Jewish Women Watching declare "Sexism is a sin"
September 21, 2001
"Jewish women/girls hold your community accountable. Sexism is a sin. Jewish Women Watching." This ad text, a parody of the Lubavitchers' weekly ads below the first column on the front page of the New York Times imploring women and girls to light Shabbat candles, appeared in that paper on September 21, 2001, the Friday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This marked the third year that Jewish Women Watching (JWW), an anonymous and intentionally controversial Jewish feminist group, had produced public campaigns around the High Holy Days aimed at challenging sexism and elitism within the Jewish community.
While Jewish Women Watching may be an anonymous organization, they have certainly made their presence felt in the broader Jewish world. Their publications use satire and shock value to reflect their concerns about sexist, classist, and homophobic trends within the mainstream Jewish community. For example, their pamphlet "WAY TOO MUCH. Make community a priority. Demand Jewish life at an affordable price" criticizes the high cost of actively participating in the Jewish community, such as a summer at a Jewish camp, Jewish day school tuition, and High Holy Day seat tickets.
In 2005, JWW challenged the Conservative movement during the 20th anniversary celebration of the ordination of the first Conservative woman rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). They distributed a flyer and a hoax JTS press release contrasting the Conservative movement's avowed commitment to gender equality and diversity with the realties that some Conservative synagogues exclude women from full participation, there are often great pay inequities between men and women Conservative rabbis with comparable experience, and the exclusion at that time of "avowed homosexuals" from Conservative rabbinical and cantorial schools.
Its New Year's greeting for 5768 (2007-8) challenged JTS to offer full inclusion of LGBT voices, local Jewish federations to hire female executives, all congregational movements to speak out against the Iraq war and American congregations and Hillels to address human rights abuses perpetrated by the U.S. and Israel.