I have always been what some may call a “fashionista.” I have loved fashion since I was a very little girl. Whether it be my all-pink clothing phase, my mortifying obsession with layering neon Sugar Lips tank tops, my love for high side ponytails, or my obnoxiously bright and sparkly Limited-Too wardrobe, I have always used fashion to mirror my inner self.
Every single morning, I wake up, shake the fog out of my head, and consider what I am going to wear. Almost every day, my outfit is some version of Doc Martens (or, “Docs”) boots, a white button up shirt, and jeans. I somewhat intentionally do not dress like most of the other girls in my grade. I don’t care about looking similar to them, but I do care about my appearance.
It seems fitting that as I sit down to write this review, I am receiving Facebook updates from the #FordHall2015 group at my alma mater, Brandeis University. For nearly two weeks this group of Black students and allies occupied the administrative building on campus to demand that the university rededicate itself to racial justice and equality.
Recently I found myself bombarded by a series of conflicting articles, all telling women how they should dress. Strangely, for articles that seek to police women’s behavior, each one claims that its dress prescription is the only way women can be respected from a feminist perspective.
My first Hanukkah as a single mom was lucky. My play A Body of Water was in rehearsal for its New York debut and I was traveling back and forth from Minnesota. I celebrated some nights with my son Josh at home in St. Paul and traveled to New York for others while Josh stayed with his dad. So instead of brooding about being a single mother on nights I would have been alone, I was preoccupied by rehearsals. Easy-peasy. For a while.
I used to wear tie-dye. A lot of it. I also used to wear awkward length skirts, brightly colored shirts, and sparkly jewelry. It was a middle school phase; everyone is entitled to one. But it was also more than a phase. It was the time before I cared what people thought of me.
I pinched off a small piece of the dough, wrapped it in aluminum foil, and cupped it in my hands. I closed my eyes and gave thanks for my blessings, my husband and my beautiful daughter, and asked God to watch over and protect them. I threw the parcel into the bottom of the hot oven and returned to the table to braid two challot for Shabbat. It was the first time I had ever made challah and the first peace I had felt all week.
Around the time of my bat mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I started to straighten my hair every Shabbat. Each Friday afternoon, I would rush home from school to make it into the shower with enough time to do my hair before the sun set. Although it was stressful at times, it became something I really enjoyed doing.
When I log on to the Volunteer Planner for helping at Berlin’s refugee centers I see the current tally of volunteers and hours worked: 18,000+ registered volunteers, 50,000+ hours worked. This makes me think of former President George H.W. Bush’s phrase “a thousand points of light.” Thousands in Germany are lighting the way towards a new life for thousands seeking asylum.
It is a general truism that in a society which prioritizes one’s physical appearance over one’s personality, dressing outside of the established norm is often a form of social self-ruin. It is also a general truism that the delicate ecosystem of Jewish private school isn’t the place most conducive to experimentation with gender expression through clothing.
You know the saying: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Were we to meet, we wouldn’t be enemies exactly, but I doubt that we’d be friends either. While you and I are both female Jewish writers, the similarity stops there.
Nehama Leibowitz, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the twentieth century, was often described as a paradoxical woman. She was a pious Jew, and a liberal. She was fiercely intelligent, and nonetheless humble. She was a Torah scholar and teacher of thousands, and she was a woman.
There are as many forms of Jewish religious expression as there are Jews. For some of us, it is the hush of the Sabbath that is most meaningful; for others, it is the awe and majesty of the High Holidays and for yet others, it is the promise of renewal offered by Pesach. Chasidic Jews find joy in their adherence to the law, while secular Jews place less emphasis on strict observance, and more on cultural affinity and the ethical framework that Judaism provides.
There is a certain type of girl our parents always told us to stay away from when we were younger; she was often described as bad news, or as bound to corrupt our innocent souls. Always getting herself into trouble, she's the type of girl who the adults detest and the kids idolize.
I have an insane amount of respect for Susan Brownmiller. Trailblazer is truly the word to describe this journalist who became a civil rights and feminist activist. Her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, legitimately changed the public outlook on rape.
Tess Peacock comes from a long line of strong Jewish women. As a South African human rights attorney, she believes passionately in equality and dignity for all. It’s a value she learned from her mother, Judy Favish—a former anti-apartheid activist now on staff at the University of Cape Town where she works to ensure equal access to education for all. Judy’s mother was a pioneering doctor working in the townships. Her father Mannie was an attorney known for his integrity, compassion, and pursuit of fairness.
Andrea Dworkin was one of the greatest feminist minds of the 20th century, and a huge influence on second wave feminism, the dominant feminist ideology of the 1960s and 70s. Second wave feminism held that sex work and sexual entertainment were harmful and degrading to women, and should be abolished.
I grew up singing. My family sang songs every holiday, and we even listened to fun Jewish family songs in the car. My favorite part of Hebrew School every week was when we got to sing, and I looked forward to coming home and serenading my parents with the latest song that I had learned.
It is more difficult, in my opinion, to believe in something that you can’t hold in your hand than it is to live a life strictly governed by accepting the world around you at face value. It goes against human nature, however, not to long, wish, or hope.
The Jewish Women’s Archive and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York are joining together to honor JWFNY’s fourteen Isha Koach honorees for this year. Each of these social entrepreneurs were shaped by experiences where abstract social or environmental problems suddenly became very concrete.
I don’t think I’m a very brave person. I’m normally quite timid, and taking a stand is something that does not come naturally to me. I sometimes hesitate to say what I really think for fear of how others will react, and I often find it easy to fade into the background in large groups.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on July 25, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog>.