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Jewish Women, Amplified

  • Painting Courage
  • Unscrewing Ourselves
  • Cafeteria Judaism
  • Organizing Jewishly
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

     

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Fast of Esther and Marriage Enslavement

Today is Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther), a minor Fast day commemorating the three day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim Ta’anit Esther is the only time in the Jewish calendar that wholly commemorates the power of a single woman to exercise courage in changing the course of Jewish history.

Wimbledon Pays Up To Pay Equal!

As a former tennis player and tennis team captain (and more importantly, as a feminist), I was happy to learn that Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious event in the sport of tennis, has finally decided to award equal prize-money to men and women. Ending an unequal pay policy that dates back 123 years, this decision is certainly something to celebrate, though it seems like a no-brainer. It’s high time that male and female athletes get equal pay, right?

HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?

Leading Jewish women’s organizations have joined another “choice” debate. This time, it’s not about reproductive choice, but about whether to require the vaccine for human papillomavirus -- or HPV -- for girls and young women between the ages of 9 and 21.

Harvard's First Woman President

As a student at a women’s college, walking into a library adorned with portraits of women didn’t feel refreshing or exceptional so much as it felt expected. But all those portraits of past presidents tended to make me forget that walls like this aren’t all that common. In truth, many institutions don’t even have one woman showcased.

Black History: More Than a Month

February is Black History Month -- “a time to honor the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over slavery, prejudice, and poverty.” Perhaps more importantly, it’s a time to celebrate African Americans’ myriad contributions to our country’s cultural and political life.

Does Girl Power = "Boy Crisis" ?

The American Jewish community never fails to worry. We worry about anti-Semitism. We worry about intermarriage. We worry about assimilation. And lately, we’ve been worrying about boys. In response to the steady retreat of boys and young men from Jewish communal life, many of us have declared our community plagued by a “boy crisis.”

The Trichitza Phenomenon

Trichitza. A strange word, no? Until I was in Israel two weeks ago and prayed in a trichitza setting for the first time, I’d never heard the word before. Shortly thereafter, I came across a trichitza-related article in the November/December 2006 edition of New Voices. I’ve since learned that over the past few years, a growing number of communities have experimented with a trichitza, defining religious space in new, pluralizing ways.

Collaborators for Justice

by KG

Our usual practice at the Jewish Women’s Archive is to study the obituary page to learn about Jewish women lives. But last week, I was riveted by the life of Jane Bolin, the first black woman to become a judge in the United States. It was daunting just to contemplate her courage and determination in qualifying herself for this role.

Topics: Law

Tillie Olsen: Voicing What Was Silenced

Last week, after Jewish writer Tillie Olsen died at the age of 94, I picked up a copy of Tell Me A Riddle, her first collection of short stories published in 1961. Last night I re-read “I Stand Here Ironing,” a story that recounts a poor working woman’s ambivalence about her parenting skills and about her eldest daughter’s future during the Great Depression.

Topics: Feminism, Fiction

A Pluralistic Moment on a Bus in Israel

Having just returned from Israel, I was reminded of how differently some women’s roles are perceived outside of the pluralistic framework that defines my pocket of the American Jewish community. Since I spend my usual 9-5 day surrounded by opinionated power-house feminists, I sometimes forget that most of the world does not know this as their reality, or acknowledge that a diversity of women's roles in religious life or otherwise even exists at all.

Too Much Christmas?

by KG

Rather than stay fixated on last year’s “war against Christmas,” dust-up, the New York Times this holiday season has been running a veritable flood of articles suggesting that, when it comes to Christmas: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. No less than seven articles have put forward the argument that even those who might have good reason to distance themselves from Christmas tend to be happier (and less curmudgeonly) when they simply embrace the holiday that everyone loves.

Gender Wars and the (Woman) C.E.O.

When my mom started college in the 1960s to pursue a B.A. in Math, she was told by her advisor that “Women don’t major in Math at this university. Choose something else.” And so, she did.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since “math is just for men.” It’s doubtful that many Americans in the 21st century still consider female doctors and female lawyers as something particularly “radical.” ndeed, professional opportunities have grown exponentially and women have seized them furiously. But we’re fooling ourselves to believe that women and men are now occupationally on par, particularly in the corporate world in which the gender gap remains glaringly static.

Chrismukkah

As politicians continue to battle it out over whether Keith Ellison should or should not take his oath of office on the Koran (see the previous blog entry), the U.S. is engulfed in other “religious” matters -- the Christmas craze… or, as some like to call it, “Chrismukkah.”

Religious Freedom and Taking An Oath

Last month, Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress and recently announced that he would take his oath of office using the Koran (the holy book of Islam). One of the strongest expressions of opposition to Ellison’s choice came from Dennis Prager, a prominent Jewish commentator, who said “America is interested in only one book, the Bible.

A Thorny Future for Gay and Lesbian Conservative Rabbis

Gay and lesbian rabbis. Same-sex unions. These issues have been hotly debated in Jewish life for decades and perhaps more divisively within the Conservative movement. But yesterday marked a historical shift in the Conservative movement's position. Leaders of the movement's Committee on Law and Standards approved a rabbinic opinion permitting the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and sanctioning same-sex unions.

Anna Sokolow: Using Art as Activism

Most of the time, harsh world realities leave us feeling powerless. Violence, illness, prejudice, and war cause us to ask: does our work really matter? Artists might be confronted with this question more often than others. When families can’t put food on the table, Art may seem irrelevant. But modern dance pioneer, Anna Sokolow, reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Topics: Activism, Dance

Problems with the Jewish Establishment

Earlier this month the United Jewish Communities General Assembly (G.A.) met in Los Angeles. The G.A. offers an opportunity for Jewish professionals and lay-leaders to gather en masse to discuss a variety of important issues facing the Jewish community. This year (as in years past), the G.A. had a problem: young Jews were not given the floor. In fact, their voices were virtually absent from discussions altogether. In fact, the number of sessions in which young Jewish activists under the age of 35 appeared on panels could be counted on one hand.

Jewitches and Jew-U's

From bagels and lox to black-hats, Judaism comes in all different brands, styles, and colors. In the U.S., where we are fortunate to have religious choice, there is a rich diversity of Jewish life and Jewish practice; something to please almost everyone.

Evangelicals, Jews, and Coalition Politics

Lately, Evangelicals love Israel. And lately, Madonna digs Kabbalah and writes songs about Hasidic rebbes in Tzfat. And in the midst of this non-Jewish ‘Jew-centricity,’ there are Jewish parents out there nominally waspifying their children by giving them names like Mackenzie and Madison.

Barbie Wears a Tallit?!

A recent article in Lilith Magazine entitled “How Do Women Define the Sacred?” speaks to the ways in which handmade tallitot (prayer shawls) have become central aspects of Jewish women’s spirituality. Though women have become increasingly enfranchised over the past several decades in many areas of Jewish life, the bulk of religious liturgy is reflective of Judaism’s patriarchal origins. And so, handmade women’s tallitot challenge a prayer legacy primarily composed and transmitted by and for men.

Jewish Women Politicians: Progressively Passionate?

Self-confident. Loud. Hard-working. Feisty. These are the words that come to mind when describing Jewish women. So perhaps it’s no wonder that we’ve taken great strides in shaping and transforming politics. In the 1920s, Rose Schneiderman was a key organizer for the National American Women Suffrage Association. And in 1976, Bella Abzug became the first woman elected to the U.S.  Congress on an explicitly feminist platform, a demonstration of her unshakable convictions as an anti-war activist and as a fighter for social and economic justice for all Americans.

Ending Abuse Through Activism and Ritual

Few people use their employment bonuses to start an organization of their own. But at 23, Holly Shulman -- listed in “Real Hot 100” -- is setting a new standard. Instead of enhancing her wardrobe or beefing up her music collection, Shulman used her bonus to found “Vote Against Violence,” a political action committee to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.

From Wonder Woman to Wonderbras

Though some Jews reject Halloween because of its Christian origins, others fully participate in what they consider to be a neutral, mainstream celebration. Either way, it’s difficult to escape the flood of candy, jack-o-lanterns, and synthetic spider webs as well as the latest Halloween “fashion.” Anyone who has watched the evolution of women’s Halloween costumes over the last several years may have noticed that Cinderella and the Hershey’s Kiss have long gone out of style in the wake of more risqué get-ups.

Topics: Feminism, Purim

Miriam Engelberg (1958-2006)

Cartoonist Miriam Engelberg, whose best-known work found humor in her fight against breast cancer, died last Tuesday in her San Francisco home at the age of 48.

Engelberg’s book, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, was published earlier this year. The book details the painful experience of going through cancer treatment but in the end, Engelberg has her readers laughing.

Hot Jewish Moms?

Today’s Forward reports on auditions for a new reality tv show called “Hottest mom in America” – ostensibly newsworthy because a special audition was held in Miami for Jewish mothers and was scheduled to avoid conflicting with Rosh Hashanah. Jeff Greenfield, the marketing exec in charge of the auditions, asserts that it’s possible a Jewish woman could win this contest.

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12 hr
On stories and interfaith marriage. https://t.co/5jWtPbI6WA
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Did you dust off your pussy hat for the this weekend? ICYMI the first time, check out our interview wi… https://t.co/DTAnyLNSvs
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On being an almost-Jewish woman, and reconciling with some of the Torah's more misogynistic passages.… https://t.co/jE0RjGVnsH