Blog Archive: 2018
December 18, 2018
Sabrina Howard and Ariella Gentin both attended high school in the Bronx, New York, at schools approximately five miles away from each other. It was not until they met at Brandeis that they had another surprising realization: Neither had ever sat in class through grade 12 with someone who looked like the other.
December 4, 2018
Today, Dec. 4, women in Israel are taking to the streets to protest the unprecedented violence against women this year. The Women's Strike, a bottom-up and spontaneous initiative, has roots in similar protests over the years all over the U.S., Europe and Latin America. These are over issues regarding sexual abuse and harassment such as the #MeToo movement that is sweeping the world and issues of gender wage disparities, access to abortion or the general policy towards women.
November 29, 2018
How do you create greater cross-cultural understanding and challenge negative preconceptions of the "other" between our communities? This is the question we began to address when we met at an academic conference in Israel almost 10 years ago. Today, our project, "Breaking Boundaries" is creating meaningful, in-depth international dialogue between U.S. and Israeli faculty and students in both middle schools and colleges, in both Arab and Jewish schools in Israel.
HBI's two-day launch of the Project on Latin American Jewish & Gender Studies (LAJGS) began with a dramatic reading of Marjorie Agosín's "Anne: An Imagining of the Life of Anne Frank" at the JCC of Greater Boston and followed the next day with programs in two Jewish day schools.
November 2, 2018
Sarah Imhoff first encountered Zionist writer and educator Jessie Sampter at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. She was initially focused on Sampter's best-known work: "A Course on Zionism." Published in 1915 as a 95-page book promoting Zionism to an American audience, "A Course on Zionism" was funded by the Hadassah Women's Institute, and was re-published and expanded upon in subsequent years.
October 25, 2018
To ask why the Anne Frank House is popular in Buenos Aires is to ask what Anne means to the Jews of Latin America. While the Anne Frank House provides both a replica of "the back room" or attic where Anne was hidden for over two years in Amsterdam, it more broadly serves as a local site and resource of education about the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina. Most importantly, it serves as an ongoing vanguard against all forms of religious, ethnic, political and gendered discrimination and violence.
October 2, 2018
Sweeping vistas of iconic American symbols, fears of getting hit by giant ferries, too many emotions to process at one time — these are some images from my paddle around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on Sept. 15. Paddling around Liberty and Ellis Islands on a 12-foot, 6-inch stand-up paddle board was one of the craziest and most challenging things I have done to date.
September 7, 2018
Do you want to add some history to your holiday table? "The German Jewish Cookbook: Recipes & History of a Cuisine" gives you German-Jewish recipes with the backdrop of German culinary history. Our stories about how Jews ate when they were German Jews — that is until the end of the 1930s — are of great interest to the public that shows up for our events. This includes foodies, peaceniks, Jews, non-Jews, chefs and people of all ages.
August 14, 2018
When the news broke that a well-known male scholar had been sexually harassing — and sometimes assaulting — female colleagues for decades, I was in the midst of cleaning out my mother's home office. I was packing up her books on Jewish feminism, women in academia, and feminist pedagogy; sorting her notes from conferences and work groups on women’s connected ways of knowing, gender and moral development, and widowhood and social roles.
July 24, 2018
Lauren Grobois loved her experience at SAR High School. She loved her teachers and the curriculum, and got along with her classmates well. So on June 12, 2018, when she shared a video testimony imploring SAR High School (among other Modern Orthodox high schools) to take the Eshel Pledge , "It wasn't me against SAR, it was more me talking to an organization that I know listens to people and also is very caring," said Grobois, SAR High School, Riverdale, New York, class of 2014 and Brandeis University, class of 2019.
July 16, 2018
One of my favorite aspects of Jewish tradition is its recognition of diverse experience. Judaism differentiates between Sabbath and weekday — lehavdil bein kodesh lekhol, and even between Sabbath and holiday levels of holiness — lehavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh . Judaism also differentiates between different kinds of personal status — single, married, engaged, etc.
July 9, 2018
When Janet Zolot announced her retirement earlier this year from the HBI Board of Advisors, it was truly the end of an era for HBI. Zolot, an original board member, has been here for the entire 21-year journey. More than that, she was an integral part of HBI's founding. To Zolot, getting involved in Jewish women's causes came naturally. It was part of her upbringing.
June 28, 2018
Every summer, HBI welcomes interns from across the country and world who complete original research related to the HBI mission of fresh thinking about Jews and gender worldwide and support the work of scholars affiliated with HBI and Brandeis. Learn more about the 2018 HBI Gilda Slifka Summer Interns.
May 30, 2018
Judith Rosenbaum, executive director of the Jewish Women's Archive, interviewed Tamar Paley, an Israeli artist and jewelry designer, about her project, A Fringe of Her Own: A Collection of Ritual Objects for Women, currently on view at the Kniznick Gallery at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute in Waltham, Massachusetts.Reprinted with permission from the Jewish Women's Archive.
May 18, 2018
My mother died a day before Shavuot, two years ago. Three months later, at Yom Kippur services, I knew that I was finally an adult (at age 49) because, for the first time ever, I stayed in the sanctuary for the Yizkor memorial service. A year ago, at Passover, after making her recipes without her, I sobbed through Yizkor, painfully aware that I was sitting in her seat at her synagogue and she should have been there.
May 7, 2018
For over a decade, I have been conversing with Dorka Berger née Altman about her childhood in the Łódź Ghetto and Auschwitz and her journey to Mandate Palestine in 1946. In her Polish diary, she refers to this geographic region as Ziemia Obiecana — the Promised Land. In conversational Hebrew, she refers to it as Eretz Yisrael — the Land of Israel.
April 25, 2018
Almost 10 years ago, I initiated a conference at Bar Ilan University, "The Internet as a Platform for a Feminist Social Revolution," where I brought forth a view of new media's potential for initiating a great feminist change. At the time this view was not uncommon among women activists who specialized in internet technologies and were aware of the power of the net to disseminate ideas to the public.
For many years I’ve been working with asylum seekers, men and women, in Israel. A few years ago a client — an African asylum-seeking woman in her early 40s — came to our office. Her set of issues, not necessarily unique to her, highlighted the need for us to work differently to better serve this population.
April 5, 2018
In one sense, the story of Project Kesher is one that takes place on a global stage, a story bound up with issues of international upheaval and social change. In another way, though, it is something smaller, more personal: the story of two women from very different backgrounds who shared a hope of empowering Jewish women of the Former Soviet Union after decades of institutionalized anti-Semitism and oppression.
March 28, 2018
Just before Pesach in 2011, the New York Times reported some important news about gender and Passover: The fusty "Maxwell House Haggadah," offered free in grocery stores with a purchase of Maxwell House coffee (this year there was one in my matzo box), adopted some gender-neutral language.
March 22, 2018
I have a love/hate relationship with theory. Sometimes theory is beautiful, describing realities we've caught brief glimpses of but haven't quite been able to wrap our minds around until we had language and structures to capture them. Theory can provide the illumination and clarity that seems to bring order to the universe.
March 8, 2018
There is a tendency to closely associate LGBTQ identities with the modern era, as enormous strides in visibility and acceptance have been made in the past few decades. This was certainly Noam Sienna’s experience: growing up in a "very accepting Jewish community" in Toronto, he felt welcome, but also "like my identity as a queer Jew was seen as innovative or novel."
February 23, 2018
At 1:30 a.m. a few days ago, my neighbor, a single mother of four, was finally granted a get >and is now able to move on with her life. For three years she was an agunah, a woman "chained" to a marriage that is over. She was a victim of get abuse, the deliberate withholding of a Jewish divorce. As the director of the Boston Agunah Taskforce at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI), I have worked with both men and women who are victims of this unique form of domestic abuse. To be able to say "mazel tov" to my neighbor was truly gratifying.
February 14, 2018
Last week, a video surfaced that reminded us once again that Jewish and Israeli feminists still have work to do. Rabbi Yosef Kelner, one of the rabbis in Eli mechina, a training course for Modern Orthodox male students preparing to undertake army service, told his students unbelievably chauvinist things about women as part of a special series of lessons about marriage.
February 7, 2018
"The LGBTQ Jewish Anthology: A Reader of Primary Sources from the Talmud to Stonewall" and "From the Gay Synagogue to the Queer Shtetl: Normativity, Innovation, and Utopian Imagining in the Lived Religion of Queer and Transgender Jews" are two of the 20 proposals given HBI Research Awards for the coming year. They were both awarded in HBI's newest category, LGBTQ Studies.
January 24, 2018
Are Modern Orthodox communities ready for female clergy or synagogue presidents? How comfortable are they when women say Mourner's Kaddish without men? These and other issues are the subject of a JOFA webinar on Jan. 31 with researcher Dr. Mark Trencher, author of the new "Nishma: Profile of American Modern Orthodox Jews," survey research sponsored by the Micah Foundation. Among other findings, the Nishma survey spotlights sweeping liberalization among Modern Orthodox Jews in attitudes toward expanding women's roles in public Judaism, including the synagogue.
January 12, 2018
Last year, sparked by two widely read articles in The New York Times and The Nation, a lively and contentious debate on the place of Zionism within feminism emerged with well-known voices facing off on either side. Is the controversy new?
January 3, 2018
Embroidery has been part of my life for over two decades; it is a core Jewish practice for me and an entry point into sacred texts. I design Judaic embroidery, starting with words from Torah or liturgy, then elucidating and interpreting the words with needle and thread. But before I discovered my embroidery passion, I'd thought about needlecraft only in limited ways.