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.
Today is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year… which just might be my favorite day of the year. Unofficially, June 21 is the camp season kick-off date, and for many Jewish kids and families, that’s a big deal.
Yesterday was no ordinary lunch break. When noon rolled around, Judith, Emilie, and I headed downtown to the Massachusetts State House for the Constitutional Convention to rally in solidarity with other gay rights activists. With almond butter and jam sandwiches in hand, we cheered as we heard that the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage had been defeated 151-45, ensuring that same-sex marriage would remain legal.
What does a 4'11'' Yiddish theatre gender-bender have to do with a brassy woman in blackface? Making Trouble!
Check out the official website for Making Trouble, the new full-length documentary film about Jewish women comedians, produced by the Jewish Women's Archive.
Be sure to view the trailer, sign-up for our film newsletter, and tune in to film screenings in your neck of the woods. Happy laughing!
June is GLBT Pride Month! To enrich your celebration, check out JWA's new online feature: Jewish Women and GLBT Pride. Do you know who introduced the first Federal bill to support gay/lesbian rights? A Jewess, of course! That's something to be proud of. Happy Pride!
According to salty femme, today is Blog for Domestic Workers day, timed to support JFREJ’s Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign and Domestic Workers United, who are trying to institute a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in New York State. This legislation would guarantee basic labor rights to domestic workers, who are excluded from most federal and state labor laws.
I once had the privilege of hearing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak in person. She’s a tiny person with huge, almost caricature-scale glasses, but she conveys an unmistakable weightiness in her speech – well-articulated, certain, and slow (surely she is the slowest speaking Jew ever!).
Over the past few months, the media has been flooded with articles about women in comedy. Jewish women in particular have been in spotlight with Sarah Silverman’s sky-rocketing ratings, Comedian Cory Kahaney’s “The J.A.P. Show: Princesses of Comedy” and Judy Gold’s one-woman show “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.” Indeed, these women know how to keep us laughing. And yet, why aren’t there more of them?
The Professional Leaders Project (PLP) has created a new Academic Fellows program for highly selective Jewish “Talent” to pursue degrees in Business or Public Administration in conjunction with Jewish Studies. The expectation is that fellowship recipients will enter executive-level Jewish communal professional leadership tracks immediately following graduation from the top business or entrepreneurial program of their choice.
Last Sunday, I called my mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, hoping that she would be doing something more enjoyable than grading papers or power-washing the patio. With my mother still on my mind, I picked up a copy of You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother, by Joyce Antler. In this new book, which has gotten rave reviews, Antler explores the colorful history of the Jewish mother in American life.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on February 1, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.