Posts Tagged ‘Jewish women’

When The Rabbi Is A Proud Single Mom

March 21, 2014

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Lisa Gelber and her daughter. (Courtesy of Diva Communications, Inc.)

Rabbi Lisa Gelber and her daughter. (Courtesy of Diva Communications, Inc.)

More than 40 years after the Reform movement ordained the first American woman rabbi, the majority of US Jews have come to accept women as members of the clergy. Like most women today, these rabbis tend to wear many hats and juggle multiple identities, often that of clergy, wife and mother.

Increasingly, however, some female rabbis are remaining single, but still donning the mantle of motherhood. And they make no apologies for doing so.

“There is nothing wrong with how I live my life,” says Rabbi Lisa Gelber, one of the subjects of “All Of The Above,” a new documentary film about women rabbis who have become single mothers by choice that will air on ABC affiliates nationwide beginning on March 23.

Click here to read more.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Women of the Wall Denounce Latest Plan

August 26, 2013

This piece was first published on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.

b-sisterhood-anathoffman-021513People like to frame Women of the Wall’s struggle in terms of Jewish religious pluralism. That approach is mistaken, and a confluence of events this week reminds us of that fact. WoW’s fight is for women’s rights, civil rights and equal rights.

It occurred to me how important it is to regard WoW’s struggle in this light as I watched its chairwoman Anat Hoffman in her latest videotaped plea to supporters. She stood yesterday in front of the Kotel announcing a WoW sit-in in response to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement of the completed construction of a large platform for non-Orthodox prayer at the southernmost portion of the Western Wall (in the Robinson’s Arch compound). Calling the platform a “sunbathing deck,” WoW denounced the plan to move all non-Orthodox prayer away from the main Kotel plaza.

WoW is fighting for women to pray any way they choose (including in egalitarian fashion, wearing kippot, tallitot and tefillin, and praying and reading Torah out loud) at the main Kotel area — which is where Orthodox Jews pray without being subject to violent taunts, egg and chair throwing, and arrest.

This latest turn of events comes as we mark this week the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and today the 93rd anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the vote.

Click here to read more and to watch the video message from Anat Hoffman.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

The Mirror in the Mikveh

May 23, 2013

This article was first published in the Forward.

Can a Jewish purity rite be adapted for teens? (illustration by Kurt Hoffman)

Can a Jewish purity rite be adapted for teens? (illustration by Kurt Hoffman)

Ellie Goldenberg and Emily Blum are getting ready to immerse for the first time in the mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath.

One might assume that Ellie and Emily are soon-to-be brides; in traditional communities, women immerse in the mikveh for the first time before they are wed. But they’re not — Ellie is an 11-year-old fifth-grader at a Washington, D.C., Jewish day school and Emily is a 16-year-old junior at a public high school in the city’s Maryland suburbs.

Both were inspired to douse in the mikveh after they participated in “Bodies of Water: Honoring Our Jewish Bodies,” a new workshop at the Conservative Adas Israel Congregation in Washington that uses the mikveh as a tool to help girls and young women develop a positive and healthy body image.

“Mikveh has been an important part of managing my own body image for the past 13 years, and I kept thinking how it would have been better to have had this when I was younger,” said Naomi Malka, the director of the Adas Israel Community Mikvah, the only progressive mikveh — that is, open to any Jewish person for any reason — in Washington.

Malka is the creator of “Bodies of Water,” a three-hour workshop that combines nutrition education, yoga and an introduction to the mikveh. The Adas Israel Community Mikvah, which was founded in 1989, was originally used mainly for conversions. But today it is being used for creative and traditional purposes as well. Married women who observe Jewish purity laws immerse after their menstrual periods end to ritually cleanse themselves.

“I fully acknowledge how controversial it can sound to tell preteen and teenage girls that the mikveh welcomes them. In some communities and to some sensibilities this is tantamount to condoning premarital sex,” Malka said. An Orthodox rabbi consulted for this article confirmed that from a traditional halachic perspective, girls and young women should not be using the mikveh. As he sees it, staying away from the mikveh serves as a deterrent to sexual relations.

But Malka sees value in familiarizing teenagers with ritual immerson, whether they go on to use the mikveh for traditional or creative purposes. “I believe that in order for mikveh to take hold as a common practice — like kashrut or Shabbat — in progressive Jewish communities, it has to be introduced at a younger age and has to offer girls a healthy understanding of our bodies and sexuality within a Jewish ethic,” Malka said.

“Otherwise,” she continued, “[mikveh] will remain unexplored and we will raise another generation of Jews who are disconnected from this mitzvah.”

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 


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