, that is a relatively short time to have moved organizational support for life-work issues from the margins to the mainstream.

How do you measure “improvement” on the work-life front?

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Mourning Elizabeth Edwards

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images
Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards died of breast cancer this week — a disease that disproportionately affects Ashkenazi Jewish women. Edwards left legions of admirers and readers devastated. While she was (unfortunately) most recently in the headlines for her husband’s sordid affair, the quality that most inspired the public devotion and fascination for Edwards was her honesty about the tragedies that befell her — the death of teenage son and her own cancer diagnosis, long before she faced John’s infidelity.

And in the wake of those calamities, she chose not wall herself off, which would have been more than understandable; instead, she put her energies into helping others who didn’t have what she had. Some considered the Edwardses class traitors for enjoying personal luxury while crusading for the poor, but I always felt it worthwhile of them to acknowledge their privilege, while keeping the spotlight on society’s suffering members.

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Giving the Gift of Jewish Genes

By Leah Berkenwald

I just came across a Craigslist posting via Twitter (oy, my life!) looking for a Jewish woman to donate her eggs to a Jewish couple looking to conceive. This couple, through an agency called A Jewish Blessing, is offering $8,000 for an egg from a Jewish donor. A Jewish Blessing was founded in 2005 by Judy Weiss, a registered nurse, in response to the growing number of requests from Jewish families for her help in finding qualified and extraordinary young Jewish donors and surrogates. And this is one of many similar organizations helping connect Jewish parents-to-be with Jewish eggs.

I remember seeing flyers posted around the Brandeis University campus for Jewish egg donors with high SAT scores promising upwards of $20,000 — even $40,000 — for a Jewish over-acheiver’s eggs. I remember the first time I saw one of those flyers. “Forty thousand bucks?” I thought. “What a deal!” I called up my dad, a doctor, to ask him if this sort of thing was for real. Within about five minutes he had convinced me that this was something I would never do. Egg donation is no small matter.

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Leah Berkenwald is the online communications specialist at the Jewish Women’s Archive, and a contributor to its Jewesses With Attitude blog, which cross-posts regularly with the Sisterhood.


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Trio of Jewish Women Rockers Perform Their New Single

By Gabrielle Birkner

Last year as part of the “28 Days, 28 Ideas” project, Ladino chanteuse Sarah Aroeste made a case on The Sisterhood blog for more collaboration among Jewish female musicians. In the piece, she discussed her own work with fellow singer-songwriters Naomi Less and Chana Rothman. In an effort to highlight the work of female artists and to gain greater exposure for social justice efforts in communities across the country, Aroeste, Less and Rothman have committed to traveling and performing together; their initiative is called “Lights Ignite Change.” This month, the three women are out with their first jointly produced single, called “A New Light.” Take a listen:


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Nip/Tuck — With Your Rebbe's Blessing

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

Spiritual beauty is increasingly not enough for ultra-Orthodox women. More and more, plastic surgery is becoming acceptable in a community where it was once unheard of, and rabbis are relaxing their opposition to it, a recent article in Ynet reports.

Religious Jews are notorious for shunning cosmetic alterations to the body — tattoos are a famous no-no.

Until very recently, nose jobs and breast enhancements were looked upon as frivolous procedures for the secular community, in which women (and men) were willing to risk their lives to serve their vanity. But now, with the risks of cosmetic surgery reduced, a small but steady trickle of Haredim are finding their way to the plastic surgeon’s offices, with the blessing of their religious leaders.

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Feminist Battles for the 20-Something

By Nadja Spiegelman

Time Out New York’s daily newsletter was the only thing that popped up in my inbox this morning. After the fifth or sixth refresh in as many minutes, I found myself compelled to actually open it. I was immediately drawn to the “Street Fashion: Wall Street Happy Hour” slideshow. The Forward’s office is a stone’s throw from Wall Street. Would I see some of my exceptionally well-dressed co-workers? Maybe Time Out’s photographers snapped my picture. And, I reasoned, if by some oversight they had forgotten to include us, I would at least glean useful tips on dressing professionally.

I began clicking through the pictures, past Phil, the Armani-clad financial strategist, and Dylan, the hipster consultant, and Josh and Dan and Thiago and Darren and Erik. And then, it was over. There was no mention of this being any sort of feature on men’s fashion, yet the slideshow featured only men. There seemed to be some implicit assumption that Wall Street=men.

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Making the Case for Fertility Education

By Gabrielle Birkner

Back in 9th grade health class, we were tasked with creating — and memorizing — a chart of the various methods of birth control on the market and how effective they were in preventing pregnancy and, in the case of latex condoms, sexually transmitted diseases: We learned about oral contraceptives, barrier contraceptives, spermicides, and intrauterine devices. Among the least effective forms of birth control, we were told, was something called the “rhythm method,” which involved “charting a woman’s cycle.”

Since getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant was something we were to avoid doing — we were teenagers, after all — and since the birth control method called “rhythm” was something that wasn’t considered all that reliable a way to prevent pregnancy, we didn’t linger on recognizing the biological signs of ovulation that this mysterious “charting” entails.

The overriding message in high school and, again, in college — where, at the campus health center, condoms and prescriptions for the Pill were handed out liberally, and brochures on preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs were stacked in the waiting room — was this: Don’t get pregnant.

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