Jewfem Blog

Why Does Michael Oren Think American Jewish Democrats Need 'Conversion Therapy'? @Haaretz with Heather Stone

by Heather Stone  and Elana Sztokman  Michael Oren is an observant guy. The former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and current deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office recently noticed that many progressive American Jews are unhappy with Israel. That's the good news – and does not in itself constitute evidence that he has gone off the rails, as Haaretz's Allison Kaplan Sommer hinted. Unfortunately, rather than engaging with the sentiment of American-Jewish disappointment in Israel, he has taken the patronizing approach of asserting that progressives need to be "reformed". This is not only a bad sign for Oren. It is also a bad omen for the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community. In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, Oren cited a recent Pew study that found that a nearly equal number of American Jews sympathized with Israel as sympathized with the Palestinians. Taking a Rocky Balboa approach to that statistic, as if political views are a winner-takes-all fight-to-the-death prize to be won, he proposed using some Israeli mega-budgets to target Jewish progressives in order to convince them (us) that we are wrong. His idea reads like a strange cross between kiruv and conversion therapy. As if to say that American Jews who hold progressive views must have something wrong with their brains or their chemistry. Cue eye-roll.  His idea reads like a strange cross between kiruv and conversion therapy. As if to say that American Jews who hold progressive views must have something wrong with their brains or their chemistry. Cue eye-roll.   As those who would be the likely target of such a campaign – we are the Chair and Vice-Chair of Democrats Abroad, Israel – we would like to clarify that his proposed strategy is not only obnoxious but also doomed to failure. There are a few things wrong with his whole idea. First of all, sympathy is not a zero-sum -game. Just because a person sympathizes with Palestinians does not mean that they do not sympathize with Israel or vice versa.This is such a crucial piece of understanding that some of our leaders in Israel and America would do well to note. Jews have some good points, and Palestinians have some good points. It is not one or the other. The future cannot be viewed as us-or-them. Maybe if we stopped this square thinking that "sympathy" is weakness and instead experimented with complex understandings that appreciate all people as real humans, we would be able to find a way out of this ugly quagmire called The Conflict. Second of all, despite Oren’s assertion, the Democratic Party is not anti-Israel or even pro-BDS. The Democratic Party platform promotes a two-state solution and rejects BDS. Some people are so accustomed to demonizing Democratic leaders with hyperbole, lies, and fear-mongering that they lose sight of basic facts. Progressives are not radical extremists. Actually, we believe that we are kind of, you know, normal. Furthermore, progressives are currently bearing the entire burden of moral leadership in America....

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Mike Pence’s Israel Trip Was An Affront To Women: @TheForward

Women were segregated at the Western Wall this week. During Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Kotel, female journalists were relegated to the back. The segregation came not during a religious event but rather during a diplomatic visit. And the women who were sent to the back of the pack were not praying women but rather professional journalists and photographers. They had to stand behind the men and behind a fence and could not see what was happening. They didn’t take it lying down. As journalist Noga Tarnopolsky who was there, wrote on Twitter, “This was an aberrant first.”  And yet, the episode was not abnormal in a country like Israel, where the exclusion of women has become increasingly normalized, not only at the Kotel but also on planes, in trains, and at cemeteries. But this was still a new low for women. It was not abnormal for Israel — nor for their guest, Mike Pence. Pence is infamous for his retrograde views of women, brought his views on women with him on his trip to Israel. This is a man who believes that working women stunt their children’s growth. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a record number of anti-abortion bills, including the infamous HEA 1337 that bans abortion even in cases of unviable fetuses, and demands the burial of all potential fetus remains — including menstrual blood.  As if that weren’t enough, Pence tried to redefine “rape” in a bill in order to limit access to abortion, even for women who would die without care. He also cosponsored the appalling “personhood” legislation that could ban birth control. Politico dubbed Pence a “one man crusade” against women’s reproductive health when he led the campaign to completely defund Planned Parenthood. From the evil to absurd, Pence once used Mulan as proof that women should not serve in the military. Less funny is the fact that he famously refuses to sit alone with a woman who is not his wife, which would prevent women from working, say, as a chief of staff or as vice president. His refusal to be alone with women also maintains the annoying presumption that women are always a sexual temptation to men, no matter what the circumstances.   Rather than taking a stand against Pence’s misogyny, Israel was quick to accommodate it with their own. In the space of an hour at the Kotel, Pence’s visit became the occasion for sending women back even further than usual by preventing professional women from working side by side with their male counterparts. When both radical religious Judaism and radical religious Christianity intersect on the oppression of women, we are all in trouble. Read more: https://forward.com/opinion/392758/mike-pences-israel-trip-was-an-affront-to-women/

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"God Bless Trump" signs litter Jerusalem: At the Scribe

“God Bless Trump!” read the placards and signs all over Jerusalem. A three-story poster in this exuberant praise of the current American president hangs a few meters from my son’s dorm room in the center of town. He can barely sleep because of the flashiness of it. I can barely sleep because of the implications of it. A year in to this reality, I still cannot believe that this man is the president. He is not only a compulsive liar, narcissist, and bully, he is also an admitted sexual assailant. Knowing that sixty million Americans so easily dismissed his behavior towards women in favor of whatever it is that they saw in him has made me extremely distrustful of my compatriots. When I meet people that voted for him or support him – and that incredibly includes people whom I consider friends – I am always uneasy and actually hurt that the sexual assault of women means so little to them, that so many other things were more important than women’s trauma. This remains very hard.   This new development, however, in which many coreligionists think he is the Messiah because he declared Jerusalem the capital, has added a new layer to my psychic angst. They actually think he is a gift from God. The pussy-grabber-in-chief has now been elevated in status among certain Jews because he has taken a unilateral decision about Jerusalem that sets him squarely on the side of the most right-wing members of the tribe, no matter what the implications of this decision may be. We know that for many Jews, a politician’s worth is based entirely on his or her allegiance to right-wing ideas about Israel, which is why Trump received such a strong vote among Orthodox Jewish Americans. Only Israel matters. Still, when I witness the “Only Israel matters” approach to politics in the Trump context, I am reminded once again of how little women are valued in the Jewish community. So many of my coreligionists continue to throw women under the bus. Our needs as a woman are unimportant compared to the perceived needs of Israel. Read more: https://forward.com/scribe/391358/to-only-israel-voters-women-dont-seem-to-matter/

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Supermarket bill marks another victory of radical orthodoxy on Israeli culture

Politics in Israel reached a new low this week when ultra-Orthodox lawmakers were so desperate to pass a bill that they tried to drag grieving Knesset member Yehuda Glick from alongside his wife’s fresh grave in order to vote in the Knesset. The bill in question would ban supermarkets from remaining open on Shabbat. I suppose even though Jewish law says that Shabbat does not trump saving a life, according to these MKs, Shabbat trumps shiva. Or maybe, in the eyes of some misguided leaders, controlling religion in Israel trumps all. The Supermarket bill says that municipalities will not be allowed to keep stores open on Shabbat unless they have express approval from the Interior Minister – who is currently ultra-Orthodox Shas and former inmate MK Aryeh Deri. Although there was some debate about gas stations and convenience stores, the bill passed its first reading this week as is. It is well-known that the ultra-Orthodox minority in Israel controls quite a bit of life for the rest of Israel. All matters of marriage, divorce and conversion require the approval of the rabbinic courts, which are controlled by ultra-Orthodox parties. Although some independent moderate-Orthodox groups have certain approval for conversions, they must be approved by the same Shas-controlled Interior Ministry. In other words, when it comes to Jewish identity and personal status, ultra-Orthodox politicians already have the final say. What is perhaps less well-known, however, is how religious rules control Sabbath observance. Due to pressure from religious parties, there is no public transport in most cities in Israel, making it impossible for many people to get around on their only real day off. This means that non-car-owners who work hard all week, or kids who come home from the army or from university, for example, and want to get together with their friends or go to the beach have no real way to do this.  And non-Jews in Israel – whether citizens, visiting tourists, or long-term volunteers – are completely stuck on Shabbat. For many of them, Shabbat in Israel is a form of lock-down. This supermarket bill makes Shabbat even worse. It constitutes one more nail in the coffin of what we might call a normal weekend.  Tellingly, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, the mayor of Eilat – a town whose economy is based 90% on weekend tourism – said that his city will be “completely doomed” if this bill passes. “The coalition, led by Deri, is making a mockery of us – the free public in Israel.” wrote MK Michal Rosin on her Facebook page.  “Nobody is asking to open up stores in [the ultra-Orthodox towns of] Bnei Brak or Meah Shearim. We will not impose our lifestyle on anyone. By contrast, the haredi parties and Jewish Home, with the embarrassing support of Likud and Kulanu, are ready to throw the free majority in Israel under the bus time and again.” Yisrael Beytenu, the Russian party led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that has a very secular base even though it sits...

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Everyday Feminism: 7 Tactics of Emotional Abuse Used By Trump Supporters Post-Election

The US Presidential election results have left many people shocked, depressed, and afraid. The victor, Donald Trump, spent his campaign threatening entire populations within American society – Mexicans, Muslims, LGBTQIA+ folks, and women – and with his win, many are shell-shocked and panicking about their futures. And with good reason: Already there are reports of spikes in hate-crimes and violence against Black, queer, and Jewish people. Trump has announced plans for immediate deportations of millions of people, and he has hired white supremacist Steve Bannon as one of his top aides. This video of a woman yelling at a Muslim woman on the train gives a pretty clear example of how this election has emboldened bigotry and hatred.   As Rebecca Traister wrote, “The heartbreak of this election…[is] the loss of the idea that this country was so very close to being better, more inclusive, more just, and more representative.” It can be very hard to stay balanced and process your own emotions when fear and viciousness surround you. What’s more, as many people are working to figure out how to handle their new reality – whether in mourning or in protest, in public or in private – the emotional abuse carried out by Trump supporters has continued and even escalated. Perhaps this isn’t surprising. After all, Trump utilized tactics of emotional abuse throughout the campaign, and his tactics paid off nicely for him, empowering his followers and sending the message that emotional abuse is a legitimate (and even successful!) form or discourse. In fact, since Election Day, some new tactics have emerged, along with some revised old one. This makes the healing process even harder. Here are some of the new tactics of emotional abuse to be wary of as you work through the impact of these elections. 1. Mocking The first trend I noticed in Facebook feeds right after the election was the new language of “sore loser.” Many of those who were expressing deep sadness, mourning, or disappointment were attacked Trump supporters coming onto their feeds with mocking comments, like “Haha, you’re just upset that you lost,” “Grow up and stop being a sore loser,” or “Stop crying.” This tactic is the kind of behavior that we’re taught in preschool not to engage in. But the Trump campaign has brought back many of those toxic behaviors that we thought society unlearned long ago. 2. Gaslighting Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic aimed at twisting reality and making you seem and feel confused and disoriented. And some Trumpists continue to gaslight opponents, just as they did during the campaign. This includes claims that protesters are “exaggerating” in their fears, as Rudy Guiliani said, or that the protesters are the bad guys here, as Trump himself suggested when he said that protesters are “unfair.” In another illustration of gaslighting, Trump supporters are trying to rewrite history by claiming that Republicans accepted President Obama’s victory and embraced him as president. This completely ignores the relentless attacks on Obama’s personal credibility throughout his campaign, the Trump-led “birther” movement undermining his very identity, the constant lie about Obama being a secret Muslim (as if Muslims aren’t allowed to be president anyway),...

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Pantsuits, Petitions, and Politics: Why I am still fighting the fight.....

The depths of anguish, depression and despair over the past two weeks (has it only been two weeks?) are unlike anything I have ever experienced. I think that a lot of people who were rooting for Hillary Clinton are in a similar state. Some have joined or created Facebook groups for support and actions. Others have gone off social media altogether. And many are wandering around in a half-daze, getting through their lives in the way one does after having been unexpectedly punched in the gut.  It is hard to know what to do next. The realization that so many seemingly normal people have put this person in office, a person who is an admitted cheater, racist, and sexual predator, a guy who is a textbook narcissist and demagogue, the one who surrounds himself with the worst of humanity -- white supremacists who believe that white men are literally genetically superior to everyone else -- is really too much to wrap your head around.  How do you walk through your life knowing that these are the beliefs of so many people you have connections with?  And it's not abstract. There is a very real trickle-down trump effect. My feeds are filled with stories of everyday aggression and violence. People are sharing stories of racism and homophobia at check-out counters, in malls, in parking lots, at the gym, and at home. I have read about several divorces that resulted from the election -- that is, from the outing of trumpism in real life. People who like trump because he gives them permission to air their dark sides, their abusiveness, and their hatred, are now let loose on society. Anyone who complains about "pc police" -- basically saying that they are tired of having to consider other people's feelings and experiences -- have been given the legitimacy to now speak without restraint. It is as if all those great lessons from kindergarten -- be nice, be kind, be considerate, don't bully, don't name-call, don't mock others, treat everyone as equals -- are all thrown out the window.  it is a truly frightening time.  And it has been, in many ways, paralyzing.  But I have made a conscious decision to keep on fighting. My words are my tool of choice. I will keep on writing and sharing words. You can read more about this here.    If you want to be part of the discussion, if you want to work together to figure out how to stop the spread of hate in our world,     

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Clinton forced to treat narcissistic bully like an equal

The worst tactic was the threatening bullying. He interrupted Hillary incessantly, he talked over her, he literally physically stalked her as she moved, and used every opportunity to attack her.   Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look on at the start of their debate.. 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href="https://cm.g.doubleclick.net/push?client=ca-pub-4865445412716104"">https://cm.g.doubleclick.net/push?client=ca-pub-4865445412716104"</a> style="position:absolute"> It worked to validate Donald Trump as a legitimate candidate, while it forced Hillary Clinton to treat a narcissistic bully like an equal. Even though Clinton came out ahead on all important measures, the fact that she had to put up with his relentless abuse meant that we couldn’t really hear more about her actual ideas, plans and vision. A debate acts like an equalizer. Both sides have the same opportunities, the same questions, the same time to talk. The stage is balanced, the screen is split, and the moderators speak in calm, fair tones. Under normal election circumstances, this is a tool for civil discourse. But this is not a normal election. This is an election with a toxic tyrant against a normal person. And that changes everything. Let’s take a look at some of the dynamics of the debate and how they elevated abuse and put civil discourse on the...

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Nine tactics of emotional abuse that Trump’s Sexual Assault Video shows us

[This is a follow-up to my essay on Everyday Feminism: 10 Tactics of Emotional Abuse that Trump blatantly used in the presidential debate] It is hard to listen to the video clip in which Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump talks about grabbing a woman’s “pussy”. For many sexual assault survivors, this clip can be very triggering. What he describes in fun and laughter others have experienced as violent, invasive attacks on their bodies. In fact, within hours of the clip’s release, millions of women were sharing their stories of sexual assault, and the ways that they were triggered by the clip. Katie Dupere, a survivor of sexual assault, described the harsh memories that the recording brought up for her. “My assault began when this boy ‘grabbed me by the pussy’,” she writes, using the exact act that Trump brags about on the clip. “To a sexual assault survivor like me, Trump’s words are not the harmless ‘locker room banter’ he claims they are,” she continues. “They are words that reach into the deepest parts of me, plucking out trauma that gets replayed over and over with each new article and retweet. They are reflective of a culture of men that sees women as available to fulfill their desires, even without their consent.” Another survivor, Chrissa Hardy, who was raped when she was 17, writes that Trump’s bragging “left me frozen in place. These comments are ones that only a sexual predator would make, and they made me relive my rape all over again.” What’s more, on the tape he has an engaged audience. Billy Bush, a media celebrity and cousin of former president George W. Bush, can be heard laughing throughout, giving Trump the boost and legitimacy for his descriptions of sexual assault. And then it gets worse: Bush convinces Arianne Zucker — the object of Trump’s ogling a moment earlier — to give him a hug. She unwittingly becomes the object in Trump’s fantasy. She went from being an object for ogling to an object for touching. “When women watch that interaction between Trump, Bush and Zucker, they’ll think of the countless times they walked up to a group of jovial men in mid-conversation and felt something in the pit of their stomach,” writes feminist commentator Jessica Valenti. “They’ll wonder if their sneaking suspicion was right all along — that they were on the outside, that they were the joke.” There is mounting evidence that Trump was not just bragging, but has also done what he said he did — that he kissed women without consent,grabbed women’s genitals, and even raped women. Trump issued an apology of sorts, but his words were not consoling. That’s because even in his apology, he was still using toxic tactics, still using words to assault women. Like so many other moments of the American presidential election, this episode is replete with examples of toxic abuse. The tape is an example of the connection between verbal abuse and physical abuse. They are often intertwined, with one tactic reinforcing the other. As Gloria Steinem said, “Trump’s rhetoric normalizes dominance and violence, and endangers us all.” It is important to understand...

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Trump: The revolt of the Hillbillies?

I had such an interesting conversation over the holiday with Julie Gray andYael Schuster about who are the people supporting Trump. We discussed the Hillbillies book, about how many of Trump supporters are from these dirt-poor remote-rural areas and have developed a deep and unwavering distrust and even hatred of people who they perceived as academic, educated, elite, New England college types. Anyone who speaks with multiple-syllable words is not to be trusted, is out to get you, is holding secrets, is going to do things you don't understand and somehow screw you over. This election is like the revolt of the hillbillies. I think also that this is what Barack Obama was saying in that commencement speech that is going viral, the one where he says that "anti-intellectualism" is not cool. Not knowing what you're talking about is JUST not knowing what you're talking about. LIke that. He was trying to talk to would-be hillbilly-type Trump supporters. He was trying to say, don't think that ridiculous conspiracy theories that have no basis in FACT are somehow truth. Don't dig your heels in and vow to make smart people your enemy in life by believing in rubbish. That's not cool, it's just idiotic. But he was saying this at a college commencement, so I'm not sure if his message will reach its intended audience... But in any case, I think that there is a really important insight here about what drives the Trump popularity. His audience LIKES when he speaks like a fourth-grader, when he spews conspiracy theories, when he allows all those obnoxious thoughts to flow freely and unfiltered -- a child's dream, letting go of all the rules of those snooty people who are bigger than you and think that they are smarter than you. They love that! They have been waiting their whole lives for someone like Trump to come along and let them be as unfiltered as they want! To not be bogged down with logic and fact and manners and rules for how to behave! Like, hahaha, we'll show you guys, all you rich, educated snobs who think you know the truth. We'll show you! That is the dynamic, scary as it is, driving this election. But I have to say, at the risk of offending people who I went to school with, being dumb used to be considered cool back then, too. People who sounded smart were completely uncool. There was all this pressure to not sound smart, to not BE smart, to not really study, to not engage in conversations that were, you know, interesting. That's how I experienced Flatbush. As we were talking the other day, I really could envision that dynamic, of people trying really hard to be perceived as anything but smart, trying to dig their heels in that anti-intellectualist identity. I've seen that. But maybe that's beside the point. Or maybe that explains why so many Orthodox Jews are voting for Trump. I'm not sure. Anyway, I think it's really important to try...

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10 Emotional Abuse Tactics That Trump Blatantly Used in the First Debate

FROM EVERYDAY FEMINISM The current United States presidential election has many people on edge. Therapists around the country are reporting spikes in patients dealing with election anxiety. Clinical psychologist Stephen HollandtoldThe Atlantic, “Among people who are not Trump supporters, we’re hearing a higher level of concern and dismay than I’ve probably heard in any election cycle, in 25 years of clinical work.” Selfreporter Haley Goldberg evendescribed the feelingas “right in my chest, a tightening sensation that sent adrenaline through the rest of my body. It felt like I was gearing up to run away from a bear. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t physically run away from the source of my anxiety: Election 2016.” Political Anxiety Disorder, says theWall Street Journal, is definitely a thing. Although this may ring true in all elections, this time the anxiety is different. This time, one of the primary causes isDonald Trump. For some people, the anxiety comes from Trump’s proposed policies, which include banning all Muslims, and building a wall between Mexico because, in his view, all Mexicans are rapists. For many others, though, the language and rhetoric coming out of the elections isn’t just about policy, but is actually personal. One Mexican-American young woman named Carmencreated a powerful videoin which she responds to the fear that she has felt since hearing Trump’s attacks on Mexicans. “To witness a prominent politician speaking on national television saying these things to a cheering crowd is just unreal,” she says. “Am I supposed to feel ashamed of myself? Or where I come from? It had me questioning my heritage.” Another woman named Tali Liben Yarmushdescribed the shamethat Trump evokes whenhe calls women fat, or when he described Rosie O’Donnell as a “pig.” “It is not meaningless to me that a man who is running for president thinks it is okay to tell a woman he disagrees with that she is a ‘fat pig,’” she writes. “Do you not think it will affect some other young and impressionable girl when she hears him say that one of his opponents was too ugly to be president? What kind of message are we sending to children when we tell them it’s okay to call people we don’t like ‘disgusting,’ or to tell them they have the ‘face of a dog?’” The reason why this year’s election has caused a heightened and exacerbated sense of anxiety among many people is because Trump’s language is not your typical political rhetoric. In fact, the language he employs comes straight out the handbook oftoxic masculinity. That is, he uses toxic tactics ofemotional abuse– especially emotional abuse aimed at women – in order to put other people down. The tactics are powerful, emotionally violent, and often disarming against their victims. For many people who have lived with abusers, this election brings back terrifying memories. As author Pam Houston, a survivor of child abuse,wrote, “Maybe it’s because I grew up in my father’s house that I can see Trump so clearly for what he is.  A desperately insecure bully,...

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