Sisterhood Blog

Israeli Beauty Queen Fights for Women

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Israeli beauty queen Doron Matalon is a firm believer that good things can come from bad experiences. As a soldier in December 2011, she was sexually harassed by an ultra-Orthodox man on a Jerusalem bus. Now, as the first runner-up in the recent 64th Miss Israel pageant, she plans to use her newfound fame to help advance the fight for women’s rights in her country.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: harassment, Jewish, Israel, Haredim, Doron Matalon

No Women Allowed in the Bomb Shelter

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

ורד אלמוגי

Amid all the Facebook posts about the heart-rending violence taking place at this moment in Israel and Gaza, this photo of a bomb shelter door in Ashdod leapt out. It says that the bomb shelter is only for men and boys.

We don’t know if there is a separate shelter right next to this one, designated for women and girls. Nevertheless, it is gender segregation at its most outrageous.

It reflects how deeply the notion that men and women must be separated at all costs has taken hold — even in life-threatening situations, such as when the sirens sound the alert that rockets are falling.

There may be a women and girls’ shelter next door. There may not be. My Hebrew isn’t good enough to be able to read all of comments this photo has sparked on Facebook, some of which might shed light on the question, and Bing does a lousy job of translating them.

But even if there is, what if going to the female-only bomb shelter requires women and girls to take a few more steps than if they were allowed in this one? What if that puts them in harms way?

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, israel, haredim, gaza, debra nussbaum cohen, bomb shelter

Orthodox Women, Stunted Ambitions

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

Does Orthodoxy make women girly?

That is the essence, I believe, of Israeli religious feminist Chana Pinchasi’s argument in an opinion piece in Ynet. In lamenting the absence of religious women in positions of public leadership in Israel, Pinchasi asked, “Why don’t we have a Keren Neubach, Shelly Yachimovitch, or Ilana Dayan? Why isn’t there a religious woman with a clear, polished, elaborate and committed ideological voice at the center of the public discourse? I mean the voice of a woman who does not deny her femininity but also does not play with it, and for whom it is not obsequious. The type who is both a mother and professional and has a critical public voice that you may not agree with but you cannot help but respect.”

I have been wondering the same thing. Although, to be fair, judging by Ynet alone, Pinchasi herself has a strong voice, as do Rivka Lubitch and Chana Kehat and a few others. But it seems to me that religious women are socialized into putting ourselves last, into fitting into social expectations, into not being too loud or too disagreeable, and into not really breaking out of the rules too much.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Haredim, Chana Pinchasi, Ambition, Motherhood, Orthodoxy

If You Must Be Fruitful and Multiply, a Sister Wife Sounds Appealing

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

Getty Images
A Times Square billboard for HBO’s ‘Big Love’

Leah Berkenwald discussed how the reality show “Sister Wives” has joined HBO’s fictional “Big Love” in shining the spotlight on polygamous lifestyles, and in raising interesting questions about our ideas about marriage, monogamy and religion.

Her conclusion? “I came to realize that my problem with “Sister Wives” is not a problem with the family itself (they are actually quite likeable people), nor is it a problem with alternate polyamorous lifestyles. What I do have a problem with is religious fundamentalism and its adherence to biblical notions of marriage and paternalism. And that applies to Jewish fundamentalists as well.”

Probably because because I’m the harried mother of three, but when I watch portrayals of these strictly religious, patriarchal, and fundamentalist Mormons I’m thinking less about the sex and more about the kids. And, of course, I’m thinking about the Jews.

In addition to hard-core religion and patriarchy, when it comes to having children, ultra-Orthodox Jews and the polygamist Mormon fringe have an identical philosophy — they believe that more is more. The difference is that, unlike their Biblical forefathers, even the most Orthodox Jews believe in one wife at a time. Being fruitful and multiplying to one womb per family.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sister Wives, Polygamy, Haredim

Haredim’s Cold-Hearted Cause Célèbre

By Elana Sztokman

Getty Images
Ultra-Orthodox males protest the recent Supreme Court ruling on integration.

The world has seen some moving mass protests. Anti-war protests, civil rights marches, rallies to release Natan Sharansky from prison. The mass protest has drama, heroism, poignancy and the potential to achieve real results. Consider how Mahatma Gandhi led millions of Indians in protest against British rule through noncompliance. Indian public officials resigned, parents withdrew their children from British schools and participants boycotted British goods. Eventually, around the same time they left Palestine, the British decided to stop colonizing India. They left people to create their own autonomous democracies. These are amazing moments in modern history.

Watching Haredi protests in Israel over the past few days, with the image of hundreds of thousands of black hats creating powerful impressions of solidarity and determination, it is tempting to invoke the nostalgia from those amazing moments. But here, the cause célèbre that the Haredim are rallying around is the right to be free from the Sephardic girls in their midst.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sephardic, Haredim, Emanuel, Ashkenazi




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  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
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  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
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