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Jewish Women, Amplified

  • A Dance on the Bimah
  • Sukkot Stuffed Peppers
  • Giving Thanks on Sukkot
  • Her Book of Separation
  • Woman Reading Torah

    A Dance on the Bimah

    I sensed some apprehension in the sanctuary as we settled into our seats for Rosh Hashanah services. The congregation was experiencing a first: a woman was leading the clergy for the first time in congregational history. Joining her on the bimah was our second rabbi, also a woman. I knew there were some in the congregation who wondered what it would be like to begin this new year without male leadership at the top.

  • Final Stuffed Pepper Photo

    Sukkot Stuffed Peppers

    Stuffed foods are traditional for Sukkot, and represent a time of plenty. This immediately made me want to tackle a stuffed pepper situation. Stuffed peppers are great because it allows you to basically put together all your favorite vegetables in unusually fancy packaging.

  • Sukkot Harvest

    A Bicultural Jew Gives Thanks on Sukkot

    So, my journey from New York to Texas has resulted in my viewing myself as a bicultural Jew: I have had the luxury and privilege of taking Jewishness for granted and I also know the depths of Jewish illiteracy and intolerance that plague parts of the country and some institutions of higher education.

  • Tova and The Book of Separation

    Tova Mirvis’ Journey from Orthodoxy to Memoir

    Tova Mirvis is the author of the recently released The Book of Separation, a memoir chronicling her growing doubts about her Orthodox faith and her ultimate decision to leave after forty years in the community.

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Seeking peace

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading the news reports about the escalating violence in Israel and Lebanon with dread and despair. I am struck by how unavoidable the violence seems to be, and yet how unconstructive it is, destroying lives, homes, businesses, and hope, while sowing further seeds of hate.

Topics: Activism, Israel

Where Are the Cool A-List Jews?

That’s what writer David Marchese is looking for, according to the article he wrote last week for Salon.com. He laments the fact that long gone are the hip male Jews of the 60s and 70s like Dustin Hoffman, Bob Dylan, Gene Simmons, Starsky and James Caan (to name just a few). These were Jewish men who came across as tough and multi-layered and complicated in a way that made us love them.

Making Space for Anti-Feminists . . .

What do you think about NEW, Network of Enlightened Women? If you haven’t heard of it, they’re a group of conservative female college students, founded in 1994 by UVA student Karen Agness. They are “dedicated to fostering the education and leadership skills of conservative university women.” What does that mean? It means they think the Vagina Monologues “glorifies” rape; feel that women’s studies “unfairly paints men as evil” and “ignores differences between the sexes,” and have a major problem with modern feminism.

Poetry blogging

I’ve fallen behind on blogging this week because I’ve been immersed in planning for JWA’s first National Summer Institute for Jewish educators, which begins on Sunday.

Topics: Poetry

Sarah Silverman: Straddling Funny and Offensive

When Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, basically a filmed version of Sarah’s comedy act, came out in theaters last year, I didn’t see it. I knew nothing about her brand of comedy, and was hardly willing to commit to being trapped in a theater for two hours. But a bunch of friends recommended it, so I decided to check it out when it came to video.

Topics: Comedy, Film

Happy Birthday, NOW!

Forty years ago today, the National Organization for Women (NOW), was founded in Betty Friedan’s hotel room in Washington, DC. Friedan and the 26 other founders were frustrated by the unwillingness of the National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women to take any meaningful action against the well-documented widespread discrimination against women.

Summer Reading

Lately I’ve been re-reading the stories of Grace Paley, and no matter how many times I’ve read them, they’re hard to put down. She’s one of my favorite writers, a woman who weaves stories from what she views around her and captures how the most mundane, brief moments (a walk with a friend, moms watching kids in the park) contain everything we need to know about people and the world.

The Little Engine that Could

Every day, I look at the poster of labor activist Rose Schneiderman in my office, and I draw inspiration from the stories of Jewish women who shook up the American labor movement in the early 20th century. So it was with both sadness and interest that I read the obituary of labor lobbyist Evelyn Dubrow last night.

Topics: Labor, Unions

Really HOT

By now you all know I’ve got a lot of issues with what our world looks like these days. Near the top of my list is popular media’s degrading representation of women and girls, who are objectified and usually valued only for their appearance and sexiness (as defined by men). So all hail the REAL hot 100 – a list compiled by a bevy of kick-ass young feminists to counter Maxim Magazine’s annual “Hot 100” list and to redefine what makes women hot.

Competing Against Men?

by MA

Kudos goes to Kelly Kulick, who is the first woman to qualify for the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. She's a 29-year old from Union, N.J. who works in her father's auto-body shop. According to the New York Times article about Kulick, published on June 15, some men in the PBA are upset at the idea of a woman playing on what has traditionally been a men's sport and a men's tour.

Breastfeeding bullies

The new uproar over the public health threat of not breastfeeding illustrates exactly what is wrong with the conversation about women, motherhood, and feminism in this country. An article in Tuesday’s New York Times reports on a new public health campaign that compares not breastfeeding your infant to smoking during pregnancy.

Topics: Mothers

Wait . . . Rabbis Are People Too?

I picked up the book Joy Comes in the Morning , written by Jonathan Rosen, for a couple reasons. One, I knew the book had won the 2005 Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction award. Two, I am always intrigued by the notion of a man writing from the perspective of a female (Wally Lamb’s She Comes Undone is still the best I’ve seen). In this case, Rosen writes from the perspective of Rabbi Deborah Green, an attractive, smoking, complicated Reform rabbi.

Topics: Rabbis, Fiction

What moves us to action?

Last night I attended a powerful program about the genocide currently taking place in Darfur. (Full disclosure: the program was planned by my husband. I was proud.) The speakers – Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign, Mark Hanis of the Genocide Intervention Network, and Sifa Nsengimana of the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur – gave informative presentations that also focused on specific steps we can take to help end the genocide in Darfur, which has already killed 400,000 people and displaced more than 2,000,000.

The Newsweek Article That Struck Terror

Newsweek just retracted its 1986 cover article “The Marriage Crunch,” which claimed that a 40-year-old, single, white, college-educated woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to marry.” Retraction? Are you kidding?!

Memorial Day Disconnect

by MA

Last Sunday I watched the Memorial Day Parade in Somerville with a bunch of my friends. It was a great excuse to get together with other families, have a barbeque and chill.

But as I was enjoying the high school bands playing their trumpets and flutes and the Shriners in their little cars, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a big disconnect between the spirit of celebration and the fact that there is a war going on.

WHAT “Mommy Wars”?!

Everywhere I turn there seem to be “shocking” or “eye-opening” reports on “The Mommy Wars,” including those on ABC news, the Washington Post, CNN, and Good Morning America. Although I’ve been hearing the term bandied about all year, it was just this week that I decided to find out what the heck they were. After all, as the mother of a toddler, I should probably know why I’m at war with other women—and whether I need to draw my weapons.

A Reluctant Pioneer

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.

Topics: Feminism, Rabbis

Can We Please Give It Up for Amy Sherman-Palladino?

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.

They say history repeats...

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.

I Choose to Play the Vacuum . . .

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.

Feminist dialogue at its best

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?”.

Sister Rose, You’ll Be Sorely Missed!

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.

 

Breaking barriers: Orthodox woman rabbi

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.

Jewish Mother Jokes: Insulting or Not?

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.

Wasserstein's Elements of Style

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.

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1 hour
Anybody watch the first episode of season 3 over the weekend? https://t.co/ibrIIYUIYk
2 hr
A review of Rabbi Levy's new book: https://t.co/atyviVBUxJ And our interview with her, for good measure!… https://t.co/GTCLudYM55
3 hr
This whipsmart woman took a circuitous route to earn the highest prize science has to offer. https://t.co/rVqkd1zdQ2