Jewfem Blog

Jewish Women International, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, is one of the greatest advocates for the advancement of Jewish women. They have been on the front lines fighting for vital issues, most notably the issue of domestic violence. Their programs are always innovative and powerful, getting at the core of the problem from different angles. They work with rabbis, educators, teens, and men. I have been a great fan of these amazing women for many years, and their conferences are places where the most important ideas for Jewish women are often pioneered.

Well, Israel is at war again. We were apparently on a break for a while, but just like that Hamas said, "Forget it -- we liked it better when we were bombing you." So as I sit here in Modi'in in the comfort of my out-of-rocket-fire home, 8,000 children are sitting in Sderot terrified about when and where the next Qassam will hit. Shimon Buscila produced a vivid, moving documentary about everyday life in Sderot. Watching it is undoubtedly the most important thing you can do in the next four minutes of your life.Click here to watch the video B'vracha, Elana

Orthodox feminism is one of the most vital and vibrant social forces in Israel today. That was the message of Tuesday's conference marking Kolech's ten year anniversary. Kolech has changed the discourse and the dynamic of Israeli society, one speaker after another said. Dr. Hana Kehat, the founder and original fighter behind this movement, deserves every ounce of credit that she was given, and more. Read about this on the Kolech English language blog, Jewish Women's Voice.

Are women set up to fail - by being appointed to positions of power only in hopeless situations? According to a recent study in the Leadership Quarterly, the answer is yes. This is from the Israel Feminist Forum:

It gives me a great thrill to announce the launching of SWITCH! a brand new English language magazine by teens and for teens in the Modi'in area. The only publication of its kind in Israel – English or Hebrew – Switch is a forum for teenage expression, creativity and dialogue. The magazine covers topics chosen by the writers, in the style and format the teens determine. Teens also submit photos and artwork, and work on design and layout. In short, Switch is exactly what it says: a magazine by teens for teens.

Here's a quick round-up of the notable and notorious events of the week that was: Chief Rabbi attacks women's groups. Women are to blame for the weakening of the rabbinical courts, according to Sephardic Chief Rabbi Amar who was speaking at an international rabbinic conference last week. Amar claims that rabbis are seen as weak in the eyes of the general public, and it's all because of the women. I say, maybe the rabbis are seen as weak because a little boy in the crowd finally shouted that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

Susan Weiss, founding director of the Center for Women's Justice, wrote the following piece in yesterday's Jerusalem Post. She writes about the Jerusalem Labor Court's decision (November 28, 2008) to accept CWJ's motion to withdraw an employment tender for "legal assistants" in the rabbinic courts issued by the Executive Office of the Rabbinic Courts. CWJ petitioned the Labor Court to dismiss the tender because it gave specific preference to "those persons who had been certified as rabbinic judges" (men). The Labor Court agreed. This decision is another important milestone in the promotion of women's rights in the rabbinic courts.

All these years, I thought I was alone. I thought I was the only one who struggled nightly for hours on end, letting go any hopes of having some relaxing time with my family after a long day of school and work. I did notrealize that everyone else who has school-age children in Israel also spends every evening battling  homework. I really did not picture parenthood this way. Before the kids enter school, nighttime is often a time of bath, books, stories, and play. At 8PM, all gets quiet and my spouse and I can have some quiet breathing time to remember what the other one looks like. But as soon as school starts, the dream of creating a family life slowly fades into the distance. My kids are doing homework until way past my bedtime, and there is never, ever a release from pressure. I find myself telling young mothers who are deliberating over work and home balancing that the balance is easy when the children are little. It’s when they get into school that they reallydemand your time. That’s when we have to teach them all the subjects that teachers drop in our laps. This past weekend, I learned that I was not alone.

Last week, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, z"l, passed away at the age of 98. My father, Matthew J. Maryles, was close with him over the years, and shared with me some of his reflections on Rabbi Rackman's life: I had the privilege of being a friend of Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman, who passed away on December 1 at the age of 98. He was a remarkable individual who compiled an extraordinary record of achievement. As has been noted in the many obituaries that have been published, his exemplary professional career was both diverse and distinguished:pulpit Rabbi of several prestigious Congregations in New York; United States Military Chaplain with the rank of Lt. Colonel; Professor of Law at New York Law School; Provost of Yeshiva University; and President and Chancellor of Bar Ilan University. In addition, he held numerous leadership positions in a variety of American Rabbinic and Congregational Associations. A noted scholar and newspaper columnist, he published several books and many articles, often examining, and raising the profile of, issues in Jewish life which others lacked the courage to address.

Aliza Lavie's book on Jewish women and prayer was recently released in English, to glowing reviews all around. Below is the review by gender scholar Prof. Shulamit Reinharz of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute that appeared recently in the Jewish Advocate (You can also read this on the Kolech English Blog, Jewish Women's Voice): Revolutionary ideas in BostonShulamit ReinharzAs usual, the Boston Jewish community has been bursting with cultural offerings this fall, from the New Center for the Arts, to the Jewish Theater of New England, to the Boston Jewish Film Festival, not to mention the various institutions of higher education and synagogues. Because of the plethora of events, one can easily lose sight of how important each one is.