Taking Our Place: Faye Moskowitz08 October 2013
I can still picture myself, a little girl, sitting among my aunts, my bubbie, and my mother in the balcony of the small Detroit schul where from time to time we looked down to pick out our family's men as they prayed. I have earlier impressions of a time when I was still so small I could sneak onto the bench where my father sat and snuggle into the V of his knees. Later I was told my feminine presence near the bema, young as I was, caused consternation among the men.
It took me a while to understand that my gender "sat in the back of the bus" in Orthodox Judaism, and I rebelled. I joined the Labor Zionist Movement in my teens and reveled in their philosophy of a single standard. In the movement it was possible to be a Jewish woman and not feel part of an underclass.
Much later my daughter and I trained for our b'nai mitzvot under Rabbi Avis Miller, a rite my Orthodox background would have deemed unacceptable. Think of it! A woman rabbi and a bat mitzvah for me, the little girl in the balcony.
Of course I have supported Women of the Wall. Perhaps one day all Jewish women regardless of affiliation will be granted first class citizenship.
Faye Moskowitz, a professor of English and Creative Writing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is author of the memoirs, A Leak in the Heart (1985), And the Bridge is Love (1991), and Peace in the House (2002), as well as the short story collection Whoever Finds This: I Love You (1988). She was twice recipient of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and is presently she is poetry editor of Moment Magazine.
The Ins and Outs of Israel02 October 2013
Although anti-Zionists claim that Israel will always be an ethnocentric society that cannot help but exclude and discriminate, we at NIF reject that. For all of its complexities, there’s nothing about the makeup of Israel that leads inexorably to racism.Add a comment
Court-ing a Better Israel18 September 2013
5774 is still very young, but when it comes to the integrity and independence of Israel's judicial system, the year is off to a pretty good start.Add a comment
Briefing on Israeli High Court ruling on Asylum Seekers02 October 2013
In September, Israel's High Court struck down a law that imprisoned asylum seekers for years without trial. The ruling was a big win for Israeli democracy.Add a comment
Good Luck, Martin08 August 2013
August 8, 2013
Last week, the news was dominated by Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement of the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And now, once again, the world waits to see if, at last, real progress can be made in resolving the conflict and arriving at a two-state solution.
It isn't an easy wait.
According to the polls, most Israelis aren't feeling particularly optimistic about the potential for peace. The blogosphere is full of predictions of the failure of the nascent process. And even as talks resume, the Israeli government announces that it will extend its subsidization of a number of settlements by adding them to the so-called National Priority list (even as many struggling communities actually in the State of Israel are left off the list).
None of this seems conducive to creating a positive atmosphere for the new peace talks.
And yet . . . Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in many ways the spiritual father of the Jewish social justice movement of which NIF is a part, warned of the "heresy of despair," and indeed urged the active "defiance of despair." Defying despair doesn't mean pollyannishly ignoring the very real challenges that the forces of peace and justice face at this juncture. It doesn't mean understating the difficulty of the task. And, even harder, it doesn't mean allowing the hope that peace may at last be on the horizon to turn our attention from our critical work of supporting those Israelis who work to hold their country accountable to the highest ideals of Jewish tradition, liberal democracy and international human rights. Even when what they have to say and report can sometimes seem to spoil our hopes for the peace process, their work is ever more important, especially in the face of extreme opposition from the radical ultranationalists.
Luckily, the forces of peace and justice have an asset even Heschel didn't anticipate: Ambassador Martin Indyk. Even though it means he will step down from his long-time position on NIF's board in order to serve, I'm very happy and extraordinarily proud that Secretary Kerry has named Martin to serve as the special envoy to the peace talks, and as leader of the American team. Martin has devoted much of his career to pursuing peace between Israel and its neighbors, and he is a tireless advocate for an Israel that lives up to the vision of its founders. He has served as a wise, passionate and committed NIF board member and he has helped our organization go from strength to strength.
Beyond all of this, he is a mensch, a man who practices what he preaches, and who does not give up easily. If there is anyone who can carry out this almost-impossible job, I know it is Martin. I know you join me and the rest of the NIF family in wishing him strength, patience and success. Godspeed, Martin. We are all counting on you.