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  • Court-ing a Better Israel

    18 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.

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  • Cracks In The Walls of Jewish Patriarchy

    16 October 2013

    By Letty Cottin Pogrebin, October 2013

    When my mother died in 1955, I was 15, and though I had been educated "like a boy," and was a pious little synagogue rug rat and one of the first girls to become a bat mitzvah in Conservative Judaism, I was not permitted to count in the shiva minyan saying kaddish for my own mother in my own house. If my tradition won't count me in, I reasoned, I will count myself out -- and I did. For many years, I maintained the home-based rituals I learned from my mom but I felt estranged from synagogue life and the Jewish "we." If not for the immense strides made by Jewish feminists fighting to advance women's equality, I probably would have remained permanently disconnected from the Jewish community. The key events that turned the tide for me were the early Jewish feminist milestones of the Second Wave: Rabbi Sally Preisand became the first woman ordained in Reform Judaism; women won the right to be counted in the minyan and to have aliyot, and girls were liberated from the Friday night bat mtzvah ghetto and accorded equal status with boys on Shabbat mornings. Once these cracks appeared in the walls of Jewish patriarchy, and females began to count as full and authentic Jews, I felt able to re-affiliate with the tradition in which I was raised and the heritage that I revere and love.

    Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America and co-founding editor of Ms. magazine.

     

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  • Cry Out Against Injustice

    05 December 2013

    So often, in our work, we hold the beauty and the pain at the same time. But that's the essence of working to strengthen and defend democracy during difficult times.

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  • Davening in Monsey

    09 October 2013

    By Michal Boyarsky, October 2013

    As a child, I attended a shul in ultra-Orthodox Monsey, New York. Ours was the odd one out in that neighborhood: other families walked to shul, the men dressed in black-and-white suits and black hats, the women wearing dark dresses and thick stockings. Our family drove fifteen minutes to get to our shul, which my parents affectionately called Conservadox. The congregation was a mix of modern Orthodox families and Conservative families. My father used to joke that everyone walked to our shul—some walked from home, and others walked from the parking lot.

    There was no mehitzah (gender division) at our shul, so I could sit next to my father and play with the fringes on his tallis even after I had my bat mitzvah. But women “weren’t allowed on the bima”—that’s the language that was used to describe gender at our synagogue. For my bat mitzvah, I read Haftorah on a Sunday. Afterwards, during our monthly Teen Shabbatot, the teenage boys would lead services, and I was occasionally asked to give a d’var Torah—once the ark was firmly closed.

    Today, I can leyn Torah, and I’ve played a large part in getting an independent minyan started in Seattle, WA where I live now. The daveners at our minyan are often strong, independent women with much more clarity on gender and Judaism than I had as a kid davening in Monsey, New York.

    A few months ago, a good friend of mine gave me a gift: a tallis, my first one. When I wrap myself inside it on Shabbat mornings, it feels wonderful--and complicated. Growing up, women never wore tallitot. The tallit still feels forbidden, bewildering in a way. Like draping myself in a flag that announces to the congregation that I am a Jewish adult, a full and important member of the community.

    And I am.

     

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  • David Rotem: Give the Brother Some Love

    06 February 2014

    I've never met Israeli Knesset Member David Rotem.  I don't think I'd recognize him if I bumped into him on the street--whether the long, arboreal pathways of Prospect Park or the frenetic tumult of Mahane Yehuda on a Friday afternoon.

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  • Déjà vu

    11 July 2013

    Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are working every day to safeguard and advance Israel's precious, albeit sometimes fragile, democratic character. And we at NIF are their support system.

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  • Do Not Treat Women as Lesser Human Beings

    09 October 2013

    By Morton Deutsch, October 2013

    Throughout my personal life and my professional career, I have worked to support equality and justice in the relations between men and women as well as among the difference racial, ethnic, and religious groups. As a Jew, I have felt the hurts and humiliations that can be experienced when one is treated as a lesser human being and denied dignity, equality, and justice. As a Jew, I believe it is my moral obligation to support all those who seek dignity, equality, and justice. I also believe it is the moral obligation of a Jewish state to do this. It must do this by supporting equal rights for women in all areas of life despite the objections of those who benefit from the subordination of women. When Israel as a state does not do this, it weakens its claim to represent basic Jewish values.

    Morton Deutsch is a WW2 veteran, E.L. Thorndike Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Director Emeritus of Morton Deutsch International Center for Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University.

     

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  • Don't Ban Us From the Celebrate Israel Parade

    02 June 2014

    NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch writes in The Forward about the politics of exclusion, and what comes next.

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