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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Thought. And 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The few times I’ve visited Teaneck, New Jersey (usually to dine at a Kosher restaurant since my nearby hometown is devoid of one), the sidewalks have a dizzying glare of bobbing black hats. There are about 15 synagogues within a five-mile radius, each with women’s balconies that I suspect are scant on leg room and a view of the bimah.
One of the recurring items on my ever-evolving list of “things to do in my life,” is to hike the Appalachian Trail. Whether or not I’ll actually do that remains in question, but if I could choose an ideal companion to join me on such a journey, I’d most likely choose a Jewess named Arlene Blum.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on March 2, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.