Colorado girl's Kotel experience23 October 2013
By Melinda Robin, October 2013
When I was 17, I came to Israel as part of Young Judaea Year Course...the only kid from Colorado. We boarded the bus at the airport, exhausted from the long flight. First stop, prior to arriving at our dorms and getting settled - the Kotel. Imagine the power - our first Israel experience was approaching the Kotel, touching, leaving prayers between the stones, feeling deeply that we were a part of a larger Jewish history. That was 1971. Today's generation of young women - young women like my daughter - deserve the opportunity of this experience unmarred by religious or political overtones.
Melinda Robin: Grew up in BBYO and Young Judaea - Denver, Colorado. Young Judaea Year Course 1971-2. Kibbutz Ketura 1974-5. Revisit 1981. Life took me to Hawaii and to Montana where I have been practicing veterinary medicine for over 20 years. Haven't been back to Israel in way too long but longing to go. Goal - take my husband and children....first stop...Kotel.
Coming of Age, Again09 October 2013
By Cathy Swerdlow, October 2013
I became a Bat Mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue in New York State in 1965, but it took me years to realize that my ceremony and that of the boys in my class were not equal. You see, I conducted the Friday evening service only. And, after reciting the Kiddush, I chanted the Haftorah portion for the week. But it was chanted "for real" the following day by the boy who had his Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat morning. I was not called to Torah, he was. At the time, I accepted that this was the way it was done.
As Judaism in America responded to the societal changes of feminism, the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements became egalitarian. Rabbis and cantors, religious school principals and teachers could be male or female. Women are now counted in the minyan. And I have found myself more involved in Judaism as a full participant, more than I could have imagined as a young girl.
I wear a tallilt and kippah, don tefillin on weekdays at our community minyan and read Torah on a regular basis in my Conservative synagogue.
Comments by Sara Ozacky-Lazar at Tuba-Zangariya06 October 2011
October 6 is a day of great pain for my generation that went through the Yom Kippur War and lost our best friends. But it is also a day of modesty, when we lost our illusions and we perceived in the cruelest way that it was impossible to solve the conflict between Israel and its neighbors with military might, and that it was not possible to live here and triumph using the sword. Since then, 38 blood-soaked years of war have passed as well as attempts to pave different paths to peace and reconciliation.
So once again it is October 6 and the eve of Yom Kippur, and once again we witness inexplicable violence, arrogance, blunt and harmful designed to light up a flame, which is alien to us.
Over the past summer a different spirit swept the country blowing aside for the moment differences of nationality, religion, class and gender and generating a feeling of a rejuvenated Israeli identity struggling for joint values and respecting all men and citizens.
The despicable act carried out here at a mosque in the heart of Tuba-Zangariya is aimed at murdering this spirit, to rekindle hatred and fear, to sabotage the path to peace and tolerance and mutual respect, and perpetuate the vicious circle of destruction and bloodshed, and sow despair and dread.
We have come here, representatives of dozens of organizations, and rank and file individuals, to tell you that we support you and that today we are all Tuba-Zangariya. We do not distinguish between praying in a mosque or a synagogue, between Muslim and Jew, between religious and secular and between men and women.
We have come here to protest this crime and call on Israel's law enforcement authorities to find the guilty parties before they can repeat these crimes, and root them out of society and punish them with the full force of the law.
In the name of NIF, I apologize to the residents of Tuba-Zangariya, and the entire Muslim community in Israel. NIF is the leading and most important organization in the struggle for democracy and civil rights in Israel, and in efforts to protect religious pluralism and freedom of opinion and expression, and NIF places at the top of its agenda creating a society based on joint living and equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
We will continue to work harder to bring back Israel's human and democratic character and to prevent the descent of all of us into the abyss of darkness in to which those who perpetrated this act of terror on the mosque are trying to drag us.
These are days of asking for forgiveness and I ask you for your forgiveness. These are days of soul searching and that is what I am doing up here on the stage together will all of you - we have not done enough to prevent this act, we were not alert enough t the danger and we did not warn about it in a loud enough voice.
We must work together more strenuously to erase this disgrace and to prevent its recurrence and to protect the image of God and man.
Because we are all citizens of this land which is so extremely dear to us, and because we all live together in this country and the same sunshine illuminates our way ahead and is the source of our lives. We will not let these people drive us apart and make hell of our lives.
Thank you all the residents of Tuba-Zangariya for welcoming us here today at such a difficult time for you. We hope to return here again and again in better times.
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.
Cracks In The Walls of Jewish Patriarchy16 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.
Cry Out Against Injustice05 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.
Daniel Sokatch's First Letter About the Attacks on NIF06 April 2011
When a right-wing group with a destructive agenda and a lot of money taps into the Israeli public’s anger, the results are usually not pretty.
Davening in Monsey09 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.