This JewFem blog focuses on feminist issues in Jewish life. It tackles Jewish education, synagogue life, Israel, Jewish community, bits of pop culture, and more. This blog is written by Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman, writer, educator, and researcher, contributing writer at the Forward Sisterhood, author of the book, “The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World”.
I had a great conversation with Brian Lehrer of WNYC radio yesterday. He asked sharp and insightful questions, of course, and also took a few questions from callers-in. Take a listen. What do you think?
I'm on my book tour for The War on Women in Israel. I spent Shabbat at Kol Sasson synagogue in Skokie, Chicago, where I gave a talk in the morning to a packed and deeply engaged crowd, and then gave an afternoon learning session on gender images in the Rosh Hashana liturgy. I was invited by Rebecca Minkus and hosted by Audrey and Simi Chavel. Thank you to everyone in Chicago who made this event so special!
From there I traveled to St Louis Missouri, invited and hosted by Phyllis Shapiro and Maharat Rori Picker-Neiss. First I had my first ever book signing at Barnes and Noble, which feels like such a tremendous accomplishment. And then had a lovely and engaging event at Bais Abe Synagogue, where i gave two talks -- one about The War on Women in Israel, and one about my previous book, Educating in the Divine Image....
Davida Chazan reviews "The War on Women in Israel" at TOI:
"Sztokman has done an outstanding job of uncovering and compiling the evidence of this horrific trend in Israel, and has written it with the most compelling language possible, making it feel more like a fictional thriller or emotional drama than a work of non-fiction. Moreover, that an Orthodox woman would be the one to write such a book is nothing short of heroic, as I’m sure this will raise ire among many (which is a good thing, if you ask me). Thankfully, Sztokman also includes the positive side of this situation in Israel, and how the Haredim are beginning to lose their grip since the last Knesset elections, which forced them to move to the opposition. This brings me to the only problem with this book; because the situation is so volatile here right now, some of the information is already...
I'm embarking on the first round of my book tour today, launching The War on Women in Israel. Stops in:
* Chicago -- Kol Sasson Synagogue
* St Louis -- Barnes and Noble and then Bais Abe Synagogue
* Yale Hillel
* New York City
Watch this space for reports on my new adventures!
Most Americans are familiar with what the media has dubbed the “War on Women,” or Congress’ relentless attacks against many basic women’s rights. Fewer know that Israel is also suffering from a resurgence of conservative ideologies and consequent rollback of feminist gains. In her book The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism is Smothering the Voice of a Nation, Elana Maryles Sztokman exposes many gendered issues within Israel, delivers a spot-on analysis of the underlying reasons for the inequalities, and proposes creative solutions to build a more inclusive society.
I feel that the book is enhanced by Sztokman’s overall love of Israel. As a dedicated Zionist, I often struggle when I feel the need to critique my homeland, since I fear that those in the anti-Israel camp will twist my words and use them for their own nefarious purposes. However, it is important that we who support Israel without...
Noah Efron leads a really interesting discussion at The Promised Podcast about my article in The Atlantic about gender in the Gaza war.
Take a listen from 27:45
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s month-long military operation in Gaza, which is now suspended in a fragile ceasefire, Israelis were glued to their screens. And more often than not, those screens showed images of men. The Israeli soldiers were men. The Hamas fighters were men. The pundits pontificating were men. And nearly all the Israeli and Palestinian casualties were men. When women did appear, they were often seen eulogizing, mourning, or struggling to reconcile with their reality. The images capture a sobering fact: Women in the region are suffering terribly from the consequences of decisions from which they are excluded. But critically, these gender dynamics also point to a way out of perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
From start to finish, the latest Gaza conflict has largely been a man’s war. The Israeli negotiating team in Egypt does not include a single woman–not even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose condition...
While people all around Israel have spent the past two weeks scrambling for cover during rocket attacks, it seems that in some places, only men’s lives are considered worth protecting. In the Ashdod rabbinate building, the bomb shelter has a sign on it reading “For men only,” and women who happened to be in the rabbinate during recent raids were not allowed into the bomb shelter. Thus reports MK Stav Shaffir, whose staffer happened to be at the rabbinate this week when all this was taking place.
Orit, an Ashdod resident who was also in the rabbinate this week with her husband, told Yediot Ahronot about the “insult of trying to impose gender segregation on us even at times like this,” and her shocked discovery that the “women’s” shelter was just a regular room, with windows and plaster walls and no indications of protection from rocket attacks. Her husband added that...
Great news to share! Publishers Weekly gave The War on Women in Israel a glowing review.
“Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action…”
“Cutting, candid, and lucid, Sztokman’s account of injustice makes an eloquent plea for “the assertion of a secular-democratic vision for Israeli society” and will inspire more dialogue.”
The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism Is Smothering the Voice of a Nation
Elana Maryles Sztokman. Sourcebooks, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0459-4
Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action, feminist activist Sztokman (The Men’s Section) documents the places in Israel where “a radical religious misogyny has been gradually creeping into public spaces.” With outrage and bewilderment, she chronicles how Israeli business leaders, lawmakers, politicians, and police have caved to the demands of an ultra-Orthodox minority to remove women’s faces, voices, and even their physical presence from public venues, creating “female-free...
I was meant to give a 2-minute presentation about my book, The War on Women in Israel, at this week's Jewish Book Council "Meet the Authors" conference. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my trip to NY. Instead, the JBC asked me to create a video, which they would link to on my author page on their website. Here is the video I made. My first ever video-preview. What do you think?
The book is scheduled for release in September. Contact me to receive an advance review copy, or pre-order your copy from Amazon...
In advance of this week's Jewish Book Council conference, I wrote a series of posts at the JBC blog as their "Visiting Scribe". (Don't you just love the Jewish Book Council...) Two of the posts are sneak-peaks of my upcoming book, The War on Women in Israel, set to be released in Sept (pg), and one is with Dr Chaya Gorsetman about our award-winning book Educating in the Divine Image. Take a look:
7 Places Where Religious Radicalism Threatens Women’s Well-Being in Israel
Women being arrested for praying out loud at the Western Wall – it’s a story so shocking that it has managed to make headlines around the world. But the Western Wall is just one piece of a larger picture of religion and gender in Israel today. In fact, the threat to women’s well-being in Israel today, which comes from an increasingly radical religious power structure, finds expression...
The following is the introduction to a paper I wrote for the Argov Center comparing the Orthodox feminist movements in Israel and the US:
The women’s movement arrived at the American Orthodox community long before it arrived among religious women in Israel. Already in the 1970s, American women were gathering for all‐female prayer groups and holding protests outside the homes of agunot (“chained women” – women denied divorce by their recalcitrant husbands), while these issues did not reach Israel until the 1990s. Yet, when feminist consciousness finally reached religious Israeli women, the issues were no less burning, although often in a different order of priorities – or different altogether – than those in the Diaspora. Issues of women’s study and scholarship were more central in Israel than women’s prayer groups, which never fully took off in Israel. Women in Israel also contended with new issues, such as whether religious girls should...
Criticism of the right of women to pray openly at the Western Wall supports the monopoly of a radical fringe of Orthodoxy that believes that women should not be seen or heard anywhere.
By Elana Sztokman | Oct.26, 2012 | 5:42 AM | 3
Reform Jewish women doing a practice run for a bat mitzvah. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Baubau
When a woman is arrested, shackled, strip-searched, and held in a cell, one might expect to learn that she committed a horrific crime of some sort, like a terrorist attack or breaking into the White House. The fact that Anat Hoffman’s crime for which she received this treatment was singing at the Western Wall has left many people reeling – but apparently not David Landau. In an opinion piece here, Landau tried to justify the police's attitude, dismissing women’s prayer at the Kotel as a “cynical charade” and nothing...
As Israel’s military becomes more religious, women are having a really hard time showing men how to hold a rifle.
A soldier from the 'Karakal' Battalion during training near the Israeli-Egyptian border in 2010 near Azoz, Israel.
Female soldiers have made tremendous strides in Israel over the past two decades. According to the IDF, women make up 33 percent of the whole armed forces; female officers with the rank of colonel grew by 100 percent in the past 13 years, from 2 percent of all colonels in 1999 to 4 percent today; and the share of female officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel has grown by 70 percent in the last decade, from 7.3 percent of all lieutenant colonels in 1999 to 12.5 percent today. Perhaps most significantly, in March 2011 the IDF appointed Brig. Gen. Orna Barbivay as the first-ever female major general.
Women are still a small...
This Sukkot, there is a religious battle going on in the city of Modi’in, Israel, and as often happens in such battles, it is being fought over women’s bodies.
It actually started this past Passover, when the open, mixed city of Modi’in was inundated with visitors from the neighboring ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in Illit, also known as Kiryat Sefer. The primary attraction for the visitors was Park Anabe, a beautiful expanse that sits 200 meters from my house. While it’s taken 10 years to complete, the park is now filled with playgrounds, grassy knolls, treks, a bike-path, an amphitheater and most importantly, a 14,000 square liter lake with fountains, fish and a variety of boating. Park Anabe is a central part of Modi’in life — members of my family visit regularly — and contributes significantly to the sense of quiet tranquility that characterizes Modi’in.
Since the lake opened in 2010,...
[crossposted from the Lilith Blog]
Photo courtesy of the author, Avigayil Sztokman is third from the right.
It was a two-hour drive, mostly through endless desert on all sides, to get to my daughter’s army base. She had been inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces only a month earlier, as part of Israel’s compulsory service, and had just finished basic training. We were on our way to her swearing-in ceremony, and were thus looking for a compound that was not listed on any map and had no road signs indicating its location. We took a wrong turn about five minutes too early, and landed at a different cluster of unmarked army bases heavily guarded by kids in uniform holding big guns. I suppose I should stop calling my 19-year-old daughter and her contemporaries “kids”, since they are now charged with protecting the entire nation from attack. “Look for the row of...
Women, Religious Freedom Groups Stake Victories
New Jerusalem bus ads featuring women read, "It's Nice to Know You: Jerusalem is a Town for Us All."
Grass-roots campaign in Jerusalem reverses some haredi-imposed gender segregation and discrimination.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Jerusalem — Passing through Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station a few months ago, Rachel Jaskow decided to stop at the station’s synagogue and pray Mincha.
Making her way to the very end of the departure level, Jaskow, a Modern Orthodox Jerusalemite, found the synagogue but only men praying there. Then she noticed a tiny room — separate from the shul and the size of a walk-in closet — designated as the women’s section. When Jaskow, who is active in the Israeli women’s movement, entered the room, she was “absolutely appalled” by its condition,” she told The Jewish Week.
“There was trash; it was dingy, dirty, and...
Ido Plazental, a history and civics teacher at Ziv High School in Jerusalem, has an innovative way of raising gender awareness among his students: He addresses them all as female.
Native English speakers who are not familiar with Hebrew may miss the inventiveness of this form of speech. In Hebrew, as in many European languages, there is no such thing as a gender-neutral way of speaking. In Hebrew, you can’t say, “I’m playing with my friend” without revealing whether your friend is male (haver) or female (havera). All objects, people, pronouns and verbs must be in either male or female. This means that in order to address a group of people, “you” has to be either the male “atem,” or the female “aten,” which generally leaves one part of the group excluded.
Although some people play with the generally awkward he/she combinations, the predominant custom among most Hebrew speakers is to...
Dr. Hanna Kehat’s mother did not ride her local bus for three years. The 78-year-old lifelong resident of the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood Mea Shearim lost her bus because Haredi extremists would stone the bus every time it rode down her street. So Egged simply stopped the route, forcing her and many of her car-less neighbors to walk distances to find a different bus.
“Women in her community are being completely neglected – they are at the mercy of the sikrikim,” Kehat told The Sisterhood, referring to one of Israel’s the most extreme ultra-Orthodox sects.
Today, however, the bus has returned to its route, thanks to one change: Police intervention.
The question about what role the government plays in protecting Israeli citizens from Haredi violence came to the fore last week, when the Interministerial Committee to Prevent the Exclusion of Women, headed by Minister of Sport and Culture Limor Livnat, released its...
Pretty women are like “candies” to their male bosses, and if they are sexually harassed, the pretty women should switch jobs rather than ruin the careers of high-powered men who can’t control themselves. This is the infuriating opinion expressed last week by leading Israeli current-affairs radio presenter Ayala Hasson.
The conversation took place during Hasson’s radio program in which Hasson described a case that took place at a leading government office in which a woman who was sexually harassed by her boss was “discreetly and quietly” removed from her position and given an alternative post. “He wanted her like a lovely piece of candy,” Hasson said. “Every time he walked by her, there was a little pinch on the cheek or something.” Hasson argued that this is an excellent solution because, this is the only way to protect the man from getting into trouble (histabchut).
This entire discussion occurred against the...