Sometimes I wish every week was Shiva with its unending support and ongoing hours, and days, of continual storytelling. For when loved ones die, the narratives we share help keep them alive. Shiva is the week before we must dance with reality, when the debate over how long it is supposed to take to reach acceptance in the stages of grief is not a spectrum, but a staunchly understood cavernous, amorphous abyss.
But all too often after Shiva, we forget. People are still mourning, but we forget. After the rugelach, fruit platters and babka have been laid on the kitchen counter and carried to the dining room table, then eaten, we forget. After the family members deepest in mourning — their loved one so recently a breath away — have cried, wailed and sat stunned in shock, we forget.
My brother, Joshua, died in October 2002, nearly 11 years ago. He was struck by a car while walking down a sidewalk in the Chicago suburbs; a senior from his high school pulled an illegal U-Turn and an elderly man struck Joshua, then 15, in an attempt to avoid collision with the teenager. The car flung Josh’s body into the side of a store building. Immediately left unconscious, he died the next morning in the Intensive Care Unit.
For years, I skirted around Berlin. Trips to Europe took me to Denmark, Holland and France, but never to their neighbor. When a friend finally convinced me to visit this spring, I got one of two responses from all of my Jewish friends: “Oh, I love Berlin! It’s like Brooklyn. I’ve been thinking about moving.” And then there was, “Oh, I could never.”
Until now, I’ve been firmly in category two. It isn’t personal. My family was lucky enough to have already been in the United States when the Shoah happened. My beef’s with the Ukraine, who chased them out (and which I still won’t visit), not with Germany. But the Holocaust is all over every Jewish kid’s curriculum, and it’s full of German people and German words. I keep thinking of scenes from Eytan Fox’s movie “Walk On Water,” which is basically the German/Jewish conflict illustrated on an individual scale. In fact, one of the reasons I’m in Europe right now is to attend an Austrian friend and former roommate’s wedding.
But as the plane circled Tegel airport, I felt a shadow crawl into my stomach. In the Customs line, I watched an elderly German couple and thought Were they there? What did they do? I was convinced that everyone could look at me and tell, like those guys in the New York City subway who always stop and ask if you’re Jewish.
Every week, Dancing with the Stars comes up with a new way to torture its already-frazzled celebrity contestants, from a solo dance to a faceoff against a pro dancer. This week, the celebrities and their partners were paired against each other. In some cases, that was bad news, but for Aly Raisman it was great news, since her opponent was comedian Andy Dick, who has been one of the lowest-scoring contestants this season. That meant that this week’s total was determined first by a regular dance, with extra “judges’ points” going to the winners of the face-off dances.
First up: the salsa.
This dance was all about the sex appeal, and it definitely felt like Aly was loosening up and becoming less awkward doing hip shakes, which can only be good for her future Latin dances. That said, Aly’s pro partner Mark Ballas really needs to cool it with the gimmicks in their dances. It’s one thing to use gimmicks (in this case, having Aly work at a fruit stand and literally shake pineapples in the beginning of the dance) to disguise a bad dancer, but Aly’s good enough that he should let it go.
Sexual dysfunctions within relationships are more common than ever today, with an estimated 40% of women and 30% of men suffering from sexual dysfunctions, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical school. Many women experience pain during intercourse, which could relate to conditions like vaginismus, dyspareunia, and vulvodynia, while common male sexual dysfunctions include premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and other disorders related to anxiety.
In many Orthodox circles, the essence of a couple’s life revolves around having children. Sexual dysfunctions within a relationship could hurt, and possible even cede, the reproductive aspects. Couples seeking counseling might shy away from the subject, a topic not necessarily widely addressed, and with the laws of family purity weighing in, the pressures seem to tack on.
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, a marital and family therapist from Brooklyn who specializes in Orthodox couples, has just released a new book, “Getting Closer,” which offers a glimpse of sexual dysfunction issues — from painful intercourse to erectile dysfunction to desire disorders — within the Orthodox community. He discusses marital intimacy using an approach called Emotionally Focused Therapy to help Orthodox couples through difficulties in intimacy, which can be the underlying issue of much of marital stress. The Sisterhood spoke with him about his new book and some of the unique issues the Orthodox community faces.
This is the second post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
Immediately after Passover, I announced my intention to cut the cord on technology — specifically, to reduce my iPhone use in half by next spring. Inspired by the themes of the holiday, I decided to stop acting like a slave to texts, emails, Facebook and Twitter. Instead, I looked for ways I could realistically shave off the time I spend with my eyes focused on that spellbinding screen.
“In half” is a nebulous figure, considering I’m not sure how much time I was connected to my phone before Passover. But I know I’m not alone in suffering from the fragmented, frazzled lifestyle that comes from the “convenience” of having smartphones around no matter where and when.
According to a study presented by University of Worcester psychologist Richard Balding, “the more you check your phone the edgier you feel.” Most fascinating was the fact that “personal interactions via email, text and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter” cause the most anxiety as opposed to work-related interactions on our phones.
The good news? My experiments so far have already proven fruitful and might help others, too. In little over a month I’m spending less time with my phone. The bad news? I still have a long way to go.
Abstinence-only education doesn’t achieve its intended goal: preventing pregnancy. The American states with the highest teen pregnancy rates employ abstinence-only education in their schools. And while abstinence-only lessons by definition don’t include the efficacy of various birth control methods, leaving students without basic knowledge, they also often shame young women, too. In particularly heinous examples, sexually active women are compared to chewed-up pieces of gum cups with spit in them, or flowers with the petals torn off.
Fortunately, some young people don’t take the claptrap that the abstinence peddlers, well, peddle. In the midst of the Boston Marathon horror, you may have missed the amazing story of Katelyn Campbell, a young student leader who stood up to the bullies at her West Virginia school.
This week, everyone on “Dancing with the Stars” got to dance to Stevie Wonder songs. Unfortunately, the man himself wasn’t there, but Aly lucked out with a pretty good song/dance combo: a foxtrot to “Isn’t She Lovely.”
Although it’s only six weeks into the season, it’s never too soon for the show to throw extra challenges at the celebrity dancers. This week, there was a “group dance” segment where the pairs had to dance together. That made two dances to train for in a minimal amount of time — although that’s still probably nothing compared to training for the Olympics.
“I think everything at the Boston Marathon has affected me a lot more than I thought,” a somber Aly said to the camera while wearing an “I [Heart] Boston” T-shirt. That’s not a good sign for her, since the foxtrot is one of those peppy, upbeat numbers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Fred Astaire movie. She then admits that not only is she affected because she grew up in Boston, but she was supposed to have been at the Marathon that day. Her pro partner, Mark Ballas, tells her that she should dedicate her dance to Boston and try to bring joy in order to heal. In other words, even if she falls on her face, no one is voting against Aly Raisman this week.
Our lives can change in an instant, which is exactly what happens to Rahel bat Yair, a 17-year-old girl about to be engaged to be married. Mere minutes after her father’s enemy arrives at her home as she gets ready to meet her betrothed, the sheltered teenager is forced to flee and assume a new identity. Her journey is dangerous — even brutal — but it is also expansive.
Rachel is the protagonist of Janice Weizman’s debut novel, “The Wayward Moon,” which was recently named a finalist for the Midwest Book Award. In the novel, Weizman, the founder and managing editor of The Ilanot Review, transports us to what is now Iraq in the 9th century, the Golden Age of Islam — an unusual period for a Jewish historical novel with a female heroine.
The Sisterhood asked Weizman how she accurately evoked her novel’s historical setting, how the book is a reclamation of women’s history and the challenges of writing from a Medieval perspective when you live in a post-Enlightenment world.
Rebecca Kanner’s new novel, “Sinners and the Sea,” imagines the experiences of that woman. In a recent interview with The Sisterhood, Kanner, who is based in Minneapolis, talked about the book.
THE SISTERHOOD: Rebecca, I understand that your interest in Noah’s wife can be traced to your early education in a Jewish day school. Please tell us about that.
I attended Talmud Torah Day school as a child. The women of Genesis were very present for me, especially Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, because my teachers added them to the Amidah each morning. I got to begin each day with these women. They were the teachers and friends of my youth.
As an adult I was surprised to find that I couldn’t remember any details about Noah’s wife. I went back and read the story of the flood, and saw that she was only mentioned in passing. She was never even named. Without a name, it’s hard to talk about her, or even to think about her. I wanted to bring her to life. If she raised her family amongst sinners and brought them through the flood to the new world, she performed a great task and surely had a story to tell.
For 6’1” German filmmaker Edda Baumann-Von Broen, being a very tall woman is one thing. Being the mother of a young daughter who is also going to be exceptionally tall is another.
Looking at her daughter, she realized that being tall is not something unique, but rather a trait and experience shared by many young women and girls. She wonders, “As a mother I can’t help but ask, will my daughter have to go through the same struggles I did? How do I guide her in the right direction?”
Baumann-Von Broen made the 2012 documentary film “Tall Girls” in an attempt to answer these questions. In it, she profiles seven German, Austrian, Dutch and American girls and women to learn more about how they see themselves in a world where they can’t help but always be seen.
Although Arianne Cohen is Jewish, it is not explicitly mentioned in the film. But there are other Jewish women of such height and The Sisterhood spoke with three of them to learn about their experiences and to gain their perspectives on the issues the film raises.
After finishing Jonathan Cohn’s new story, “The Hell of American Day Care” about the potential tragic consequences of the abysmal day care policies in the United States, it took everything I had to not get up from my desk and wrest my baby boy away from his caretaker’s arms. The fact that they were only in the other room, and I could hear him happily babbling away, kept me seated. I had a moment of deep gratitude that I could afford a nanny I trusted and had a flexible career that allowed me to work from home. But still, my chest was tight with the vulnerability a parent feels when they entrust someone else with the well-being of their child.
Cohn’s piece begins with the story of Kenya Mire, a single mother who, due to a lack of other options, put her toddler girl Kendyll in a home day care center in Houston. On Kendyll’s second day, there was a fire in the home and Kendyll and three other children died. It was later discovered that the caretaker left the children home alone with something cooking on the stove while she made a quick run to Target.
Mire’s story is a deeply powerful and devastating indictment of our messy and inefficiently monitored day care system. Though perhaps it is a little too powerful and devastating to really make, what I believe, is Cohn’s intended main point: that improving our day care system would help working parents and our economy.
When that phrase first started to turn up in every article aimed at a female audience, I rolled my eyes at it too. There has been much conflation of the two ideas (alongside claims that Sandberg did not intend to conflate them.) But it’s clear that “am I leaning in?” has, at least for now, replaced “can I have it all?” as the issue we’re supposed to worry about.
What tipped my “you just don’t get it” frustration into full-on rage, though, was not one of the numerous news articles about what Sandberg’s book means for women in the workplace. It was this question on Ask MetaFilter, an online forum where users ask each other about almost anything and receive long and — mostly — thoughtful answers. The question, titled “Not Leaning In,” was posted by a woman with a well-paid and flexible job, a young daughter, a husband and a sense of contentment. It was the contentment that bothered her. “With all this “Lean In” stuff going around these days, I feel kind of like I should want more, but I really don’t,” she wrote. “I’m sure society can spare one woman, we don’t all have to [be] high-achieving, go-getters, right?”
In February 1997, Ellen Jaffe Gill’ s essay on not wanting to have children, was published in Moment Magazine. In the piece, Jaffe Gill (then McClain) discussed how her decision not to have children did not prevent her from engaging fully in Jewish life. As a writer, she was in fact transmitting the covenant on her own terms.
“I don’t remember a lot of reaction to the piece in Moment,” she recently told The Sisterhood via email. “What was telling was that a few years later, I tried to write a feature story about childlessness by choice for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and couldn’t get it off the ground because very few peoplewould talk to me on or even off the record.”
Jaffe Gill, who entered Jewish professional life at 44 and is now a cantor and rabbinical student in her 50s, had a tubal ligation at the age of 31, “after ten years of being sure I never wanted to have a baby.”
For a very long time, I thought I wanted to be a rabbi. There are a lot of reasons why I changed my mind, but a big one is that I could not find the role model I needed — a child-free female rabbi. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to have kids, but it was so hard to say it out loud, and saying it in front of people who were committing their professional and personal lives to the Jewish community seemed impossible.
Dancing with the Stars loves their theme weeks, and this week didn’t escape unscathed. The contestants were asked to do dances that tied in with “The Best Year of My Life.” While that’s actually a pretty decent theme for a dance, the celebrities still have to work within the constraints of the show; if you’re assigned a super sexy dance but your Best Year is about, like, recovering from cancer or giving birth or something, you have to somehow make it work. Luckily, Aly and her partner Mark Ballas were assigned Contemporary for this week, and that style is pretty open and malleable.
Unsurprisingly, Aly chose 2012 as the best year of her life, because it’s the year that she won two freaking Olympic gold medals. “Aly was the underdog,” Ballas said to the camera. “No one thought she would place.” Their song is one that Aly picked: “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. The lyrics, which Aly says she listened to all the time when she was working out in the gym, are pretty standard pump-up fare: “I’m strong, and no matter what you do to me I won’t give up.” Contemporary dance, unlike a lot of other styles on this show, allows fancy lifts, so I expected to see quite a few of Aly’s signature gymnastics moves repurposed into this dance.
Those of us who have made it our business to achieve gender equality by way of parenting, have long pushed for better paternity leave policies. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. But it looks like it’s also the economically prudent thing to do, too.
The New York Times magazine had a story this past weekend on how paying daddy while he stays home to take care of his baby can actually stimulate the economy.
To make her case, writer Catherine Rampell refers to a new study by economists at the University of Chicago and Stanford that estimate that “15 to 20 percent of American productivity growth over the last five decades has come from more efficient allocation of underrepresented groups, like women, into occupations that were largely off-limits, like doctors or lawyers.”
She explains that other rich countries have figured out how to keep women in the labor force, mostly through adopting policies that allow parents to request flexible work arrangements (part-time, home-based), guaranteeing paid leave for both sexes, and, in some cases, affordable childcare. While these policies do increase taxes, they ultimately pay off because they keep women in the workforce — the very same women who help our productivity grow.
This is the first post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
On the Shabbat afternoon before Passover, I received a frantic voicemail from a friend who had texted me an important question earlier that morning. She was worried (and annoyed) when I had not texted back by noon.
Was I mad? she asked in her message. Was I injured? Was something wrong with one of the kids?
Sadly, I understood her exasperation. I usually text back quickly, on Shabbat or otherwise. It just so happened that on this particular morning, I was at the beginning of what I’m calling My Passover-Inspired Phone Experiment. Why put myself through such an experiment? I decided it was time to rescue myself from the stronghold of my iPhone.
Legal abortion could become a thing of the past in a handful of states if anti-choice efforts are successful. Note that I don’t say abortion will become a thing of the past, because the need for abortion will persist, but safe and legal abortion will be outlawed as a spate of new state-level laws curtail the procedure and shut down clinics.
For several years, as we’ve documented here at the Sisterhood, the anti-choice movement in the U.S. has been trying a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” technique. This flurry of uterus-focused activity got its own nickname: “The War on Women.” In reality, these unnecessary and intrusive health rollbacks hurt more than just one gender, and the “war” part didn’t stop when the catchphrase fell out of fashion. Some measures passed, others were modified, and now the assault on rights has ratcheted up again.
Unlike my mom, who loves to “b’sheret” everything, I don’t tend to make a big deal of coincidences. But one happened this week that is worth a Sisterhood mention.
My mom had been going through some old boxes when she discovered the newspaper clipping of the Challenger disaster. “You wouldn’t let me throw it away,” she told me over the phone. “You were even a little meshuggah then.”
The next day I saw a Facebook update from the Jewish Women’s Archive about Judith Resnik, the only female, and Jewish, astronaut aboard the Challenger. Resnik, who was born on April 5, 1949, grew up in Akron, Ohio, where she attended Hebrew School and kicked butt in math and science from a very early age. She studied to be an electrical engineer and hadn’t thought much about joining the space program until NASA sought her out through a recruiting program for women and minorities. (Go quotas!) She joined in 1978, and in 1984 she became the fourth woman in the world to go to space. Two years later, she died. She would have been 64 this week.
Outcry from Jews in Israel and the Diaspora has led the rabbi in charge of policies at the Kotel to back down from his plan to have women arrested for saying Kaddish, says Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall.
At a meeting Thursday with Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch “assured Sharansky that, contrary to the letter [sent by Jerusalem police chief to Women of the Wall], no woman would be arrested for reciting Kaddish at the Western Wall.”
The Jewish Agency made that announcement by posting a note on its Facebook page, which was illustrated with a photo of young women praying at the Kotel.
After The Sisterhood broke the story Wednesday of the police chief’s letter indicating that women would be arrested and charged for saying Kaddish, as well as wearing a tallit, it was covered extensively by the Israeli media, Hoffman said.
The connection between Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is one that I learned of during my conversion process. When only one month a year is given to Black History, certain events are sure to be left out. While my parents did an amazing job sharing their personal insights and memories of the Civil Rights movement, much of my learning happened while studying Black History in college. Still, it wasn’t until I started studying Judaism that I learned about the partnership between King and Heschel.
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King opened his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York City by welcoming Rabbi Heschel.
“I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, and some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation.”
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