Laws, tradition, and God are words that typically come to mind when you think of Judaism. In my Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah reading), Lech Lecha, these words are relevant, but not the ones that stuck out to me.
At JWA, we believe that history is not only about the past, but also about the present—it’s unfolding every day. Recent events have made us more keenly aware than ever that we’re living through history in the making. And not just witnessing it—we are part of it, makers of history with each action we take.
Taken together, those actions tell a story—a story about how people protest, honor, resist, and remember; about how we struggle, hope, dream, and make change.
There is a repeated scene throughout Hidden Figures in which Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) types her name into the bylines of her reports only to be told that “computers” (most of whom are women) don’t author papers; she must erase her identity from her work. This scene helps explain why the contributions of Johnson and other women were forgotten for so long, but it also says something important about which stories, and whose contributions, we validate as part of our culture.
When I first read my assigned Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah portion), Ki Teitzei, my response was one of shock and disgust. The parsha discusses the guidelines for punishing an engaged virgin who lies with another man, outlining different punishments depending upon where the activity occurs.
Oh, bras. Is there any garment more ubiquitous and more controversial to the modern Western feminist? We’ve all spent too much money on a bra that fell apart too soon; we’ve all chafed under uncomfortable underwire or too-tight straps; we’ve all wrestled with the question of whether to wear a bra at all. At first glance, intimate apparel might seem like a trivial topic but think about this: these garments have literally shaped millions of women’s bodies every single day for centuries. They have a concrete, physical presence in so many of our daily lives.
The matriarchs are complex women, who do not always behave “perfectly,” or in the manner we would expect of our biblical female role models. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of Hagar, Sarah’s one-time slave, and Abraham’s one-time concubine.
When I was younger, I learned about a woman who drove a people from war times to peace. She was widely respected in a male dominated era, and she was one of only seven women who spoke to God directly. The protagonist of the story is the prophetess Deborah.
On January 21, 2017, women across the country will come together to march in protest of a Trump presidency. Earlier this year, across the world, another passionate group of women rose up to speak out against violence and to stand in support of peace. The Women Wage Peace (WWP) movement planned and executed their signature event this October: the March for Hope.
Every year, my temple holds a women’s seder on the second night of Passover. This ritual has always been important to me because throughout my Jewish education, I have clung to stories as the basis for my learning.
If you want to ask your (future) rabbi a personal question, it should be: “How can we best support you?”
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post comparing rabbinical placement to dating. It was meant to be lighthearted advice for my colleagues as they searched for “the one”: a congregation that would nurture and challenge them during the next phase of their career. Now, as some of my new colleagues enter the job market for the first time, I have some advice for the search committees.
We all know the story. The courageous Maccabees, the oil that lasted for a miraculous eight nights. We all know the branded fable, the great tale of Hanukkah that has been recited again and again in synagogues and religious schools forever. But it isn’t the whole story.
When I was still pretty small—in first grade, or maybe kindergarten—someone gave me a book for my birthday. This wasn’t an unusual event; I’ve received more books as presents in my seventeen years than I think most people end up owning in their entire lifetime. What was unusual was that this book was by a Jewish woman, and about Jewish girls, like me.
I was five when I saw Star Wars for the first time at my friend Danny’s house. We loved it so much that we spent the next two years playing games where we clambered up on rocks and swung down on tree branches like we were maneuvering through the Death Star together.
You may be uncomfortable reading a blog post about a vibrator inventor written by a sixteen-year-old, but bear with me. I have a great deal of admiration for Alexandra Fine, who graduated Columbia with an advanced degree in Human Psychology, and started a successful business at the age of twenty-six.
I’ll admit it: 2016 has brought some seriously challenging moments, and I won’t be sad to turn the calendar’s page to a fresh new year. But before we move boldly ahead into 2017, let’s reflect on the standout moments—both highs and lows—for Jewish women this year. In no particular order, here are my top ten memorable moments for Jewish women in 2016 ...
But I don’t want to be silent. After all, it’s not silent women who get stuff done, it’s an explosion of nasty women. So, in thinking about how to move forward and stand my ground, I look to the past. I look to a woman who got stuff done. I look to Anita Pollitzer.
What got my attention wasn’t the writing, though it does connect us. I wasn’t drawn in by the poetry or the Judaism or any of the other traits I share with this woman. No, what caught my eye was the measles. Grace Aguilar: British/Jewish novelist, poet extraordinaire, religious writer, social historian, and liturgist; and I wanted to write about her because of the measles.
For many years, while Christmas celebrators were dressing in their finest ugly holiday apparel, those of us who wanted to celebrate Hanukkah were left out in the cold, sans kitschy knitwear. What was a festive Jew to do while the Christians flaunted their light-up Rudolf sweatshirts and tinsel appliques? How could she attend a party without a dancing rabbi knit into her shirt? Could she light the menorah with no dreidels emblazoned on her sleeves?
Luckily, those days are behind us.
In the late forties and early fifties, a time when many refused to listen to female voices, Polier made her voice heard. She was published in various legal journals and other opinion pieces, and never filtered her views so that others could digest them more easily. She didn’t mince words or walk on eggshells to sound more feminine. Her writing was unadulterated social criticism.
In times of struggle, uncertainty, and fear, we are called to act. In the recent words of Charles Blow in the New York Times, “America needs you … now. Speak up.”
But, for those of us who do not identify as activists—those of us who are speaking up for the first time within the political system, those of us who are realizing that we need to move off of social media into more active engagement—it is easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed.
The Bed Moved, a new short story collection by Rebecca Schiff, features 23 stories with young female narrators. One of these women finds porn on her dead dad’s computer; another––a community college professor–– struggles with difficult, unmotivated students; still another wrestles with the question of whether to break up with a partner during a birthday trip to Boston.
Few women have been both scientists and social justice activists in their lifetimes. Both of these roles are time-consuming and challenging, yet somehow Tikvah Alper succeeded as a distinguished radiobiologist and as a fierce opponent to the apartheid in South Africa. She faced much opposition as a woman, but still managed to have a significant impact in both of these spheres.
“I want a commander in chief who will...ensure that the threat from...terrorists does not wash up on American soil….If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” said my governor, Republican Scott Walker, in February 2015.
The night before the election, I was too anxious to sleep, and in an effort to distract myself, I binge-watched the new Amazon series, Good Girls Revolt. Though the events it fictionalizes—when women brought a sex discrimination suit against Newsweek magazine—took place 47 years ago, it felt timely. As we stood on the cusp (I thought) of shattering the presidential glass ceiling, I reveled in watching young women in the waning days of the 1960s come into a sense of their own potential and their right to equal opportunity.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on January 18, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog>.