Sisterhood Blog

How Facebook 'Like' Came Between Dad and Me

By Avital Norman Nathman

Avital Norman Nathman and her son on a recent trip to Israel

I am my father’s daughter. That means I am incredibly passionate, equally stubborn and some might even say hot-headed. You can just imagine how my teen years went as I came into my own — lots of slammed doors, shouted ultimatums, and threats from both of us.

For the most part though, we see eye to eye on many issues now. Just the other day my father forwarded me a breaking news email from the New York Times regarding the Supreme Court’s Buffer Zone decision. My father’s cool like that — he sends me emails about abortion and supports me in my reproductive health work. What transpired was a calm and interesting back and forth about freedom of religion, speech and where one person’s rights ends and another’s begins. Somehow we can discuss certain hot button issues without devolving into shouting matches and tears.

But not all issues.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right on Hobby Lobby

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images

It fascinated me, when the Hobby Lobby decision came down, to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito debating the potential ramifications of the case via their dissent and decision, respectively. Alito declared his surety that allowing companies to exercise religious domination (essentially) over their employees would not lead to all kinds of discrimination, and that only certain kinds of women’s reproductive healthcare would be affected.

Ginsburg held an opposing view, warning the court that it had entered a “minefield” of slippery-slopes. If any sincerely-held religious beliefs can be grounds to apply for a health insurance exception, she noted, then soon enough we could be hearing from business owners who sincerely believe that God tells them to do more than discriminate against women’s health: discriminate against Jews, or gay people, for instance.

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5 Reasons 'Seinfeld's Elaine is Feminist Icon

By Elissa Strauss

This week marks the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld, the mostly loved but sometimes reviled sitcom about nothing. In honor of this milestone, the Sisterhood would like to pay our dues to the character of Elaine Benes, whose spunk and guile was given shape by the most enduring cast member, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Elaine was an unlikely shero for the generation of women who grew up on the show and today, as we look back, it feels fair to crown her as an official feminist icon. Here are five reasons why.

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The Mikveh in My Backyard

By Johnna Kaplan

The site of the Chesterfield synagogue

I’m walking towards a wooded lot almost hidden by what passes for a busy intersection in rural eastern Connecticut. The road has no shoulder, so I try to stay as close as possible to the curb. This is not a place designed for pedestrians, and I wonder what passing drivers are thinking about me as I head up the hill away from the one gas station, the one store, and the one motel.

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There's a Shark in the Mikveh

By Deena Yellin

Perplexed souls seeking enlightenment about what to expect when taking a dip in the mikveh have generally found a limited variety on the shelves of Judaica stores and libraries: On the one hand, there are a myriad of volumes devoted to the halachic intricacies of family purity, and then there are the numerous works extolling the ritual for enhancing marriages and providing spiritual renewal.

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Is Lady Liberty Jewish?

By Chana Pollack

The Statue of Liberty in 1936. International News / Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

With her right arm raised heavenward, it’s easy to imagine that the Statue of Liberty, built in 1886, stands in mid-harbor, vowing to remember Jerusalem, lest her right hand wither. In truth, Lady Liberty is not technically a Jew. Her father was a Freemason; the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi called her “Libertas” after the Roman goddess of freedom. He also wanted her to resemble the goddess Isis, the Egyptian queen of heaven, hence the crown of sunbeams.

Bartholdi was helped by fellow French artists Gustave Eiffel and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc who assisted with Lady Liberty’s inner foundation construction. Perhaps it’s her long term domestic partnership with acclaimed Sephardic Jewish New York City poet and activist Emma Lazarus, (or at least with her sonnet “The New Colossus”) that makes Lady Liberty seem like a philo-Semite. And Lazarus wouldn’t have been the first American Jew mesmerized by her spiritual largesse.

The froy mitn fakl as she’s sometimes nicknamed in Yiddish, “the woman with the torch,” inspired German Jewish refugee immigrant Manfred Anson’s menorah with each branch and the shamash a tribute to her. Lady Liberty’s folded robes and sandals, evoke a reimagining of the early practical, but still fashion-forward Israelite look during the 40 years of biblical wandering. Her zaftig figure, bottle curls, ample lips and nose, her sturdy, heymish interior beckoning you in, along with her serious dedication to mentshlekhkayt un gerekhtekayt — “humanity and justice” — her task of enlightening the world, all seem like a familiar package. She doesn’t have a weight problem, she comes from solid stock. And coupled with the Lazarus poem naming her “mother of exiles” she offers to all a tower of female strength. A Jewish mother for the tempest tossed. With her own set of broken chains lying at her feet, she identifies with you, and the troubles you’ve seen. She is a confident multi-tasker, providing a watchful eye and a warm welcome.

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Pepi Littman, Yiddish Drag King

By Chana Pollack

Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

The image of early 20th century itinerant member of the Broder Singers (and Yiddish drag king) Pepi ‘Peshe Khane’ Littman (1874-1930) seen here as ‘the griner bucher’ (the inexperienced bachelor) calls to mind the bawdy Yiddish saying: es zol dir dunern in boykh un blitsn in di hoyzn (may you have thunder in your belly and, — more importantly perhaps — lightning in your pants.)

Electricity was precisely what Pepi brought to the then nascent field of Yiddish women performers: either in drag as a young hasidic man costumed in a long black satin coat, high peaked silk yarmulka, white knee-socks and breeches, or as a dandy bachelor, sumptuously filling out a handsomely tailored three piece suit. Pepi was a charming transgressive star delivering original Yiddish lyrics and drawing fans from literary circles, including those based around the “grandfather” of Yiddish literature, Mendele Moykher Sforim.

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The Dead Mothers Club

By Chanel Dubofsky

Molly Shannon in ‘The Dead Mothers Club’

This morning on the train, I started reading “The Goldfinch,” Donna Tart’s enormous novel that won the Pulitzer this year. Five pages in, you learn that Theo, the protagonist, has a life that’s been separated by the “dividing mark” of his mother’s death, Before and after. This would ring familiar to anyone with a dead mother, or a dead parent, or a sick parent or friend. The moment before the death, in hindsight, seems like it was lived by an entirely different person, someone who’s now unrecognizable.

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Goodbye, Dov Charney

By Sarah Seltzer

Getty Images // Dov Charney

Goodbye, Dov Charney. Last week, trendy t-shirt and legging manufacturer American Apparel said genug to the antics of its “controversial” (and Jewish) CEO Dov Charney, known for being the sleaziest head honcho in an industry hardly known for its puritanism. I’ll never forget reading the profile of him in my favorite lady-magazine that included the detail of him masturbating in front of the reporter. Gross. Combine his rumored and non-rumored antics with the porn-resembling, discomfort-producing exploitation of his company’s ad campaigns and brand and you get a pretty big disincentive from shopping at American Apparel.

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Debating My Boyfriend Over Israel's Orthodox Rule

By Noga Gur Arieh

Noga and her boyfriend

When I imagined my wedding day as an Israeli Jew, I envisioned choosing one of the alternatives to the Orthodox process. It would be a non-religious or a Reform ceremony, in which my partner and I would be treated as equal, a ceremony in I could express my love, and not stand as an empty, smiling vassal. To my disappointment, I recently learned that my partner does not share this wedding-day vision of mine.

Not long ago, we attended a wedding, and during the ceremony, I spelled out my dream to him. Then, in what turned out to be a part discussion/part argument, he told me he was not willing to skip the traditional Jewish Orthodox wedding. I explained the humiliation I feel just by thinking about all the processes I would have to go through as a Jewish woman. He said he was sorry I feel this way, but that he must put his foot down: tradition is important to him, and he was raised to respect it. The thought of this matter threatening to break us up sometime in the future was unsettling, but I just couldn’t see myself choosing his path.

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When Fanny Brice Made the Follies

By Chana Pollack

Forward Association

Fanny Brice (born Fania Borach) of Forsyth Street, and later on, further uptown and even New Jersey, opened her career-making act as the Yiddish “Salome” with this line: “I’ve been a bad woman, but such good company, Nu?”

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Why I Broke Up With JDate

By Jen Glantz

Jen Glantz on JDate

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I said, waving my mouse over the “delete you profile” button on my JDate account. Like all cheesy and overused break up lines, that often serve as our first strike of defense when we’re eager to avoid the real reason why we’re picking up and running in the opposite direction, this one had a whole lot of truth to it.

JDate was the very first online dating site that I joined. I had been living in New York City for a year and found that meeting quality guys was not as easy as finding a quality slice of pizza in this city.

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It's Time for a #Balebuste Revolution

By Frimet Goldberger

When I am asked to write a bio of myself and my very short career as a writer, I am always tempted to add “balebuste” next to “writer” and “mother.” But instead of using a word that connotes housewife, I settle for “baker,” because, let’s face it, bakers can be learned and cultured, whereas balebustes are stereotypically standing over a pot of soup while the challah dough is rising and the baby is latching onto the hem of their frumpy punjelos (Hungarian Yiddish for a housecoat or robe).

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#FreetheNipple for the Win

By Elissa Strauss

Thinkstock

Ladies and gentleman, the nipples have been freed. A few weeks ago Facebook quietly changed its policy on allowing pictures of breastfeeding moms.

A Facebook representative told CNET: “We have always allowed breast-feeding photos — it is natural and beautiful and we know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook.”

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Daughters of Russ and Daughters

By Elissa Strauss

The new documentary “The Sturgeon Queens” explores the history and legacy of Russ and Daughters, the Lower East Side’s famed purveyor of smoked fish which has been appetizing its way into our mouths and hearts for one-hundred years now. The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke with writer and producer Julie Cohen about why she decided to tell this story, the shops unusual and proto-feminist name and how she got the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mario Batali to get really personal about smoked salmon.

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I Fainted at My Nephew's Bris

By Zachary Thacher

Zachary Thacher

My father and I arrived late to the synagogue in the Bronx. It was the morning of my brother’s son’s bris, the Jewish ritual circumcision. There were 60 people crammed in an annex meant for half that many. We took the only two chairs left, in the first row. When I sat down I realized why they had been empty. We were inches from the table where the mohel would slice the foreskin from my newborn nephew.

We were late due to the fact that I had come down with the flu, and also because my father, Fred, had made the trip from Boston starting at 4 am in his beater car.

The day was cold and sharp but inside the air was thick with the heat of bodies.

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To The Father Who Raised Us — My Husband

By Frimet Goldberger

Frimet Goldberger’s children, Shloimy, age 9 and Rachel, age 7.

While the daughters and sons of America are celebrating their fathers, I am spending my Father’s Day celebrating my husband, the man who raised us — our family — and stood by me through the tumultuous journey to help me build a new foundation from the ground up.

My husband, for those of you who don’t know him, is an unlikely match for a woman like me. Where I am loud and willing to share deeply-personal stories, he is a fiercely private man who loathes publicity. (He asked not to have a photo of him appear with this blog post.) Where I am the gregarious half interested in meeting others, he is the homebody who prefers to spend time with his loved ones.

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Frieda Wunderlich, Professor in Exile

By Chana Pollack

Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

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Why Mila Kunis Should Be Grateful for 'Pregnant' Dads

By Elissa Strauss

Getty Images // Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher

On Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, actress Mila Kunis delivered a mock PSA announcement to future fathers of the world calling on them to quit using the phrase, “we’re pregnant.”

“You’re not pregnant,“ she said. “Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady hole? No. Are you crying alone in your car listening to a stupid Bette Milder song? No.”

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What '10 Things' Taught Me About Secular World

By Tova Ross

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’

I would be remiss if I let 2014 whoosh by without pausing to commemorate the 15th anniversaries of three of the most seminal coming-of-age stories of our time. I’m referring, of course, to “She’s All That,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” and “Never Been Kissed”: the trifecta of teen movies from 1999, a banner year for helping to perpetuate the misinformed fantasies of hormonal adolescent girls throughout the world.

I had forgotten about this momentous anniversary until my friend Frimet Goldberger, who regularly illuminates what it’s like to find your way in the world after an insular Hasidic upbringing, wrote about her regret at never getting to attend a prom, “that quintessentially American rite of passage.”

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