This June marks a milestone in the history of Jewish feminism: the retirement of Rabbi Sally Priesand, the first American woman rabbi. In the feature about her in the New York Times last Saturday, she repeated something she’s said often during her career: “I became a rabbi not to champion women’s rights.
When a reporter of the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. asked Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator and executive producer of WB’s acclaimed series Gilmore Girls, whether she’d be introducing more Jewish characters into her TV show, Amy replied: “By year seven, everyone on the show will be Jewish,” she says. “Believe me, it’s going to be the Chabad telethon.”
I guess the line is funnier if you know Gilmore Girls—a show about a single mom raising her teen daughter—is set in a fictional WASPy Connecticut town.
I became a historian not just because I like poking through people’s stuff (though I am pretty nosy), but because I believe that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in the world – and our world could use some serious change. I draw inspiration from the stories of people who came before us and made a real difference. But sometimes looking back at history makes me depressed, especially when it seems like we’re stuck in the same arguments and issues, or even losing ground.
This morning I checked out an interview in What is Enlightenment?, which featured two Orthodox women discussing “the Jewish view of femininity.” One was Esther Kosovsky, the Director of the Jewish Educational Resource Center in western Massachusetts, who is also the wife of a rabbi, mom to eight, and daughter of Rabbi David Edelman, leader of the Lubavitch Orthodox congregation in western Massachusetts.
Last night was the first event in the Heirs to a Revolution: Intergenerational Dialogues on Jewish Feminism series from JWA and Hebrew College, and it was really provocative. Blu Greenberg and Devorah Zlochower addressed the topic “Feminism and Orthodoxy: No Longer Strange Bedfellows?”.
I know, hardly words you expect to see on an archive for young Jewish women. Why should we make special mention of the fact that a Roman Catholic nun who grew up in a farm in Wisconsin died last Saturday? Because this sweet-’n’-powerful sister made it her life's mission to better relations between Catholics and Jews in some pretty awesome ways. Here are 5 of those ways, according to her NY Times obit on Monday.
Today I received several celebratory emails from friends, announcing the news that Haviva Ner-David, an Orthodox woman living in Jerusalem, had finally achieved her dream of being ordained a rabbi. Her quest began more than ten years ago, when she applied to the rabbinical program at the modern Orthodox Yeshiva University – an application that the administration assumed was a joke and ignored. She went on to pursue rabbinic studies privately with Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, an Orthodox rabbi, while also earning a PhD in Talmud – and raising five small children.
As a Jewish female, I’d certainly like to break the stereotype that all Jewish women are one-dimensional cartoon characters.
But when you think about it, these traits, which are clearly being ridiculed in Jewish mother jokes, are actually something to be proud of.
I stayed up late last night reading Wendy Wasserstein’s posthumously published novel, Elements of Style. (Click here for JWA's "We Remember" piece on Wasserstein.) Like all of Wasserstein’s work, her novel is witty, fun, biting, clever, with a strong thread of social criticism.
Caitlin Flanagan, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has been stirring things up among women for a while now. She’s been writing her controversial views on domestic life since 2001 in magazine articles (she got her writing break with The Atlantic), taking the stance that women should stay at home while raising their kids. “When a mother works, something is lost,” she wrote. She is a self-described “anti-feminist,” who claims she “was virtuously willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her children.”
In my online preparation for Passover, I came across a site called “japshopper.” How is this connected with Passover, you might ask? It’s actually the site of an artist named Melissa Shiff, and JAP stands for “Jewish art projects, products, politics.” Redefining the term, Shiff is selling her Jewish-themed, activist art creations (e.g. the Crush oppression matzo pillow and Matzo Ball Activist Kit) and donating a percentage of the profits to feed hungry people and to support progressive art projects.
Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will sit down for a Passover seder. Some of us will listen to our grandfathers mumble through the hagaddah, and others will incorporate new rituals, like Miriam’s Cup and putting an orange on the seder plate – signs of how feminism has transformed Jewish ritual life.
Why have we, a group of Jewish young women respectful of pop culture and history, opted to call ourselves "Jewesses with Attitude"? After all, when we tested "Jewesses" with friends and colleagues, we were told it sounds "Jappy," "old-fashioned," and "weird." But we decided we love it, in large part because it immediately sparked heated discussion.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog>.