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.
Historically, August is a wonderful month to be a Jewish woman in the political sphere: Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the Supreme Court on August 10, 1993, and Elena Kagan also donned the austere black robes on August 5, 2010. In 1971, August 26 was named Women’s Equality Day, thanks to the tireless work of Bella Abzug and other Jewish feminists.
Television’s new Jewish American comedy scene, however, is being taken over by badly-behaved Jewish women like Bloom’s Rebecca, Lena Dunham’s Hannah, and Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana. These are women who take their Zoloft with mimosas and wreak havoc at their workplaces.
When one exists in opposition to the status quo because of her ethnicity, it feels more natural to also begin to question the significance of gender and other means of social stratification. I am not an average Jew or an average Indian. Why would I try to be an “average” woman, to conform to archaic rules and norms that have nothing to do with me?
The year was 2008, and I was eight years old.
Politics was a grown-up term that I didn’t know much about, other than a few names: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain. Although the real meaning of the election was lost on me, my parents encouraged my brother and me to formulate opinions about the world. However, there was something standing in my way of deciding who to cheer on.
Maybe politicians sacrifice authenticity for popularity, and prophets sacrifice efficacy for moral purity. Maybe politicians choose their paychecks over their values and prophets choose radicalness over relatability. Maybe politicians are too quick to resort to “business as usual.” Maybe prophets are too quick to isolate themselves.
The camp's philosophy regarding Jewish religious observance is both rigorous– campers are expected to observe the laws of kashrut and Shabbat– and egalitarian...Encouraging girls and women to wrap tefillin at places like Camp Ramah seems long overdue.
Recently, the Pew Research Center has found that in 2013, 47% of adults, ages 40-59, had both a parent who was sixty-five or older and children they were still financially supporting. This group, called the “Sandwich Generation,” will only grow larger as people live longer and have children later. The responsibility of taking care of elderly parents often falls on daughters who are also mothers and professionals.
On July 28, I watched, with tears in my eyes, as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to be nominated as a presidential candidate by a major political party. Whatever your politics—this is not a political post—it was incredible to watch another glass ceiling shatter and heartwarming to imagine what this moment will mean for all of the young girls, staying up late to hear Clinton’s speech.
This summer, paranormal activity gets a new set of adversaries as four awkward and highly intelligent women come together to prove not only that ghosts are real, but that women are capable of rebooting a previously all-male franchise.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on March 27, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog>.