Jewfem Blog

אשת יפת תואר ועד מקומות שבהם שכחו לשאול את הנשים מה אנחנו חוות

       פרשת כי תצא: אשת יפת תואר דבר תורה של אילנה סטוקמן, 25-8-2018, מניין רננה, מודיעין פרשת כי תצא היא הפרשה הכי דחוסה עם לא פחות מ-74מצוות בין אדם לחברו – או ליתר דיוק מצוות בין גברים לגברים אחרים או בין גברים לנשים שלא עשו להם כלום. אפשר לקרוא לפרשה הזאת, "כשאתם עושים דברים איומים, תנסו להיות קצת פחות איומים." אני מגזימה טי...

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The pain of watching my fellow Jews fawn over trump

Jerusalem Post Op-Ed, June 21, 2018Since Trump took office, it has been difficult for me to be an American-Israeli. Watching fellow Israelis and American-Israelis cheer for a man who has no moral compass or capacity for empathy has been chilling. Moreover, the realization that so many members of my tribe care more about soulless buildings – like, s...

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Rabbinical School Highlights

Some highlights from my year at HUC rabbinical school: * Every single Talmud class we had with the amazing Prof Ruhama Weiss, for whom "love" is not a catchphrase or platitude but an entire way of life, whose classroom is freeing and healing -- in the Paulo Freire sense of freeing --  freedom and compassion in action. * When Debi Shoua-Haim conducted the entire prayer service in the female form, with God as "she" and the prayer as "she"....using some amazing texts written also by Rabbi Stacey Blank ... Wow, so much healing * When Osnat Eldar dedicated the entire prayer service to #MeToo * When Yael Vergan did an entire service in sign-language * The time we had a Friday night tefilla on the roof of Rabbi Naamah Kelman's house in Jerusalem * Hearing talks from amazing women, like Rabbi Yael Karrie, Orly Erez-Likhovski, Rabbanit Devorah Evron, and many others. * Learning liturgy with the amazing Professor Dalia Marx * Learning gender in bible with the amazing Dr. Lea Mazor * When Dr. Judith Rosenbaum came to visit and talked about gender, Judaism, and history * Getting to play piano to accompany the tefilla * Getting to know so many interesting students from many different sectors of Israeli society. Listening to their sermons, watching them create beautiful prayer experiences. Having some beautiful, real conversations about life, God, and the world..... #gratitude #rabbinicalschool

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My daughter Meital in JGirls Magazine on her trip to India


My daughter Meital wrote an article about her trip to India last year that is featured in the amazing JGirls Magazine. Thank you Elizabeth Mandel for the beautiful work you do!! <3   By Meital Sztokman423https://jgirlsmagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Meital-3-Main-Image-300x200.jpg   Last year I got a huge surprise: I was going to fly to India with my parents! My father told me just a few days before our trip, and I was so excited that I couldn’t focus on school. My father runs an NGO in India called Gabriel Project Mumbai, and for the past two years, I’ve been begging him to let me volunteer with them.

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Seriously, 92Y - You Might Be Ready For Ari Shavit’s Come Back, But We Aren’t (or, why Jewish orgs are still hiring admitted sexual predators)

 As the world continues to shake with revelations of sexual abuse in the most high-profile corridors of power and the #MeToo realization that it is nearly impossible to find a woman who has not been affected by sexual harassment, some members of Jewish communal leadership seem to be living in a cave. I knew this was true. Still, it’s shocking to meet this reality head on. When I learned this week that the 92nd Street Y is advertising admitted sexual predator Ari Shavit as their keynote speaker to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, it became unambiguously clear that the insulated, powerful, and tone-deaf Jewish boys’ club is still running the show, to the detriment of women and all victims of sexual assault.On the most basic level, this decision ignores women as consumers. The idea that women and sexual assault victims would be horrified by this choice apparently did not occur to the organizers. That we would never come to an event like this doesn’t seem to matter. Whoever the victims of sexual abuse are – women and men alike – we are irrelevant. We are not even considered as potential attendees. It is a stunning dismissal of victims from the community. It reminds me of how every time I click on a link on a browser that pops open a window for call girls, I face the reality not only of the commodification of women’s bodies but also of the default assumption that all consumers are at least perceived to be men. In fact, the dominant assumption in so many areas of business and communal life is not only that a typical consumer is male, but that he is a heterosexual male who has no problem with the sexual objectification of women. It seems that these same dark forces controlling my internet browser are also making decisions at the 92Y. All they see is men, particularly ones who have no problem with sexual abuse. Read more: https://forward.com/opinion/390179/seriously-92y-you-might-be-ready-for-ari-shavits-come-back-but-we-arent/

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Like a phoenix rising back to life: A special event to help us come to terms with our new world

Like a Phoenix, coming back to life from the ashes: Tomorrow I am hosting my first event since the elections, called "Finding Light Amid Darkness". This will be an online discussion with the wonderful Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman, founder of the Jewish Mindfulness Network and a leading voice calling for compassion, equality, justice, healing and action in this post-election world. READ MORE: It has been quite a difficult time for those of us concerned with issues like social justice, equality, compassion, and the progress of our society and humanity. The American elections, followed by some other terrible events -- from the Dakota Pipeline to the tragedy in Aleppo and the entire wave of hate and prejudice that has been unleashed and empowered in our world -- the enormity of all this has left so many of us stunned, paralyzed and fearful.At The Center for Jewish Feminism, we, too, have been struck by the challenging energies around us and by the realization of how many dangers lurk in our everyday lives. It has taken us some time to recover and regroup. And now, we have decided, it is time for us to begin the hard process of moving forward, reconnecting, and taking action.The first step in this plan is to come together, connect with like-minded people, and talk through the impact of recent events as well as potential next steps as a Jewish feminist community. Towards that aim, we are hosting our first on-line event since the American elections. This Sunday, December 18, 9AM PST in an online panel discussion titled, "Finding Light Amid Darkness", I will be hosting a conversation with one of my favorite people, Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman, founder of the Jewish Mindfulness Network, and a leading voice in the Jewish world for integrating social justice and spirituality.You can read more about the event here, or read more about Rav Jill here. The event will take place online on Sunday, Dec 18, 9AM PST, 12 noon EST, 7PM Israel time, 5PM UK time (and apoligies once again to the Aussies and kiwis in the group who will either wake in the middle of the night or wait for the recording...)You can purchase tickets to the event here .Please note that we are asking for donations of $5-$18, at your own discretion, to help us build the framework for an ongoing conversation. Our plan is to use this time slot to host conversations with other leading Jewish feminists and to create a global Jewish feminist community of spiritual and social-activist warriors who are dedicated to keeping the light of justice and compassion shining. But to do that, we need your help.Thank you for your support and understanding.A few other items to note:* This event, like all our events, are conducted in the spirit of Jewish feminism, and are open to everyone. You don't have to be a woman or Jewish to join. All who want to be part of the community are welcome.* You don't need any special technological abilities to participate. You will receive a simple link for logging on. But if that is too...

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Remembering Bambi Sheleg, z"l

Against the Grain: Bambi Sheleg (above) started the magazine Eretz Acheret. The latest issue (right) is titled ?Art Outside of Tel Aviv? and examines artistic trends in the city.
[click for larger view]

Bambi Sheleg, a giant of Israeli journalism, a woman of courage, keen intelligence, and unyieliding commitment to truth and justice, died today at the age of 58. Her presence will be fiercely missed. Below is a profile I wrote about her six years ago for The Forward.  In June 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel handed down one of the most important but barely publicized rulings in the history of the Jewish state. The decision to cancel the Law for the Privatization of Prisons halted a process that would have abdicated an unprecedented amount of state authority — that is, the correctional system — to private bodies. Remarkable in this story is not only how quietly the law nearly took effect, but also how the Supreme Court came to its conclusion. The decision was credited to a magazine, Eretz Acheret (“A Different Place”), in particular the April-May 2006 issue, titled, “Can the State abdicate its role as responsible for the correctional system?”   COURTESY OF BAMBI SHELEG Against the Grain: Bambi Sheleg (above) started the magazine Eretz Acheret. The latest issue (right) is titled ?Art Outside of Tel Aviv? and examines artistic trends in the city. Bambi Sheleg, the soft-spoken founder and editor-in-chief of Eretz Acheret, recalls this event fondly. “It was an incredible moment,” she said humbly of the victory. “This is why we founded the magazine, to influence the social agenda in Israel and offer a deep analysis of the issues critical to Israel’s identity.” Sheleg, 52, a mother of three who is married to writer Yair Sheleg, was born in Chile and moved to Israel at age 12. Her family is Religious Zionist, and she began her journalism career as a writer and editor at Nekuda, the magazine of the settler movement. At a certain point, though, she started having doubts about her ideological home. “I was in the religious ‘camp’,” she said, “but sometimes I felt that I connected more with people outside my camp.” Her sense of inner turmoil came to a head with the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “I asked myself, ‘How can it be that the divisions between sectors in Israeli society are so strong that they can bring someone to commit murder?’” she recalled. “And I realized that, as a member of the media, I was contributing to the problem. In fact, I was the problem.” Following the assassination, Sheleg quit her job and began developing a vision for an alternative media in Israel, one that is not ratings based but rather not-for-profit, replacing the journalistic “If it bleeds, it leads” thirst for violence with an ethic that seeks to build connections between people. “In the mainstream media, radicals get all the attention,” she explained, drawing a diagram of a pizza pie to illustrate her point. “Israel has all kinds of sectors — Jews, Arabs, Haredim. See here, where the crust is? Those are the radicals in each social sector… The rest of us are much closer to one another than to...

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PODCAST: Rabbis who Abuse

Below is the link to a podcast of my talk "Rabbis who abuse" from the 2015 Limmud UK Conference http://limmud.org/publications/podcasts/limmud-conference-2015/rabbis-who-abuse/   Listen Download the podcast. You may need to right-click and choose "Save as..." Event: Limmud Conference 2015 Speaker: Elana Sztokman Description An exploration of the seeming explosion in the number of rabbis caught out as sexual abusers. Why does this happen, why is it happening now, and what does it mean for the rest of us? Tracks Jewish Peoplehood, Social issues and Community

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Why I'm Shocked and Inspired by Kids4Peace

Cross-posted from The Forward Sisterhood.Last Thursday, at a meeting of parents of Kids4Peace, I had a remarkable experience that both shocked me and inspired me. It’s unique Jewish-Muslim-Christian camp for residents of Jerusalem and its environs, in which my daughter participated last summer. Over the last year, the children have met regularly and their parents have met simultaneously in adjoining rooms. It has been an eye-opening experience, a powerful reminder of the importance of getting to know people around you — especially people who are different from you. This sounds like such a simple concept. But it is a remarkable fact of life in Israel that Arab and Jews who are sharing the same air and the same space and the same hot, daily grind, whose lives are so intricately bound up on one another, for the most part barely speak to each other. One of the most precious aspects about the Kids4Peace parent meetings is the discovery that, as parents, we are all pretty much the same. We all try to get our kids off the computer, we all try to get them to clean up their rooms, we all live for school plays, academic presentations, sports games, and we all really just want a nice life for ourselves. Still, Thursday night, October 22, was a little different. This was the first time we were meeting in a context of violent tension. Many people at the meeting said that they don’t remember a time when Jerusalem was this edgy: when life had completely come to a halt as everyone seemed to be staying home. People are so anxious right now that Kids4Peace held a phone meeting for parents a few days earlier, under the assumption that most would not want to come in person. Significantly, Thursday’s group proved them wrong and, despite the surrounding events, some 60-70 parents turned up, from all sectors of society. As people began sharing feelings and experiences, one Arab woman described a scene that really shook me. She had been looking after her elderly father in the hospital for the past few weeks, which gave her a ringside view of the comings and goings in the hospital around terror attacks. One day, when a female soldier had been stabbed and badly injured, the hospital staff made visitors make room for them to wheel the victim through the corridors. As she stood with her 8-year-old son she had a jarring conversation with him. He assumed, she told us, that the victim was an Arab woman. The mother said, “No, she’s Jewish” “I don’t understand,” the child replied. “Why would a Jew stab another Jew?” “No, no,” she gently explained. “The attacker wasn’t Jewish. He was an Arab.” The boy could not comprehend this. His mother recounted that in his mind, the only violence that exists is Jews hurting Arabs. This is all he knows, and it’s all he has seen. He had no idea that the violence goes the other way, too. When he realized his...

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"I'm FED UP!" New FB group for Orthodox feminists has taken off

frum ryan gosling
im also fed up

The new FB group I started in March called "I'm fed up with the way women are treated in Orthodoxy", also called "A home for Orthodox feminist and friends", has quickly taken off, with over 750 members and a constant buzz of activity. Yesterday's hot topic, for example, was a discussion of the Ryan Gosling pic you see here, a critucal satire of women in Parnership Minyan, part of the "frum Ryan Gosling" Tumblr. (The pic was created by Danya Lagos who joined the heated debate on the FB page!). The group has women and men of all ages from around the world, and not just Orthodox Jews either. Interestingly, there have been several posts from people who began with, "I'm not Orthodox so I'm not sure if I'm in the right group...." but all members have been welcome to share their stories, experiences and insights. The group is intended to be a place where people can safely express their own feelings and perspectives on women in Judaism. This has clearly met an important need given the rapid growth of the group. We had an intense debate last week about the title of the group, with some people saying that "I'm fed up" is too "angry", and that the group risks being just a kvetch-fest. The debate also included the question whether to make the group open or closed, since an open group risks becoming fodder for attack ("unsafe"), while a closed group has that risk of becoming an echo chamber. After lots of weighing in, we decided to keep the name because we really do need a place where we know it's okay to be angry or frustrated without being immediately told that we have to be perky, and to keep it open so that whoever needs to find us will. At the same time, we created a way to post anonymously as "plonit almonit" for particularly delicate postings. And we wrote very clear guidelines for discourse to ensure that nobody feels attacked or shamed or unwelcomed. That is a very challenging task on FB, since we all know how quickly passions can rise and tempers can flame. But it's really, really important to maintain this group as a safe-space for sharing. And by the way, the group is not "just for kvetching", although I don't want to minimize the value of sharing. There is a lot of support, empathizing, and analysis as well. Another interesting discussion currently going on is about "Why I'm still Orthodox". Jacqueline Nicholls, Leah Sarna and I all recently wrote blogs on this subject (unbeknowst to one another!), and so it seems to me like this is something that the people of the group grapple with as well. The group can help people figure out how to answer that question for themselves. The group is partially inspired by the success of the Hebrew group, "Ani feministit datiya..."("I"m a religious feminist and I also have no sense of humor), which has become a really important place for...

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