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Leah Berkenwald

Leah Berkenwald
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Leah Berkenwald

Leah Berkenwald was born and raised in Northampton, MA, where "The coffee is strong, and so are the women."  As such, she was a feminist and equal rights activist straight out of the womb. She is particularly passionate about reproductive rights and sex education, despite her father's wish that she do something less controversial like "save the whales." Leah draws strength from the memories of her grandmothers - two incredible Jewesses with some serious attitude. After three years as JWA's Social Media Specialist, Leah moved on to Wentworth Institute, where she coordinates Wellness Education. You can read her blog at www.leahbee.net

Blog posts

Beating Hearts: Stories of Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Jewish Women International is posting daily stories of domestic abuse on their blog.  These stories are shocking, crushing, and sad.  They are also inspiring and thoughtful, with lessons about courage and love. 

The following post is cross-posted from the JWI blog.  It is taken from "Beating Hearts: Stories of Domestic Violence" an exhibit of photographic constructions with accompanying text by Kate Sartor Hilburn and Terrie Queen Autrey.  This particular story is important because it reminds us that domestic abuse reaches far beyond violence.  Abuse is about control, and often involves restriction, isolation, or even imprisonment.

Roman Polanski and Jewish "anti-heroes"

I am fascinated, as well as outraged, by the Roman Polanski rape story.  As all high profile media stories do, this case has evolved and mutated to touch on a number of really interesting and really important topics, primarily about rape culture and the culture of fame.

Last week celebrated filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested at a film festival in Switzerland  for the 1977 rape of a 13 year-old girl.  Polanski admitted to drugging the girl and having intercourse with her, which is rape by any stretch of the imagination, not to mention pedophilia. Take a look at Feministing's roundup for more background information.

Women's jeans, Jewish comedians "Making Trouble," and revisiting Anne Frank - Link Roundup Oct 5, 2009

  • October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Check out the blog of Jewish Women International where survivors are sharing stories and inspiring change. [JWI]
  • It's the 75th anniversary of women's jeans, according to Levis. The history of women's jeans is juicy, so check the archives to read about boyfriend trousers and Jewess jeans. [Feministe]
  • Newest SNL cast member (and Jewess) Jenny Slate accidentally says the F-word live.  Like many Jewish women comedians, Jenny Slate is "Making Trouble." [Heeb]
  • On that note, Making Trouble, the film about legendary Jewish women comedians, is now available for purchase on DVD from our website, www.makingtrouble.com.

Sages and sex therapists - Dr. Ruth's "Heavenly Sex"

Last Thursday I went to see pioneering sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer talk about her book Heavenly Sex: Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition at Temple Israel in Boston, a program by the New Center for Arts and Culture. This was my first time seeing the legendary Dr. Ruth in person, and as predicted, I was in awe of this teeny-tiny bubbe and her stylish glasses.  I was excited to be there with my friends from the Jewish Women's Archive, community partner of the NCAC for this event.

Remembering Ruth F. Brin

Ruth F. Brin, esteemed Jewish author, poet, and scholar, died Wednesday September 30th, 2009, at age 88.

Ruth F. Brin was a literary pioneer famous for her authentic Jewish poetry, prayer services, scholarly articles, children’s books, librettos, a memoir, and most recently, at the age of 86, her first novel.

She was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and lived in Minneapolis until her death, at the age of 88, on Wednesday, September 30th. However, her poetry and teachings have moved beyond the Twin Cities, filling the pages of Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative prayer books used in synagogues around the country.

Electricity applied in a "strictly scientific manner"

I recently began a fun Twitter project, tweeting tidbits from American Jewess, the first English-language publication directed to American Jewish women (and this blog's namesake), edited by the original Jewess, Rosa Sonneschein.  Today I came across this ad from the October 1895 issue, and almost fell out of my chair.

Are Jews easier to get along with?

At the Jewish Women's Archive, it is part of my job to stay on top of the "twitterverse." I keep a running search of "tweets" that mention Jewish women, which helps me stay on top of the various conversations, as well as a few discriminatory remarks (anti-Semitism isn't dead!).  And that is how I discovered this tweet: "When we claim Jewish women are easier to get along with than Christians, you don’t blame us, you blame Jesus. http://bit.ly/1RmiT" This quote has been tweeted and retweeted enough times to finally make me click on the shortened link to see what everyone was talking about.

The symbols we use to represent, and gender, Jewish women

Yesterday in Tablet magazine, Ruth Ellen Gruber* wrote about her trip to an old Jewish cemetery in Romania to look at the way images of shabbat candles are used on women's gravestones to convey meaning and memory. Gruber's project, (Candle)sticks on Stone, is time sensitive, as many of these gravestones are crumbling into obscurity, but, she writes, "those that remain comprise wonderful examples of vivid local stone-carving that fuse local folk art and Jewish iconography." Gruber is interested in presenting these carvings as works of art, but she does acknowledge the depth and complexity these carvings carry concerning the intersection of symbolism, Jewish tradition, and gender roles.

Women's health is not elective

We are in big trouble.  When I started reading about the healthcare reform battle, I was angry.  Now that the Senate panel has rejected the public option, and Obama has declined to stand up for reproductive rights, I am getting scared. The more I read, the more I started to realize that there is a larger problem underlying this debate.  There is something fundamentally wrong with the way people think about women's bodies and the healthcare they require.  While reproductive healthcare is absolutely critical to the general health of every woman, every family and every community, it is considered separately, almost as if it were elective, in the greater discussion of healthcare reform.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. " Leah Berkenwald ." (Viewed on October 31, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/author/leah-berkenwald>.

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A fascinating look at how women's voices affects how they're perceived http://t.co/5Lkk4zuKvD @takeleadwomen @Listen4aChange
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#TBT One of the most strikingly beautiful women ever onscreen was also one of the smartest http://t.co/a7f2d5lNxA http://t.co/i429fBQ8i6
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#Halloween is fast approaching: have you created your Frida Kahlo costume yet? Because this kid is ON IT. http://t.co/LxycF12gLI