As of tomorrow, I will be working as Interim Executive Director for JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. This is incredibly thrilling for me, since this is of course an issue very close to my heart. The travel back and forth will perhaps be challenging, but sometimes we have to work hard and make unconventional decisions in order to get to the really interesting and exciting places in life.... Here's to the next adventure!!!!
What a strange week it has been in Israeli politics. Two new contenders for the Knesset, Yair Lapid and Noam Shalit, drew criticism because they have platforms that make them somehow unfairly likable to the people – one as a newscaster and one as the father of a former captive whose story won the people’s hearts. As if to say, the Israel has its own set of rules about popularity, and if the people like you too much, the Knesset is not the right place for you. That just says so much. And speaking of the absence of likability, MK Rajeb Majadle, an Arab MK from Labor who is not generally known for his gentility, was the victim of a new form of violence in the Knesset – the water-throwing kind, courtesy of Yisrael Beitenu MK Anastasia Michaeli. I have to say, no matter how gruff and obnoxious Majadle is – and it’s easy to see how, after Majadle spent the previous few minutes telling Michaeli to shut up, that the urge to hurt him might come up – nevertheless, pouring water on him is just idiotic. It’s like a slapstick nightmare that is unfortunately real life in Israeli governance. Yes, these are our elected officials. Michaeli is going to be hearing about this little tantrum for the rest of her career, I think. But it gets worse. Because when she was defending herself, she said, “This will teach him to respect women”. Huh? First of all, his attempts to shut her up were not overtly gender related. Second of all, throwing a little glass of water on his fancy silk suit will not get him to respect her or anyone she’s associated with at all but will only get her laughed at, and slapped with a dry cleaning bill. To wit, as she was leaving the hall, he and his colleagues could be heard speaking in Arabic calling her “mejnuna” – crazy. So much for respect for women. Please, MK Michaeli, leave the rest of us out of this. Your poor judgment here is purely your own. And anyway, the last thing feminism needs is to be used as a justification for slapstick politics. As if we don’t have enough of an image problem. I do think, though, that there is an important subtext of Israeli politics here. I don’t know if the general public realizes just how much some Russians and some Israelis hate each other. It runs very deep to the core of identity, and has a lot to do with the Zionist narrative, with each group questioning the narrative of the other, around who has the more authentic and ancient connection to the land of Israel. If only some splash of cold water could make this all go away. Not looking likely. Meanwhile, just as every politician tried to disassociate from Michaeli, in another corner of Israeli society, another subtext is starting to gain some momentum: inequality against Ethiopians. In a protest in the north this week,...
June, the month inundated with lovely transitional moments, can be a parent’s nightmare. As a mother of four, my diary this time of year is packed with end-of-year performances, parties, graduations and all forms of celebrations. While once such events were saved for major milestones like diploma graduations and weddings, now I am expected to show up at all minor events as well, from gymnastics shows to fourth grade art displays – and even a painful but fun mothers versus daughters end-of-year basketball match. (The fourteen-year olds beat us easily, and my knees are still protesting.)
I've decided to subscribe to Post-Adulthood. Being an adult is overrated, and frankly, I'm over it. I've had enough of all the trauma of working and paying bills and shuttling little ones around. I'd like to usher in an entire new era of Post-Adulthood-ism, where society no longer promotes this utterly oppressive, ridiculously demanding, and overly complex philosophy around becoming an adult. I think we should just scrap the whole thing.
(A condensed version of this essay appeared in the Australian Jewish News Rosh Hashana Supplement, 2003)
Hayom harat olam. Today is the birth of the world. With these words we repeatedly affirm our meaning of Rosh Hashana following each set of shofar blasts. How strange, and almost surreal it is for me to connect with such meanings as my own due date corresponds with the eve of Yom Kippur, during that week that is meant for contemplation of such ideas – humanity, newness, rebirth, and regeneration. Indeed, the Talmudic verse that keeps coming to mind – “whoever saves one life has saved a whole world” – endows the concept of harat olam with a whole new dimension. It’s as if I am about to give birth to a whole world indeed.
My seven year old son is obsessed with Star Wars. I don’t know how it happened, and frankly, I don’t understand the attraction myself. But I suppose I have encouraged him, much the way I encourage all of my children’s hobbies, interests and fixations – short of hurting another person. And yet, the other day, as he watched the Empire Strikes Back for the zillionth time, I looked around our house, at the different creations of my son and my daughters, and I couldn’t help notice how “gendered” it all was, despite myself. My son with the sticks, the wood, hoards of cardboard boxes and rocks around his room and around the yard, plus all the Luke Skywalker and Spiderman paraphernalia that I can’t even remember buying him (when did I become that commercial?). Then I look at my daughters’ room, with the drawings, clay, hairpieces and dolls. For sure they both have lots of books and games – although my son prefers books on snakes and spiders. And their rooms are all equally messy, and it is an equal struggle to get my children to pick up after themselves. Nonetheless, the differences in their play habits are very striking.
Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman is an award-winning author, and leading Jewish feminist thinker, educator and activist. The former the Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Elana writes and speaks all around the world about gender issues in Jewish life, in education and in Israel.