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.
The Jewish holidays are divided (in my mind) into "food holidays" and "not food holidays." The High Holy Days are the ultimate expression of this dichotomy. On Rosh Hashana, we delight in foods that are sweet to ring in the New Year, and on Yom Kippur, we fast.
This week is flying by and Rosh Hashana is almost upon us. If you have been as busy as we have this past week at the Jewish Women's Archive, the holiday comes as a welcome respite. I have rounded up a "menu" of High Holiday links, some silly and some serious, to help ease us into the holiday season. Enjoy!
One-hundred and nineteen years ago today, Ray Frank became the first Jewish woman to speak from a synagogue pulpit in the United States. Ray Frank's story is particularly intriguing due to its complexity and the questions it raises. This was undoubtedly an important event in American Jewish women's history, but its impact is not straightforward, and thinking of Ray Frank as a heroine of the women's movement is somewhat problematic.
Last night marked the beginning of Tu B’Av, a cool Jewish holiday that I just found out about! The more I read and discover about Tu B’Av and its possible feminist undertones, the more excited I get. It seems the Jewish community has, in recent years, began a movement to turn the 15th of Av into a modern Jewish holiday – the Jewish Valentine’s Day. Creating a holiday that celebrates love and sexuality from a progressive, feminist, and Jewish prospective? Now that is a movement I can get behind!
Recently, JWA hosted a fascinating webinar with Dr.Keren McGinity on "Gender Matters: a New Framework for Understanding Jewish Intermarriage Over Time." Keren is the author of Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America, and is the Mandell L. Berman Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Contemporary American Jewish Life at the University of Michigan's Frankel Center for Judaic Studies.
Lately, I've had a lot of trouble praying. There have been times in my life when I was committed to regular prayer, when I loved to put on my tefillin in the morning and feel the marks they had left on my arm as I went about my activities afterwards. I've had moving experiences of communal prayer, feeling buoyed by the voices rising around me, and of individual prayer, when the sight of something in the world has caught my breath and provoked a spontaneous blessing.
Apropos of Judith's recent post on Sotomayor and other "firsts," here's a celebratory shout-out to Alysa Stanton who became the world's first African-American female rabbi when she was ordained yesterday, June 6th, at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati. What does Stanton make of her status as a first? "If I were the 50,000th, I'd still be doing what I do, trying to live my life with kavanah and kedusha ... Me being first was just the luck of the draw," she explained.