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Jewish Women, Amplified

  • I Learned it in the Archives
  • Loving Judith
  • My Mom Used To Say...
  • Ordering Coffee in Tel Aviv
  • Pauline Steinem Letter 1 (1910)

    I Learned it in the Archives: Women’s Rights Activism Runs in Steinem Family

    One file of suffrage correspondence held many items on letterhead from the Ohio Woman’s Suffrage Association, of which Harriet Taylor Upton was president for many years. The letterhead listed the names of all the officers, and one name in particular caught my attention.

    The woman’s name was Pauline Steinem.

  • "Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentileschi, circa 1614-20 (cropped).

    Loving Judith

    Gentileschi’s rendition of Judith is a self-portrait—allowing her to wield a sword and take revenge, if only in fantasy. Judith Slaying Holofernes was the first piece of feminist art that really moved me. Even now, I get chills when I view it. I thought a lot about Judith this week, after dusting off my menorah and dutifully buying candles and gelt.

  • Ruth Zakarin and her mother crop

    My Mom Used To Say...

    It was her go-to statement whenever she was cajoling me into doing something she considered a mitzvah, especially when I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity. She would look at me with that, you know, mom look, and say, “Do good things and tell people you’re Jewish.”

  • Caitlin Wolper Cover Crop

    Ordering Coffee in Tel Aviv

    Caitlin Wolper’s first poetry collection, Ordering Coffee in Tel Aviv, is a powerful account of a young Jewish woman’s first trip to Israel. In this chapbook, Wolper powerfully grapples with themes of gender, identity, and “the leash of Israel’s legacy.” Exclusively for JWA, Wolper reflects on her inspiration and creative process for two selected poems.

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Students at the Library circa 1910s

To Women Writing Bravely

By coming to know our foremothers, we are actually coming to know ourselves and by taking up the weight of the pen and writing our own story, we are freeing all women, then and now. For women’s stories are the keys to our collective liberation. To all the women writing bravely today, I dedicate this piece.

Topics: Poetry
Julia Clardy's Legs

Wearing the Pants, and the Dress as Well

When I showed a girl in my class the prom dress I was thinking about buying, the first thing she asked me was whether or not I was going to shave for prom. Her question wasn’t really that surprising. People often associate body hair with uncleanliness, and they don’t expect it to appear in formal situations. The fact is, people only question me about my body hair when I’m wearing something more traditionally feminine. When I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt people rarely look twice at my legs or armpits, but when I’m wearing a dress, people consistently double-take. When it comes to how other people see me, it seems that my casual clothes and body hair make more sense together than my more feminine clothes and body hair.

Sofia Gardenswartz in "Serving Spoons" Apron

Double-Bound

I am the President of a nonprofit, Serving Spoons, that prepares and delivers healthy, home-cooked meals to families in need. I accepted this leadership position nearly five years ago, and though I expected to encounter challenges due to my age, I felt confident I could convince the other industry professionals to take me seriously if I demonstrated maturity, responsibility, and commitment to my organization. Yet one of the greatest challenges, as I soon discovered, wasn’t my mere fourteen years, but rather my identity as a female.

Topics: Food, Volunteers
Shira Small's High School Softball Team

Sexism and Softball: Covering All the Bases

At five years old, I launched into little league stardom by hitting a home run without even using the tee. From then on, my coach called me “Slugger,” a name I proudly wore throughout my thirteen years playing softball.

Topics: Schools, Athletes
Warriors, Witches, Whores by Rachel Harris (cropped)

Israeli Cinema, Feminist Style

Harris’s questions are worth the consideration of every committed cinephile and feminist. She asks whether a director’s gender necessarily determines the politics of a film, whether women’s stories are necessarily feminist ones, which women’s stories are represented on-screen, and how some depictions of sexual violence intended to critique rape culture are actually complicit with it.

Topics: Film
Kara Sherman with her Mom

Not So Jewish American Mothers

Loud. Abrasive. Bossy. Great cook. These attributes all contribute to the popular caricature of the “Jewish American Mother.” I know plenty of women who fit this description. I’ve taught their kids on Sunday mornings. I love some of them. I can’t stand some of them. My mother is Jewish, and American, and pretty bossy when she needs to be; but she’s never conformed to this stereotype.

Topics: Mothers, Food, Judaism
Julie Seltzer

And It Will Touch Your Heart

At the museum in that first week, between introductions and protocol and photo shoots, I finally took out my Tikkun, the book used to copy the Torah from, word for word, line for line, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. I opened up to page two. Here were the first words of my Torah. My Torah – as if these words were mine.

והוא ימשל בך . And he will rule over you.

Legends Football League Game

1 Down and Yards to Go for the Lingerie Football League

I’d like to think that I’m really good at pretending to know about football. As a self-proclaimed Green Bay Packers fan, I can name about 5 players and can usually tell which team is scoring the touchdown. Needless to say, when I found myself watching a Packers game at a friend’s house with all of her friends (who didn’t know me, but certainly knew football), I felt pretty out of place. I couldn’t offer much to the conversation comparing Packers’ quarterbacks Brett Hundley and Aaron Rodgers, but when the conversation turned to the Legends Football League (LFL), formerly known as the Lingerie League, I had plenty to contribute. 

Harvey Weinstein

Seizing Control of the Narrative

The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape allegations over the past few months, catalyzed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law
Daniella Shear Dressed as Queen Esther

Queen Esther: Quiet Leader

Purim has always been ranked high on my list of favorite holidays. Who doesn’t love dressing up, eating hamantaschen, playing games, and winning prizes? In addition to my synagogue’s annual Purim carnival I also look forward to the megillah reading each year. I always found the story to be interesting, but as I’ve gotten older, my interpretation has evolved from one about a queen who saves her people (the Jews), to a complex narrative about a female leader.

Topics: Activism, Purim
Egyptians Admire Sarai's Beauty

Sarai and the Silence Breakers

Once a month, I meet with about ten other Jewish girls as part of the Rosh Chodesh program. We drink tea, bake cookies, do mindful meditations, and kvetch. Most importantly though, we talk about the impact our female identities have on our daily lives and within Judaism. Earlier this month, over a batch of half-baked brownies, we discussed a Torah portion that rattled the foundation of my identity as a Jewish woman.

Topics: Feminism, Bible
Ruth Franklin Einstein

From the Archives: Saturday Luncheon Club

With the wonders of social media, I have a place to ponder the fate of Jimmy Hoffa and share anecdotes that I find in the archives. In 1921, a group of women with curious minds found a different method to uncover and share stories: The Saturday Luncheon Club (SLC).

Composite Image of Women's Marches (1913 and 2017)

Marching with Sadie

Sadie Loewith would have marched this weekend, joining a million other women around the world as they took to the streets to demand a more equal society. I know this because Sadie did march in 1920, joining the multitudes of other women in the streets of Washington D.C. who were fighting for the ratification of the 19th amendment.

Julia Clardy Canoe Trip Photo

Creation on a Canoe Trip

This past summer I attended a three-week-long canoe trip in Western Quebec. We set out to canoe white water and live completely in nature with a handful of tents, the clothes we were wearing, heavy containers filled with dehydrated food, and four red canoes. I had no idea what I was in for, and my only expectation was to learn more about the earth, and how I’m connected to it.

Tamar Cohen at her Bat Mitzvah

Near(ly) a Woman

Every year in the Hebrew month of Shevat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. But the “Big Ten” are only part of this portion – Parshat Yitro also contains a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, a feast, and a set of instructions from G-d transferred with questionable integrity by Moses to the Israelites. Before becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 12, I spent months studying this portion and its various commentaries. One line was particularly alarming to me: “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.”

Drawing of Zelophead's Daughters

Finding the Founding Feminists

Every year in July, the story of Pinchas is told. And on July 6, 2013, I was the one telling this story. Yep. Little 13-year-old me, electric green braces and all, was up on the bimah, knees knocking, chanting the story of Pinchas. And I did a great job, if I do say so myself. But as embarrassing as it is to admit now, my understanding of my Torah portion at that time was very superficial. I had spent so much time making sure I knew the words so I didn’t make a fool out of myself when I was chanting, that I didn’t put that much effort into fully understanding what I was saying, and how it affected me.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law
Portrait of Elisa Klapheck by Marlis Glaser

Painting Courage and Painting History

Marlis Glaser, a German artist, grew up in rural Germany, not knowing any Jews or her father’s previous involvement with the Nazi party. Glaser was introduced to a German Jewish woman who had survived the Holocaust. Now, Glaser has shaped her art around Judaism, and recently converted. Her colorful work includes hundreds of portraits of Holocaust survivors, their families, and other Jewish figures throughout history.

Topics: Painting
Unscrewed Close-up title image

Unscrewing Ourselves

Friedman’s book dives into the national narrative of female sexual submissiveness that’s perpetuated by our patriarchal culture. This narrative comes in the form of abstinence-only sex education, widespread toxic masculinity, and a collective reluctance to support women’s sexuality on a social and political level.

Holding Hands

The Importance of Self-Love

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Leviticus 19:34 provides the Jewish people with this inspirational and often-repeated Torah verse that seems to pop up in my own life endlessly. In Temple, in Jewish Studies classes, at home when my mother reminds me to be the bigger person—this verse follows me wherever I go. For a long time, I appreciated it and used it as a motivation to do good. But then I reached a point in my life when treating others as I treated myself wouldn’t have been the kindest path. 

Topics: Schools, Bible
San Francisco Pride

Cafeteria Judaism and Feminine Queer Identity

Religion isn’t always easy. I often like to pretend it is—buzzwords like “interfaith” and “pluralism” pervade my discussions about faith. But every now and again, I’m reminded that the history of my faith is not easy. Judaism was, in fact, built on questions. How do I find support as a woman from a faith founded on patriarchal texts? How do I reconcile ancient laws with a modern identity of queerness?

Rising Voices Fellow Dorrit Corwin with her Grandfather

L’Dor V’Dor: A Legacy of Love

My grandfather means something different to each and every person he’s met. To some, he’s kindness, always putting others before himself no matter the circumstances. To others, he’s community, building a network so wide that everyone he runs into is an old friend. To his parents, he was a miracle, not predicted to survive long past birth, or live to create all that he has in his lifetime. To me, he’s all of these things stitched together into one simple phrase: L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation).

Carolina Jews for Justice at HKonJ, February 12, 2017

Organizing Jewishly in North Carolina

When I started college, I didn’t expect to get involved with Jewish organizing. I was Jewish because other people saw me as such—despite my mixed-religious parentage and upbringing, I was always the odd kid out. Never quite Jewish enough to become a bat mitzvah, but enough to be the subject of slurs, wielded by children who had never met Jewish people before.

 

The Story of Job

Job and Josie

One of the most challenging parts of being Jewish is learning how to struggle with stories from Jewish texts that initially seem to contradict my values. When I come across these stories, I have to decide if and how they fit into my own personal relationship with Judaism. The story I have struggled with the most is the Book of Job (Iyov).

Topics: Activism, Bible

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women, Amplified." (Viewed on December 11, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog>.

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8 hr
"Stories of influential Jewish women in history remind me that there’s a long line of powerful Jewish women standin… https://t.co/i9oeZ9Y3qe
11 hr
Did you know that isn't the only women's rights activist in her family? at the… https://t.co/VAfRn97gvB
13 hr
in 1947, Dr. Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori became the first Jewish woman, as well as the first American wom… https://t.co/WbxCYOdkss