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Seder Plate

How and Why We Remember

The people of a certain culture devote an entire week of each year to commemorating one of the worst parts of their history. They taste bitter things to appreciate the suffering of their ancestors. They consciously abstain from consuming bread to remind themselves what was eatenor rather, what was not eaten. They mourn the deaths of their ancient oppressors. They drink the metaphorical tears of their forefathers and foremothers. And year after year after year, they gather around tables to recount the suffering and the humiliation and the turmoil of their own people.

Topics: History, Passover
Rachel Menken

Mad Men TV Club: Rachel Menken as a Symbol of Difference

I, too, was thrilled at the return of Rachel Menken on the Mad Men Season 7 part 2 premiere. The pleasure was all too brief, however, as it was soon revealed that Rachel had died. Tara described Rachel as “the one who got away,” and I’ve always felt that she was the one who got away from the viewers as much as from Don. From the moment we met Rachel, I wanted more of her—she was smart and elusive; beautiful and guarded; speaking her mind but in some way holding the viewer at arm’s length. 

Topics: Television
Rachel Menken and Don Draper

Mad Men TV Club: The One That Got Away

So why is it that Rachel so strongly resonated with audiences, and what’s the significance of her reappearance and death? Sure Rachel was beautiful, but so are all of Don’s women. She was a career woman, like Dr. Faye and Bobbie Barrett—nothing too unique there. She was Jewish, but so was Roger Sterling’s second wife, Jane.

Topics: Television
The Uncoupling book cover

Book Club Meeting: "The Uncoupling"

Welcome to the JWA Book Club! We are excited to gather today to discuss Meg Wolitzer's best-selling novel, The Uncoupling.

When taking part in our comment-based discussion below, remember to hit "Show Reply" and "Show New Comments" to see the full conversation! Meg Wolitzer will be responding to questions mainly through the "reply" feature.

Here are some questions to consider before we begin:

1. How does The Uncoupling explore the ramifications of the loss of sexual desire?

2. What characters resonated most with you as a reader?

Topics: Fiction
iPhone Screen

The Insincerity of Instagram

I am not opposed to documenting experiences through photographs—often looking at one picture is enough for me to remember an entire sequence of events that I would otherwise have forgotten. However, in an age of social media, the obsession with producing a photo that makes an event look fun, that makes the people involved look glamorous, can be a misrepresentation of the event.

"No Strings Attached" Movie Poster

No Strings Attached? No Way.

In the film industry, 2011 was the year of casual sex. In January, Paramount Pictures released No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. The movie documents two best friends who think that introducing physical intimacy into their relationship won’t complicate things and that feelings will not be involved, resulting in a “no strings attached” relationship.

Vintage New Year Postcard with Airplane

Propelled into the New Year

Early in the 20th century, Jewish New Year card manufacturers began embellishing their cards with airplanes. They did so for three interrelated reasons: to call attention to the thrilling, modern invention of the airplane, to draw an analogy between the New Year and this new means of travel, and to use the airplane to highlight the changing status of women. Airplane pictures mirrored the tremendous emigration from Eastern Europe to the West in the early part of the 20th century and were a symbol of progress and modernity.  

Topics: History
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Anselem

Film Review: Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem

Directed and written by the sister-brother team of Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz and based partly on their own family history, this gripping courtroom drama set in Israel traces a Moroccan Jewish woman's effort to obtain a gett, or religious divorce, after years of a loveless marriage. In Israel, there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce; only Orthodox rabbis can legalize a union or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s full consent.

Topics: Film
Odetta Holmes cropped

Odetta Holmes, Singing for the Voiceless

Through her blues music, Holmes inspired people all over America to take a stand for black equality. She performed at numerous rallies, advocating for civil rights for all; in fact, her music is often called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement.” 

Elizabeth Stahl 5

Three by Three: Making Art a Priority

Clutching a tray of two teacups, Elizabeth leads me upstairs to the study. We sit next to a tall bookshelf and she reaches towards the far right, where thick volumes are bound in hues of navy, emerald, and charcoal, with titles like The Great Alone and Time and Tide. They are the types of books that belong in a study. She slides one off the shelf, sets it on her lap, and opens it up. The book has no pages. In fact, it’s not a book at all, but a box, filled with two stacks of three by three-inch cards, separated by a divider down the middle.

Topics: Painting
Julia Rubin

The Selfish Series: A Column About Putting Ourselves First

The Selfish Series is a monthly column that puts us first. I will interview smart, strong, passionate Jewish women about “selfish” decisions they have made. These will be stories about creative pursuits, love, career ambition, education, and any other areas in which we have fought for our passions. It’s time for me and other Jewish women to recognize that we must simply make more room for ourselves.

Topics: Writing
Alicia Garza cropped

#Blacklivesmatter Matters

2014 was a year when police brutality against black men was brought to the forefront of the American consciousness. The police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, along with no legal sentences for the perpetrators, arranged themselves into a pattern that was difficult for the public to miss. Among the responses were protests, riots, classroom discussions, and the swift rise of the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter.”

Topics: Civil Rights
Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s Pursuit of Happiness

Of all the things I take for granted, the value I most often overlook is democracy. To reside in a thriving democratic country that gives a voice to its people and places checks and balances on its government is more than I can ever fully appreciate, and even though I have doubts about certain policies, at least I have the opportunity to voice these questions. As a young writer, I am especially grateful for my ability to articulate my opinions without fear of harm.

Topics: Civil Rights
Maya Angelou cropped

Still She Rose

It’s hard to rise above the fray. To disregard all of the weight attached to us, to be free. There are many aspects of life that will try to ground us, to clip our wings and to take away our voices, but it is the voices that demand to be heard that guide us. Maya Angelou had one of those voices. In all aspects, she was a whirlwind force to be reckoned with. She excelled as a poet, author, singer, dancer, professor, screenwriter, actress, advocate, and avid feminist.

Suzin Glickman

Lessons from Suzin Glickman, z”l

I haven’t attended synagogue regularly as an adult, and so I have rarely said the Mishebeirach prayer—a prayer for the healing of the body and spirit. However, when I started to get more involved in Jewish ritual about a year and a half ago, I started to say the prayer for a friend and colleague of mine, Suzin Glickman. I said it because Suzin was sick, but also because I knew she would totally dig that I found a Jewish ritual that felt meaningful to me, and found a way to make it my own. At the end of January, Suzin lost a long battle with cancer.

Malalai Joya

Lessons from Malalai Joya, Afghanistan's Feminist Voice

In a country where some consider being born a woman a capital offense, Malalai Joya is the epitome of bravery. An Afghani woman, Joya has overcome hardship, loss and great obstacles and yet has never given up on her quest to make the world a better place.

Topics: Feminism
Sarah Wildman Paper Love

Book Club Meeting: "Paper Love"

Welcome to the JWA Book Club! We are excited to gather today to discuss Sarah Wildman's Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.

To comment or ask the author questions, simply click on the link on the bottom left of the video. It will pop out into a new window, giving you a "Q & A" button on the top right of the screen which allows you to submit questions. 

Stav Shaffir

“Hatikvah” of Stav Shaffir

Often, when I see an article about Israel in a magazine or a newspaper, a gnawing sense of despair wells up in my chest. As the country’s political and class conflicts seems to stagnate and worsen, I have found it easier to avoid such news altogether. I don’t like feeling that way. I hate feeling that way. Though I may not always agree with the actions of the state, I am invested in Israel and want her to succeed and thrive. But as I grow older and more aware, my cynicism often diminishes my capacity for hope.

Swedish Flag

Understanding the Jews of Sweden

In classroom H135b, Ingrid, Filippa, Linnea, and Fanny are sitting at wooden desks that are pushed together to shape a large table that faces the white board and the lecturing Professor Schwarz. These women, most retired, all Swedish, and all non-Jews, are learning Yiddish.

Topics: Education
Vashti by by Edwin Long, 1878

Vashti, Purim, and Women's History Month

I have a vague recollection of the first time I learned about Vashti. I was sitting at circle time on a primary-colored rug in my pre-K class at Sunday school and was told, “Vashti was not nice to the King. She would not dance for the King.” And we all just nodded our heads in sympathy for King Ahashuarus. “Poor King.” We all thought, “Vashti is evil.”

Topics: Purim
Malala Yousafzai

Getting Girls Educated

Western feminists have a habit of writing about and advocating for “first world” issues: body image, television and gaming tropes, the wage gap, you name it. It’s logical to be most concerned with the society in which you live and on which you have the most influence, and there’s nothing wrong with this reality. 

Spiritual Kneading w/Etta 1

Book Review: Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months

Exclamations of pride and wonder filled the room when we filed into the kitchen and found that the dough we had carefully mixed and kneaded had successfully grown into two pillowy, pungent loaves. Pulling off an olive-sized piece of dough, I recited the blessing “Blessed are you, God, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” Laughing and singing, we split the dough and began forming it into loaves.

Anna Held cropped

Great Women You've Never Heard Of: Women's History Month at JWA

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: despite devoting my life to women’s history, I’m not the biggest fan of Women’s History Month. While I love the public attention that turns to women’s stories in March, I hate the assumption that the stories of half the population deserve this attention just 1/12 of the year.

Topics: History
Kid Watching TV

Life Beyond the Screen

With the newly popular theme of including feminist ideals in advertising—such as Pantene’s campaign against apologizing—I can’t help but express my gratitude. It’s nice of these companies to give a brief hint at achieving societal equality.

Yelena Akhtiorskaya

An Interview with "Panic in a Suitcase" Author Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Yelena Akhtiorskaya's debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase, has brought her a whirlwind of accolades, including a spot on the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" list. As JWA features her as part of a Power Couple for her unique take on the immigrant experience, our Web Content Editor, Lisa Feld, asked her about her writing, her new-found fame, and returning to Odessa decades after her family's exodus. 

Topics: Fiction

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on May 24, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.

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