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Jewesses with Attitude

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“Affiliated” and “Engaged”

I just returned from the Jewish Outreach Institute’s annual conference called Opening the Tent: Visions and Practices for a More Inclusive Jewish Community. It was an interesting conference that explored practices for welcoming interfaith families, non-Jewish partners of Jews, Jews-by-Choice, and, generally speaking, all whom are “unaffiliated”—including Jews perceived to be “on the margins” (i.e. Jews of Color and GLBT-identified Jews)—into the established community.

Gertrude Elion: In a Class of Her Own

The 2007 Nobel Prize laureates in Physics were announced this week—Albert Fert from France and Peter Gruenberg from Germany, both credited for the first successful applications of “nanotechnology” to radically reduce the size while radically increasing the storage of computer hard-drives. With their impressive credentials, Fert and Gruenberg seem to fit the mold for this award in a profession in which male + Ph.D is a likely pairing. But following the announcement, I was pleasantly reminded of chemist Gertrude Elion, a 1988 Nobel Prize recipient, who most certainly did not fit this mold, and who didn’t think much of it: “Women in chemistry and physics? There’s nothing strange about that.”

Memories, Meals, and “Aromas of Aleppo”

With the exception of Yom Kippur, the past few weeks, for many of us in the Jewish community, have been bountifully full of food. I’ve been happily partaking in pumpkin bread/pumpkin muffin production (baking three loaves, and two tins of twelve muffins over the course of two days) and enjoying my friends’ seasonal culinary creations on a chilly evening in their sukkah.

“Treyfing” Sukkot?

Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday. I like a good harvest bounty; I like that I can share meals with friends not in my kitchen; I like that I can eat while meditating on stars peeking through a canopy of colorful paper chains, laquered gourds, and chili pepper lights (which always adorned my family’s sukkah). In preparation for Sukkot (just a few hours away!), I've been thinking about other, more provocative, sukkah decor that might be inside the sukkot in which I eat.

Topics: Activism, Sukkot

A Genesis of Genius: Joan Snyder

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.

Topics: Feminism, Art, Bible

From self-help to no help

I’ve never met Lorraine Rothman, a women’s health activist and inventor of the Del’Em menstrual extraction kit. But I came to know her work through my dissertation research, and so I was deeply saddened to hear that she is dying.

Topics: Medicine

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

With the flowering of autumn Jewish holidays consuming our attention, it’s unlikely that many of us have tuned into September as  National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I wasn’t aware of it either until I listened to NPR yesterday for the first time in several days. Ovarian cancer—often called the “silent killer”—seems to garner less attention than breast cancer whose awareness month is assigned to October, awash with pink ribbons, walks, fundraisers, and other benefits.

Topics: Medicine

Midrash for a new year

As we prepare to herald the new year and celebrate the creation of the world, I thought I’d call your attention to JWA’s new edition of our educational resource, Go & Learn. This edition focuses on the midrashic figure of Lilith -- the first woman, imagined by the rabbis as a demon -- and Judith Plaskow’s early feminist reclaiming of her as a woman who demanded equality.

Katrina at 2

Two years ago today, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, causing a massive dislocation of residents of all races and socio-economic levels. It also devastated a Jewish community that had been nearly 250 years in the making.

Sisterhood, Interrupted: a review

Full disclosure: I kind of wish I had written this book. Over the years, as I’ve read basically every history or memoir of the women’s movement, I’ve often thought that I’d like to write a popular account, one that would capture the passion and power of the second wave for the next generation, and also convey the relationship of the third wave to its predecessors.

Grace Paley, z”l

Grace Paley died on Wednesday. She was 84 and had been sick, so it should not have come as a surprise, but when I heard the news I felt a very sharp sense of loss. So I decided I would spend the night with her, reading through my well-worn copy of her Collected Stories, her poems in Begin Again: Collected Poems, and her essays in Just as I ThoughtAnd reading her words made it even harder to believe she’s gone – her stories just radiate life, in all its banality, warmth, irrationality, sadness, and love.

A Multi-Faith ‘Holy Cow’

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) and the increasing number of Jews making environmental advocacy an ethical priority, or for many, a religious imperative. What I didn’t muse about was how CSAs, organic farming, and food equity programs are appealing to other religious groups and, in many ways, uniting them.

Klezmer, Ladino, and New Music Fusion

I always have an ear out for new music, especially music that brings together sounds and styles from different parts of the world. Two of my favorites include the music of the Afro-Celt Sound System and Rebbe Soul, both of which are quite innovative and energizing.

Rona Shapiro Makes History in Cleveland

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.

Goodbye, Barbie. Hello, Bratz.

If the doll industry is any measure of today’s commodified standard of beauty, assimilation is out and multi-ethnic is in. Forty-eight years have passed since Barbie came to represent the ultimate American fantasy: a leggy, blonde-haired, teeny-waisted preeminence of elegance, with a flamingo pink sports car and Ken by her side. Despite Mattel’s attempts to recreate and diversify Barbie’s identity to reflect social trends and more eclectic “girl” activities, Barbie has had trouble keeping up with the times, even if she does wear a tallit.

The Politics of “Chick”

I’ve often been labeled a word-nerd, an identity that I happily embrace. I enjoy playing with polysyllabic words like mellifluous and synchronicity, and find few things more deliciously delightful than alliteration (this, I discovered, I inherited from my mother whose personal ad in a mid-‘70s edition of the Village Voice included “attractive, alluring, alliterative” as part of her self-description which, as it turns out, charmed the Bronx boy who would become my father). Fortunately, I am in good word-nerd company at JWA.

Topics: Feminism

My "Dirty Dancing" fantasy

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.

Topics: Feminism, Film

Summer Greening for Hadassah

In keeping with the theme of Jewish eco-friendliness, it’s worth mentioning that Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, has recently gone green! An increasing number of Jewish organizations and synagogues are becoming more environmentally responsible by making commitments to energy conservation, renewable energy programs generated by wind,

The Fitness of My Food

This is my first summer joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Co-op. For those who aren’t so familiar with local food production, a CSA consists of individuals who commit to sharing the benefits and risks of local farming, and enjoy several months of fresh vegetables at a great value. As a CSA Co-op member, I buy a “share” of the farm’s produce which helps cover costs of the farm operation and pays the farmer a living wage.

Topics: Food, Agriculture

Tisha b'Av and Violence Against Women

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.

Topics: Tisha B'Av

The "bris-less" bris

An article in this week's Forward describes the growing opposition to circumcision among American Jews, and the development of “bris-less” bris rituals. Although circumcision is generally considered a pretty elemental aspect of Jewish practice and identity for males, this story certainly wasn’t surprising to me. I’ve had many debates with Jewish friends about this issue, and struggled with the decision of whether to circumcise my son (we did, and I cried through the whole thing).

Topics: Children, Ritual
Boyfriend Cardigan

Boyfriend Cardigan

I’m not a catalogue shopper, in fact, I’m not much of a shopper period, but that doesn’t stop companies from sending me catalogues.

Kippah-Wearing Jewesses

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.

Where are the Jewesses?

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.

Quinceaneras = Bat Mitzvahs?

One might not expect to hear “Bat Mitzvah” mentioned in a news report about a rural town with Mexican immigrants whose largest employer is a pork processing plant. But this morning I did. I was listening to a story on NPR about immigration issues in Beardstown, Illinois, a historically white rural community.

Topics: Ritual

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on September 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog>.

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