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”.
“How to reduce an outstanding professional woman to a sex object.”
That should have been the headline of the article in this week’s Forward which Tuvia Tenenbom interviewed Racheli Ibenboim, an up-and-coming Jerusalem politician who happens to be a Ger hassid. It was supposed to be a profile, but the leering interviewer apparently could not contain himself and it turned into an embarrassing and intrusive peep show.
Before explaining why this interview represented the slimiest element of voyeuristic journalism bordering on sexual harassment, I would just like to tell you who Racheli Ibenboim is. I feel that need to describe her as a person because Tenenbom, in what was meant to be a profile of her, completely neglected to do so.
Racheli Ibenboim is a 28-year-old executive director of the Meir Panim charity organization that, among other things, runs soup kitchens providing over a million meals a year to the needy...
There is a rumor going around that Orthodox feminists are just Conservative Jews in disguise, or perhaps in denial.
I’ve heard this idea in many settings. I was at a dinner last year honoring Jewish feminists when a woman at my table — a Conservative rabbi and prolific writer whom I greatly admire — reproached me. “Why do all you Orthodox feminists think that what you’re doing is so amazing?” she demanded. “The women in the Conservative movement have been fighting these battles for 40 years. You are just barely catching up.” Last month, my dear friend Hillary Gordon echoed similar sentiments in a blog post she wrote about my recent book event in Jerusalem. “Why can’t the Orthodox recognize that other women have come before them and fought the same fight?” she asks. “Why is it that because it was done by Conservative or Reform Jewish women it is not...
הנכם מוזמנים לערב עיון בנושא:
מגדר וחינוך דתי
תפילה, לימוד תורה, צניעות, מנהיגות, ועוד
עם ד"ר אילנה סטוקמן
Educating in the Diving Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools
National Jewish Book Award 2013
הערב יתקיים בבית משפחת ברדוגו
מבוא הדס 10
ביום שני 17.2.14
אור ליח' אדר א'
Or: How to feel good about ourselves and about our bodies: Things they didn’t teach us at the Ulpana
By Tiferet Shacham
Translated from Hebrew by Elana Maryles Sztokman
I decided to address this letter to girls, since I myself am a girl who learned in Ulpana (religious girls’ high school in Israel –EMS), along with other girls. However, I believe that boys who are graduates of the yeshiva high schools might also find this interesting.
I’ll preface this by saying that I have no intention of minimizing the importance of keeping the commandment of negiya (“touch” – the practice of not touching members of the opposite sex at all – EMS) and the commandment of modesty. I myself kept the commandment of negiya while I was at the Ulpana and I decided to continue that practice. However, from my experience, prohibitions and religious laws have already been discussed with you...
"One educator admitted that he believed in discussing sexual activity (or rather the need for abstinence) even from fourth grade: “ I think that it is self evident that one should teach our students about all halachot that we expect them to observe. As the laws often called "negiah," as well as laws forbidding (among other things) pre-martial sexual relations, are certainly laws we want them to observe, we need to teach them (I bring up the subject of "negiah" in 4th-5th grade, within the context of our Mishna study. I feel it's important that they've heard of this prior to their developing "interest" in the opposite sex.)”, he wrote. “We need to give our students the information they need to fight against the "Yetzer haRa."
Read another excerpt of our book, Educating in the Divine Image at The Eden Center blog
Sara Ivry of Tablet Magazine interviewed Elana for the vox-pop about Educating in the Divine Image. Here's an excerpt:
"Take prayer for example. Even among 3- and 4- and 5-year-olds, you have a lot of schools which will still make the boy leading the prayer service, he’ll be the hazzan, what’s called the cantor, the leader. And the girls will be in charge of, you know, choosing a picture or choosing a song or handing out the prayerbooks, the siddurim. So, even then, they’re 3 years old, they’re 4 years old. And the boys are the active leaders. The ones standing in front of the classroom leading. And they’re the ones who get to wear the prayer shawl, the tallit, and they get to make all the brachot, and everybody looks at them and says “Amen” to them. And the girls are the ones, you know, helping out, or looking pretty,...
Read an excerpt of our new book, Educating in the Divine Image, at The Eden Center blog:
"The concept of “modesty” as it is often promulgated has lost its essential meaning and been crudely twisted, manipulated and misused. What once referred to a spiritual demeanor, an internal, personal quest for growth, a framework for building kind and compassionate relationships among people in which no one person claims a high and mighty stance among her or his peers, has evolved into something else entirely. Today, when rabbis talk about modesty or “tzniut”, there is only one issue they have in mind: women’s bodies.
"The misuse of this vital concept is not only unhealthy for women, who have become the objects of an almost obsessive religious gaze, but it is also terribly harmful to the religious Jewish community. The gaze on the female body has deprived the religious world of the discourse around...
Weighing in about the tefillin-and-girls firestorm in an op-ed at Ha'aretz:
"No Jewish man has ever been subjected to this kind of examination and ownership. No man has ever been told that he is not “sincere” enough to put on tefillin – to wit, Chabad rabbis all around the world chase Jewish men begging them to wear tefillin, even if only for ten seconds, with nary a passing thought about whether they will ever do it again. Comparing the treatment of men’s “motives” and women’s “motives” around this commandment highlights an awful violation of women’s inner sanctity. It’s high time for the religious community to eliminate this language of women’s motives from its public discourse once and for all."
Read the entire op-ed here...
In the previous elections, many religious feminists voted for Meretz. Why? In this op-ed in Tablet Magazine mourning the death of Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni, Elana explores the ways in which feminism crosses the political divide in Israel:
"For me, as a religious Israeli feminist, I have found that this ideology, driven by a feminist desire to see and respect the other, transcends other political divides. Demarcations of left-right increasingly seem to fade amid a feminist discourse that lays out a larger vision for Israeli society. To wit, some of the most significant pieces of legislation in today’s Knesset have come from feminist legislators crossing some of those more “traditional” political fault lines. Feminists on the right and the left have found remarkable ways to collaborate on vital issues that their male counterparts do not. I think about Shulamit Aloni and about the ways in which she was so often delegitimized...
The Jewish Women's Archives published a three-part series in which Susan Reimer-Torn interviews Elana Sztokman about her vision for religious feminism. Here are a few excerpts:
Much of the halakha regarding women legitimizes exclusion. So if a form of exclusion is halakhic, is it ipso facto legitimate?
Elana Sztokman: There is a lot more room for women’s inclusion within halakhah than is currently practiced in many places. For example, issues such as women serving on synagogue boards, women teaching the congregation, women giving sermons, even women making announcements—these are practices that really have few if any halakhic obstacles and yet are not practiced widely enough in Orthodox life. We have a long way to go in order to maximize women’s inclusion in areas where there is no real halakhic issue before even getting to that question of areas where there may be more debate.
Some of JOFA’s early financing came from...