Jill Albert was radiant. She had an unmatched presence that could be felt by anyone touched by her warm embrace. She had a way of making all of the girls in my troop feel welcome, appreciated and unique. But her brilliance extended far beyond our small group of girl scouts: she baked cookies for her garbage men and always had a bowl full of Double Bubble in her car to give anyone who may have been having a bad day. Jill encapsulated the ultimate role model.
In the recent Disney/Pixar film, Brave, a young princess defies an age-old custom and fights to make her mother understand that she is not ready for marriage. I know you’d rather not think of the Disney princesses at all, but we live and breathe, and shop at Target, so I contend---if forced to choose among that whole pastel-clad, sugary lot, you’d want your daughter to be more independent, courageous Merida, less Cinderella waiting for her prince to come, right?
As we approach this year's Thanksgiving, I asked some of the JWA staff members how far they've come—personally or politically, culturally or collectively—and how that's inspired a sense of gratitude. Here is a sampling from Etta King, Michelle Cash, Stephen Benson, and Ellen Rothman.
We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the zaftig Jewish bubbe, stuffing her offspring with chicken soup and brisket, shouting, “Eat! Eat! You’re skin and bones.” We love to talk about these mythical kitchens of our childhoods—tables overflowing with kugels and babkas, tsimmus and kneidlach. But for many Jewish women, there was another, more painful, side to this abundance. Our bubbes didn’t just say, “Eat! Eat!” they also said “Why are you eating so much? You’re getting fat!” I don’t think this contradiction is unique to Judaism, but I do think there’s a distinctive cultural spin to this schizophrenic relationship to food. And considering the prevalence of eating disorders, if there are cultural roots, we need to weed them out.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month employs some tactics that I find problematic—but the cause is important for all of us.
The conversation is one that needs to be had.
We need to move past the shock-tactics of declaring our love of ta-tas and move into a conversation about how we can offer screening and care to those who don’t have access to it. We need to have conversations that don’t exclude men, but instead discuss the real importance of awareness for everyone. We need to make breast cancer awareness about saving lives, not putting sexualized versions of female anatomy on pedestals.
This week I learned about a blog that had taken up the mantle of “fat-shaming week.” For a week, this blog posted shaming and demeaning content about fat women. The stated reason behind fat-shaming week is that the fat-acceptance movement is attempting to change beauty standards, and that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. They believe that shame will get people to lose weight, and that will ultimately make people healthier and benefit society. Here are some titles of posts they published:
When I first began writing this piece, I wanted to explain why I got an abortion. But then I remembered it’s no one else’s business. And that’s what’s missing from the conversation in North Carolina. I don’t think its a bad thing for all health clinics to uphold a certain level of standards, both in hygiene and practice; in fact I want that to be the case for any place where I or my loved ones receive medical care. But it IS a bad thing to attempt to limit my right, or the right of any other woman, to make decisions about their body and pass it off as “protection”.
An Orthodox Jewish woman from Suwalki, Poland, Miriam (Mary) Rachofsky (Kobey) was an unlikely pioneer on the western frontier. Her passion for helping others led to a successful career as a midwife in Denver at a time when very few women ran their own businesses.
Sometimes at JWA a story insists on coming to life.
The article on Sophie Rabinoff in our online Encyclopedia was a good scholarly representation of the pioneering physician's life and work. But no photos accompanied it; nothing helped lift it off the page. A few weeks ago, her great niece Jennifer Arnold contacted us to say that she had some photos of her aunt and wondered if we could add them to the article. I told her that we would be happy to, and she kindly scanned and sent them to me.
Chanukkah (or however the heck you spell it) is a time of lighting the menorah, recounting yet another story of the resilience of the Jewish people, and celebrating miracles both great and small. It’s also a time of eating things you wouldn’t dare touch the rest of the year, letting your standards slide, and finding yourself hung over on January 1st, loathing yourself as you struggle to button your jeans.