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Remembering Ruth F. Brin

Ruth F. Brin, esteemed Jewish author, poet, and scholar, died Wednesday September 30th, 2009, at age 88.

Ruth F. Brin was a literary pioneer famous for her authentic Jewish poetry, prayer services, scholarly articles, children’s books, librettos, a memoir, and most recently, at the age of 86, her first novel.

She was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and lived in Minneapolis until her death, at the age of 88, on Wednesday, September 30th. However, her poetry and teachings have moved beyond the Twin Cities, filling the pages of Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative prayer books used in synagogues around the country.

Electricity applied in a "strictly scientific manner"

I recently began a fun Twitter project, tweeting tidbits from American Jewess, the first English-language publication directed to American Jewish women (and this blog's namesake), edited by the original Jewess, Rosa Sonneschein.  Today I came across this ad from the October 1895 issue, and almost fell out of my chair.

Are Jews easier to get along with?

At the Jewish Women's Archive, it is part of my job to stay on top of the "twitterverse." I keep a running search of "tweets" that mention Jewish women, which helps me stay on top of the various conversations, as well as a few discriminatory remarks (anti-Semitism isn't dead!).  And that is how I discovered this tweet: "When we claim Jewish women are easier to get along with than Christians, you don’t blame us, you blame Jesus. http://bit.ly/1RmiT" This quote has been tweeted and retweeted enough times to finally make me click on the shortened link to see what everyone was talking about.

The symbols we use to represent, and gender, Jewish women

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.

Women's health is not elective

We are in big trouble.  When I started reading about the healthcare reform battle, I was angry.  Now that the Senate panel has rejected the public option, and Obama has declined to stand up for reproductive rights, I am getting scared. The more I read, the more I started to realize that there is a larger problem underlying this debate.  There is something fundamentally wrong with the way people think about women's bodies and the healthcare they require.  While reproductive healthcare is absolutely critical to the general health of every woman, every family and every community, it is considered separately, almost as if it were elective, in the greater discussion of healthcare reform.

For Convert and Mother-to-Be, Bris Is Ultimate Measure of Commitment

How do you measure commitment? That’s the question I was left pondering after reading Elana Sztokman’s post on the double standard for Orthodox women. Some women’s tardiness for services has become a justification for shutting out the entire gender from a whole host of responsibilities, as late arrival to shul apparently signifies a lack of spiritual commitment.

Including young Jews in old systems

Yesterday, JTA published, "Where the Blogosphere Meets the Boardroom," an op-ed co-authored by Jordan Namerow, a long-time writer for Jewesses with Attitude and my predecessor at the Jewish Women's Archive.  This op-ed encourages the Federation to engage with the younger members of the Jewish community, many of whom are unaware of the Federation system.  It gives suggestions for ways to bring young Jews into the fold, arguing, "Without including younger voices, Federation risks its own survival."

 

Get Well Soon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

I woke up to the news this morning that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to become a Supreme Court Justice, had been hospitalized as a precaution, after being treated for an iron deficiency.

Jewish women on happiness

Writing that last post on the General Social Survey about women's unhappiness has really got me thinking about happiness and how to define happiness. In my post, I shared a quote from Nora Ephron in which she explains that in different eras, happiness could be defined as "a puppy," "a dry martini," or "knowing what your uterus looks like." What would happiness be defined as today? A smart phone?

Blaming the Feminist Revolution for women’s supposed ‘unhappiness’

The results of a General Social Survey, which has been tracking American’s happiness since 1972, have surprised and confused us with their finding that women are growing increasingly unhappy over time.

Topics: Feminism

Twitteleh, cliché cookbooks, and mikveh secrets - Link Roundup Sep. 23, 2009

  • Cooking with clichés: Yo Yenta shares her thoughts on The Jewish Princess line of cookbooks. [Yo Yenta]
  • Mazel Tov Elaine Schuster, recently nominated as a representative to the U.N. General Assembly. [JTA]
  • The House of Secrets: The Hidden World of the Mikveh is reviewed. [Washington Post] [Feminist Review]
  • Gloria Steinem exhorted the members of the National Council of Jewish Women/Greater Detroit Section to become active in the fight for women's rights. [HometownLife]

The "fury of the kooky, odd-looking girl"

On Saturday, 67 year-old Barbra Streisand will return to the Vanguard - the venue that made her a star. According to this piece in the New York Times Magazine, the concert will feature 13 songs (whose "average year of composition is 1963") to promote her album Love Is the Answer.

Healthcare reform is a women's issue

Last Friday, Michelle Obama spoke to leaders of several women's groups arguing that "overhauling the nation’s health care system was of critical importance to women and part of 'the next step' in their long quest to assure full opportunity and equality."  With healthcare reform at the forefront, it is becoming more and more obvious that the status quo is sexist, unfair, and often dangerous for women.  For the first time in a long time, I am getting angry.

Wolf, Chesler Weigh In on the Hijab — and Each Other

Naomi Wolf — the feminist Jewish author of the bestselling landmark book, “The Beauty Myth,” which brazenly exposes how the multi-billion dollar beauty industry manipulates women’s entire sense of self — is gorgeous. For two decades now, the brilliant and outspoken Wolf has decried cosmetics, plastic-surgery and hair removal businesses while appearing, let’s just say, well made-up.

Topics: Feminism

Apples, honey, cake and ...stew? A High Holidays festive food link roundup

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. 

Mazel tov, Chai Feldblum

On Monday, President Obama announced his nomination for Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and I couldn't be happier about his pick: Chai Feldblum, Professor of Law at Georgetown, who also happens to be an out Jewish lesbian.

The all-singing, all-dancing, Jewish girl on Glee

I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the new Fox series Glee.  Often called the "anti-High School Musical," Glee is a series about a group of high school misfits who find their place in the unpopular Glee Club, featuring Rachel Berry -- a Jewish girl -- as the lead female character. The show uses all the usual high school stereotypes (cheerleaders, jocks, freaks, geeks, etc.), to create a deliciously witty and hilarious satire.  The students of the Glee Club represent the standard marginalized groups you would find in a high school and it is led by, you guessed it, the strong-willed Jewish girl.

Topics: Television

"Only in America" poll results

The results are in from the National Museum of American Jewish History's poll to select the 18 individuals to be featured in their "Only in America" Hall of Fame. The results are not too surprising.

The Rosh Hashana link feast

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!

 

What Patrick Swayze (z”l) did for Jewish women

I heard the news about Patrick Swayze's death when I logged on to Facebook last night and saw numerous status updaes about dancing the merenge and not putting Baby in the corner. Swayze's death is not just sad (he was only 57); for Jewish girls of my generation, it's the end of era.

Topics: Film

Remembering Sylvia Schur, a pioneer who transcended the kitchen

Thanks to Julie & Julia, foodies are abuzz about Julia Child.  Icon though she is, the story of a different sort of chef caught my attention this week.  Sylvia Schur passed away at age 92 last week.  Her obituary in the New York Times captivated me as I realized that this woman was no ordinary chef. 

Sylvia Schur was not a stereotypical "Betty Crocker," though she did create recipes for the company.  She did not wear pearls and an apron and stand in a TV studio stirring cake batter. Instead, she pioneered the modern food industry - creating the now classic recipes you see on the back of the box, problem solving with the heads of Ocean Spray, editing magazines, running a successful consulting company, and developing convenience foods for women on the go.  Sylvia Schur was a creative champion of modern working women who refused to spend their days in the kitchen.

Ray Frank: "Lady Preacher" of the West

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.

Topics: Rabbis

Gloria Steinem speaks at OMEGA and more - Link Roundup Sep. 14, 2009

Gloria Steinem, a "Jewess with attitude" if I ever saw one, spoke at the OMEGA Women & Power conference on Sep. 11th.  Feministing has a few posts about her talk to check out.  The theme of the conference was connecting across generations, and I absolutely love what Steinem had to say on that subject.  She rebukes the misconception that young women don't care about feminism, and of course, she doesn't hold back.

Family-friendly policies in the Jewish community

I read Gabrielle Birkner's article in the Forward on the shameful lack of family-friendly policies in most Jewish organizations with disappointment, but not surprise. It's one of the well-known but rarely articulated -- except by whispering mothers, trying to figure out how to manage their jobs and pregnancies -- secrets of the Jewish community.

Topics: Mothers

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