Jewfem Blog

Like a phoenix rising back to life: A special event to help us come to terms with our new world

Like a Phoenix, coming back to life from the ashes: Tomorrow I am hosting my first event since the elections, called "Finding Light Amid Darkness". This will be an online discussion with the wonderful Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman, founder of the Jewish Mindfulness Network and a leading voice calling for compassion, equality, justice, healing and action in this post-election world. READ MORE: It has been quite a difficult time for those of us concerned with issues like social justice, equality, compassion, and the progress of our society and humanity. The American elections, followed by some other terrible events -- from the Dakota Pipeline to the tragedy in Aleppo and the entire wave of hate and prejudice that has been unleashed and empowered in our world -- the enormity of all this has left so many of us stunned, paralyzed and fearful.At The Center for Jewish Feminism, we, too, have been struck by the challenging energies around us and by the realization of how many dangers lurk in our everyday lives. It has taken us some time to recover and regroup. And now, we have decided, it is time for us to begin the hard process of moving forward, reconnecting, and taking action.The first step in this plan is to come together, connect with like-minded people, and talk through the impact of recent events as well as potential next steps as a Jewish feminist community. Towards that aim, we are hosting our first on-line event since the American elections. This Sunday, December 18, 9AM PST in an online panel discussion titled, "Finding Light Amid Darkness", I will be hosting a conversation with one of my favorite people, Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman, founder of the Jewish Mindfulness Network, and a leading voice in the Jewish world for integrating social justice and spirituality.You can read more about the event here, or read more about Rav Jill here. The event will take place online on Sunday, Dec 18, 9AM PST, 12 noon EST, 7PM Israel time, 5PM UK time (and apoligies once again to the Aussies and kiwis in the group who will either wake in the middle of the night or wait for the recording...)You can purchase tickets to the event here .Please note that we are asking for donations of $5-$18, at your own discretion, to help us build the framework for an ongoing conversation. Our plan is to use this time slot to host conversations with other leading Jewish feminists and to create a global Jewish feminist community of spiritual and social-activist warriors who are dedicated to keeping the light of justice and compassion shining. But to do that, we need your help.Thank you for your support and understanding.A few other items to note:* This event, like all our events, are conducted in the spirit of Jewish feminism, and are open to everyone. You don't have to be a woman or Jewish to join. All who want to be part of the community are welcome.* You don't need any special technological abilities to participate. You will receive a simple link for logging on. But if that is too...

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PINK BLOCKS BLUE BLOCKS? ON GENDER IN PRESCHOOL, BODY-SHAMING, AND TEACHING TO TRANSGRESS




  A kindergarten teacher noticed that the block corner in her classroom was completely boy-dominated, and decided to do something to bring girls to the space. She took a bunch of blocks and painted them pink and purple. The results were both good and bad. The good news: girls came to the block corner to play with pink and purple blocks. The bad news: girls came to the block corner to play with pink and purple blocks. This story, recounted by my colleague and friend Dr. Chaya Gorsetman in the first session of our telecourse, “Ready for school? Gender Issues in Jewish Education”, brings up some of the huge challenges and dilemmas that educators face in trying to create equal gender opportunity in schools. Mountains of research Dr Chaya Gorsetman demonstrate the negative impact of sex-role socialization on girls from the earliest ages.  Girls – and boys – receive the message in direct and indirect ways that boys are supposed to be aggressive, assertive, physical, competitive leaders while girls are supposed to be sweet, dainty, helpful, obedient, small, and nice. These ubiquitous messages come through books, school décor, classroom structures, teachers’ commentary, and of course Hollywood and Toys R Us. Peggy Orenstein’s crucial book, “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” describes in painful detail the pink-and-sparkly takeover of girls’ lives from the time they are born. Girls, especially, are bombarded with these messages from every angle. But sometimes, if you can’t beat them, join them. If turning the block corner pink – or turning the science lab, or the computer lab metaphorically “girls” – brings more girls into the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), then some teachers are working to use that to girls’ advantage. Such an approach may make some of us cringe (or anyone who has read Peggy Orenstein’s book). But, as the panelists in this telecourses debated, perhaps the end-goal of advancing women and girls in high-status studies and careers is more important than fighting the pink-sparkly wars. Maybe. We all have to choose our battles, right? Amy Newman Maybe there is another way. Amy Newman, a fabulous feminist teacher at the Gann Academy in Boston, who also spoke on this first telecourses panel, shared some interesting insights about the ways in which gender socialization happens in schools, and what her school is doing to change it. She reflected on the crossover between expectations of “extrovertness” and gender hierarchies. Teacher expectations about student assertiveness in the classroom invariably reward boys, she said, by cheering on boys who jump in, take over, or initiate – sometimes inadvertently punishing the girls who show a preference for being an introvert.  She also shared insights about how body commentary shames girls. In both of these areas, Amy said that her school has been engaged in school-wide discussions and consciousness-raising, and has made some remarkable changes in these areas. For example, teachers are now more conscious about favoritism towards extroverts, and today are not allowed to write on report cards comments such as,...

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SEXUALIZED, UGLY, FAT BODIES: COVER UP FOR MODESTY!

  Guest post By Shimona Hirchberg, originally posted at The Center for Jewish Feminism I’m continuously surprised by the interconnections of life. I had shared my post-Shabbat book recommendations and one provoked a discussion on sexual education in Jewish private schools. Taught in Toronto schools in grade 6, the book in question included a sexual assault (Julie of the Wolves). For myself and the commentator, none of our teachers adequately (hindsight is 20/20) addressed the sexual assault that took place in the book’s pages in preventing negative internalizations and trauma. While not included in last week’s telecourse, Gender issues in Jewish Education  topics per se, Marcia Beck, Sally Berkovic, and Elana Sztokman talked about the role of educators in how we internalize messages about modesty, bodies, and sexuality. We like to think we’re in control of our bodies and world, but we’re not. This week’s two panelists Marcia Beck and Sally Berkovic discussed the impacts of female bodies being policed, controlled, and manipulated via modesty by schools (dress codes) and other people. It’s very damaging for girls and women to have their bodies viewed as powerful & corrupting, internalized from comments by educators, peers, community members, and self-disciplined (‘your skirt/sleeves show too much skin’). Reactions to being told to cover up can be internalized as viewing your/our bodies as sexualized/ugly/fat, all negative messages. “Of course we’re not okay… we’re punished no matter what we choose [hair, clothes, makeup]; it’s impossible to escape judgment”  Marcia Beck’s comment on eating disorders as a functional coping mechanism of these internalized messages was most startling to hear. Bodies, beauty (the thin-kind is the underlying assumption of what beauty looks like), and sexuality are mainly judged in relation to marriage and social status, which carry a lot of weight in the Jewish world (contextualized within the US, Canada, and Israel by the panelists and facilitator). Read the rest at The Center for Jewish Feminism

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