Jewfem Blog

Listen to the radio talk about seat-switching on planes on CBC's "The Current

It's been a long time since travelling by air was a glamorous way to go. We're pretty well become used to removing the shoes at security check ins... and the ever-shrinking seat sizes in Economy.  But now some women, especially on flights to and from Israel, are encountering what they say is an unacceptable aviation irritation. They're being asked to switch seats by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to a woman who are not their wives. The practice has become prevalent enough to motivate a campaign, and inspire an online video spoofing the Israeli airline, El-Al. Now, we should note that not all passengers report being upset at requests to switch seats with ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi men... But  Elana Sztokman certainly was.   Listen here

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Arutz Sheva: Listen to Talia Kohen interview Elana Sztokman about women in the upcoming elections in Israel

Talia Kohen interviews Elana Sztokman about women in Israeli politics in advance of the upcoming elections in Israel, Part 1 and Part 2 below. And please share your comments and feedback.      Part 1   Part 2

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C-SPAN: Watch NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman in conversation with Elana Sztokman about Women in Israel

Nancy Kaufman and Elana Sztokman

Watch NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman in conversation with Elana Sztokman about the topic of women in Israel. The event took place on February 4, 2015 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, and was aired on C-SPAN.      

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Sexual harassment in the Israeli police force

There has been an earthquake in the Israeli police force, and the institution may never be the same again. No less than three senior police officers have been accused of sexual harassment in the past two weeks, including one who is now under house arrest, and the story is not over yet. This may be bad news for these men, but it is great news for women. Two weeks ago, The Police Investigations department of the Justice Ministry announced that the Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor is being investigated for crimes of sexual harassment and indecent acts against a female police officer subordinate to him. He allegedly used his seniority to take advantage of her. Apparently several other women have started to come forward with similar allegations of sexual harassment against him. The officer was released to house arrest and subsequently fired by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino. Just a few days later, the commander of the coastal district, Deputy Commissioner Hagai Dotan, was accused of sexual harassment by five separate women who came forward with complaints about him. One of the complaints alleges that the woman approached him for help in a personal matter, and he in turn tried to kiss her and touch her. Although he initially denied the charges, claiming there may have been “verbal” abuse but not “sexual” abuse, he was suspended for two weeks and then later was removed from his post completely. Then this week, Com. Moshe Ivgi, head of the Beersheba city police, came under investigation and was suspended from his job for two weeks on charges of sexual harassment of a female officer. According to the complaint, Livgi approached her while she was pregnant and asked her how far along she was in her pregnancy. When she told him she was in her fifth month, Ivgi told her he had always fantasized about having sex with a woman who was five-months pregnant. He allegedly sent her messages asking her to text him pictures of herself wearing skirts. These events in quick succession follow several other instances of sexual harassment in the Israeli police that have come out in the past two years. In October 2013, then Jerusalem District Chief Nisso Shaham resigned after he was indicted for sex crimes against female officers who worked under him. And in September 2014, Judea and Samaria District Commander Kobi Cohen was leaving his post amid suspicion he carried out a relationship of a sexual nature with a female police officer. In total, eight senior police officers are not in various stages of investigation for sexual harassment from the past 18 months, and are expected to be removed from their posts permanently. These cases are particularly striking in light of the fact that the police force is considered one of the most sexist institutions in Israel. Of the 18 members of the top brass, there are zero women. And last week, there was a graduation of newly inducted officers – and only 16% (16 out of 101) were...

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Historic news on women in decision-making in Israel: New 1325 resolution

(cross-posted from Lilith) Last month, the Israeli government announced that it is establishing a team to formulate a working plan to advance UN Resolution 1325 in Israel—the resolution that calls for women’s equal inclusion in all aspects of decision-making, especially around issues of peace and security. The team will be comprised of senior representatives from almost all government offices, including the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Ministry for Internal Security, and the perhaps more obvious Welfare Ministry and Education Ministry. It will be headed by Vered Swid, the Director of the Office for Gender Equality of the Prime Minister’s Office (until recently titled The Office on the Status of Women) and will also include academics, researchers, and representatives from NGOs working on issues of gender, equality and social justice. The purpose of the committee, according to the announcement, is to ensure that Israel complies with UN Resolution 1325. This means ensuring women’s representation in all areas of decision-making, promoting women’s safety and security, and redefining “security” to include a more holistic understanding of women’s lives. Women’s groups have been working tirelessly for seven years to reach this moment and have faced sometimes daunting obstacles. “This is the first time that the government has committed to an action plan on gender, a tangible working plan with timetables, targets, and measurable objectives that can be evaluated and followed up on,” said attorney Anat Thon Ashkenazy, Coordinator of 1325 Israel on behalf of Itach-Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, which has spearheaded this initiative for the past seven years. “It is also the first time that all the various discussions on gender have been connected – women’s representation, women’s security, and gender mainstreaming. That’s the essence of Resolution 1325, that all these issues are tied together.” Also significant is the list of participants in the process. This is the first time that gender is seen not as an issue of concern to the ministries of welfare and education alone, but rather as demanding the attention of all ministries. Until very recently, these ministries did not believe that they are part of the gender problem. Member of the Knesset Aliza Lavie, who heads the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, which has been advancing this initiative, received a response from the Ministry of Defense earlier this year saying that they did not understand what their office has to do with gender. There is quite a lot for them to learn. The negotiations over the recent Gaza war, for example, took place with zero women around the table–not even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose official job title was to be head of negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu found a way to replace her with his own male representative. (Could this manipulation have anything to do with Livni’s powerful campaign to replace him in the upcoming elections? I wonder.) The gender problem cuts across the board in Israel. A 2014 state comptroller’s report found that women fill less than one third of all senior management positions...

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Great round of talks on women in Israel

I had a great round of talks in the US, starting with a lecture at the Standard Club in Chicago, followed by a talk at the JCC of Greater Washington, and finishing up with a talk at Moishe's House on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which you can read about on the Jewish Book Council blog by Nat Bernstein. Thanks to all the hosts and attendees and to all those who bought the book :-) Meanwhile, here is a link to Part I of an interview I did for the NPR show WorldView with Jerome McDonnel.

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The exclusion of women at....a nature hike???

Sometimes a family outing is just a family outing. And sometimes a family outing becomes a whole other thing. So last Friday, my daughters and I decided to go on little trip before Shabbat to see a natural water spring around 20 kilometers away. One of my daughters brought a male friend along, and off we went, climbing 100 meters up the side of a mountain to find this lovely site. The place was not too crowded – though I noticed that we were the only females there. Some 20-30 teenage boys were enjoying the spot along with their beers, cigarettes and nargilla. (That's so Israel, I thought, where the place for such adolescent hangouts is a beautiful nature spot that the boys are genuinely enjoying.) We were all having a lovely time swimming and laughing. Until a religious man showed up. The man, in his forties or fifties, wearing a black velvet skullcap and sporting a beard, looked at us and began holding little conferences with some of the boys, while obviously looking at my girls with side glances. My daughter whispered to me, “He’s going to ask us to leave in a minute.” Sure enough, the man called over my daughter’s friend – apparently the “man” of our group, even if he is only 17 – and started talking to him. I called out, “What’s the issue?” If they are going to be talking about me, I wanted the courtesy of at least being part of the conversation. “He wants you to leave so he can do his ritual dunk before Shabbat,” my daughter’s friend said. Apparently this man used this particular spring as his own private mikveh. “There’s plenty of time before Shabbat,” I said, directly to the man. “Don’t worry.” This got him at least talking directly to me. “Just climb up the mountain and stay there for 15-20 minutes so I can have the spring,” he said, not as a question. I was sitting on the side of the spring at the time, next to my daughter who I don’t see often enough, really enjoying the moment, as well as the feel of the cold, natural water on my ankles and calves. I had just walked straight up the side of a mountain to get here, and there was no way I was getting off my spot to continue climbing and sit in the hot sun in a spot with no water. “We’ll be leaving soon,” I responded, looking at my daughter’s watch. “Another 15 or 20 minutes and we’ll be done.” He walked away and puffed on the nargilla while he watched us. My daughter whispered, “You know he’s going to be nudging us in 10 minutes to go.” We left the spring, as promised, 15 minutes later, a little bit before I was really ready. (We hadn’t even eaten our sandwiches yet that the kids had spent time making.) But Shabbat was indeed coming and I still had a lot of things to do....

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More on gender segregation -- on TLV1 Radio

The cover of one of Yannets Levi's 'Uncle Leo's Adventures' books.
Celebrating 30 years of Israeli Opera with Voices at the Museum. Photo: PR.
Courtesy of Sarah Abraham/Facebook.

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An El Al plane on the runway. Credit: Moshe Shai / Flash90.




Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Dr. Lumír Hanuš
Dr. Alan Marcus
Photo courtesy of Joanna Chen.


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Tens of thousands gather to suport the teachers union strike on Saturday, November 17, 2007 in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel
Bethlehem, Mandate Palestine, Arab women drawing water. Credit: Yad Vashem.


A still from Asaf Korman's film 'Next to Her.'

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.  Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images


Grego Villalobos and Guy Sharett at the TLV1 studio

Photo courtesy of Joanna Chen.

Kutiman in Kutiman Orchestra. Credit: Yuval Herziger.



'Slichot' being said at the Western Wall, Jerusalem. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

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An El Al plane on the runway. Credit: Moshe Shai / Flash90.
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An ultra-Orthodox Jew performing the Kaparot ceremony. Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Protesters fill the streets of Hong Kong, September 2014.
PM Netanyahu and President Obama at the White House, October 2014. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO.
Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
 Toys for the blind at #DLDTelAviv #telaviv #tlv #radio
 We're at the old train station in @tel_aviv for the Startup portion of this year's #DLDTelAviv, right next to the Microsoft Xbox booth #telaviv #tlv #radio
 #DLDTelAviv #telaviv #israel #tlv #radio @tel_aviv @ileneprusher
 Karaoke! #DLDTelAviv #telaviv #tlv #radio
 Liya working on producing this week's episode of Journeys. Listen at #telaviv #israel #radio #tlv
 @ileneprusher speaks with @tel_aviv mayor Ron Huldai at the 2014 #DLDTelAviv #telaviv #tlv #israel #radio

El Al faces increasing pressure to end onboard 'gender segregation' @media all and (orientation:portrait) { #addToHomeScreen { zoom:1; line-height:130%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:1; } #addToHomeScreen .addToHomeClose { -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } } @media all and (orientation:landscape) { #addToHomeScreen { zoom:1; line-height:130%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:1; } #addToHomeScreen .addToHomeClose { -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } } .site-header #branding a { background-image: url(; } #colophon.dark #site-info .small-logo { background-image: url(; } @media ( max-width: 979px ) { .wrap-navigation .small-logo { background-image: url(; } } body.error404 { background-image: url(; } a:hover, .navbar .nav .current_page_item > a, .navbar .nav .current-menu-item > a, .navbar .nav .current-post-ancestor > a, .navbar .nav .current-menu-parent > a, .navbar .nav .current-menu-ancestor > a, .navbar .nav li a:hover, .navbar .nav li a:active, .navbar .nav li a:focus, .archive .content-inner .entry-meta a:hover, .desktop .top-news .dropdown-menu a:hover, .desktop .top-news .dropdown-menu a:active, .desktop .top-news .dropdown-menu a:focus, .home .site-content .content-inner .entry-meta a:hover { color: #008bc6; } .desktop .top-news .entry-meta, .news-slider .carousel .carousel-inner .entry-category, .nav-tabs>.active>a, .nav-tabs>.active>a:hover, .single .site-content>.hentry .post-categories li { background: #008bc6 !important ; } .news-slider .carousel-list .other-entry { border-left-color: #008bc6; } .nav-tabs>.active>a:before, .nav-tabs>.active>a:hover:before { border-top-color: #008bc6; } .archive .post-layout, .pagination ul>li .current, .btn-primary:hover { background: #008bc6; border-color: #008bc6 !important; } body.error404 .entry-content h2 { color: #008bc6; } TLV1 RADIO 3 New Articles today October 5, 2014 The magic of Uncle Leo, finally in the ‘Queen’s’ English Israeli Opera grows up Sarah Abraham is kick-ass in Romania DW Focus HomeNews & Politics ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio Politely Rough So Much to Say Special Reports The Cost of Doing Business The Promised Podcast Satellite communities: The Israeli communication pioneers — ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio - September 30, 2014 Rosh Hashanah special: The power of the pomegranate — ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio - September 23, 2014 The Israeli doctor developing the Ebola antibody — ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio - September 16, 2014 Goodbye tablet, hello smart-watch! — ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio - September 9, 2014 Nazareth: The next Silicone ‘Wadi’? — ISRAEL21c on TLV1 Radio - August 26, 2014View all ‘I’m a Galilean’ says a Christian in the Jewish State – Politely Rough - August 28, 2014 Headlines from the front line – Politely Rough - August 21, 2014 Operation Protective Edge: Week 4 report – Politely Rough - July 31, 2014 Gaza war, week two: Dispatch from the front line – Politely Rough - July 24, 2014 What next for Israel and the Palestinians? – Politely Rough - July 17, 2014View all El Al faces increasing pressure to end onboard ‘gender segregation’ — So Much to Say - October 2, 2014 Mayor who turned Tel Aviv into nonstop city dies — So Much to Say - October 1, 2014 Bibi’s UN address: A breakdown — So Much to Say - September 30, 2014 The Islamic State at Jordan’s gate — So Much to Say - September 29, 2014 Abbas’ fiery UN speech – a game changer? — So Much to Say - September 28, 2014View all Women of the Wall are #SorryNotSorry - September 24, 2014 Israelis and Palestinians swinging down barriers - September 23, 2014 Happy...

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Talking about gender segregation on airplanes: A Voice of Israel Radio

I must admit that I did not see this coming. The buzz that has been generated around the story of gender segregation on the airplane, which has been reported now in at least half a dozen media outlets including The Telegraph and the Australian news, and has over 14,000 hits on Tablet alone  -- wow. I'm not sure why this particular story has suddenly generated such an outcry, as opposed to many other stories about gender segregation and religious radicalism. Maybe it's more like the straw that broke the camel's back in the sense that people have been experiencing this kind of thing for a long time and are finally fed up. In any event, I've spent much of the past two days engaged in all kinds of discussions online and in person about the issue of gender segregation and religion. And I'm really grateful and gratified that the conversations are happening this way. I hope that they are happening in the right places as well, places where change can happen. At least one piece of activism: Susan Shapiro started a petition to El Al, as Allison Kaplan Sommer reports in Haaretz. Meanwhile, here is an interview I did on Voice of Israel radio yesterday, on the Mottle Wolfe and Eve Harow Show. (It's really called the Mottle Wolfe show, but I felt the need to correct that gender inequality.....) REB MOTTLE: MILE HIGH SNUB What do you think?

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My book tour round-up: Five cities in four states in ten days.....

It was a whilrwind book launch tour. I traveled to events and book signings around five cities in four states in a matter of ten days: Chicago, St Louis, New Haven, Stamford, and NYC. I signed lots of books, met some fabulous people, was hosted by some beautiful women, had my first Barnes and Noble event where they gave me an incredible boost, did several media interviews including the Brian Lehrer show on NPR (WNYC), and heard from many people -- men and women -- who were deeply grateful that this book has been published. There is a clear need to articulate a moderate voice calling for an end to religious extremism that is hurting women. I'm so pleased to be able to give that stance the power that it needs and deserves. And you would not believe what happened to me on the way home: My plane took off twenty minutes late because an ultra-orthodox man was negotiating with passengers so as not to have to sit next to me on the plane...Is that karma or poetic justice? I was thinking, I just spoke to hundreds of people about all this, and here I am in the midst of this right here and now. Part of me wanted to smile and hand out copies of my book! (Haha, how funny would that have been?) But I sat there silently for a long time, just watching all this happen, witnessing all these men around me talking about me, mostly in Yiddish, but also in Hebrew and English, without looking directly at me. I sat there, torn between my desire not to make a scene and my feeling that someone MUST speak out about this. I thought, it's all about the speaking out, isn't it? If I don't articulate, right here and now, how all this affects women, how this affects me, who will? So finally I spoke out. Right before the man found a replacement to sit next to me, I said, "Can I say something?'' and without looking at me, he said yes. I said, "Imagine if instead of men and women, we were talking about Jews and non-Jews. Imagine how you would feel if a bunch of non-Jews were standing around saying that they can't sit next to you because you're a Jew, that they are willing to sit anywhere but next to you, because their religion won't allow it, because you are impure or different, or whatever. how would you feel? How would you ever get over that insult?' I could feel my voice rising. After all these years of writing about this, after this whole tour where I went around listening to people and sharing ideas about all this, I just could not stay silent in the face of this. I'm not sure whether it mattered. One young man very kindly said to me, "You don't understand, women are holier than men," I said, "That's rubbish and it doesn't excuse the insult," and then I added that...

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