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”.
Rabba Sara Hurwitz
Rabba Sara Hurwitz was the first publicly ordained female rabbi in the Orthodox community.
Three years ago this month, Rabba Sara Hurwitz made history in the Jewish world by becoming the first publicly ordained female rabbi in the Orthodox community. Since then, the 35-year-old mother of three has been working as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, an institution dedicated to training women Orthodox clergy, as well as working as Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. The first three women are set to graduate this June with the title of Maharat — an acronym for “Religious, spiritual, Torah leaders” — marking yet another important milestone for women in Orthodoxy. Rabba Hurwitz spoke to The Sisterhood to explain what this all means.
THE SISTERHOOD: What has changed for you over the past three years?
RABBA SARA HURWITZ: The biggest change is the flourishing of Yeshivat Maharat, and the continuation...
The proud feminism of an unprecedented number of women political leaders is new to the Israeli political scene. But after the elections, there will be a lot of work to do to translate this into real leverage and real change for women in Israel.
Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yacimovich. Photo by Nir Kafri
Israel’s Election Day is upon us, but the women’s vote is still up for grabs. Parties from right to left, religious and secular, are engaging in an overt battle to appeal not only to women, but to feminist-minded folks in general. This is an unprecedented trend in Israeli politics, and if Israel follows the recent American elections, women may constitute a still-underestimated demographic in the Israeli election.
From the beginning of this election season, there have been several key moments marked by historic gender events. Not only are there currently six parties headed by women, including two...
Sylvia Barack Fishman
Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, chair of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University
There is more than one way to form a Jewish marriage. This was a central message emerging from a recent conference in Jerusalem called “New Understandings of Gender, Love and the Jewish Family,” co-sponsored by the VanLeer Jerusalem Institute, the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University entitled. The conference offered a broad range of creative approaches to burning issues regarding familial relationships, and presented a flexible approach to persistent and arguably growing problems in contemporary Jewish life, including agunot, abuse and sexual violence.
“Gender, love and family are basic to our human and Jewish lives, and we are now living through a time of extraordinary — and confusing — changes,” said Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, chair of Brandeis University’s Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department and...
When asked at a JOFA panel about the status of women in Israel and what can be done to protect women’s basic rights, I replied that I would first make it illegal for a political party that has no women on its list to run for the Knesset. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this sentiment. In fact, a new movement is beginning to form of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women fighting against the exclusion of women from religious political parties.
Esti Shoshan, a haredi journalist, recently started a Facebook page called Lo nivharot, lo boharot, which means “If we can’t be elected, we are not voting.” As of this writing, the group has over 800 likes — perhaps not the stuff of a Steve Jobs fan page, but signs of movement nonetheless. And it comes at a particularly significant time in the development of religious politics. The legality of religious parties of...
Since I began working at JOFA, first as Interim Director and then as Executive Director, the staff and I have been inundated with the question: “How does she do it?” I tend to wonder what “it” is – work in a high-pressure job, leave my kids once in a while, or take a job that I really love? But let’s assume that for the most part the question refers to the issue of my travel and living arrangements; after all, I live in Israel and work in New York, and I have four children ages 9-19, and that feels like an impossible combination.
I can bore you with some of the logistical answers, details of plane rides, light-packing, Skyping, and tag-team parenting. And of course I must acknowledge the necessary support system which would be different for everyone. For me, it includes the husband-partner, the tech-savvy staff, the flexi-thinking Board of...
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...
[CROSSPOSTED FROM TIMES OF ISRAEL] This week marks the ten year anniversary since the first time I read Torah in public. Simchat Torah 2002, my family and I had just moved to Melbourne, Australia, for three years, and I quickly found a warm home with the Orthodox Women’s Network. Dr. Jordy Hyman, Naomi Dessauer and Janet Belleli ran the group with skill and aplomb, and generously asked me if I would like to read the third aliyah on the holiday. It was thrilling and enthralling. To this day, whenever I get stuck on a cantillation, I think back to the passage I read then – “U’l’Yosef amar” – knowing that it’s all ingrained in my consciousness and my spirit from that very first Simchat Torah.
That Simchat Torah was a watershed moment for me. Even if it took me three decades to go from passive listener to active leader, I love...
The women of the Orthodox community of Atlanta, Georgia, are going to be celebrating Simchat Torah like they have never celebrated before – and it’s all thanks to the hard work and vision of a young woman who led the way. Fifteen-year-old Eden Farber wanted more opportunities for women’s ritual inclusion, and spent the past six months working with her rabbi and community in a series of events that will be culminating with the first ever women’s Torah reading on Simchat Torah at the Young Israel of Toco Hills.
Eden, who studies frequently at the Drisha Institute and learns daf yomi, has been frustrated with women’s limited roles in synagogue, which she wrote in an article published in Fresh Ink for Teens last year:
What I don’t understand — it really does baffle me — is how we call ourselves Modern Orthodox. This patriarchal design we call a religious experience is...
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,...