Jewfem Blog

Why Shira Hadasha is Orthodox

[Significantly, I submitted this essay to the AJN and was ignored. It’s probably in their slush pile, along with I would bet most of their submissions by women]

The greatest myth in the Jewish world is that there is such a thing as "the way things have always been".

Over the past few weeks, the communal debate around Melbourne's new minyan, Shira Hadasha – which, significantly, in the Jewish News, has thus far been a male-dominated debate about women's roles – has offered glimpses into the multiple ways that this fallacious assumption creates erroneous if not absurd dialectics.

I think i'm Post-everything, or Past the Posts

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.

On Hats and Hindrances

The day I took off my hat I felt liberated. After four years of marriage, during which time I accumulated an extensive array of berets, caps, scarves, snoods, and other popular and not-so-popular designs for hair-hiding, I walked out of my apartment with my own long brown mane completely exposed. I felt ten years younger. And I had the tingling sensation that I could actually feel who I was, once again -- rediscovering that part of me, that fresh and vivacious young woman who had somehow gotten lost beneath layers of cloth -- on the head, the arms, and the legs. I didn't even realize how missing I had been until I found myself again.

On Birth and Rosh Hashana

(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.

Book Review: Remarkable Jewish Women, by Emily Taitz and Sondra Henry

[Published in the Australian Jewish News in 2003]

The most invisible members of society are sometimes among the most interesting.

It is perhaps with this idea in mind that publishers have recently put out books exploring "remarkable" or "thinking" Jewish women, including many fascinating, though almost unknown personalities.

In Remarkable Jewish Women, veteran authors Emily Taitz and Sondra Henry have compiled an encyclopedic tome of interesting women from Biblical to contemporary times. This collection is cleverly organized around intriguing categories such as "Struggling for change," "Pious women: from rebels to rebbes" and "Heroines of the Holocaust." The book is also beautifully laid out, with over 100 photos, diagrams and manuscripts enhancing the text.

Mothering daughters, mothering sons

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.

Thoughts on leadership

Recent events in the Likud party exposing layers of corruption and criminal activity have brought up a nagging question for me: Can a person be both a great leader and a great human being?

I used to think of this as the quintessential "Bill Clinton" question - named for the man who managed to do some marvelous things for his country while privately behaving like a pig – although clearly the issue predates Bill. A quick sampling of twentieth century leaders includes: John F. Kennedy the forgiven adulterer; Theodore Herzl, the STD-infected, womanizing alcoholic; Sigmund Freud, the delusional, controlling, sex-obsessed misogynist. It’s a typecast, the powerful guy who makes headlines but you wouldn't want to marry or work for him.

Foucault goes shopping, or, Reflections on a “Women and Halacha” Seminar

It’s 2 o’clock on Thursday afternoon. I’m shopping for an outfit to wear to a Bat-mitzvah on Saturday night. The saleslady hands me a black linen, straight, lined miniskirt and matching blazer. Why is this called a “power suit”? I wonder. Trying it on, I feel squeezed, tight, unable to move. And I feel molded – even if this particular mold is that of the successful, wealthy, beautiful people. This is just not me, I think to myself as I wriggle out of the skirt. Power suit – sure, other people’s power over my body.