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Motherhood

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Basya Schechter with her Nieces

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

by Lisa Batya Feld

There was a moment in my late twenties when I seriously considered rabbinical school. I was changing careers, trying to figure out what my next step would be, and becoming a rabbi would have allowed me to blend my love of Jewish ritual, my intellectual curiosity, and my passion for helping people into a calling. It made sense, on a deep level. But the more I talked about it with friends who were already rabbis and rabbinical students, the more they cautioned me, “As a woman, if you become a rabbi and you’re not married yet, you need to accept that you’ll probably never marry. Men don’t want to date women who are authority figures; it’s too emasculating.” I wanted to be a rabbi. But I also wanted marriage and children. When I believed that I needed to choose between them, I couldn’t bear the thought of never having children of my own. I quietly turned my focus to other graduate programs.

Dr. Ruth Finkelstein

A beloved doctor for generations of Baltimore women, Dr. Ruth Finkelstein promoted women's health and reproductive rights over a career that spanned half a century.

Althea Diesenhaus Stroum

Born in 1922 in New York City, Althea
moved to Seattle with her family at age 14 in 1936. Married for 58 years to Samuel N. Stroum, they had two children, and together dedicated their lives to philanthropy and community service. Althea received the Israel Bond Woman of the Year award in 1980. In 1991, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle honored her by creating the Althea Stroum Woman of Distinction Award. In 2000 she received an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University. She is a member of many community and national boards, serving both the Jewish and larger communities with her energetic devotion.

Bernice Mossafer Rind

A child virtuoso on harp and long-standing champion of the Seattle Symphony, Bernice Rind’s musical career began at age seven. At age 11 she debuted professionally and retired from touring at age 23 when her mother grew ill and Bernice longed for a more "normal" life. A Seattle native whose parents emigrated from the Isle of Rhodes, she attended both Ezra Bessaroth Congregation (Sephardic) cofounded by her father, and the Ashkenazic Reform synagogue, Temple de Hirsch Sinai, (co-founded by the Rind family).

Bagel, Lox, and Cream Cheese

Food, Fat, and Feminism: Navigating the Contradictions of Judaism and Food

by Sarah Yahm

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the zaftig Jewish bubbe, stuffing her offspring with chicken soup and brisket, shouting, “Eat! Eat! You’re skin and bones.” We love to talk about these mythical kitchens of our childhoods—tables overflowing with kugels and babkas, tsimmus and kneidlach. But for many Jewish women, there was another, more painful, side to this abundance. Our bubbes didn’t just say, “Eat! Eat!” they also said “Why are you eating so much? You’re getting fat!” I don’t think this contradiction is unique to Judaism, but I do think there’s a distinctive cultural spin to this schizophrenic relationship to food. And considering the prevalence of eating disorders, if there are cultural roots, we need to weed them out.

A Young Boy Slices Swiss Chard, 1917

How Poverty Became a Women’s Issue

by  Elissa Strauss

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, a government response to a national poverty rate around 19%. Back then, the face of poverty in the States was those living in inner-city projects or Appalachian shacks. Today the face of poverty is women.

According to Maria Shriver (on the Atlantic), of the more 100 million Americans living close to or under the poverty line, nearly 70% are women and children. Forget having it all; these women just want to be able to feed their kids and pay their electric bill.

Nicole Hollander

It was feminism and humor that made me a cartoonist.

Marissa Harrington-Verb

Feminism: Being Free to Make Your Own Decisions

by  Marissa Harrington-Verb

Today we welcome our first post from Marissa Harrington-Verb, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

My mother, Elisa Harrington-Verb, loves feminism. But more importantly, my mother loves motherhood. She is the most devoted and loving mother that my little brother Sawyer and I could have wished for. When we were young, she stayed home with us all day. She slept next to us at night, and she breastfed us until we decided for ourselves it was time to wean. I love her more than anything, and if you had tried to tell me back then that she was raising me wrong, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

I had no idea that my mother’s relationship with us was something she had to defend.

Hannah Elbaum

Jewish, Feminist, & Strong: Lessons from my Role Model

by  Hannah Elbaum

Today we welcome our first post from Hannah Elbaum, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

My parents don’t talk about feminism.

It’s not a taboo topic, just not one we typically discuss around the dinner table- or ever, for that matter.

But, feminism is not lacking in my household. My parents equally share responsibilities of taking care of a house, three kids, and their respective jobs. Still, the words “equality of opportunity,” or “feminism” have rarely been said aloud under this roof.

Renew Our Days Rosh Hashanah

The Womb from which the World Came

by  Adina Allen

Judaism does not shy away from the pain of these longings on Rosh Hashanah—in fact, it confronts them head on. This year more than ever I am struck by the stories we read about Sarah and Hannah during these two days. During the holiday we read of Sarah’s yearning for a child and her surprise at conceiving even after her cycle had stopped. And of Hannah’s burning desire for a child that, after many years, finally came to be. What connects these stories of barren women yearning for children and the name of Rosh Hashanah as Hayom Harat Olam (the Day of the World’s Conception)?

Emilia Diamant and Anita Diamant

My/Her Tattoo

by  Anita Diamant and Emilia Diamant

I knew when I went to get my first tattoo that the hardest part wouldn’t be the pain (although it did hurt quite a bit), it would be telling my mother. I had the idea when I was living in Israel, where I fell in love with Hebrew–its twists and turns and calligraphy were captivating to me. Chazak, strength, meant to me that I would always be strong, even in moments of weakness or distress.

Topics: Motherhood
Charles and William

Fatherhood Greatness

by  Amanda Koppelman-Milstein

When other people tell me about what their partner’s do to raise their babies, I want to suggest they look into a rebate program, as Charles is so clearly kicking their butts. At our birth class reunion parents were talking about how the fathers sometimes “help out” or “let the moms sleep in.” The frames people were using were that childrearing was this thing moms did, and sometimes the dads heroically stepped in to do a small amount for their wives’ projects. The dads might change a diaper!

Topics: Children, Motherhood

Jeanne Manford, 1920 - 2013

She worked hard and organized. She would call parents cold when she learned they had a problem. “We don’t want to intrude,” she’d say, “but we can help.”

Rabbi Janie Grackin

For the Love of Children

by Rabbi Janie Grackin

My heartbreak was saved by a friend who watched my interaction with groups of children on playgrounds and in schools who told me that because I didn’t have other children, my heart was big enough to hold everyone else’s. 

Shannon Sarna and her Mother

Reflections on My Mom

by  Shannon Sarna Goldberg

This year it’s been 15 years since my mom passed away from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and I think this past year has actually been one of the most difficult without her.

When my mom first died, some people warned me how difficult it would be not to have her down the road, especially during lifecycle events such as weddings, children, and other moments of joy. Well, they were right.

Topics: Children, Motherhood
Kathryn Garcia-Cameron's Naming Ceremony, 2013

What’s in a Name?

by  Mimi Garcia

I am like Ruth, I chose to join this community. But my daughter is more like the matriarchs— Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah— born to the Jewish people. For generations the greatest welcome a little girl got into the Jewish community was when her father would be honored with an aliyah the next Shabbat and announce the name of his daughter. No great fanfare like a bris. No grand communal gathering.

Topics: Children, Motherhood
Hannah White

The Power to Name Myself

by  Hannah Pearlman

Changing my name is a choice that I can make. I can keep my name if I want, or change it, or come up with something entirely different. By deciding to take my soon-to-be-husband’s last name, I am naming a particular moment in my life, my transition from single to married. I am changing my name, not because that is what I am expected to do, but because I am signaling a unified partnership, as we are both helpers to each other. Adam isn’t naming me, like the birds and the beasts. I am claiming the power to name myself.

Topics: Marriage, Motherhood
Shirah Rosin & Daughter Dara

I am Hopeful. I'm Up for the Challenge. I am a Mother.

by  Shirah Rosin

My daughter is 11 months old. Yet I don’t know if the thought that I am someone’s mother has fully settled in. Mother. It’s a term I did not consider carrying much weight until 11:46pm on June 12 of last year. Now, it’s a term that feels very rich and heavy. It is a term that is ripe with promise. It is a term that terrifies me.

Amanda Koppelman-Milstein and her Grandfather

Naming William

by  Amanda Koppelman-Milstein

I told my husband that if we're blessed to become pregnant again, I don't want to start discussing names until the day before the bris or simchat bat— perhaps we'll make that an added superstition that we throw into the barrel of Jewish pregnancy customs.

Reposted with permission from InterfaithFamily.

Topics: Children, Motherhood
Mimi Garcia

Tonight My Daughter Will Celebrate Her First Passover

by  Mimi Garcia

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my car outside my daughter’s day care. No worries, there’s no crying here, no major trauma. I’m trying to check things off my list while waiting for the start of “El dia de Primavera,” a celebration of the first day of spring.

Highclere Castle

Why this Modern Jewish Mother Loves “Downton Abbey”

by  Lauren Mayer

I'm not your old-fashioned Jewish Mother, who shovels guilt on my kids in whose lives I'm over-invested.

Hillary Clinton, 2008

Our Changing Perception of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton

by  Gabrielle Orcha

It’s Presidents’ Day. And I find myself thinking about her, the woman who came closest to presiding over our nation, taking up temporary residence (for the third time) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I am fascinated by our nation’s changing perceptions—and altered reception—of Hillary Clinton.

Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder's Family

Let’s Get Real About Marriage and Parenting

by  Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder PhD

“Being a diplomat is no career for a woman who wants to have a family,” said the consul.

“By the time you’re ready to get married he’ll be married,” said my mother.

“Don’t put off having children,” said the prominent professor.

"The Guilt Trip"

A Brighter Side to “Jewish Mothering”: A Review of “The Guilt Trip”

by  Evelyn Becker

The Guilt Trip begins by introducing Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), a thirty— something inventor about to embark on a road trip to sell his innovative organic cleaning product. Andy makes a quick stop at his mom’s (Barbara Streisand) house, and spontaneously invites her to come along for the ride. Their journey cross-country turns into an exploration of the ties that bind (Jewish) mother and son.

Topics: Motherhood, Film
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