Spirituality and Religious Life

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Kavanah

by  Beth Surdut

I am, among many defining facets, a woman and a maker of tallit. A few days ago, I was gathering materials to write about the choices we make--to pray, to wear a beautiful prayer shawl, to leyn from the Torah, to actively weave ritual into our busy lives.

Will America's Next Top Model Be Modern Orthodox?

by  Elizabeth Imber

There has been a lot of talk lately in the Jewish community about a particular contestant on the CW’s reality hit America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). Esther Petrack, an 18-year-old, self-identified Modern Orthodox Jew, is an aspiring model on the show. When asked by Tyra Banks, the show’s host, whether or not she observed Shabbat, Esther said yes and proceeded to explain all that that entailed. But Tyra fired back that contestants on ANTM work on every day of the week. Would Esther be prepared to break the Sabbath in pursuit of her modeling dreams? “Yes, I would do it,” Esther replied.

A Gender-Free Yom Kippur

by From the Rib

I wanted to write this post about women and Yom Kippur, as I often have done for other Jewish holidays, on topics such as what roles women should play during the holiday, stories about women associated with the holiday, etc. But I searched, and was kind of surprised that I found nothing in particular to write about.

Hannah as a Precedent-Setter

by  Leora Jackson

On the first day of Rosh Hashana last week, I listened to a congregant at my synagogue chant Haftorah, the additional reading from Jewish scriptures that follows the reading of the Torah on Shabbat and holidays. This particular Haftorah continues to hold great relevance and importance for Jews today, and particularly for Jewish women. It tells the story of Hannah and her desire to bear a child. In the story, we learn that Hannah and Peninah are both the wives of a man named Elkanah. Peninah goads Hannah because Hannah, like many of the Jewish matriarchs, is barren.

Those "Twice a Year" Jews

by  Leah Berkenwald

In the space between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are inundated with messages about self-reflection, our responsibilities as Jews in the world, and our level of involvement with Jewish life.

Lessons from "A Lay Sermon by a Young Lady"

by  Leah Berkenwald

One hundred and twenty years ago today, Ray Frank delivered a historic sermon on what was the first night of Rosh Hashanah in Spokane, Washington. Ray Frank, featured in JWA's Women of Valor exhibit, is one of those "complicated" heroines.

Kohenet: the Hebrew Priestess Institute, launches its first training institute in Accord, NY

August 14, 2006

Rabbi Jill Hammer (featured on jwa.org) and Holly Shere founded the Kohenet Institute on November 23, 2005, based on a shared vision of Je

Torah scribe Julie Seltzer begins work on a Sefer Torah

October 8, 2009

In the fall of 2009, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco launched the project “As It Is Written,” which allowed visitors to watch the pai

New Torah scroll presented to the Beth Israel Synagogue in New Orleans

August 27, 2006

The first female President of this 104-year-old Orthodox congregation, Jackie Gothard had presided over the burial of seven Torah scrolls damaged beyond repair when the synagogue was flooded.

"Being welcoming" is an end unto itself

by  Leah Berkenwald

I recently read a piece called "New Study Finds That It’s Not a Lack of Welcome That’s Keeping the Intermarrieds Away" in the eJewish Philanthropy daily e-letter. It explained how a study done by Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist who studies American Jews, determined that it was a lack of "competency" rather than welcome that was keeping intermarried families and their children from engaging with the Jewish community.

Half Jewess with a Whole Attitude

by  Gwen

When I was a little girl looking suspiciously at a new kind of food (a matzoh ball, for instance, or a slice of Jewish honey cake.) My dad would say, “Well, maybe you’ll half like it. After all, you’re half Jewish!”

Unit 3, Lesson 5 - Civil Rights and Social Justice Today

Consider what contemporary civil rights and social justice issues matter to us today, and how Jews and African Americans determine their priorities and responsibilities to effect social change.

Unit 3, Lesson 1 - Jews and African Americans: Siblings in Oppression?

Explore and interrogate the identification between Jews and African-Americans against the backdrop of the Passover seder.

Unit 3, Lesson 4 - Moving Inward: bringing liberation movements into the Jewish community

Act out, through tableaux vivants, the ways Jews took what they had learned from the Civil Rights Movement and other liberation movements and used these insights to change the Jewish community.

Maybe I’d Feel More Jewish If I Could Afford It?

by Yo Yenta

I’ve often kvetched about the high cost of being Jewish. From synagogue dues to the JEA membership to Sunday School tuition to tzedakah to summer camp, it adds up to many thousands of dollars a year, and don’t get me started on the projected costs of hosting a bar mitzvah in a few short years. Sometimes I add it up mentally and fantasize about the fabulous vacation the family could take (to Israel, even!) or what I could contribute to the kids’ college funds.

Unit 1, Lesson 1 - Exploring My Identity

Explore the complexities of our own identities, and how these identities shape the way we view and act in the world.

Behind "Chagaga" by the Tichel Cuties

by  Shira Engel

My friend Becca, along with some of her Orthodox Jewish Day School friends/co-tichel cuties created a pretty intense fusion of Lady Gaga and traditional Orthodox concepts (the wearing of the tichel – garb for married women, preparing for Shabbat, and the waiting for the Messiah). This is not a likely combination so that’s probably why it has been getting so much attention in the blogosphere, both positive and negative.

Kagan and bat mitzvah innovation

by  Judith Rosenbaum

I've been loving the coverage of Elena Kagan's youthful challenge of her rabbi over her right to have a bat mitzvah. I love it because it confirms what I've always believed -- that the chutzpah of young girls is not just pre-teen attitude but a sign of inner strength and a harbinger of great things to come (and I say this not only in a self-serving way as a former obnoxious girl-child or as the mother of a burgeoning one).

Jewish feminism, then and now

by  Judith Rosenbaum

Yesterday I celebrated Mother's Day in an unusual way. Instead of the traditional "early bird" dinner with my extended family, I traveled to New York City for a reunion of Jewish feminist matriarchs: the founders of Ezrat Nashim. I was invited to this gathering as a daughter of the movement to present a reflection on Jewish feminism today.

The hows and whys of prayer

by  Judith Rosenbaum

Lately, I've had a lot of trouble praying. There have been times in my life when I was committed to regular prayer, when I loved to put on my tefillin in the morning and feel the marks they had left on my arm as I went about my activities afterwards. I've had moving experiences of communal prayer, feeling buoyed by the voices rising around me, and of individual prayer, when the sight of something in the world has caught my breath and provoked a spontaneous blessing.

Paula Ackerman becomes "spiritual leader" of Temple Beth Israel of Meridian, Mississippi

December 12, 1950

On December 12, 1950, Paula Ackerman became the interim "spiritual leader" of Temple Beth Israel in Meridian, Mississippi after her husband, who w

Tehilla Lichtenstein becomes leader of Society of Jewish Science

December 4, 1938

On December 4, 1938, Tehilla Lichtenstein first took the pulpit as the leader of the Society of Jewish Science in New York City, giving a s

JTS Faculty Senate votes to admit women

October 24, 1983

Following a lengthy and intense debate within the Conservative movement, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) faculty senate, on October 24, 1983, voted 34-8 to admit women to the JTS Rabbinical S

Aviel Barclay becomes first female Torah scribe

October 6, 2003

On October 6, 2003, Aviel Barclay became the first certified Soferet, or female Torah scribe.

Ray Frank preaches on Rosh Hashanah

September 14, 1890

On September 14, 1890, Ray Frank became the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a synagogue pulpit in the United States.

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