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  • Women in Zionist Pioneering History

    09 October 2013

    By Nachum Meyers, October 2013

    When Aryeh Malkin left the Bronx, Lisa Engels took over our Hashomer Hatzair (youth guard) education. She too lived on Kibbutz Ein Dor.

    Our separate groups of boys and girls were joined and we had discussions on gender equality that led us young male chauvinists to appreciate the role of women in the new world we were going to create in Palestine. Lisa was probably physically stronger than any six of us scrawny kids put together and that made for gender equality too.

    Women’s role in Jewish life, however unequal it might appear from the practices of the religion, was far more emancipated than in most other religions and societies. Our discussions in Hashomer Hatzair on feminism, the role of women in kibbutz and in politics, and on their capability in the variety of human endeavors, led to a keen appreciation of the difficulties that women faced in achieving equality in the world.

    Even in the supposedly emancipated kibbutzim, women worked in the laundries, the kitchens, and the children's nurseries just as in bourgeois society. Interestingly, they themselves hooted men out of their "women's" domain when some brave male attempted to integrate himself into the laundry work force or the children's houses. The dam of tradition held strong against the currents of gender equality.

    Lisa led her newly post-pubescent charges with aplomb and high intelligence through the intellectual exercises of Marx, Engels, and Freud. We read, discussed, and argued into the nights. We all fell in love with her, boys and girls. She did set our Jewish consciousness straight on so many aspects of what was expected of us in the new society we were creating.

    The real outcome of all this was that being Jewish meant relating to women with a sense of equality rather than with a Victorian sense of respect.

    Nachum Meyers: My life is a Jewish life of equality. Being Jewish, and educating my children as Jews, has been an integral part of my existence as a Jewish man. In Hashomer Hatzair from 1937 to 1948 and living in Israel from 1948 to 1960, and now back in the United States, my life and work, with women in marriage and at my side in equality as I have built many businesses, has made my years full as I celebrate my 87th year.

     

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  • Women of the Wall Confernce Call

    15 April 2013

    On Friday, April 12, Anat Hoffman briefed NIF supporters who had signed this statement in support of Women of the Wall's struggle for religious freedom and equal rights.

  • Women of the Wall, Judaism, and you!

    14 October 2013

    By Naomi Paiss, posted October 9, 2013

    I want your help to bolster Israel's women's rights movement.

    25 years ago a group of activists committed to the principle of women's equality joined together to pursue a simple goal: that women should be allowed to pray at the Kotel according to the dictates of their consciences.

    Today, their efforts are at the center of two parallel debates about gender equality within Judaism and about the rights of women in Israel to be a part of the public square.

    NIF is committed to winning these debates. That's why we seed-funded Women of the Wall 25 years ago. That's why we support dozens of Israeli NGOs committed to women's rights. And that's why we convene these organizations, and others, to press forward for our shared vision of equality.

    You can bolster this front-line work by demonstrating the depth of support for the notion that women should be full partners in modern Jewish life.

    Here's what I need from you: Write a short personal statement. Tell us about a moment in your life when your connection to Judaism was strengthened by the shift to the greater gender equality we’ve witnessed here in America. Or speak out on what needs to be done in the next 25 years to ensure that Jewish and Israeli women continue to rise as spiritual, political, and cultural leaders.

    Click here to see other contributions and to submit your statement.

    We're going to take a selection of the statements we receive and publish them online and in the mainstream Israeli press. To make sure we get attention, we'll be printing the stories of grassroots activists, intellectual elites, and political leaders side by side. (We've already reserved space in the Haaretz.)

    The world has changed dramatically in the past 25 years since Women of the Wall was founded. Here in America, women have been taking our place as leaders on the bima, at the board room, and in the struggle to build a better Israel.

    But in Israel, ultra-Orthodox extremists have increasingly sought to block women from participating in nearly every aspect of Jewish religious life -- from singing prayers in public to offering the eulogy at their parents’ funerals. And their ambitions extend to the secular realm: They believe that women must be hidden. It’s part of a radical worldview that strips women of any meaningful role outside of the home.

    NIF and our organizations have taken on this extremism with great success: It is now illegal for women to be forced to sit at the back of the bus. The attorney general has ordered all government agencies to stop any government-sponsored exclusion of women. Billboards with women's faces can now, once again, be seen in the streets of Jerusalem.

    Now you can help reinforce these policy victories with outreach to more of the Israeli public. For too long ultra-Orthodox extremists have dominated the discussion about our Jewish heritage. As a result, too many in Israel believe that Judaism is inherently about keeping women down.

    Help broaden the discussion. Demonstrate the depth of support for the notion that women are full partners in modern Judaism.

    This is your opportunity to be a part of the movement pressing for women's rights at the Kotel, within Judaism, and in every other aspect of life.

    You and I know that when women take our place as equals, it strengthens Israel, the Jewish tradition and our strength as a people. Help us to show that modern Judaism is about equality. Help us strengthen the movement for equality within Israel.

    Thanks for your partnership in the push for a better Israel!

    Naomi Paiss
    Vice President of Public Affairs
    New Israel Fund

    P.S. -- As a tribute to all that Women of the Wall has achieved, we will be presenting them with a book of the statements we receive at the commemoration of their 25 year anniversary on November 4th. Add your story now!

  • Wrestling Jerusalem

    20 March 2014

    The first time I saw Wrestling Jerusalem, I was awe struck.

    Read more...

  • Wrestling Jerusalem -- Continue the Conversation

    14 March 2014

    Did you see Aaron Davidman's show, Wrestling Jerusalem? Have a question or thought that you want to raise with Aaron?

    Post your comment below. Aaron will respond (we promise). 

  • Writing from Jerusalem

    11 July 2014

    I am writing to you from Jerusalem, where I am spending the month with my family while working in NIF’s Israel office. It has been a difficult week for us and for our children, as it has been for everyone in the region.

    Read more...

  • “How I learned to be courageously curious about Israel”

    03 January 2014

    You know you have been there: your heart starts beating a bit faster, the voice in your head is shouting “Are you kidding me!?!” and you write off the person you are talking to as being a lost cause. We all remember having that difficult conversation on Israel.

    Read more...