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Funny, You Don't *Look* Jewish...

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.

Happy International Women's Day!

Since its first observance in the early 1900s, at a time of rapid industrialization, economic expansion, and a rise in radical ideologies, International Women’s Day has grown from its socialist roots into a global day of recognition and celebration in developed and developing countries alike.

Boyfriend Trousers? I Want Jewess Jeans.

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.

Fast of Esther and Marriage Enslavement

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.

Wimbledon Pays Up To Pay Equal!

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?

HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?

Leading Jewish women’s organizations have joined another “choice” debate. This time, it’s not about reproductive choice, but about whether to require the vaccine for human papillomavirus -- or HPV -- for girls and young women between the ages of 9 and 21.

Harvard's First Woman President

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.

Black History: More Than a Month

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.

Just a Checkered Scarf?

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.

Does Girl Power = "Boy Crisis" ?

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.”

The Trichitza Phenomenon

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.

Collaborators for Justice

by KG

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.

Topics: Law

Tillie Olsen: Voicing What Was Silenced

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.

Topics: Feminism, Fiction

A Pluralistic Moment on a Bus in Israel

Having just returned from Israel, I was reminded of how differently some women’s roles are perceived outside of the pluralistic framework that defines my pocket of the American Jewish community. Since I spend my usual 9-5 day surrounded by opinionated power-house feminists, I sometimes forget that most of the world does not know this as their reality, or acknowledge that a diversity of women's roles in religious life or otherwise even exists at all.

Too Much Christmas?

by KG

Rather than stay fixated on last year’s “war against Christmas,” dust-up, the New York Times this holiday season has been running a veritable flood of articles suggesting that, when it comes to Christmas: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. No less than seven articles have put forward the argument that even those who might have good reason to distance themselves from Christmas tend to be happier (and less curmudgeonly) when they simply embrace the holiday that everyone loves.

Gender Wars and the (Woman) C.E.O.

When my mom started college in the 1960s to pursue a B.A. in Math, she was told by her advisor that “Women don’t major in Math at this university. Choose something else.” And so, she did.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since “math is just for men.” It’s doubtful that many Americans in the 21st century still consider female doctors and female lawyers as something particularly “radical.” ndeed, professional opportunities have grown exponentially and women have seized them furiously. But we’re fooling ourselves to believe that women and men are now occupationally on par, particularly in the corporate world in which the gender gap remains glaringly static.

Chrismukkah

As politicians continue to battle it out over whether Keith Ellison should or should not take his oath of office on the Koran (see the previous blog entry), the U.S. is engulfed in other “religious” matters -- the Christmas craze… or, as some like to call it, “Chrismukkah.”

Religious Freedom and Taking An Oath

Last month, Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress and recently announced that he would take his oath of office using the Koran (the holy book of Islam). One of the strongest expressions of opposition to Ellison’s choice came from Dennis Prager, a prominent Jewish commentator, who said “America is interested in only one book, the Bible.

A Thorny Future for Gay and Lesbian Conservative Rabbis

Gay and lesbian rabbis. Same-sex unions. These issues have been hotly debated in Jewish life for decades and perhaps more divisively within the Conservative movement. But yesterday marked a historical shift in the Conservative movement's position. Leaders of the movement's Committee on Law and Standards approved a rabbinic opinion permitting the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and sanctioning same-sex unions.

Anna Sokolow: Using Art as Activism

Most of the time, harsh world realities leave us feeling powerless. Violence, illness, prejudice, and war cause us to ask: does our work really matter? Artists might be confronted with this question more often than others. When families can’t put food on the table, Art may seem irrelevant. But modern dance pioneer, Anna Sokolow, reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Topics: Activism, Dance

Problems with the Jewish Establishment

Earlier this month the United Jewish Communities General Assembly (G.A.) met in Los Angeles. The G.A. offers an opportunity for Jewish professionals and lay-leaders to gather en masse to discuss a variety of important issues facing the Jewish community. This year (as in years past), the G.A. had a problem: young Jews were not given the floor. In fact, their voices were virtually absent from discussions altogether. In fact, the number of sessions in which young Jewish activists under the age of 35 appeared on panels could be counted on one hand.

Jewitches and Jew-U's

From bagels and lox to black-hats, Judaism comes in all different brands, styles, and colors. In the U.S., where we are fortunate to have religious choice, there is a rich diversity of Jewish life and Jewish practice; something to please almost everyone.

Evangelicals, Jews, and Coalition Politics

Lately, Evangelicals love Israel. And lately, Madonna digs Kabbalah and writes songs about Hasidic rebbes in Tzfat. And in the midst of this non-Jewish ‘Jew-centricity,’ there are Jewish parents out there nominally waspifying their children by giving them names like Mackenzie and Madison.

Feminist Responsibility and GLBT Rights

Last week, hundreds of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews rioted against the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender community to protest a planned Pride March in Jerusalem. Many of the Haredi rioters set fires and threw stones at GLBT community members and their supporters. The rioters also called for the deaths of the leaders of the Jerusalem Open House, a GLBT advocacy center. The prospective marchers had indicated their willingness to modify their route and to contain any explicit behavior in deference to community sensibilities.

Barbie Wears a Tallit?!

A recent article in Lilith Magazine entitled “How Do Women Define the Sacred?” speaks to the ways in which handmade tallitot (prayer shawls) have become central aspects of Jewish women’s spirituality. Though women have become increasingly enfranchised over the past several decades in many areas of Jewish life, the bulk of religious liturgy is reflective of Judaism’s patriarchal origins. And so, handmade women’s tallitot challenge a prayer legacy primarily composed and transmitted by and for men.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on September 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog>.

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