The summer of 2013 was when I taught my bunk at Camp Young Judaea that girls have more than two holes “down there.” Now for those uninitiated with the workings of a girls’ bunk, this may seem crazy or even obscene. However, for us, this was just another lesson in a long line of facts about the female body I had told my bunkmates that summer.
Nearly 200 years ago, residents of the West Side of Cleveland destroyed the bridge that connected the banks of the Cuyahoga river, separating themselves from East Cleveland, and intending to become their own city. Since then, we’ve built a new bridge and stayed a single city, but we still haven’t gotten over our differences. East Siders think that West Siders are blue-collar conservatives who have failed to build up their communities. West Siders think that East Siders are snobby, rich, white people who never leave their suburban bubble.
I had fallen so deeply in love with Jewish text study that I neglected to see the many ways in which I was not represented in those texts. The tension became clear: How could I honor a tradition that did not make space for me as a female?
With the 2016 election only weeks away, the JWA staff wanted to share one of our favorite stories submitted to JWA’s ongoing collection of voting stories! In a year when “the women’s vote” is both highly scrutinized and vital to the election outcome, we especially love the following story detailing one determined young mother's inventive method of finding childcare so she could exercise her right to vote.
This story was submitted by Mae T.
When I was in 7th grade, all of my Jewish friends complained about having to memorize Torah portions and prayers for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I had a Bat Mitzvah too, but mine was secular and didn't include these traditional elements. My secular ceremony was different than any other Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and that is what made it so special to me.
I started wearing tefillin at camp. I was fourteen and I had a lot of ideas about overthrowing patriarchal Judaism, and I thought it looked cool. Tefillin are traditionally worn only by Jewish men who have reached bar mitzvah age (thirteen), although Conservative and Reform Judaism, some of the more liberal sects of Judaism, are very accepting of women wrapping as well.
Hi Everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful Rosh Hashanah, a meaningful Yom Kippur, and an easy fast. And next in the annual fall marathon of Jewish holidays, I hope you have a great Sukkot. In honor of this holiday, filled with stuffed foods and fall vegetables, I’ve put together a recipe for pumpkin spice rugelach.
My mother struggled her whole life to bring her love of Judaism and her expectation of gender equality together. I was raised on the foundation that she had worked tirelessly to build.
I never realized that it was possible for my whole outlook on Judaism to be transformed in an hour and a half, or that a few moments of hearing voices come together in prayer could move me so deeply. But that’s exactly what happened when I led my youth group in Shabbat services this past March.
The 21st century in general, and this season in particular, is a high stakes time in the congregational rabbinate. Taking a break from my annual scramble to produce four 20-minute sermons that will change the course of history (that’s really what it feels like), I had the opportunity to re-read some High Holy Day words that actually did change the course of history.
I would understand if upperclassmen boys bad-mouthed feminism – they tend to have the need to silence strong women. But our head of school? The first female to hold this position at my school? What kind of example does that set for new girls on campus?
Boys in my preschool told me that I should like pink. “Boys like blue and girls like pink;” that was their reasoning. They told me that if I wanted to play with them at recess I couldn’t “act like a girl.” I didn’t understand what they meant, but I agreed to the terms. While things like this didn’t bother me in preschool, as I got older, people’s choice of words started to have more and more of an impact on me.
I admit, I am woefully late to the party on Supergirl. I tried the pilot episode when it came out last year and found it a little campy and contrived next to my usual superhero and science-fiction fare. And by the time I gave it another try, late in the season, most of the previous episodes weren’t available online anymore.
But to drum up enthusiasm for Season Two, Season One is finally available on Netflix, and bingeing it hasn’t just been a guilty pleasure, it’s pushed me to look at massive blind spots I still have in my assumptions about feminism and pop culture.
As a vocal feminist, you might expect me to get upset at various sites in Israel, such as the Kotel, because women are not treated equally to men. On the contrary, I tend to forgive these characteristics that go against my personal values, and instead embrace the spiritual and Jewish aspects to which I can connect. However, I broke this trend on a Shabbat trip to Tsfat, one of the holiest cities in the country with one of the most observant populations.
Dress codes. If you’ve been on the internet in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that teenage girls tend to butt heads with them quite a bit. You may have read about how blatantly discriminatory dress codes are when it comes to gender. You might already be informed about how they contribute to victim blaming, are a form of slut shaming, and reinforce rape culture. Indeed, dress codes have become a sort-of gateway into feminist thought for teenage girls. For me, they were certainly a rude awakening.
This fall, when we greet family members we have not seen in a long time–especially our female relatives–let us comment not on their physiques, but on their accomplishments at work or school. Let us make a collective effort to refrain from commenting on other people’s food choices when we sit down for dinner.
It is now the time of year when 90% of my conversations with my mother are about what we’re making for Rosh Hashanah dinner. So far I am scheduled to make the challah, rugelach, vegetarian matzoh ball soup, roasted vegetables, and at least one other dessert. Am I ready? Not even a little bit. I’ve opted for a recipe involving a pomegranate glaze and carrots because of their traditional cultural elements and the way their flavors balance each other out. This has a 100% success rate and is delicious, filling, healthy, and holiday-appropriate!
In our current political climate, the First Amendment can sometimes become a catchphrase for those looking for the license to say hateful things under the guise of patriotism. This shallow understanding of the First Amendment excludes the deeper truth behind the freedom of speech: everyone has a right to information, free of censorship or agenda.
Women Wage Peace declares: We refuse to live indefinitely by the sword. We vow that we will not be silent, that we will raise our voices above the sounds of weapons and sirens. Violence only breeds more violence and further radicalization, with suffering and insecurity for all sides.
As my first assignment at JWA, I am tackling the legendary but polarizing Rosh Hashanah dessert: Honey Cake. An informal poll of every Jewish person I spoke to over the course of a week told me that no one likes it. The strongest emotion I’ve felt about honey cake has been a luke-warm “well, sure.” However, for my inaugural blog post, I was determined to create a recipe that incorporated some of the flavors and ingredients of honey cake.
The 8th International Bet Debora Conference of European Jewish Women, Activists, Academics and Rabbis was not for women like me: those of us born and raised in the US, people whose bat mitzvahs were a given, who grew up with live grandparents and a great-grandmother, who do not have generational gaps on their family tree because of the Shoah. In short, women who haven’t had to fight for their Judaism.
In 2003, when the new head of obstetrics at the University of Chicago decided to close the nurse midwife practice, he said it was due to cost. For me and many other past and present patients...it also felt like yet another attack on women and our access to quality reproductive health. It seemed to communicate that women's comfort, and the personal services midwives provided, weren’t valued as a meaningful aspect of obstetrics.
Yesterday News-PressNow.com published an article by columnist Dave Hon titled, “Why I’ll never date a feminist.” In it Hon argues that feminists hate men, that he doesn’t believe there’s a wage gap or a culture of rape on college campuses, and that “People who are more loyal to their gender and not their significant other don’t make good partners.” Now, Dave, I’m about to tear your article apart.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on December 4, 2016) <https://jwa.org/blog>.