For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to make the Torah meaningful to me. In first grade, the boys in my class had already found strong and charismatic role models in Moses, Aaron, Abraham, and countless others. I, and the other girls in my class, were left to search for leaders in soft-spoken and often overlooked sisters and mothers.
After the profound depression and helplessness I felt on Friday, I woke up on Saturday energized and hopeful. As I got my coffee and walked to the train for the Women's March in Boston, I saw a multitude of pink pussy hats, rolled up signs, discreet pins. I felt like the whole city was part of something, that my people were all around me. I was delighted rather than upset by the many trains that passed my station, completely full, and grateful when the MBTA opened a fresh train on the maintenance track to handle the overflow.
On Saturday, I joined hundreds of thousands of people in Washington, DC, to march for women’s rights, human rights, and to represent the strong resistance against the bigotry and disrespect of the new administration. I’ve participated in many marches before, but this one felt unique: the largest, most peaceful, most loving and fired up gathering I’ve ever experienced. The Women’s March was both a balm and an outlet for the fear and disillusionment of the recent months, and I hope just a warm-up for the organizing and resistance to come.
It’s so disheartening to me that our religious text calls something as natural as a woman’s period, “impure.” A period is nothing to be ashamed of, and this text only adds to the stigma surrounding them.
After long afternoons turn into endless evenings and restless nights, I still wake up in the morning feeling wholly replenished. With the ring of my alarm clock comes the thought that I can take on the day, no matter how tired I am.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016, started out as a great day. At 6:45 AM, I eagerly jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth, and put on my “Hillary: Smashing the Glass Ceiling 2016” t-shirt and Rosie the Riveter socks. Once I got to school, I was too excited to focus in any of my classes. During lunch, I took some cute pictures with my friend who was also sporting Hillary apparel, and confidently voted in my school’s mock election (Hillary won with 73%). I was so pumped that I even managed to ignore the cluster of boys that hissed and yelled “Hillary for prison” at me on my way to math class.
Miriam is one of many strong women described in the Jewish texts, and is far too often forgotten when we retell our stories. Two stories stand out to me in illustrating that Miriam is a truly wise and courageous woman: when Miriam saves her brother Moses in his youth, and when she leads the Jewish people in celebration after they successfully cross the Red Sea to safety.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on March 27, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog>.