Jewfem Blog

The Implications of the Tent Protests for the Third Sector in Israel

Anyone trying to understand why Israel does not have a fundraising culture needs to look no further than the tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. I know that the demonstrations are not about charity and non-profit life. But the events of these past weeks offer some vital insights into the future of the Third Sector and philanthropy in Israel.

On the most obvious level, what Israelis are saying is that they simply cannot make ends meet. I don’t know how much American Jews fully grasp the appalling status of Israelis salaries. The average monthly salary in Israel is somewhere in the range of $2000-2500 gross. Even two people working full time with those salaries, with say two or three small children and an average mortgage of $1500-2000 a month, will have a lot of difficulty meeting expenses. The newspapers these past few weeks have been filled with stories of people – highly educated, well-trained, and hard working people holding good jobs – whose living expenses are simply higher than their income. Sure, everyone has different ways to cut costs – moving to a moshav, bicycling to work, no afterschool lessons for the kids, second-hand clothes and books, never going out to eat or even ordering pizza, no cable, no second car, certainly no cleaning help and probably no gym membership, and definitely no family vacations to Europe. Instead, there is a lot of overdraft – some 80% of Israelis are living in overdraft, according to some estimates – and definitely no savings.

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Why Do Men's Voices Lend Credibility to Jewish Women's Issues?

As a woman, I sometimes feel like I’m in a catch-22. I want to bring attention to issues concerning women, but I also want men to pay attention. When women are doing all the talking, we run the risk of marginalizing ourselves, of turning our ideas into “women’s stuff.” By inviting men to speak about women’s issues, we may gain credibility and breadth, but we contribute to the problem by having men speak on our behalf, muting our voices once again.

I found myself in this frustrating predicament the other day. I was speaking on a panel at a conference organized by Rabbi Marc Angel’s Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah. The conference, titled, “Is Modern Orthodoxy an Endangered Species?” examined mostly theoretical issues facing Modern Orthodoxy today, but included also a discussion of conversion as well as a panel —the one I participated in — on the issue of agunot and mesoravot get, women denied divorce. The panel consisted of Susan Weiss, founder of the Center for Women’s Justice, and me, representing Mavoi Satum, the organization that provides a package of legal and social services to agunot.

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