Jewish Women Watching, the “anonymous, rabble-rousing, feminist collective,” performed an action this weekend in honor of Shavuot (a holiday once celebrated by bringing the first fruits of the spring harvest to the temple in Jerusalem).
When we were planning this blog in the winter of 2006, we had long conversations about possible names, ultimately choosing to reclaim the word "Jewess" from its exotic and sometimes negative connotations and give it a new life in the blogosphere. Well, it turns out we were at the forefront of a cultural phenomenon! A recent article by Daniel Krieger explores the history of this term and its recent reclamation by young Jewesses. Check it out.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Bella Abzug, activist extraordinaire. With her big hats and even bigger charismatic personality, her sharp mind and even sharper tongue, Bella took on the world and changed it. As a young girl, she spoke on street corners for Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist Zionist youth movement. As a young lawyer in the 1950s, she took on civil rights causes in the atmosphere of McCarthyism. As a mother and activist, she fought for a nuclear-free world with Women Strike for Peace.
A few years ago, I saw the Israeli film Sentenced To Marriage which documents the stories and experiences of agunot, Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (divorce contract) leaving them as "chained wives." It was rather sobering to learn about these women (religious and secular alike) whose self-determination is trumped by oppressive men, and falls prey to the less-than-sympathetic judgments of the rabbinical high court.
It’s a thrill for me to see artist Joan Snyder listed among this year’s recipients of MacArthur fellowships, the “genius grants” that honor and advance the work of exceptionally creative thinkers and doers. Joan Snyder greets me each morning as I begin work. A copy of her print, “Our Foremothers,” occupies the wall opposite my desk. A collage of names of all the women in the Bible as well as women in her own family, the print is a visual metaphor for our work at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Over thirty-five years have passed since a small New York study group—which grew to become Ezrat Nashim—set out to study the status of women in Judaism, and presented Conservative rabbis with a manifesto entitled “Jewish Women Call for Change” at the Rabbinical Assembly convention. This effort significantly influenced the Conservative movement’s decision to ordain female rabbis in 1983, and brought about many other advancements in equalizing women’s participation in Jewish ritual.
I was 14 when the movie Dirty Dancing came out, and I was utterly entranced. I loved watching the frizzy-haired Jewish girl not only prove her sexiness and get the guy but also change the people around her. At the time, I didn’t think much about the Jewish subtext of the movie – I just knew that it felt familiar and relevant in some way.
Tonight marks the start of Tisha b’Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the Jewish community. Traditionally, Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem, but for many Jews, it has a more universal purpose to mourn all kinds of physical and emotional destruction: global warming, pollution, war, illness, starvation, genocide, and violence.
Confession: I am a progressive Jewish feminist with a strong aversion to wearing a kippah. I often parade around town wearing men's cargo shorts, I sport short-and-spiky fauxhawk-ish hair, and can feel at home in a tie and blazer over baggy khakis. I usually wear a tallit when I pray. But wearing a kippah in synagogue makes me feel shockingly unfeminine and terribly self-conscious.
I recently returned from the National Women’s Studies Association conference, an annual event that brings together scholars, administrators, writers, students, and activists. I’ve been going to this conference for a few years now, and I always enjoy it. I consider myself an “escaped academic” of sorts (i.e., someone with a PhD who has chosen not to work in the academic system), and most academic conferences either bore me or give me the heebie jeebies, but NWSA is the one that fires me up.