Tag : happening

January 20, 2015 by


Stitching History from the Holocaust

In the winter of 1939, Paul Strnad wrote his cousin Alvin in Milwaukee. Desperate to obtain an affidavit to escape from Nazi Germany, Paul sent Alvin sketches by his talented dress-designer wife, Hedwig Strnad, hoping examples of her work would prove their financial independence. Despite Alvin’s best efforts, both Hedwig and her husband Paul were murdered in the Holocaust. All that remained of their story were the letter and Hedwig’s drawings. The Jewish Museum of Milwaukee worked with the costume shop of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater creating the dresses Hedwig sketched to tell the Strnad family story. A video tells how the unusual exhibition came to be. Through February 28 in Milwaukee, then available for travel. stitchinghistory.org.

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Fierce and Brave Females 

Artist-activist Linda Stein, perhaps best know for her Wonder Woman paintings focusing on imaginary female heroes, is now focusing on real ones. For her new project she has produced tapestries of 10 women of particular bravery during the Holocaust: Anne Frank for her courage under duress and representing the loss of 1.5 million Jewish children. Ruth Gruber, the 104-year-old journalist who rode the ship Exodus and helped Holocaust survivor refugees. Vitka Kempner, a leader of the only known undefeated ghetto uprising. Noor Inayat Khan, the first female radio operator sent from Britain to aid the French resistance. Zivia Lubetkin, an underground leader in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Nadezhda Popova, a military pilot in the Soviet Union. Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft, who worked in the Jewish infirmary at Auschwitz, and after liberation helped rehabilitate thousands of Jewish survivors. Hannah Senesh, who assisted in the rescue of Hungarian Jews. Yukiko Sugihara who encouraged her husband, Japan’s consul in Kovno, Lithuania, to issue visas, saving 6,000 Jews. And Nancy Wake in the French Resistance, one of the Allies’ most decorated wartime servicewomen. The project includes tapestries in leather, metal, canvas, paint, fabric, and mixed media, an illustrated catalogue with essays, limited-edition fine-art prints, a video about the artist’s process, a teaching guide and public programs. lindastein.com.

A Tribute to the Disappeared

Artists and writers are invited by New York City-based visual artist Andrea Arroyo to participate in creating an “online quilt”—like the AIDS Memorial Quilt, only virtual —that will focus on another epidemic: the loss of lives to political “disappearances,” from the 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and the women of Juarez to all of the disappeared the world over. Jewish women in particular were among the disappeared in Argentina’s Dirty War 1976–1983. To send literary and artistic contributions for the quilt project: facebook.com/tributetothedisappeared.

Jews, Arabs and Art

The Arab Museum of Contemporary Art and Heritage (AMOCAH) in the Galilee, opening in December, will showcase original works of contemporary art alongside items of Palestinian heritage, and will host artistic cooperation and collaboration between Jews and Arabs. “This museum is an opportunity for Jews and Arabs to meet, for their cultures to meet,” says Israeli artist Avital Bar-Shay, one of the founders. The museum, located in Sakhnin’s Old City, has more than 2,000 objects related to Palestinian Arab heritage and some 200 contemporary artworks. An artist-in-residence program is in the works. Following Operation Protective Edge last summer, the museum’s launch was stepped up, in order to reduce the tensions between Jews and Arabs. The opening exhibit is “Hiwar,” the Arabic word for “dialogue.”

The Fez as Storyteller

Artist Camille Eskel’s newest work explores the Baghdadi-Jewish experience in India that formed her family history and psychological legacy. Both grandfathers manufactured or traded fez caps, and the artist’s hats carry information about identity, cultural influence, gender relationships, and intergenerational beliefs, practices and attitudes. The Hebrew words on this fez quote from the archaic morning prayer recited by men giving thanks that “I was not created a woman.” The backdrop is a section of the Bombay synagogue Eskel’s mother’s family attended, and the women portrayed are from her family. camilleeskell.com/gallery/the-fez-as-storyteller.

Religous Women Dancing

Nehara, an Israeli dance troupe for professional female dancers who happen to be religious, aims to combine traditional values — such as not performing on Shabbat and being a women-only performance group — with dancing at its highest level. “Dance and religion do not mesh easily. On the contrary — they clash in almost every way possible. Yet, ever since I can remember, I have juggled my way between these two opposite worlds,” says Daniella Bloch, founder and artistic director. Revolutionary within the dance world and within the Orthodox Jewish world, their performances are open to all audiences, Orthodox and secular, men and women. neharadance.org.

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Wartime Lullabies

“Birth in a Time of Bloodshed” is a CD anthology of lullabies from 18 conflict zones, sung in their original languages. The songs were collected by Israeli musician and storyteller Hanna Yaffe, whose goal is to emphasize the universality of lullabies and our shared humanity. The lullabies contain stark contrasts, with the melodies communicating sweetness and love, while the words relate fear, uncertainty and darkness. lullabies-of-loss.org/#!lullabies/c1h6a.

Judaism & Islam in America

Sharing the Well: A Resource Guide for Jewish-Muslim Engagement features common themes such as caring for others, prayer and life cycle events, plus guidelines for dialogue. A joint project of Jewish Theological Seminary, Hartford Seminary and the Islamic Society of North America, it is the fruit of almost five years of academic workshops and community-based pilot projects. Contributors include Kim Zeitman, Karen Nell Smith, Joyce Schriebman, Sarah Sayeed, Suumaya Khalifa, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Maggie Siddiqu, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Rabbi Ita Paskind, Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld. Available as a hard copy and online as a free PDF. isna.net/uploads/1/5/7/4/15744382/sharing_the_well_final.pdf.

Helena Rubinstein

“Beauty Is Power” is the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on this cosmetics entrepreneur and patron of the arts, born in 1872 in a small town in Jewish Poland. By her death at 92, in 1965, Rubinstein was in her seventh decade of business, producing and marketing the means for ordinary women to transform themselves, and challenging the myth of beauty and taste as inborn, or something to which only the wealthy were entitled. If latter-day feminist debates have focused on cosmetics as objectifying women, they were seen in the early twentieth century as a means of asserting female autonomy, contributing to women’s empowerment, and advocating exceptionality in a world that discouraged nonconformity. One’s identity, Rubinstein asserted, is a matter of choice. At the Jewish Museum in New York through March 22. thejewishmuseum.org

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Free the Nipple

A group of fearless women fight for their right to go topless in public, as they smash societal taboos one bare breast at a time. Based on a true story, this spirited satire follows New York City activists Liv and With, who take their crusade for gender equality from the streets of the urban jungle to the courts. More than just a movie, Free the Nipple has launched an empowering real-life movement, inspiring women across the globe to take back their bodies. freethenipple.com

Dreaming in Yiddish

The Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Fund was established in memory of the beloved pioneering teacher, researcher and performer of Yiddish music. (Cooper wrote about stories of intimate violence in Yiddish songs by women in Lilith, Spring 2011.) Now, with the support of her brother Michael Cooper, the Adrienne Cooper Archives will be housed at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The fund also sponsors the annual Adrienne Cooper Dreaming In Yiddish Award Concert which supports risk-taking artists who are making art in, with and around Yiddish. gohproductions.org or email marshagildin@gmail.com or call (212) 740-9644.

Compiled by Naomi Danis. For more, follow Lilith on Facebook and Twitter, and check out Lilith.org, where you can sign up for Lilith’s free email newsletter. Send ideas for this section to info@Lilith.org.

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October 7, 2014 by


Congregation Beit Simchat Torah

In response to a small ad in the Village Voice, barely a minyan of gay Jews gathered to Happening - CBSTcelebrate Shabbat on a cold Friday night in February 1973. The first 40 years of what became the pioneering and influential synagogue CBST are documented in Changing Lives, Making History: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, by Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who now leads the congregation of 600 households writes in her foreword: “These past 40 years have witnessed among other things, the impact of AIDS, breakthroughs in reproductive technologies and the gay baby boom, the emergence of the queer and trans movements, and major Supreme Court decisions in support of equal rights.” cbstbook.com

The December Project

Shortly before Jewish renewal movement founder Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died in July at age 89, the book The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Take Aim at Our Greatest Mystery by Sara Davidson appeared. In it, the guru-like rabbi shared eldering wisdom and anticipatory thoughts on dying well: dis-identifying with your body, coping with memory loss, forgiving others and yourself, making room for intuition, hanging a bell that will periodically remind you of the passage of time, and rehearsing your final moments. The book is a chance for a wider audience to access the teachings of Reb Zalman, one of the early ordainers of women rabbis. harpercollins.com

Adoption and Jewish Identity

Were you adopted? Are you between 18 and 36, raised in a family that identified at least in part as Jewish, or do you know someone who fits this description? To help improve the lives of Jewish adoptive families, creating broader understanding of the unique religious, cultural, and identity issues they face, the Adoption and Jewish Identity Project wants to hear stories from young adult adoptees raised in American Jewish families. Jennifer Sartori and Jayne Guberman head the research team. Adoptees, share your story in writing or via other media (audio, video). Questions? adoptionandjewishidentity@gmail.com Survey: www.surveymonkey.com/s/AJIPAdopteeQuestionnaire

“It Gets Besser”

Happening - it gets besser 2People who leave ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Judaism often feel trapped by the myth that they can’t have happy and healthy lives if they go “off the path.” A project, using Yiddish to play on the message “It Gets Better” for gay youth, “It Gets Besser” lets Haredim know that if they do want to leave, they can have a better life than the frightening stories they’ve been warned about. This volunteer grassroots project, created by 

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Photos: getsbesser.com

former ultra-Orthodox Jews, began with a video compilation of beforeand- after photos as evidence of welladjusted post-Haredi life. The online gallery has garnered over 40,000 views since 2012. Now the project includes in-depth profiles, a video showcasing the unique identities of former ultra-Orthodox Jews and more. getsbesser.com, itgetsbesser@gmail.com


When Your Baby’s a Girl…

Sociologist Rela Mintz Geffen notably said that the birth of a daughter is “likely to startle a Jewish woman into an awareness of her inequality in the tradition…when all the people who’d planned to come for the bris [i.e. circumcision] cancel their reservations.” Scholar Sharon R. Siegel, in A Jewish Ceremony for Newborn Girls aims to take our rituals for newborn girls into a new phase, describing the customs and experimentation of recent decades, incorporating, reframing and proposing a liturgy that, as the subtitle of the book states, will be “The Torah’s Covenant Affirmed.” From the Hadassah Brandeis Institute’s series on Jewish women. upne.com

Guns and Domestic Violence

In July 1988, a 41-year-old woman who was a member of Jewish Women International in Gaithersburg, MD. was gunned down by her estranged husband in the parking lot of her workplace. The shocking murder gave the 100-year-old Jewish women’s organization a new mission — to protect all women and girls from violence. The organization’s CEO, Lori Weinstein, recently testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee’s first-ever hearing on the intersection of gun violence and violence against women, saying “From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the U.S. by an intimate partner using a gun — more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.” JWI is the first Jewish organization to join the newly created Women Leadership Network founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and other women leaders. #ProtectAllWomen Leadership Network

A Century of Sisterhood

An important anniversary can both revive memories and revisit history, as evident in Sisterhood: A Centennial of History of Women of Reform Judaism, edited by Carole B. Balin, Dana Herman, Jonathan D. Sarna and Gary P. Zola. Having grown from 52 chapters in 1913 to more than 500 today, with 65,000 members, WRJ’s activities range from promoting the building of sukkot, the sending of Purim baskets and the recitation of the blessing over bread before meals, to the raising of funds for major institutions of Reform Judaism and the creation of the 2007 book The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. And then there are those iconic community cookbooks and sisterhood gift shops. huc.press

The Road Taken

“If being single is a challenge for those who grew up with high school proms and tryout first kisses, it is nothing compared to finding yourself in the midst of a modern singles scene while coming right off the boat from a five-year-arranged marriage and a sex-segregated youth.” So says Frieda Vizel, in “After the Double Life.” The tenth-year anniversary journal of Footsteps, the organization helping those leaving ultra-Orthodoxy, gives a glimpse into that complex journey and of worlds both gained and lost. footstepsorg.org

Preparing the Body for Burial

“Nothing can really prepare you for seeing and touching a dead body.” The body is not only lifeless, but also vulnerable,” writes Ronna Kabatznick of her first experience preparing a woman’s body for Jewish burial. After washing and purification, she continues, “The body is then clothed in trousers with closed feet, a blouse, a kittel (robe), a face cover, and a cap. We also tied sashes below the knees and around the waist. The ties are twisted four times while reciting, “aleph, bet, gimel, dalet’ the names of the first four letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each sash is tied in the form of a shin a symbol for God.” Taharah, the ancient Jewish ritual of preparing a body for burial, is described in detail, including liturgy and physical actions, in the new edition of a book by Rabbi Stuart Kelman and Dan Fendel originally created for volunteers at Netivot Shalom, a Conservative congregation in Berkeley CA, to train them to become members of a hevra kadisha, a Jewish burial society. Chesed Shel Emet: The Truest Act of Kindness. Related resources at Gamliel Institute and Jewish-Funerals.org

How to Lose Your Virginity

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Billboard in New York City subway station. Photo: Therese Shechter

It has launched both purity balls and porn franchises, and defines a young woman’s morality — but has no medical definition. This is the fraught and near-magical world of virginity, where a white wedding dress can restore a woman’s innocence and replacement hymens are sold online. What if all we had to lose were our virginity myths? A new documentary by Therese Shechter, director of “I Was a Teenage Feminist,” uses her own path out of virginity to explore why our sex-crazed society cherishes this so-called precious gift. Along the way, we meet sex educators, virginity auctioneers, abstinence advocates, and young men and women who bare their tales of doing it — or not doing it. “How To Lose Your Virginity” uncovers the myths and misogyny surrounding this creepily misunderstood rite of passage. virginitymovie.com 

Compiled by Naomi Danis. For more, follow Lilith on Facebook and Twitter, and check out Lilith.org where you can sign up for Lilith’s free email newsletter. Send ideas for this section to info@Lilith.org.

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July 15, 2014 by

Your resource guide, compiled by

Jewish Genetic Lessons
The basics of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease are some of the topics of a series of web lessons that address the question, what do these conditions and technologies mean for me because I am Jewish? Many of the lessons have an associated short public service announcement as well as a longer webinar presentation, supplemental reading materials and links to resources and support organizations. This site is an initiative of the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University and the Einstein College of Medicine. MyJewishGeneticHealth.com

Find Out if You’re a Carrier
Screening for genetic diseases commonly found among Ashkenazi Jews has now become more accessible and more affordable. A nonprofit public health initiative at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine developed an at-home saliva-based test so you can screen yourself for Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, Gaucher and 16 other diseases. JScreen also provides genetic counseling. The test is intended for everyone planning to have children —people with Jewish ancestry as well as interfaith couples. www.jscreen.org

Vibrant Jewish Life in Poland
Before the Holocaust, Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in the world, and was one of the great centers of Jewish political, cultural, and religious life. Glimpse the rich and complex portrait of that vibrant Jewish community through thousands of digitized documents, manuscripts, photographs, artworks, films, and audio recordings online at the YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland. http://polishjews.yivoarchives.org

Would Your Family Have Made It?
Under today’s strict immigration rules perhaps many of your ancestors would not have been permitted to enter and settle in the United States. Advocating on behalf of fair and just immigration reform, the Jewish social-justice organization Bend the Arc has created a website where you can enter your own family history to see how likely it is that your forebears would be admitted today. EntryDenied.org 

Debbie Friedman Complete
Debbie Friedman (1951–2011) wrote and sang Jewish folk music that has been adopted by congregations, youth groups and summer camps of all denominations. “Debbie’s unique contribution was the courage to blend Hebrew and Englishin the same song, using spiritually clear and poetic English to bring meaning to a Hebrew text or concept,” says Rabbi Daniel Freelander of the Reform movement. Now her music is available in book form. Sing Unto God: The Debbie Friedman Anthology features the more than 200 songs she wrote and recorded, some previously unavailable, with lyrics, melody line and guitar chords, plus photographs, biographical information, and tributes. urjbooksand- music.com/product.php?productid=13090& cat=0&page=1&featured

A Land Twice Promised
“Jumana looked at me across the picnic table and asked, how was it for you growing up in Jerusalem? I didn’t know what to say. Those soldiers, so terrifying for her, were our boys, our symbol of security… Would it be all right to tell her?” A Palestinian living under Israeli occupation as a child and as a student, an Israeli child’s experience of the 1967 war, a young Palestinian mother’s memory of the same war, and an Israeli woman’s experience of the 1948 war are performed by U.S.-based Israeli storyteller Noa Baumin, in English, in an attempt to help audiences realize that the most necessary ingredient for the resolution of a major conflict is mutual compassion. noabaum.com 

Artists’ Yenta
Ever thought you wanted someone to set your poetry to music? Have a performer enact the ideas in an essay? Choreographer, special events performance artist and collaborator Shandoah Godman has set up a weekly email matchmaking service“facilitating the love affair between disciplines.” Here you can describe your own gifts or what kind of artists you’re seeking to work with. carteblancheperformance.com/artsyentawhitepage

Unchained at Last
Dedicated to providing free legal and other support to help women leave arranged/ forced marriages, Fraidy Reiss founded Unchained at Last. This nonprofit also works to prevent women from becoming trapped in arranged marriages in the first place by advocating for changes to laws regarding minimum marriage age and religious arbitration panels that oversee marriages and divorces. The work is directed at women of all ethnic and faith groups in the U.S. unchainedatlast.org

Honor Diaries
Spurred by the Arab Spring, women who were once silent are starting to speak out about gender inequality and a long history of oppression. A new film profiles nine courageous women’s rights advocates with connections to Muslim-majority societies. Told exclusively in female voices, the film seeks to expose what prevents many feminists from addressing this international human rights disaster. Restriction of movement and education, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation are among the abuses explored. honordiaries.com/end-violence-women

Judy Chicago 
Long gone is the era when women wouldn’t reveal their ages. Now it is a mark of honor. Now we can celebrate the 75th birthday of the artist most famous for her iconic installation “The Dinner Party,” on permanent display at Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. That’s also where a new exhibit, “Chicago in LA: Judy Chicago’s Early Works 1963–1974,” will be on display until September 28. Speaking at a lecture at New York City’s Jewish Museum in May, delivered in honor of Mildred Weissman, Judy Chicago announced that because there is still no museum willing to devote adequate space for a retrospective on a female artist, her own work is on view now, in honor of her birthday, in multiple venues: “The Very Best of Judy Chicago,” through August 1, at the MANA Contemporary Museum in Jersey City, NJ; “Re: Collection,” through September 7, at Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; “Judy Chicago: Through the Archives,” though September 30, at The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge, MA;“Judy Chicago: A Butterfly for Oak- land,” through November 30, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; “Local Color: Judy Chicago in New Mexico 1984–2014,” through October 12, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM; and “A Survey: Judy Chicago,” October 17–December 28, RedLine, Denver, CO. More at www.judychicago.com/news/events.php. 

3000 Years of Poetic Subversion 
At the annual KlezKanada Festival in Toronto this summer, the theme will be the “YeneVelt”—the dark side of the Ashkenazi mythic lore, including dybbuks, ghosts, hallucinations, various spirits and “undead elements.” Adeena Karasick and Jake Marmer will host a poetry retreat, with four days of lectures, discussions, master classes on writing and performance, Aug 18–24, 2014. klezkanada.org/poetry-retreat

Tzitzit Designed for Women 
Described in the Bible, Numbers 15:37-41, tzizit refers to a ritual fringed garment worn under the clothing and associated in rabbinic texts with performance of commandments and awareness of God and Torah. You can read about the experiences of women wearing tzizit, find textual sources and even a partner to study with, as well as order tzizit garments designed for women in a project created by Maya Rosen, Alexandra Polsky, Nahanni Rous and Avital Morris, who share the belief that mitzvot should be accessible to the entire Jewish people. netzitzot.com

And We Were Commanded
“When I wrapped my tefillin, I felt bold,” wrote Judith Rosenbaum, incoming executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive reflecting on her first feminist decision as a bat mitzvah girl more than 25 years ago. Her blog post is one of several on a site exploring the idea of “commandedness” and obligation as it pertains to women wearing ritual garments. vtzivanu.blogspot.com 

Torah Texts That Rock
Here I Am is a rock oratorio from composer/ performer Lainie Fefferman in which she takes a personal look at Torah excerpts she finds puzzling. The passages she chose include: the laws in Leviticus where insulting your parents, being homosexual, and seeing ghosts are all equally punished by death; the story in which Lot offers his virgin daughters to the people of Sodom in exchange for the safety of his guests; and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son to show his devotion. Each of nine movements for three singers, clarinet, violin, cello, electric guitar, piano, percussion, and drum set uses disparate genres and styles. vimeo.com/88618400; lainiefefferman.com/hereiam 

“Her Voice” in Jerusalem
Friday afternoon September 12, 2014 hundreds of women from dozens of choirs from Israel and around the world will walk together for the closing performance of the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival in the Tower of David to the courtyard in front of the Jaffa Gate. In that public space the women will sing, a brand new musical-vocal work composed and conducted by Maya Dunietz with lyrics by Dorit Weisman and texts by female poets from Israel and abroad. This is one of several events of the Jerusalem Season of Culture. The public is invited to join in singing the final part, which you can learn, on video, at JerusalemSeason.com. 


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April 3, 2014 by


Headpieces for Peace

Here’s a witty installation with a video and stylized headpieces representing iconic women’s gear: a nun, a religious Jewish wife, a Muslim woman, an astronaut. Described by its creator, Columbian-born artist Jessica Sofia Mitrani, as “a non hierarchical, nomadic organization on a tandem bicycle that seeks to initiate free political action. Recently on view in New York, before that in Tel Aviv, and available for travel.

Dare to Use the F-Word

A monthly podcast series from Barnard College and its Center for Research on Women tells the story of today’s young feminists through the ideas, art, and activism that define them. Listen to a conversation with Barnard President Debora Spar about her book Wonder Women: Sex, Power & the Quest for Perfection, about women’s struggles for perfection in every area of their lives, with millennial feminist Jamia Wilson. bcrw.barnard.edu/podcast-sections/dare-to-use-the-f-word/

Feminist Jewish Ethics

How can Judaism and feminism be reconciled? Count the ways! A comprehensive new Wikipedia article on Jewish feminist ethics does just that. It was created under Professor Michal Raucher’s guidance by her seminar students, candidates for the Jewish Theological Seminary’s new MA program in Jewish ethics. Judith Plaskow, Rachel Adler, Blu Greenberg, Tamar Ross and Tova Hartman are featured as key thinkers on such topics as feminist ethical approaches to traditional Jewish texts, theology and Jewish practice. Like all Wikipedia entries, this one is open to contributions and improvements from readers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_Jewish_Ethics

Ways We Memorialize

Celebrities and noncelebrities are interviewed by authors Meryl Ain, her husband Stewart Ain and brother Arthur Fischman in their book The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last. Included is performer and playwright Ellen Gould, who wrote her play Bubbe Meises, Bubbe Stories as a way to resolve the untimely passing of two siblings and to pay tribute to her deceased grandmothers. A chapter honors the founders of Jewish Savannah. Contribute to a second volume; submit your story to: LivingMemoriesProject@gmail.com. facebook.com/LivingMemoriesProject, thelivingmemoriesproject.com

Jews & Mid-Century Modernism

Discover the role of mid 20th-century Jewish architects, designers, and artists in the creation of a new American domestic landscape in an exhibit featuring modern household items from furniture and textiles to dinnerware and serving utensils. The exhibition highlights such well-known designers as Anni Albers, Joseph Eichler, and Richard Neutra, as well as critically overlooked ones like Ruth Adler Schnee, Marguerite Wildenhain, and Alex Steinweiss, also patrons, merchants, and media figures who disseminated this modern aesthetic to a broad audience. At the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco from April 24 through October 6, 2014. thecjm.org

Skilled Volunteers for Israel

Teachers, university faculty, business consultants, photographers, social workers, Jewish communal professionals, archivists, scientists, translators, and other experienced professionals can find meaningful skilled volunteer opportunities helping meet the critical needs of the Israeli nonprofit sector via this organization founded and directed by Marla Gamoran. A commitment of one month is expected and volunteers fund all expenses.

Body Traces

Jewish sculptor and proto-feminist Alina Szapocznikow —born in Kalisz in 1926, and died in Paris in 1973 — was one of Poland’s outstanding post-WWII artists. Before her death at 47, she traded the language of classical sculpture for an idiosyncratic lexicon of new shapes, and unusual materials, processes and themes. Surviving the Holocaust and battles with tuberculosis and cancer, she expanded the definition of sculpture while casting parts of her own body in testimony to its deterioration. Through May 31, 2014 at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. tamuseum.org.il

Life-Saving Breast Milk

Mothers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico can donate their extra breast milk to stock nonprofit breast-milk banks that provide pasteurized milk to fragile and sick infants, thus improving their potential to survive and thrive. All donors undergo a screening process that begins with a short telephone interview, and the costs of screening and shipping are typically covered by the receiving milk bank. More info at Milk Banking Association of North America. hmbana.org/milk-bank-locations

Esther Broner

Esther Broner (1927–2011), with Israeli feminist Naomi Nimrod, researched and wrote The Women’s Haggadah for the women’s seders first held in 1976  one in New York City with an English text and another in Haifa in Hebrew. This new film by Lilly Rivlin documents the evolution of these seders over 35 years. Along with her “seder sisters”  among them feminist luminaries like Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Marilyn French, Grace Paley, Vivian Gornick, Carol Jenkins and Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Broner developed feminist interpretations of traditional texts, including a feminist version of the plagues and a narrative of Miriam, Moses’s sister. Rivlin’s film also features Broner herself (who wrote as E.M. Broner), reciting from her classic novel A Weave of Women. www.estherbronerthefilm.com

Women Drawing Talmud

Feminist artists Jacqueline Nicholls, above left, and Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli, above right, integrate pop-culture sensibility with serious investigation of Talmudic dilemmas in an exhibit titled, “Tosafot,” referring to the medieval commentators on the Talmud and representing a continuation of the tradition of adding to the Talmudic text. The artists take the liberty to imagine the physical setting, the scenery, the clothing, and much more that does not actually appear in the written text. Until April 22 at the Ein Harod Museum. museumeinharod.org.il/english

Resource Generation

Organizing young people with wealth to leverage resources and privilege for social change is the goal of this evolving nonprofit, founded as “Comfort Zone” in 1997. They hold events like “Making Money Make Change Conference” and “Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy Retreat.” Resources on their website support cross-class relationships, and a recently posted blog “Giving More, Praying More” by Jessica Rosenberg tells of her Friday afternoon ritual of making online charitable gifts while baking challah, before she turns her computer off for Shabbat. Resourcegeneration.org

Campers with Disabilities

The much-heralded Ramah camps have consolidated their ongoing programs open to Jewish children, teens, and young adults with a wide range of learning, developmental, cognitive and social disabilities. Campers with disabilities participate in activities with other campers throughout the camp. These interactions provide an exceptional benefit to the entire Ramah community by fostering a heightened sensitivity toward individual differences. The National Ramah Tikvah Network is also an incubator for young Jewish professionals who are motivated and trained to work with individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community. campramah.org/content/specialneeds

A Tombstone, a Ghost, a Film

Ghila Valabrega is an Italian-American Jewish filmmaker whose first work, “Felice Nel Box,” is a short comedy based on a true family story of her dad, a stolen tombstone from Sabbioneta in northern Italy, and a Jewish ghost from 1800 named Felice. Valabrega is launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to complete the post-production of the film and to help restore the synagogue of Sabbioneta, which was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2012. ghilavalabrega.com 

For more, follow Lilith on Facebook and Twitter, and check out Lilith.org where you can sign up for Lilith’s free email newsletter. Send ideas for this section to info@Lilith.org.

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December 10, 1976 by


The Jewish Feminist Organization lives. The J.F.O.’s untimely demise was erroneously reported some months ago. In reality, there are active local J.F.O. groups around the country, proving the organization’s grass-roots appeal even though the coordinating national office has suspended operation. Both the Baltimore and the New Jersey J.F.O. groups sponsor speakers’ bureaus, study groups and a wide range of activities for Jewish women. New Jersey J.F.O. held a feminist Seder, among other events, and the Baltimore women have been reviewing literature and texts used in Sunday and Hebrew schools, intending to present to publishers recommendations for ending the sexist bias in many learning materials for Jewish children.

Baltimore Jewish Feminist Organization, Aliya Cheskis Cotel, 3433 University Place, Baltimore, MD 21218

Jewish Feminist Organization of New Jersey, P.O. Box 1210, Union, NJ 07083

Emanating from Minneapolis and Philadelphia are plans for a film on the Prophetesses. Research for the film is proceeding in two veins. First, the women involved are studying Biblical sources, in an attempt to “hear the voices” of Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah, Avigail, Huldah and Esther. Emphasis is on approaching these remarkable women as our spiritual forebearers. Second, energy is devoted to understanding the symbols and myths of these matriarchal figures from the perspective of comparative religious thought. The film, in its final form, will move in and out of time, a collage of Jewish her story. Much of the film will be shot on location in Israel, its creators say. Those interested in working on the film project can contact:

Devorah Marvey, (612) 473-2373

Rachel Adler, 410 S.E. 6th St., Minneapolis, MN 55414

Andrea Cohen-Kiener, 4526 Osage, Apt. 1A, Philadelphia, PA 19143

A 16-year old Jewish feminist in Philadelphia last year started a feminist synagogue in that city. There’s been press coverage, and even some support from the Lubavitch movement. The synagogue is Beth Ishah, and it welcomes men as well as women to services, which for the time being are held only on Friday evenings.

Congregation Beth Ishah, c/o Sarah Ravinsky, 643 Ritner St., Philadelphia, PA 19148

Ways of praying together other than in the traditional synagogue with its defined roles for men and women:

St. Louis Women’s Minyan, c/o Leah Blanchard, 731 Leland, St. Louis, MO 63130

Town and Village, (Conservative) Synagogue, 334 East 14th St., New York, NY 10003
At this synagogue, with Rabbi Stephen C Lerner, women and men share all religious responsibilities equally.

West Side Minyan, c/o Norman Levin, 310 West 85 St., New York, NY 10024
This is an integrated minyan, traditional but informal.

If you have a child at a Jewish day school or Hebrew school, or if you are a child at such a school, or a parent, or a teacher, or are interested in learning about innovative projects for Jewish kids, there’s a magazine called Alternatives in Religious Education, which is fresh and useful. Reviews of books and films point out the not infrequent bias in favor of traditional male-female roles, which is refreshing in an educational publication, and the magazine is edited by a Jewish woman, Audrey Friedman Marcus.

Alternatives in Religious Education, 1110 Holly Oak Circle, San Jose, CA 95120

Last Spring the Reform movement sponsored a conference on “How to Avoid Role-Stereotyping in the School Curriculum.” A summary of the Conference has been compiled, listing the kinds of stereotypes prevalent in Jewish education and some suggestions as to how they can be eliminated. The Conference stressed the need to find more options for girls and boys in religious education.

Committee on Religious Education, New York Federation, of Reform Synagogues, 838 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10021

Gay Jewish women are beginning to organize. LesbiaNashim (nashim is Hebrew for women) is a Jewish lesbian group of both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, working-class and middle-class women. They define themselves as “Jewish lesbians involved in a struggle against classism, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.”

Lesbia Nashim, c/o Real Class, P.O.B. 31118, San Francisco, CA 94131

Susan Merson, a New York Jewish actress currently acting in Vanities, presents Jewish women’s theater to interested groups around the country. Ms. Merson’s China Doll is a one-hour virtuoso presentation in which she acts out six stories she’s written about growing up Jewish. Her sketches range from the chicken-noodle night-flights of a six-year-old, to bizzarre experiences in the subways of Berlin, to a confrontation with the Jewish community on a subject vital to the growth of a Jewish woman. The tales all come out of Ms. Merson’s own life—she grew up as a Jew in a non-Jewish community and has been learning all her life “what makes you Jewish”—and are a distillation of her experiences to dramatize the steps she took toward maturity and acceptance of a creative Jewish identity.

Susan Merson, 30 West 70th St., Apt. 3B, New York, NY 10023, (212) LT1-6470

The New York Jewish Women’s Center has begun activities for Jewish women (and friends). The Center’s goals are “to educate and facilitate the personal awareness and growth of Jewish women” through courses, seminars, consciousness-raising groups and action-oriented projects. For a nominal $5 fee you can explore yourself through the personae of female Jewish personalities in a course using music, mime, drama and mask-making. There’s also a practicum in religious skills, in which women can learn how to conduct prayers, and women’s prayer services. Other courses discuss views of women in Jewish writings, self-assertion techniques, and more. There is no membership fee involved in the nonprofit Center.

New York Jewish Women’s Center, Ellen Umansky, co-ordinator, 299 Riverside Drive, Apt. 3D, New York, NY 10025

The League for Women’s Rights in the Courts is struggling for the reform of Israel’s marriage and divorce laws within the framework of halachah (Jewish law), which is the law of the land on personal status matters. The League has published a premarital document safeguarding the rights of husband and wife and a book by the halachic scholar Zev Falk on “Divorce action by the wife in Jewish law” (in Hebrew). It also runs a voluntary court of domestic conciliation which eliminates the need for lawyers and legal expenses. The League documents various cases of injustice and brings them to the attention of the lawmakers to work for improved legislation. The League’s address is: POB 52, Kfar Yona, Israel. Tel.: 38108.

For widows recently bereaved, or those who want to share their past experiences with others facing similar losses, there are two programs recently set up to encourage Jewish widows (and widowers) to seek help in expressing their feelings and restructuring their lives. “Our two basic objectives are to help women over the mourning period, and then to develop a new lifestyle,” says Bea Wiseman, who has implemented a counseling and self-help program for widowed people in New Jersey. At the suggestion of a Jewish funeral director there, who found that many Jewish widows had nowhere to go to seek help, Ms. Wiseman helped to develop an outreach program unique in that it uses widows as volunteers to approach women recently divorced themselves rather than waiting for bereaved people to contact the service. “We assume that the new widow needs help,” says Ms. Wiseman.

A similar program is being organized now in Baltimore, where the director, Barbara Cahn, says that the goal of such services is to “ease the pain of widowhood by providing volunteer counselors who have been through the same experience.”

While both programs ostensibly are also appropriate for men whose spouses have died, Ms. Wiseman, who helped train widow-volunteers in the Baltimore program also, remarks that “Men did not come forth. Unfortunately, men do not reach out in our society the same way that women do.”

Bea Wiseman, Widowed to Widowed Outreach, YM/YWHA of Bergen County, 211 Essex St., Hackensack, NJ 07601

Barbara Cahn, Widowed Persons’ Service, Mt. Sinai Hospital, 2401 W. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore, MD

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