While Hadassah, Jewish Women International, and the National Council for Jewish Women were busy weighing-in on the HPV vaccination debate (see February’s blog entry: “HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?”) the Orthodox Union (OU) has been firing its way into sexual health rhetoric by launching its own take on the “abstinence only” movement; a movement which has been dominated by the Christian Right. The OU now stands proudly behind the First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens.
A few months ago, I got a call from my mom, a university professor, who had a student she described as “extremely androgynous with a unisex name.” She didn’t know how to address this student using a pronoun and asked me: “What should I do? What should I say?” I didn’t have a good answer.
April is National Poetry Month, and over the past few days I’ve been re-reading some poems by my favorite poet, Adrienne Rich. There’s so much that I love about Rich and her writing. I love how powerfully—and radically—she fuses political commitment and the pursuit of justice into her poetic vision. She writes provocatively on sexuality, race, language, power, and women’s culture as she combats racism, militarism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.
Big news! Earlier this week, National President of Hadassah, June Walker, was nominated as the Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has (shockingly) had only one woman Chair in its history: Shoshana Cardin who served from 1990-1992.
Today is the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual 26-miler; the "granddaddy" of road races. In just a few hours, hundreds of bodies will whiz through the city, pounding the pavement right outside my window. Without feeling side cramps, pulled hamstrings, or the throbbing of achy joints, the marathon is, from a spectator's vantage point (and perhaps from an ecstatically adrenaline-jacked runner's standpoint, too), a rather exhilarating, life-affirming, freeing experience. And yet, the opportunity to feel such freedom and exhilaration wasn't always afforded to everyone.
Earlier today, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) announced its decision to open its doors to gay and lesbian rabbinical and cantorial students, a decision that is effective immediately!
Just a few months ago, I received an e-mail from someone who expressed appreciation for JWA but took issue with the phrase “women rabbis,” a phrase that often appears in Jewish Women’s Archive features including This Week in History and Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution. Her point was this: for a feminist organization that does empowering work, there is something unseemly and demeaning about modifying rabbi with woman when we wouldn’t dare do the same thing with man.
Last week’s New York Times article “Journey from a Chinese Orphanage to a Jewish Rite of Passage” got me thinking more about the complexities of reconciling an adoptive Jewish identity with a non-Jewish biological heritage. The article follows the story of a Chinese girl named Cece adopted by a lesbian couple in the early 1990s when China first opened its doors to international adoption. About three weeks ago, Cece became a Bat Mitvah, one of the first Chinese adoptees of her cohort to do so.
Yesterday after work, I went on a search for a birthday gift for a 16-year-old girl. After looking at some books, crafts, scarves and jewelry (from the Fair Trade stores in town), I decided to take a peek in the GAP. Right in the entry way of the store, front and center, was a stand (accompanied by a large sign) displaying the GAP's newest khaki merchandise: "boyfriend trousers" and "tailored boyfriend". Both kinds of "boyfriends" are rather baggy, heavily starched, and seem to ride the hips of the models lucky enough to have them.
Today is Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther), a minor Fast day commemorating the three day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim. Ta’anit Esther is the only time in the Jewish calendar that wholly commemorates the power of a single woman to exercise courage in changing the course of Jewish history.
As a former tennis player and tennis team captain (and more importantly, as a feminist), I was happy to learn that Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious event in the sport of tennis, has finally decided to award equal prize-money to men and women. Ending an unequal pay policy that dates back 123 years, this decision is certainly something to celebrate, though it seems like a no-brainer. It’s high time that male and female athletes get equal pay, right?
As a student at a women’s college, walking into a library adorned with portraits of women didn’t feel refreshing or exceptional so much as it felt expected. But all those portraits of past presidents tended to make me forget that walls like this aren’t all that common. In truth, many institutions don’t even have one woman showcased.
February is Black History Month -- “a time to honor the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over slavery, prejudice, and poverty.” Perhaps more importantly, it’s a time to celebrate African Americans’ myriad contributions to our country’s cultural and political life.
It was roughly three years ago that I first spotted someone strutting across campus with a black and white keffiyeh (the traditional headdress for Arab men) wrapped around her neck as a scarf. Up until then, my only frame of reference for the keffiyeh was television coverage of turmoil in the Middle East. As an indispensable part of Yasser Arafat’s wardrobe, I understood the keffiyeh as a symbol of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and most recently, associated it with fundamentalist factions such as Hamas.
The American Jewish community never fails to worry. We worry about anti-Semitism. We worry about intermarriage. We worry about assimilation. And lately, we’ve been worrying about boys. In response to the steady retreat of boys and young men from Jewish communal life, many of us have declared our community plagued by a “boy crisis.”
Trichitza. A strange word, no? Until I was in Israel two weeks ago and prayed in a trichitza setting for the first time, I’d never heard the word before. Shortly thereafter, I came across a trichitza-related article in the November/December 2006 edition of New Voices. I’ve since learned that over the past few years, a growing number of communities have experimented with a trichitza, defining religious space in new, pluralizing ways.
Our usual practice at the Jewish Women’s Archive is to study the obituary page to learn about Jewish women lives. But last week, I was riveted by the life of Jane Bolin, the first black woman to become a judge in the United States. It was daunting just to contemplate her courage and determination in qualifying herself for this role.
Last week, after Jewish writer Tillie Olsen died at the age of 94, I picked up a copy of Tell Me A Riddle, her first collection of short stories published in 1961. Last night I re-read “I Stand Here Ironing,” a story that recounts a poor working woman’s ambivalence about her parenting skills and about her eldest daughter’s future during the Great Depression.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on October 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog>.