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
New, less-aggressive guidelines for breast cancer screenings do not apply to women at high risk for the disease, such as those who have tested positive for the BRCA genetic mutations, which are most common in Ashkenazi Jewish women.
Released Monday by the government-funded U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the new guidelines increase the recommended age at which most women should begin to get mammograms to 50, from 40. The task force, composed of “private-sector experts in prevention and primary care,” also recommends that women between the ages 50 and 74 get mammograms every two years — instead of annually — and that doctors stop teaching women how to do breast self exams.
Such changes to breast cancer screening protocols are not recommended for women at high risk for the disease. Those women are encouraged to speak with their physicians about when to begin screening.
“For women at high risk, the guidelines are different than those that apply to women who are 40 and have an ordinary risk of breast cancer,” said Rochelle Shoretz, the executive director of Sharsheret — a New Jersey-based organization that provides genetic counseling and support services to young, Jewish women with breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
The overwhelming assumption in many circles is that anti-Zionism is the only authentic feminist position. This knee-jerk position assumes that caring about human rights and equality necessitates a view Israel as a great patriarchal enemy.
I support Jewish-Muslim women’s peace efforts, and I completely support the notion that women must play a key role in bringing change to the Middle East. Women’s language, social tools and shared cultural history have the potential to alter the discourse of Palestinian-Israeli relations, by placing human relationships and care above power politics. But I don’t believe that by saying this, I should have to denounce Israel’s right to exist. I live in Israel; my family proudly serves in the army; my efforts to promote equity, fairness and democracy in Israel are based on an unwavering belief in Israel’s right to safely exist and defend its people. I believe in fighting injustice within Israeli society — not in attacking Israel at its core. But this nuanced approach rarely finds public expression, and that’s very challenging for me.
Once, an essay I wrote for The Jerusalem Post about anti-Sephardic discrimination in state-run religious schools was picked up by Web sites calling for the destruction of Israel. Shortly thereafter I was invited to contribute to an international feminist news portal as the sole Israeli representative. I still have not contributed, simply because I haven’t worked out how to write a feminist piece about women in Israel without it being used as fodder for Israel-bashing.
This issue came to the fore recently as Israelis were barred from a breast cancer conference held in Cairo.
Common wisdom and social-scientific studies hold that men are less likely to ask for help than women are, a phenomenon that spreads across arenas as mundane as asking for directions and as serious as getting help for clinical depression. But according to a recent survey, there’s one realm in which men are more likely to ask others for help faster than women are — technology.
The U.K. tech support service Gadget Helpline found that 64% of men didn’t read the manual before calling for help, while only 24% of women committed this tech-misdemeanor, according to the BBC. That means, in the asking-for-directions analogy, when it comes to technology, men are less likely than women are to scrutinize “the map” (i.e. the manual) before giving up and asking a stranger for directions.
The technology blog Gizmodo attributes this discrepancy to laziness on the part of men. I would go further and argue that it’s part of the same phenomenon by which girls tend to be more diligent students than boys. So, too, women are probably more likely to be diligent consumers, doing their research before coming to ask the teacher a question, or at least following directions more exactly.
Much has changed for female rabbis in the 25 years since the first woman was ordained in the Conservative movement — including acceptance by peers and congregants — but some things, including more difficulty getting good jobs and resentment from other women, remain challenging.
These issues were explored at a conference at the Jewish Theological Seminary on November 4 and 5, titled “Leadership Presence: Women’s Ways in the Rabbinate.” Of the 1,600 members of the Rabbinical Assembly today — the umbrella group for Conservative rabbis — 257 are women.
Several of the 75 or so women who attended were among the first ordained (Rabbi Amy Eilberg was the very first, in 1985, and was part of the gathering), and they spoke of how much things have changed.
“I was the only woman in all my classes. It was not an easy time to be here,” said Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein, who teaches at Los Angeles’ Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and leads the N’Shama Minyan at Congregation Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif. She was the second woman to be ordained at JTS, and the first Conservative rabbi to become a mother.
Fifteen years ago, at a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first woman’s ordination, “there was still ambivalence about women at that conference, and at the seminary,” said Rabbi Debra Cantor, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Sholom in Newington, Conn. and a member of the first class at JTS to include women. “Ten years out we were still struggling for legitimacy and still striving for authenticity.”
Now, she says, “the rabbinate has changed dramatically.”
But not completely.
A former Chief Sephardic Rabbi and current spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas religious political party, Rav Ovadia Yosef, in his weekly sermon last Saturday night called women who wear prayer shawls to daven at the Western Wall “stupid” and “deviants.”
He was speaking of Women of the Wall, a group of devoted and, dare I say it, devout Jewish women who believe that women may read from a Sefer Torah. Some of these women also wear a yarmulke and tallit, or prayer shawl.
This article from the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot says that Rav Yosef was speaking of the laws regarding saying Kiddush on Shabbat when he said:
…Women are obligated to perform Kiddush and can fulfill their obligation either by hearing a man perform the blessing or by reciting it themselves.
He went on to say:
“Tefillin (phylacteries) she must be careful not to lay. There are stupid women who come to the Western Wall, put on a tallit (prayer shawl), and pray.”
“These are deviants who serve equality, not Heaven. They must be condemned and warned of.”
Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses with Attitude has a great rundown of how devastating this weekend was for pro-choice Americans who watched the anti-abortion Stupak amendment pass and get tacked onto the House’s healthcare reform bill.
On Saturday, one of two men who stood up along with a group of Democratic female lawmakers to argue against the amendment was Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents much of Manhattan and a chunk of Brooklyn and is one of the most prominent liberal and Jewish members of Congress. Nadler didn’t just complain that the amendment was a distraction: He spoke up strongly and clearly about the effect of the bill on women. “This amendment adds a new discriminatory measure against women,” he said, explaining that the amendment takes current policy even further into the anti-abortion realm.
“It should not be used as a political football,” he added.
I’m proud that a Jewish legislator from my hometown would be so unabashedly pro-woman, but appalled that he alone made up half the male legislators who felt it worth his while to express outrage at the amendment. The other man to speak out against the amendment was Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley. Clearly, we need more strident allies in Congress.
Watch Nadler here:
The last time I drove up the hill of Hamilton Heights I was a high school senior at Mount Saint Joseph Academy — steering the gigantic wheel of my father’s asthmatic ’65 Malibu.
But today I was behind the wheel of my Volvo on a reconnaissance mission to see if it would be the right assisted living facility for my ailing mother, who 30 years ago gave me no other option than to attend the school that then owned the building.
I was in the last class to graduate from The Mount. That was 1978 and by then a school that once had 600 girls in grades 7-12 had dwindled to fewer than 200. When I was a student there The Mount was an ancient queen that had once been beautiful and graceful: The school was dark with heavy wood and velvet maroon drapery. The marble floors were cracked.
While most of my classmates went to The Mount as a punishment, I went on a dare. I had graduated from the local yeshiva and much to my parents’ horror had taken up with the group of Chabadniks that had infiltrated that school. If I wanted single-sex education, they insisted that it had to be in West Hartford, Conn. and not Borough Park.
I was not the first girl in my Jewish family to go to the nuns. My maternal grandmother was educated at convent schools in Greece. Nuns tutored my mother in Havana. In the ’50s and ’60s the Mount had a cadre of Jewish girls. By senior year, though, it was just my younger sister and me.
The Mount has been through a few incarnations since I graduated, but it’s a historical landmark. That means its exterior is eerily preserved in perpetuity. For the past six years it’s been an assisted living facility.
What intrigued me more than the celebrity news coverage of the Ivanka Trump–Jared Kushner nuptials is how many Orthodox Jews have quickly and eagerly adopted Ivanka — a recent convert to Judaism — as one of their own.
Since the wedding, I’ve received “private” photos of the wedding from one friend, clips from interviews in which Ivanka discusses her conversion from another, and ecstatic emails from numerous other friends, anxious to chat about the latest news that they’ve read. Or, even more strikingly, a friend just confided in me, in all earnestness, that she was feeling depressed — realizing that she probably would never be as successful as Ivanka: After all, she is not likely become an executive vice president of one of the world’s most well-known real estate conglomerates. She is equally unlikely to create a line of high-end jewelry bearing her name or to marry a real estate scion and newspaper publisher.
To most of us, this does not feel like a revelation.
I have a knack for embarrassing my children.
Like when I sing along while they listen to “Funkytown” with their friends (is it my fault 80’s music is the new retro fad?) Or when I start doing the hip-hop line-dance to Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine” in the middle of the living room. “Ima, please stop,” is what I usually get in response. (Just for the record, my oldest daughter secretly loved the dance and had me show it to her, but she’ll never admit that to her friends.)
So I speak, sing, and dance to my heart’s delight, but invariably endure that unmistakable look of desperately seeking out the nearest rock to crawl under. Ah, motherhood.
One day they will hopefully all grow up and find me charming and endearing. I just hope I’m still lucid when that day comes.
Recently, though, the embarrassment reached new heights when I did something so mortifying that my beautiful 12-year-old daughter actually went running to the other side of the park. No, I did not regale her friends with stories of her toddlerhood or even break into my favorite rendition of “The Pirates of Penzance” “Major General Song” (which would have likely sent many mothers running as well). What did I do that was so degrading? I shrieked.
The 1990s era music festival Lilith Fair — like The Sisterhood’s fellow Jewish women’s magazine Lilith — derives its name from the Jewish medieval myth about the first woman on earth, exiled because of her refusal to submit to Adam’s rule. A nebulous character who shows up in various cultural myths, the Lilith figure has become both a proto-feminist heroine and a demonic femme fatale.
In keeping with its lightning-rod namesake, the music festival has attracted its share of controversy and derision, dismissed as a stereotypical touchy-feely estrogen festival of bad music. Recent news that Lilith Fair was coming back for a 2010 tour brought a chorus of shrugs in the blogosphere, mostly from feminists dismissing music from the likes of Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole as over-earnest molasses-pop, the kind of earth-mother stuff that gives the women’s movement a bad name tempered by brief nods to the fact that the actual musical acts at the festival varied from Christina Aguilera to Casandra Wilson to Joan Baez to Missy Elliot.
But I have to disagree: I was exposed to those artists in middle school. During those socially conformist years, top 40 radio was embraced by every single kid in my age group, from the future punk devotee to the future folkie to the future hip-hop head. The idea that one should look at Jewel through an ironic lens wasn’t even considered; instead, my fellow sensitive 13-year olds and I gathered around her lyrics sheet and talked about how deep she was.
In recent days, the Forward has been taken to task for disabling comments on a provocative post on our Sisterhood blog. The writer of the post looked at the question of why, two generations after the Holocaust, the most mundane sights, sounds and words — in this case, a German-accented reality television host announcing which contestants would be “eliminated” — could, to this day, evoke Nazi imagery.
We decided to close comments on that particular blog entry not because we were receiving comments that challenged the writer’s thesis or the Forward’s decision to publish the piece or its follow-up. We did so because we were receiving comments that contained personal attacks on, and threats to, the writer and her family.
Many of the comments we receive on a daily basis are thoughtful responses to our coverage, and the often-difficult questions that our articles and blog posts raise. Many others are just plain nonsensical or contain copyright infringements or curse words.
And, I’m sorry to say, quite a lot of them are just plain hateful: Name-calling? Check. Libel? Check? Anti-black racism? Anti-Arab racism? Antisemitism? Holocaust denial? Check, check, check and check.
I love a good frum wedding. No one knows how to party, in the best possible way, like religious Jews at a wedding. Last Sunday, we went to the wedding of the daughter of a couple to whom we’re related by marriage and with whom we’ve become friends. It was a beautiful affair that took place in an elegant wedding hall in Boro Park.
The bride’s parents are both extremely religious and very worldly. They have earned my admiration for doing incredible chesed, collecting food and clothing from myriad sources and re-distributing it to more than 1,000 poor people each week throughout Brooklyn. There is barely room to walk through their basement because it is packed high with pallets of donated potatoes, sugar, canned goods and other foods. When food does not meet stringent kosher guidelines, for one reason or another, it is given to food pantries that feed non-Jews, mostly through local black churches.
The affair was beautiful. And make no mistake about it, this was a Boro Park wedding. There were streimels galore, and a parade of distinguished, elderly rebbes came by, with entourages of younger followers at their heels. I see a new take on the HBO show “Entourage.” Instead of a young Hollywood star and his cronies hanging out poolside at glamorous hotels and watching tushes, our new show would feature big-time rebbes and their followers hanging out at tisches.
Given the controversy over my recent “Project Runway” post, which generated a torrent of angry comments, I have been given the opportunity to respond here.
First I want to clarify (listen up, Tablet) that I do not think Heidi Klum is a Nazi. My point was not to attack Klum but to acknowledge the associations that I, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, sometimes have — politically incorrect as they are — between ordinary Germans and Nazis. I’m not one who avoids German products, or German people for that matter. But after years of Holocaust education, if we can call it that, certain images and stereotypes have been so ingrained that I can’t help but think of them, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Headlining a recent community email from the Jewish Theological Seminary was a phrase that was conspicuously out of place: swimsuit model. The email touted the participation of the Conservative movement’s flagship seminary in an event hosted by “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Esti Ginzburg,” and sponsored by Birthright NEXT and the Council of Young Jewish Presidents. Described as “an evening of fashion and passion” the event was billed as “a major opportunity for guests to get a sense of the incredible variety of Jewish engagement opportunities in New York — and to party with hundreds of other professional, active, vibrant, young Jews.”
I am not a development professional, but I will go out on a limb here and say that an institution that trains clergy should probably stay away from events fronted by swimsuit models. People who learn, teach, and advocate for the highest values of our tradition are not going to increase Judaism’s appeal — or their own — through forcing an association with low-brow celebrity culture. The religious leaders who chase after celebrities in the name of kiruv — lo and behold! — often turn out to be using their Torah-for-the-masses public face as a screen for their own narcissism or social climbing. We can all name our favorite examples.
While the sixth season of the fashion reality show “Project Runway” is fast-approaching its climax, it’s become a running joke in my house that the show’s host, German supermodel Heidi Klum, would have made a good Nazi.
Every time she announces to the panel of quaking designers, in her German accent, “One of you will be in, and one of you will be out,” either my husband or I will mock, in our own fake German accents, “One of you will go to the right, and one of you will go to the left.”
Then, of course, there is the matter of the empty bed the day after someone has been “eliminated” (eliminated!). The remaining contestants never fail to mention the loss of yet another of their peers, and to remark on how their ranks are being whittled away, one by one. You will say that this is all a part of how the reality show game is played, and of course that is a part of it. But, in contrast, I would argue that Klum’s counterpart over at the food reality show “Top Chef,” host Padma Lakshmi, manages to deliver the line of elimination, “Please pack your knives and go,” in a manner suggesting she actually feels bad about it.
But maybe I’m being too harsh on Heidi Klum. Maybe the fashion industry or the show’s producers are to blame for the harshness of these judgments. Hosts aside, “Top Chef’s” “Please pack your knives and go” is a much gentler way of giving someone the axe than Project Runway’s “You’re out.” The “please” adds a polite touch that softens the blow, and the line is constructed as a request. No contestant, to my knowledge, has ever responded, “No, I won’t pack my knives and go,” but that would not be an unreasonable response, linguistically speaking. In contrast, no one could reasonably respond to “You’re out,” a statement of fact, with “No, I’m in.”
But I digress.
I realize that whether or not Heidi Klum is actually a nice person has nothing to do with her being German.
I, like many of us I suspect, have not gotten over the suspicion of, and prejudice against, German citizens that our relatives passed down to us from World War II. And joking about something as serious as the Holocaust is a way of alleviating the deep-seated anxieties that still plague us, subconsciously or not.
So I will probably continue to watch “Project Runway” and laugh at Heidi Klum, because that’s part of what makes it fun, but I will try to focus more on her obsession with whether clothing “looks expensive” than with the way she seems to relish deciding contestants’ fate.
Ich liebe dich, Heidi!
I love the shopping circulars that come with the Sunday Times (which really arrives on Saturday). I’m a big browser – and not the Internet Explorer kind. Well, I browse online too. But back to one of the few remaining circulars that arrive in the print newspaper.
In this weekend’s paper arrived the Toys R Us “Big Book,” which my youngest still pores through as if it holds the secret of happiness. Perhaps for an 8 year old, it does.
All sorts of things Egyptian are available in this New! featured set.
You can get an Egyptian family and a Pharoah, even Egyptian soldiers and a masked robber on horseback.
But something seems strangely missing. Where are the little Israelite slaves who built the Sphinx and pyramids? How about a mini-Moses – then you could set up all the little Israelite slaves behind Moses, following him out of slavery.
There are only two people whose gargantuan faces greet drivers along Tel Aviv’s Ayalon highway. One is the larger-than-life-even-in-death Lubavicher Rebbe. The other is Bar Refaeli, possibly the most recognized Israeli face (and body) among American adult males.
Both billboards – and the glaring absence of any others – are indicative of the frightening and growing imposition of radical ultra-Orthodoxy on public life in Israel and the pressures women face.
Last year, after Israel’s Transportation Ministry declared that the billboards swamping the Ayalon were dangerous for drivers, massive white sheets were draped covering all of the advertisements but one. Chabad mysteriously got itself excused, and only the Rebbe remained, alone but seemingly content in his role staring down at motorists.
Fast forward to last week, when the Fox clothing chain successfully challenged the Rebbe’s monopoly on the Ayalon and received permission to hang its own advertisement. Out came a ten-meter high picture of Bar Refaeli in a provocative pose with a lesser known bloke, who is currently the envy of throngs of gawking Israeli male drivers.
That’s when some vocal members of the ultra-Orthodox community got angry.
Big Brother Rabin: From her home on Kibbutz Manara in the Galilee, Yitzhak Rabin’s sister, Rachel, recalls in Haaretz the siblings’ Tel Aviv upbringing, the children of a “tempestuous revolutionary” mother, during the 1920s and 1930s.
Ask the Experts: Nishmat, an organization that certifies female advisors on Jewish law, or yo’atzot halacha, recently lifted the 10-year restriction that had been placed on those certifications. The growth in the number of women undergoing fertility treatments and hormone therapies has increased the demand for female advisors, the Jerusalem Post reports.
’Breaking Free’: j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California has a cover story on Jewish women recovering from domestic violence — and the Bay Area nonprofit using “Jewish healing rituals” to help these move on with their lives after abuse.
Paging Dr. Christina Yang: In an interview with Jewschool, Olivia Cohen-Cutler, an ABC television exec and the chairwoman of the Morningstar Commission — formed 12 years ago to counteract stereotypical portrayals of Jewish women in the media — discusses the increasingly diverse roles for Jewish women on TV.
On Second Thought: Jewish women continue to be cast in role of exotic outsider. Tablet has a piece about the Fox television hit “Glee,” in which the character of Rachel (actress Lea Michele, above) is a token Jew whose “ethnic looks clash nicely with the blond midwesterness of the ‘Cheerios,’ the cheerleaders who serve as her ostensible rivals.”
I read this recent New York Times piece called “Shouting is the New Spanking” on yelling with great interest, because I have been known to yell at my family members. Okay, family members, you can stop laughing now. I haven’t been “known” to yell, rather I could be described as “a yeller.”
It feels a bit embarrassing to admit this shameful thing. It’s socially unacceptable and, let’s face it, it has class and ethnic overtones. I picture struggling Jewish and Italian mothers hanging out of New York tenements screaming for their kids to come in for dinner. Screaming seems to go with frizzy hair. It’s hard to imagine that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ever yelled at her kids.
Perhaps it’s more about status and class than membership in an ethnic minority.
Think about the difference between Edith and Archie on “All in the Family”, a white working class couple from Queens who constantly yelled at each other and their daughter and son-in-law, and “The Cosby Show,”, about a well-educated professional black couple and their children from Brooklyn Heights. Claire Huxtable never raised her voice — a meaningful look or raised eyebrow seemed to keep her kids in line. In fact, the angrier she got, the more honeyed her voice became.
I aspire to Claire Huxtable power and control. But let’s face it, even after almost 16 years of parenting three children, my patience is sorely tested by my 8 year old having a major melt down. I just can’t take the kvetching!
The buzz about “Good Hair,” Chris Rock’s new documentary about black hair, has got me thinking about “Jewish hair”: what it is, what it means, and where I — a straight-haired woman — fit into this curious piece of Jewish identity.
“Jewish hair” is a tricky thing to define, since Judaism can include people from any racial or ethnic background. And while Jews are known to have a variety of hair colors, as well as levels of curliness, “Jewish hair” seems to refer to dark, curly, and often frizzy, hair.
The first time I became aware of “Jewish hair” was when I went to an overnight for prospective students at Brandeis University. Up until that moment, sitting in a crowded upperclassmen dorm, I had never really thought about my hair as a part of my Jewish identity. But as I looked around the room, a sea of dark curls, I couldn’t help but notice that I was one of the few people with straight hair. With my light eyes and straight, brown hair, I found myself wondering if I “looked Jewish.” And even more troubling, did I want to “look Jewish?”
The introduction of Rebecca Rubin, the Jewish American Girl Doll, sparked conversation about this question a few months ago.
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