Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Bella Abzug, activist extraordinaire. With her big hats and even bigger charismatic personality, her sharp mind and even sharper tongue, Bella took on the world and changed it. As a young girl, she spoke on street corners for Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist Zionist youth movement. As a young lawyer in the 1950s, she took on civil rights causes in the atmosphere of McCarthyism. As a mother and activist, she fought for a nuclear-free world with Women Strike for Peace.
"And you shall write them on the doorposts of your ... spaceship?" Jewish artist, Laura Cowan, has been making space-travel themed mezuzot for years. She was taken by surprise, however, when she received a call from American Jewish astronaut, Greg Chamitoff, asking if he could bring two of her rocket-inspired ritual objects into outer space.
"The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves, and the only way is through a strong working-class movement."
As those of you who read my posts know, I like nothing more than to talk about activists who have changed our world. And my interest in this aspect of our history, of course, is due to my own desire to effect change and to inspire others to do so as well.
A woman riding a bicycle in full Victorian dress doesn't freely associate with being Jewish …except in the case of Annie Cohen Kopchovsky (who adopted the decidedly less ethnic name of "Annie Londonderry"). In courageous, chutzpah-like ways, Annie -- a Jewish immigrant living in Boston in June 1894 -- shattered the social conventions of her time.
I first "met" Barbara Seamen through my dissertation research. Reading her books about women’s health and her personal archives, I encountered a woman who was prescient, outspoken, and brave. At a time when most feminists celebrated the wonders of the Pill, which freed sex from reproduction, Seaman investigated its costs to women’s health, publishing her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, in 1969.
On February 21, 1942 (sixty-six years ago yesterday) Wanda Landowska -- a Warsaw-born Jewish musician with a mastery of the harpsichord -- made history with a performance of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" at New York's Town Hall. It was the first time in the 20th century that the piece, originally written for the harpsichord, was performed publicly on that instrument. A student of Landowska's later remembered that hearing her performance was "like being in front of one of the greatest wonders of nature."
A few years ago, I saw the Israeli film Sentenced To Marriage which documents the stories and experiences of agunot, Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (divorce contract) leaving them as "chained wives." It was rather sobering to learn about these women (religious and secular alike) whose self-determination is trumped by oppressive men, and falls prey to the less-than-sympathetic judgments of the rabbinical high court.
Happy Adar, everyone. Get your costumes ready, give the groggers a preparatory whirl, and pre-heat your hamantashen-baking ovens, because Purim is coming! (Well, actually, not until next month, since this is a Jewish leap year, with two months of Adar).
I first heard the word "Refusenik" applied to Israelis who refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Force. Then I heard it in relation to Jewish citizens of the former Soviet Union who were refused permission to emigrate. I learned the word in a third context -- "Muslim Refusenik" -- a few years ago, when I heard Irshad Manji speak at my college. Ms. Manji is a Canadian lesbian Muslim feminist.
I spent the last week of December encamped in a Catskills hotel with about 425 klezmorim, dancers, artists, students, and lovers of Yiddish from around the world. We had gathered for the 23rd annual KlezKamp, a music and culture extravaganza organized by Living Traditions, a nonprofit dedicated to Yiddish cultural continuity and community. During the day, we took classes on everything from Hasidic dance to world Jewish foodways; at night, we danced to the newest and oldest in Ashkenazi music in the hotel ballroom with its famous gold lamè curtains.
My friends and I often talk about how our religious and activist identities interconnect when, at times, they seem to be at odds. I've been thinking about this while reading some of the essays in a provocative new anthology entitled Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice.
Lately I’ve had bras on the brain. Having recently weaned my twins (and here I’m referring to actual babies, not euphemistically to my breasts themselves), I’m gearing up for one of the milestone moments in a mother’s life: buying new, regular, non-nursing bras. So I’ve been thinking about what bras mean in the life of a Jewish woman.
I watched the coverage of the New Hampshire primary last night, and in the wake of the Obama hype, meshed with harsh criticism and suspicion (unwarranted, in my opinion) about Hillary's display of emotion (a.k.a. humanness!) at a coffee shop in Portsmouth, I was impressed by -- and excited for -- Hillary's win.
Anyone who was charmed by Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller's Day Off could not help but mourn the loss of Jennifer's face after her nose job, (and other facial re-constructions). What Grey thought to be "enhancements" only resulted in dried up acting gigs and disenchanted fans.
On Saturday night, I saw Judy Gold's one-woman show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.
The title of her show was inspired by her quest, in partnership with playwright Kate Moira Ryan, to interview more than 50 Jewish mothers around the country, of different ages and Jewish backgrounds.
On my seven hour drive back to Boston on Christmas Day, I was listening to a piece on "Talk of the Nation" about the long-standing tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.
There has been a recent flurry of attention to the issue of boys’ (and men’s) flagging participation in Jewish life, particularly in the synagogue -- some going so far as to call this a crisis.
Who knew that "Hava Nagila" could be "sexy" ... or "racy"...? Lauren Rose (formerly Lauren Goldberg), a Jewess from the UK, has given this familiar (and perhaps tiresome) traditional Hebrew folk song a somewhat dirty, teeny-bopper twist.
Last week, Jewish Women International hosted their 2007 "Women to Watch" awards, described as "a celebration of extraordinary Jewish women and their impact on art, culture, and community; business, politics, and media; family, science, and spirituality."
Ever seen women with headscarves doing Vaudeville? Last week's Forward featured an article about Atara, an association of Torah observant artists whose new mission is to bring Orthodox female artists and performers together to nurture their creative expression -- be it through theatre, music, art, spoken word, etc. -- within a halachic framework.
Today I'm celebrating the 35th birthday of one of my favorite childhood albums, "Free to Be You and Me." I've always loved this collection of songs and stories that envision a non-sexist world. As a young adult, I was proud to learn that Jewish feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin was the editorial consultant for the album, book, and tv special (and the author of "Stories for Free Children" which I also loved). Lately I've had the happy opportunity to appreciate "Free to Be You and Me" a second time around, now as a mom. It's fun to hear the voices of Marlo Thomas, Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, and Mel Brooks - it's like visiting with old friends.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on January 30, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.