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
• The newly translated “The Life of Irène Némirovsky: 1903-1942,” (Knopf) by French writers Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt, tells the life story of the author of the posthumous bestseller “Suite Francaise.” The biography covers Némirovsky’s childhood in Russia, her adulthood in her adopted country of France, and her death at Auschwitz. Philipponnat and Lienhardt focus much of their attention on her personal relationships with her family, as well as her development as a writer.
• After Wall Street Journal reporter Katherine Rosman’s mother died, she decided to use her reporting skills to try to better understand the person she had lost. The result is “If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter’s Notebook” (Harper), for which Rosman went on a cross-country trip to cull stories from her mother’s friends and acquaintances. The book is at once an honest and funny inquiry into her mother’s life, and an exploration of the bigger questions of life and death.
• “Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation” (Whole World Press) features essays from 14 Jewish writers — all of whom are deeply troubled by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The book also features a preface by Haaretz columnist Amira Hass and a foreword by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan; it also contains maps and a timeline — revealing the contributors’ distinctly left-wing perspective on the conflict.
As any working mother knows, balancing the competing demands of raising children and successful functioning in the workplace can be stressful and guilt-inducing. Now, as Elana Sztokman wrote on The Sisterhood, a West Bank rabbi has decided to make the situation even worse for the women in his religious community, who might, heaven forbid, feel the need to contribute to her family’s income.
Violent behavior in youth, proclaimed Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, is a direct outgrowth of women leaving the house to earn a living. So, presumably, if every single mother was a devoted full-time housewife, all of humanity would be transformed into gentle folk handing out flowers and singing Psalms, and we would know war no more. Who knew it could be that easy?
Mind you, Lior generously offers that it is permissible for a woman to work if her husband is unable to provide for the family, but that it is not a desirable state.
Women are banned from running for public office, according to Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of the Elon Moreh settlement. In a startling regression to 19th century gender inequalities, Levanon responded to a query by a woman requesting permission to run for her local council, with a resounding “no.”
The first problem is giving women authority, and being a secretary means having authority. The second problem is mixing men and women. Secretary meetings are held at night and sometimes end very late. It is not proper to be in mixed company in such situations…..The husband presents the family’s opinion…This is the proper way to prevent a situation in which the woman votes one way and her husband votes another.
What is perhaps most astounding here is that the entire opinion does not even cite anything halachic. In a tone reminiscent of recent rabbinic debates about women’s ordination, this diatribe is purportedly a legal responsa about women’s roles. In fact, it resembles a personal rant.
I really like Devra Ferst’s recent Sisterhood post about how women too often precede a question with an apology. And there’s so much more to – unapologetically – say!
It took me a very long time to stop apologizing before asking questions myself, to stop feeling wracked with self-doubt about my ability to keep up in my professional life as a journalist — especially because, when I was starting out, I was surrounded by male colleagues who were powerfully aggressive in their personal interactions as they pursued stories. There were few women doing serious journalism in Jewish publications at the time.
Occasionally my daughter Girlchik will say “I’m sorry” before asking me something. She’s 11 years old, and this is something I’ve only heard in the past six months or so. Does it kick in with adolescence? She’s sensitive to other people and she mostly says it when she knows I’m rushing around trying to get everything done. So I read it as an expression of her awareness that she’s adding to the multiple things on which I’m trying to concentrate. Nonetheless, each and every time I ask her why she’s apologizing — and tell her that there’s no need to.
This reflection of insecurity is, without a doubt, a female affliction.
You’d think that at the age of 43, I’d know what I’m good at. But there I was recently participating in a workshop run by Katie Orenstein of The OpEd Project, completely freaked out at the notion of having to identify what I am an expert in. My mind was a blank. I knew I could handle the first part of the assignment Orenstein was giving us, but the second and third parts were the killers. She gave us our instructions and a few minutes to gather our thoughts.
The assignment? To introduce ourselves to the rest of the group by simply saying, “My name is —. I am an expert in/at —, because —.”
Sounds easy, right? It’s not. I kept thinking and thinking (and panicking and panicking), but I couldn’t get beyond, “My name is Renee Ghert-Zand.”
Talia Weisberg, a freshman at Manhattan High School for Girls in New York, is the founder of Bleep!, and its devoted to curbing cursing among kids and teenagers. Sisterhood contributor Rebecca Honig Friedman recently interviewed Weisberg by email to find out what the bleep Bleep! is all about.
Rebecca Honig Friedman: What is Bleep! and how did you get the idea to start it?
Talia Weisberg: Bleep! is the organization I made to stop kids and teens from cursing. I had always hated how my friends would liberally sprinkle bad words into their speech, and when I wanted to get involved in a cause over the summer, I thought of Bleep!. I really wanted to get involved in something that I as a kid with limited resources could personally do, and creating an organization like Bleep! seemed like my best option.
For the first time in months, I am actually sitting down to work and I am able to actually think about work.
There are no Hanukkah candles to light, no Purim costumes or mishloach manot gift baskets to prepare, no campfires to plan for Lag B’Omer, no Passover cleaning. I don’t have to take the morning off to watch and videotape my kid are taking part in Yom HaShoah or Yom HaZikaron ceremonies, I don’t have to purchase the meat for grilling on Israel Independence Day, nor bake a cheesecake and assemble a fruit basket for Shavuot.
Any mother who moves to Israel seeking a more intense and involved form of Jewish life for themselves and their children has little idea of what she’s in for.
After the recent attempted car bombing by a Pakistani-born American citizen in New York’s Times Square, Pearl Abraham’s fictional exploration of the radicalized mind in “American Taliban” (Random House) is especially pertinent. The book is loosely based on on the story of John Walker Lindh — the young American who joined the Taliban, returning to America in 2001 to face prosecution. The subject matter is a departure for Abraham, whose 1995 “The Romance Reader” established her as a powerful voice in Jewish-American literature. Like her protagonist Rachel Benjamin, Abraham was a prodigious and often stealth reader of secular literature at an early age who also left behind her Hasidic family. She went on to study literature at Hunter College and writing at New York University. She currently teaches writing at Western New England College.
The Sisterhood: In your first novel, “The Romance Reader,” Rachel Benjamin is claustrophobic in her parents’ Hasidic world. In “American Taliban,” John Jude Parish, is the only child of generous, perhaps over-indulgent, parents. Are these characters more alike than they seem on the surface?
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a blog post written by a woman who said that, at the all-girls Orthodox day school she had attended, she was taught to never ask a question or make a comment without preceding it with an apology. Regrettably, I can no longer find that particular post, but similar sentiments are expressed by a blogger at Glamour.com.
While I was never specifically taught to apologize before asking a question or commenting on something, the behavior was undoubtedly ingrained in me during the time I lived with my father after my mother died. Back then, it seemed that each remark or question was an imposition and could potentially require an apology, so it was just best to start with one. The practice quickly spread to my social life. And nearly 12 years later, it still persists, although to a lesser degree.
Is Lenore Skenazy a kook? Skenazy — a Forward contributing editor and columnist — is getting used to being called that, “a moron” and worse for her idea that we should stop helicoptering over our children and leave them more to their own devices.
Her latest proposal is that on Saturday May 22, at 10 a.m., people drop their kids ages 7 or 8 and up at their local playground for an hour…..and then leave. It’s catching lots of press attention, and she’s getting lots of pushback. She’s been interviewed about “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day” on WABC, WNBC, WCBS and Fox News. The plan was dubbed “bizarre” on the front page of The New York Daily News. On the Park Slope Parents listserv, it sparked a conversation that continues, many days in, between parents who miss the relative freedom of their own youth, and those who are too worried about their kids’ safety to follow Skenazy’s advice.
“People are jumping all over me, calling me a kook, saying it’s a dangerous idea,” Skenazy told The Sisterhood. “But I don’t think they would have me on if it was only a kooky idea. The reason it has some resonance for people is that they know in their heart of hearts is that childhood wasn’t overseen by your parents at all times. Now it’s a radical idea.”
• Maureen Dowd, writing that Elena Kagan “as resigned herself to a cloistered, asexual existence,” suggests that the nominee for the Supreme Court join JDate.
• The online Jewish women’s magazine 614 is out with a new issue all about the Jewish psyche. It features pieces about psychoanalysis’ Jewish roots, a social worker who combines handwriting analysis with Jewish mysticism, and what Jewish women talk about with their therapists.
Caitlin Flanagan’s use of Rachel, the brassy Jewish character from the Fox television show “Glee”, as an anecdote for her Atlantic essay “Love, Actually” about the renewed interested in the “boyfriend story,” or old-fashioned romance, is a bit flawed. Yes, Rachel wants love, but she is hardly an innocent romantic. Early in the series she kisses her love interest while he is still dating another girl, and now she is juggling more than one love interest.
With Rachel we are not, as Flanagan writes, “back in Kansas.”
One of the biggest questions Jewish groups and feminists have debated since the nomination of Elena Kagan is whether it’s possible to effect genuine but incremental change from within or more desirable to work outside the system. This kind of insider/outsider anxiety is particularly potent for contemporary Jews, who are mindful of our historical status as outsiders but fascinated when one of us gets a place in the halls of power (See the excitement over David Axelrod.) From her bat mitzvah onward, Kagan has never presented herself as someone who stood at the gates and demanded revolution. Instead, she’s someone who has marched through the gates, climbed the ladder inside, and been pragmatic once she got there.
As a result, she’s made a lot of compromises. Her roots, her much-debated senior thesis and a few hints suggest to many that she’s “one of us” — that is, a liberal, intellectual Jew with high-minded ideals. And yet the endless shroud of mystery over her genuine political passions and her reputation as a compromiser has led to lots of suspicion from the progressive Jews and feminists who have, in their own lives, taken the risk of putting their strong, sometimes unpopular beliefs on display. As
In honor of Shavuot, the Jerusalem Post printed a special supplement on “The Fifty Most Influential Jews in the World” — and there are only seven women in the list.
A woman doesn’t even make an appearance until number 10 — US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Bizarrely, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes in at a mere 22, which makes me wonder why a nominee (no offense Ms. Kagan, I’m a big fan) is presumed to have more influence than an actual, sitting Supreme Court justice.
The other five Jewish women who made the list are: Israel Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch (#20), biochemist and professor Ruth Arnon (#29), businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arinson (#41), French politician Simone Veil (#42), and South African Bank Governor Gill Marcus (#44).
This week, for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, I will light a Yahrtzeit candle in my studio apartment and attend the memorial Yizkor service. The superstitious may disapprove since, thankfully, I have not lost anyone in my immediate family, for whom I would be required to go through these mourning rituals. Yet, I take this time to pause and honor Hedda and George Kury, who have been gone for seven years and who have no one to say Kaddish in their honor.
Growing up in middle-class, suburban Boston, I wanted to be just like Hedda, the glamorous socialite who bought me puffy dresses with matching overcoats and fur mufflers from Neiman Marcus. Her beautiful gifts made me feel like I belonged with the trust-fund babies at my preparatory school, where I was labeled a new money Jew. Hedda’s husband, George, a gentle dark-haired pathologist, was my grandfather’s friend and, for as long as I could remember, the stately pair was part of my tight-knit group that gathered on holidays.Although they’d survived the Holocaust and endured Communist Hungary, Hedda and George appeared to be living the American dream.
Just as the Internet has wiped Encyclopedia Britannica off our bookshelves, I am among those who speculate whether or not e-readers, like the iPad and Kindle, will soon render all tangible text obsolete. I wonder if those in future generations will ever turn down the soft paper corner of a page.
For my Orthodox Jewish family, exchanging hard copy for a high-tech device is not an option, for each Friday at sundown we enter into a 25-hour island in time, free from the wireless world. The way we celebrate Shabbat, even touching something electronic qualifies as a sin. Because of this, and because reading is such a key part of our Shabbat celebration, we hesitate to buy the latest reading inventions.
From the moment I kindle two flames at sundown, it is perfectly natural for my three teenagers to ignore modern necessities, like their cell phone appendages. All friends and associates are aware of our observance or observe themselves.
Noa Raz wasn’t totally surprised when, on May 11, a Haredi man stared at the marks on her arm at Be’er Sheva’s central bus station. The 30-year-old Israeli woman prays each morning wearing a tallit and tefillin and the latter sometimes leaves imprints on her pale forearms.
As she waited to board a bus to Tel Aviv, the man, who appeared to be in his 40s, asked her several times with increasing hostility if the imprints were from tefillin. Each time, Raz told The Sisterhood, she ignored him. Then he stood in front of her and loudly demanded to know. She said, “yes, they are from tefillin, and what do you want?”
Then something happened for which Raz was totally unprepared: the man grabbed her hand and began kicking her legs, screaming that she was “an abomination.”
“I was in shock,” Raz said. The bus station was quiet, at 7:30 in the morning, and few other people were around. A handful of men looked on, and one woman yelled at the man to leave Raz alone. “It took me a few seconds to respond, but as soon as I did, it ended quickly,” Raz said.
One of the wonderful things about living in Israel is that Jewish holidays are all-encompassing. Around Rosh Hashanah, for example, every commercial — whether for outdoor furniture or dishwashing liquid — somehow includes apples and honey. Around Hanukkah, public displays of light and candles on every street compete with the smell of sufganiyot. Around Passover, seder preparations dominate the news, along with stories from every imaginable angle on the topic of freedom and exodus.
I got that same little thrill when I opened the newspaper this week to find a 48-page glossy cookbook in honor of Shavuot. The beautiful full-color catalog, sponsored by the Gad cheese company, had Israeli chefs sharing their favorite kosher-dairy recipes along with stories of how they celebrate Shavuot. Canneloni, haloumi salad, crispy mozzarella balls, and chocolate cheesecake are interspersed with tales of kibbutz harvest, cheese cakes from Eilat, and grandma’s bourekas. The book can make a person’s mouth water and heart melt.
Yet, as I flipped through these pages, I could not help but notice the absence of women.
I’m no fashion designer, but I have been thinking a lot lately about haute couture and prêt-à-porter. That’s because I am a Jewish educator and two big Jewish events have come to town. The “Reinventing Ritual” exhibition has arrived at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum from The Jewish Museum in New York, and Dawn 2010, — an event sponsored by Tablet and Reboot, and billed as “a late-night cultural arts festival celebrating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot” — will take place this Saturday night at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
When I was a museum educator, I used to teach students and museum visitors about the concept of hiddur mitzvah (the beautification of a ritual mitzvah) by showing them antique and heirloom illuminated manuscripts, highly ornamented hanukkiyot, silver filigree etrog boxes and exquisitely embroidered Torah mantles. Elsewhere in the museum were examples of contemporary interpretations of ritual objects. While both these and the antique objects could be considered art, to my mind it was like comparing prêt-à-porter to haute couture.
The Rabbi Motti Elon story was back in the news this week. It seems that despite all the hubbub over the investigation into his alleged sexual abuse of students, and despite his agreement not to continue teaching, Elon has been giving classes, some of which are even being posted on the Internet by his fans.
According to Yehudit Shilat, the head of Takana, the organization established in 2003 to grapple with the issue of sexual abuse by rabbis in the religious Zionist community in Israel, Elon is “the only person who failed to comply with an agreement with Takana.” Shilat has said that Elon had admitted to the Takana forum that he was guilty of the acts he was accused of, and as such signed an agreement to leave Jerusalem for a few years and to discontinue teaching, but to the organization’s chagrin ignored this agreement.
Meanwhile, despite this setback, elsewhere the Elon story has been making waves. Last week, a correction to the sexual harassment law submitted by Kolech passed unanimously in the Status of Women Knesset committee, and is now going to its first reading in the Knesset.
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