The new uproar over the public health threat of not breastfeeding illustrates exactly what is wrong with the conversation about women, motherhood, and feminism in this country. An article in Tuesday’s New York Times reports on a new public health campaign that compares not breastfeeding your infant to smoking during pregnancy.
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Judith Rosenbaum is a feminist historian who has happily escaped the academy and knows a lot of strange and often useless information (ask her about the history of the maxi pad or the vibrator, for example). She's inspired by anarchist Emma Goldman, political activist Bella Abzug, writer and activist Grace Paley, and other loud Jewish women – including those in her own family.
Last night I attended a powerful program about the genocide currently taking place in Darfur. (Full disclosure: the program was planned by my husband. I was proud.) The speakers – Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign, Mark Hanis of the Genocide Intervention Network, and Sifa Nsengimana of the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur – gave informative presentations that also focused on specific steps we can take to help end the genocide in Darfur, which has already killed 400,000 people and displaced more than 2,000,000.
This June marks a milestone in the history of Jewish feminism: the retirement of Rabbi Sally Priesand, the first American woman rabbi. In the feature about her in the New York Times last Saturday, she repeated something she’s said often during her career: “I became a rabbi not to champion women’s rights.
I became a historian not just because I like poking through people’s stuff (though I am pretty nosy), but because I believe that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in the world – and our world could use some serious change. I draw inspiration from the stories of people who came before us and made a real difference. But sometimes looking back at history makes me depressed, especially when it seems like we’re stuck in the same arguments and issues, or even losing ground.
Last night was the first event in the Heirs to a Revolution: Intergenerational Dialogues on Jewish Feminism series from JWA and Hebrew College, and it was really provocative. Blu Greenberg and Devorah Zlochower addressed the topic “Feminism and Orthodoxy: No Longer Strange Bedfellows?”.
Today I received several celebratory emails from friends, announcing the news that Haviva Ner-David, an Orthodox woman living in Jerusalem, had finally achieved her dream of being ordained a rabbi. Her quest began more than ten years ago, when she applied to the rabbinical program at the modern Orthodox Yeshiva University – an application that the administration assumed was a joke and ignored. She went on to pursue rabbinic studies privately with Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, an Orthodox rabbi, while also earning a PhD in Talmud – and raising five small children.
I stayed up late last night reading Wendy Wasserstein’s posthumously published novel, Elements of Style. (Click here for JWA's "We Remember" piece on Wasserstein.) Like all of Wasserstein’s work, her novel is witty, fun, biting, clever, with a strong thread of social criticism.
In my online preparation for Passover, I came across a site called “japshopper.” How is this connected with Passover, you might ask? It’s actually the site of an artist named Melissa Shiff, and JAP stands for “Jewish art projects, products, politics.” Redefining the term, Shiff is selling her Jewish-themed, activist art creations (e.g. the Crush oppression matzo pillow and Matzo Ball Activist Kit) and donating a percentage of the profits to feed hungry people and to support progressive art projects.
Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will sit down for a Passover seder. Some of us will listen to our grandfathers mumble through the hagaddah, and others will incorporate new rituals, like Miriam’s Cup and putting an orange on the seder plate – signs of how feminism has transformed Jewish ritual life.