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Jewesses with Attitude

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Yana's hamsa

Figuring It Out

So how in the world was the rigid, traditional, millenniums-old practice of Judaism in any way connected to feminism, a movement that aims to restructure societies’ ideals and question tradition? How could I identify as both a believing Jew and as a feminist, not to mention lumping them together into one phrase? The more I repeated them to myself, the more the words ‘Jewish’ and ‘feminist’ sounded incorrect side by side, like “candied broccoli” or “kind bigot.”

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Eliana Melmed Bat Mitzvah

Looking Over the Mechitza

Although I wish they were, feminism and Judaism are not congruous in my life. I am a feminist. I am a Jew. But when I put them together, they clash. In my life, being Jewish means that I am a part of my Modern Orthodox community, it means that I go to shul every week and sit in my designated place on the left side of the mechitza, the low wall that separates men and women during prayer.

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Rachel Landau as a child

Questioning My Identity from the Backseat

Why am I both burdened and liberated by the rich history that precedes me, and how do I identify myself with it accordingly? I remember sitting in a car outside of a Dunkin Donuts when I first pondered this question. Watching the cars drive along the highway, I tried to discern the faces of the drivers—discover their races, religions and genders in order to associate their appearances with stereotypical status and privilege. I wondered about myself—how I could fit in among the mosaic of peoples when my own identity seemed so misshapen.

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Torah

Torah Reading Between the Lines

A few Saturday mornings a month, my Dad and I go to synagogue to read Torah. We drive there, even though my synagogue is within walking distance; my Dad often has errands to run, or I have a dance class I need to make, two activities that cannot be accomplished efficiently through walking. We pull into the parking lot, pry open the synagogue’s heavy wooden doors, and take our seats at the very back of the sanctuary. Within thirty minutes, as the Torah is being lifted in the air for the ritual of hagbah, we are out of there.

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Program from Ilana Goldberg's Bat Mitzvah

I Got It From My Mama: Feminism, Judaism, and Me

Many things about my lifestyle confuse my grandmother.

She does not understand why I wear white after Labor Day, how I can text so quickly, or why I’m vegetarian.

And four years ago, she could not understand how my name would be read as I was called to the Torah to become a Bat Mitzvah.

Traditionally, I would be Ilana bat (my mother's Hebrew name, which happens to be Rachel) and (my father's Hebrew name.) The issue with that formula was, I only had one parent. I have only ever had one parent.

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Katha Pollitt

Pro: An Interview with Katha Pollitt

Is abortion really always tragic? How much has pro-life rhetoric influenced women's attitudes toward abortion? Forty years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, “abortion” is still a word that is said with outright hostility by many, despite the fact that one in three American women will have terminated at least one pregnancy in their lifetime. In her new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, feminist writer and poet Katha Pollitt reframes abortion as a common part of a woman’s reproductive life, one that should be accepted as a moral right with positive social implications.

Joyce Carpati with purse cropped

Advanced Style: An Interview with Joyce Carpati

On his hugely popular fashion blog Advanced Style, photographer Ari Seth Cohen has introduced readers to some of the world’s most fashionable, fabulous, inspiring women, including Iris Apfel and Linda Rodin. The blog, which features stylish women over 50, has been so successful since it’s founding in 2008 that it has since produced a book and now a documentary film of the same name. Fans come to Advanced Style for the fashion and the flamboyance, but the blog’s commentary on society’s fixation on youth and beauty has been just as influential: even Vogue Italia called Advanced Style less a street-style blog than "a sociological treatise" on ageing and identity. For those readers of Advanced Style who long to know more about the subjects of Mr. Cohen’s photos, the new film is an absolute joy. It delves into the lives and backstories of seven of the blog’s most beloved subjects, including Joyce Carpati, who at 82 must be the world’s most elegant woman.

Wedding Dress cropped for index image

Say Yes to the WHAT?

I have spent too many nights—nay, entire weekends—doing my nails, eating lunch, drinking gin and tonics—in front of TLC’s masterpiece to see it desecrated by old white men trying to appeal to women voters. I’ve grown up with this show: I remember when Kleinfeld’s consultant Sarah got engaged, when consultant Keisha announced she had breast cancer. I watched in horror as bride Amanda’s dad bought her a $30,000 gown to wear under her $25,000 chuppah, and cried every time a bride got emotional about buying a dress without their mother there. Say Yes To The Dress is my rock: it brings me joy, it’s always there when I want it with countless episodes to rewatch, and it prompts important rants (let’s call them conversations) about feminism and gender in my apartment. The women on Say Yes To The Dress may not all be the most liberated, but they’re MY marriage-obsessed 20-somethings, and I love them.

Regina Jonas Cropped

Commemorating Rabbi Regina Jonas

This October marks the 70th anniversary of the death of Regina Jonas, the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi. Born in Berlin in 1902, Jonas began talking to friends about her desire to become a rabbi when she was still a teen, and later studied under Eduard Banath, who oversaw ordination for the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a liberal, nondenominational seminary in Berlin. But when Banath died in 1930, Jonas struggled to find another rabbi willing to ordain her. She argued brilliantly for the possibility of women becoming rabbis and eventually won over Rabbi Max Dienemann, executive director of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis, in 1935.

Topics: Holocaust, Rabbis
Mitali Desai

What's In A Name? The Obligation to be a "Sweet" Girl

I did not choose to be sweet. Sweet was assigned to me at birth: my name, Mitali, literally translates from Hindi to “sweetness.” For most of my life, I was called “sweet” almost incessantly; praised for being generous, nurturing and selfless. I would blush, stare at the floor demurely, and giggle a “thank you” in return. In reality though, this made me feel more like a well-behaved puppy than it felt like a testament to my character.

Kineret Grant-Sasson with mother and grandmother

We're Not "Sweet": Three Generations of Women on the Oppression of Gendered Words

“Kineret, do not feel like you have to be nice to everyone all the time. It will get you into trouble,” my mother told me in my early adolescence. It was her version of “the talk”: the imparting of wisdom from mother to daughter, wisdom that is only achieved over time and through many challenging experiences.

Child climbing a fence at Mexico-US border cropped

Immigration is a Feminist Issue

Summer 2014 shook us out of our slumber. The immigration rhetoric of empty promises and Congressional inaction had become numbing until we saw the desperation in the women’s eyes and fear in the faces of the children at the U.S. Mexico border. The image of 8-year-old Alejandro, alone, gripping a water bottle and facing the border patrol officer with a clip board stopped many of us on our tracks. How could this be happening in the U.S.? Why now?

Baltimore Ravens Helmet

It Ain’t Easy Being A Feminist Sports Fan

It ain’t easy being a feminist sports fan.

Sure, we’ve got Mo’ne Davis and Serena Williams, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Hope Solo, but it’s still a man’s world. The news headlines related to sports stars’ personal lives often bring up the cold hard truth: sports and feminism are a tough combination to make work.

Joan Rivers, Close Up

Joan Rivers, Forever Making Trouble

I began writing this blogpost by typing, "When someone like Joan Rivers dies..."

Then I quickly backspaced. Joan would have been furious with me: someone like Joan Rivers? "Please", she'd say, "there's never been anyone like me." 

Birthday Cake

JWA's Birthday Blog Throwback!

This week, JWA is celebrating it's 18th birthday (woo-hoo!) by revisiting some of our most popular blog posts over the years. Each post will be identified by the label "Greatest Hits," for the month of September. We'll talk about Jewish hair, learn how to make teiglach, and meet Steampunk Emma Goldman. Enjoy this walk down memory lane, and don't forget to wish JWA a happy birthday!

Teiglach

JWA's Greatest Hits: Eating Jewish: Teiglach (Ashkenazic Honey Dough Balls)

Honey is an integral element on the Rosh Hashanah table and in thinking about what to write about for my posts about foods to serve during the upcoming New Year celebrations, I knew I had to include a dish in which the main ingredient consisted of this golden sweetener.

The rise of the hot Jewish girl in Details Magazine

JWA's Greatest Hits: Fetishizing the Jewess

Jewish women are hot right now. According to an article in the men’s magazine Details, “Jewish women have become the ethnic fetish du jour.”  And in true men’s magazine fashion, Christopher Noxon revels in the opportunity to eroticize and exoticize Jewish women; using dehumanizing terms like “cultural mutt” and “JILF,” meaning “Jew I’d like to…”—you get the idea. 

Excerpts from the writings of Regina Jonas

The words of Regina Jonas continue to resonate with today’s rabbis. This past summer, at the dedication of a memorial plaque to Regina Jonas at Terezin by the United States Commision for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad, the first four American women rabbis honored their foremother Regina Jonas by reading the passages from her writings excerpted below.    

Topics: Holocaust, Rabbis
Regina Jonas Cropped

Regina Jonas: Teaching and Sermon ideas

As we mark the 70th anniversary of Regina Jonas' death, we encourage you to incorporate her story into your sermons and teachings for Shabbat Bereishit and the holidays.

Here are some ideas to get you started!
 

Sukkot—The Ushpizin

Joan Rivers onstage

Joan Rivers and Jewish Comedy: A Remembrance

“I am not the ideal Jewish woman,” Joan Rivers admits in a comedy act filmed in the Jewish Women’s Archive film, Making Trouble. “I love to take [my audience] to the edge,” she says.  “I love to get them upset . . . And ruin their value system.” Known for her aggressiveness and her “unkosher” bawdy style, in critic Sarah Cohen’s words, Rivers (nee Joan Molinsky), Phi Beta Kappa Barnard graduate and daughter of a Brooklyn Jewish doctor, performed for over forty years. 

Mount Holyoke Convocation

Mount Holyoke, My Alma Mater, Giving ALL Women a Voice

It’s the time of the year for new beginnings, and many schools and universities are starting the 2014-2015 academic year this week. My alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, annually hosts Convocation, a welcoming ceremony celebrating new students and the graduating class with music, speeches by the College President among other esteemed professors and guests, and a picnic. Some of my fondest memories from my four years at MHC are from Convocations, but it looks like this year’s ceremony has left all of the others in the dust. 

Aileen Patricia Dogherty

My Life with Granny

I met my mother-in-law, Aileen Patricia Dogherty, during my winter break from graduate school in December 1988. My then boyfriend (now husband), John Sinclair, was quite nervous, as I had invited myself to Key Largo to spend time with him and his parents over our long vacation. As a practicing non-Jew, he had never been exposed to anybody inviting themselves over, let alone to his parents’ historically no-Jews-allowed fishing club. 

BBQ

Whose Labor Day Is It Anyway?

Ron Ashkenas’ recent post for Forbes about Labor Day has me feeling unsettled, and I finally know why. In his article, Ashkenas explains that the “real purpose [of Labor Day] was to serve as a tribute to the working class — the men and women whose physical, and largely manual, labor had built the country.” He goes on to bemoan (as we have in the past) how the meaning of Labor Day has been lost in end-of-summer soirees and all-American barbeques. So far, I’m totally onboard with his argument. We should find more meaningful ways to commemorate the people who built this country, brick by brick.

Topics: Activism, History
Staff Photo

Goodbye, Gail!

Each week during JWA’s Thursday morning staff meeting, we sit around our conference room table and share “Words on the Street”—tidbits, stories, and anecdotes that we’ve heard from various places in the JWA community. This week, as Gail Reimer’s tenure as Executive Director comes to an end, we dedicate a blog post to words from our staff honoring the vision and commitment of our leader, colleague, and friend. We invite you to share your words and stories about Gail and JWA in the comments below.

Brassiere

Tech Execs in Boyshorts: "Intelligent" Advertising?

Dear Kate is an underwear company that I first heard about this morning. The company’s founder is a former chemical engineer named Julie Sygiel who felt betrayed by her leaky underwear—yes, Dear Kate was created to make better period panties. The company is run by four women, and their website is full of words like “technology” “revolutionary” and “real women.” I arrived at said website because my friend sent me Dear Kate’s latest ad campaign and it really rubbed me the wrong way. All of my mixed feelings about using feminism in advertising—a trend that has rapidly gathered steam over the last few months—came to a head. This was BAD. I hated it. It pissed me off.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on October 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog>.

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