Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feminsm and Jewish Orthodox Women Video

This is a very interesting video. This woman is starting a Torah and Talmud institute for study. It's interesting to see feminism and orthodox in the same video title. I may have to watch this one again.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Actors in the Attic

We all got together because we loved this world and we wanted to grow with it rather than away from it. We all got together because there were things we didn’t understand about our world, and it was important that our world made sense. Because this world is hard to live in. Because we’re Orthodox women, and every day, when we wake up in the morning, we make the choice to be here, to remain Orthodox. And we needed to understand that. So we sat on floors and beanbag chairs and uncomfortable carpets and we thought about what made us what we were. And no one minded because we were just talking and talk is harmless.
Then we wondered who else thought this way. Because we can’t be the only ones. Because Solomon tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. So we could not be new. We could only be saying what others had already thought. So why hadn’t we heard it before? Were people scared? Did women believe, as we had before we began congregating in bedrooms and on living room floors, that they were the only crazy Orthodox women who wondered and questioned and contemplated and second guessed the decision they’d made when they’d woken up in the morning? And we thought perhaps we should write down these thoughts because they meant something. And no one minded because we were keeping to ourselves and, as long as we kept to ourselves, we were harmless.
Then we thought, perhaps we could contact these others, these women who thought this way. So we wouldn’t be alone. So we could all know that we all questioned the decision we’d made that morning. So that we could all know that we were looking for that answer together. And we thought that, perhaps, we ought to take these thoughts that we’d written down and show them to others. These stories of different women and different thoughts and new ideas that weren’t new because there is nothing new under the sun. Only thoughts that we’ve all had and are afraid to say out loud for fear of being told that no one else has had them. And we thought that, perhaps, we could let these ideas out. Make them a play. Make them a forum. Make them a movement. Let the thoughts fly out across a stage and attach themselves to new ideas in other women’s brains so that we’d all know that we weren’t alone.
And then someone minded.
Because it wasn’t just talk.
Because we weren’t keeping it to ourselves.
Because it wasn’t harmless anymore.
And people came to us. The good people. The kind, well intentioned people who loved us and didn’t want to see us hurt. They told us not to do it. They told us that, if we did, that we would no longer be welcome in the community. They told us that those of us who weren’t married ran the risk of never being married, and those of us who were married ran the risk of our children’s children’s children being pariahs forever and ever and our siblings not being able to marry because of us. They told us that, perhaps, not all ideas should be spoken of. They told us that, perhaps, it’s better for us to forget the other women who doubt the decision that they made when they woke up in the morning. They told us that, perhaps, it would be better if we went back to bedrooms and living room floors and kept this one tucked under our headscarves because the world in which we live is not quite ready for us. And then no one would mind because we would be harmless again.
But we live in this world and we are ready for us because we have all spent moments in our lives wondering if we are crazy for asking questions and wondering if we are the only ones. We live in this world and we have all spent time being convinced that we don’t, that we are not the members of this world that matter. We are of this world. We are in this world. We are this world. And we will say what we think. Because we love this world. Because we want to grow with this world, not away from it. Because we don’t want to second guess that choice we make when we wake up in the morning. We want to embrace that choice. We want to wake up and embrace this world of Orthodox women that we live in. We want to know that we are not alone.

Ghost Children

Hi! I'm a forty-something frum Mom, ffb, who is becoming increasingly worried about the state of frumkeit and its future if we continue down this road. I think that many of us are feeling this way, but we're afraid to speak.

I see ghosts.
Admit it; you see them, too; much as we all would like to deny them.
I’m talking about our children, the ones who have opted out of frumkeit. These are the sons who “went away” to Yeshiva and never seem to come home; the girls who are living “out of town,” who rarely visit. We use the deliberate ambiguity, because we are afraid to admit that our kids have strayed out of the land of frum living by going “off the derech.” Occasionally, we may catch a glimpse of these wraiths as they flit in and out of the “frumme velt.” They come out to haunt lifecycle events, weddings and funerals in particular. You can detect their presence by the knowing looks, the susurrations of scandalized whispers.
“Can you believe she actually went to B.J.J.?”
“I hear that he’s married to a shiksa.”
Used to be that the “oylam” claimed that these apparitions were a rarity- the atypical results of family failure, the begotten of Baalei T’shuva, kids whose backgrounds predisposed them to ”problems.” Can’t call it an aberration any more though. There are too many “at-riskers” with illustrious family names, high on the “yichus” ladder, day school education, yeshiva high schools, two-parent families, many of them with brothers and sisters who appear to function happily within the frum spectrum. I suspect that’s why the “powers- that-be” have finally created a nice, pareve label for it- “at risk youth.” How’s that for creative euphemism? Our kids are getting stoned, pregnant, living on the streets, getting into crime and rejecting Judaism in any form. Yeah, I guess you could say that they’re “at risk.” Don’t want the outside world to know how badly we are botching it here, so let’s minimize the extent of our problem. The hierarchy may have just deigned to notice what’s happening, but this problem been growing steadily for nearly twenty years now.
Want proof? Just stand observe the street corners where the “bad” kids congregate, m’dear. While you’re there, count the ratio of male “at-riskers” to females. Ten to one, maybe? A frum friend of mine in the psychiatric field told me that, from personal observation, she reckons that the frum drop-out rate for boys is about fifteen to twenty percent, for girls, three to five percent. That was nearly ten years ago. Fast forward to today and think about the current shortage of available frum men. Make the correlation. Our daughters' basherts have left the building, hon, and doesn't look like they're coming back.
Ironic, isn’t it? For all of our much flaunted self-congratulation about the flocks of folks who are returning to Yiddishkeit, we are dying of spiritual hemorrhage. Yet, it seems that so much of our communal resources are focused on bringing new people into the fold, not giving our kids the education and love of our faith that will make them want to stay. Our schools are failing badly, graduating an increasing number of kids who are spiritually numb or at worst, hostile to a religion that seems to be a cult of ceaseless strictures to them.
Remember the Mishna about the bed of Sodom? Seems that the folks in Sodom had bed reserved for those who wanted the community’s help. If you were too short, they stretched you to fit it. Too tall? They hacked off your legs until it was just right; the original one size fits all. It seems that’s the model for day school education today. If you’re a boy and you don’t have a “gemara kup” forgettaboutit. Girls who want to be other than a Mommy/morah? Well you won’t get a shidduch if you’re too smart/educated. Just get enough skills to support some young guy in kollel, but don't excel, or you’ll make him feel inadequate.
We seem to believe that by stigmatizing or amputating their talents, we can make them immune the outside world. Keep them ignorant, and maybe they won’t be tempted. Suppress the original, scorn the creative, disparage the gifted, then wonder why they abandon us to wander among the frumdead. We seem determined to homogenize our children into a generation of boors, barely literate and culturally inept. In a way, our ghetto is coming to resemble the inner city ghetto, where secular education is treated with contempt and actively discouraged. You think I lie? Compare yeshiva SAT scores today with those twenty years ago, even ten years ago. Ask long-term secular studies teachers what is happening on the other side of the desk and then stand back because you’ll get an earful. I guess it’s so much easier to put the blame on television and now the internet. Far better to attribute the decline to impersonal outside forces than to confront our own culpability.
Answers out there? I don’t have any. All I know is what I see. There are new faces out on those street corners all the time, friends of my kids, kids of my friends. I see the frum spiritual dead. They’re everywhere and we don’t want to admit that they’re dead. Still, I’ll play the game and keep on pretending. I won’t mention your child, if you keep quiet about mine.
No wonder Rochel is weeping for our children.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Outside-Inside World (a tad tighter)

The Outside-Inside World

So this is hide and seek. In this interplay I keep finding, not finding You. In modeh ani. In shehakol before the simplicity of a swallow of water. In the quiet ricochet of sunset. In my grandfather’s kindness. In the cavorting joy of l’cha dodi. In how simcha multiplies with social intercourse.

I encounter You in the in the least likely places, in the corners I’m told You do not reside. In the faces of oncoming drivers. In all kinds of music. In human genius. In technological interface. In the havoc-wrought marketplace and at the gritty street corner. It’s a grand surprise! Your image glows and these fleeting glances nourish. In the snapshots of a fragmented material world, I glimpse some of the wholeness, the source, the total connection. All together the frames blend and move to offer an approximate image of connection that I seek: devaikus, the big YES! I venture out and into difference.

Once in the wide outside, I see myself, my source, and other. Kadosh means separate, special in its difference. So I recognize contrast and create distinction that gives the world its structure. To reach new vistas, clamber outward, inward, upward on this growing trellis, there are seventy facets to the Torah, and infinitely more derachim. Kids are at risk of “going off the Derech” indeed if we make the mistake of seeing Torah as a single path alone. This view offers our youth a my-way-or-the-highway ultimatum that risks earning the hollow conformity of those who stay or collecting the dismissive spite of those who leave. I observe peers, my friends have abandoned the precious baby because the bathwater they encountered was so rank, so exclusive and uninviting.

It’s the gorgeous multitude, the subtle meanders of these pathways that we each have to forge and travel to arrive at a common destination that is Torah’s beauty and strength. Why reduce the dynamic vibrancy of yiddishkeit by paring it down to one method of living it? When did right-wing become synonymous with authenticity or rigidity? When did left-wing become synonymous with laissez faire or the freedom cause?

In the words of R’ Shloime Twersky, “We are not here to validate one another.” We are here to serve unified and distinct, together. We gotta move from tolerating to honoring difference: right/left, masculine/feminine, I/thou, where contrasts in interpretation don’t manifest as conflict, but compliment. Where you and I see one another and revel in the interchange of us that is greater than the sum of its parts. I want to integrate inside/outside, guf/neshama, body/soul, right brain/left brain, liberal/conservative, the mean/the extreme to the benefit of what is enduring and eternal. This bird can only fly with both wings.

In a world that did not honor the difference between men and women feminism raised a vital voice. But when the respect that the movement seeks is blind to inherent distinctions, when it devalues the very hallmarks of womanhood, we undermine ourselves. The honor and equity that we seek is lost fighting sexist fire with genderless fire with backfire as the sorry consequence. Giving voice is critical, but to create conversation, feminism needs to get out of monologue. Cause conversation is not one-way street. In partnership, in complimenting one another’s differences through shared vision, we can reach beyond ourselves to achieve wholeness, toward harmony, into shlaymus.

So I’m just the girl who wants to have her pie in the sky and eat it too: Integration. We have to diverge in order to merge, surge as one. Is absolute abstinence safer than a chancy moderation? For some, certainly. For all, temporarily. But when engaging for endurance, when seeking You, when entering into relation, when dealing with difference in this inside-outside world, to be m’taken and arrive at elevation, that’s just not gonna make the cut.

Questions, anyone?

Absolutely. All the time.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

We Need You

Shalom and love to all of you out there. We sincerely hope you are doing well.

A number of you have asked whether our blog is suffering a premature death due to lack of new posts. We wonder the same thing.

Our sitemeter says we're getting about 50 hits a day, not bad for a new blog, but thus far we have not succeeded in our raison d'etre, which would be generating stories from you.

If you are an Orthodox woman or ever have been one, if you want to share an amazing story about the experience of an Orthodox woman you know, or even if you just have a recommendation about the voices we are missing here, WE NEED YOU. If you don't like to write or don't have time to, send us the details of the experience and we'll try to form it into a monologue.

The bottom line is, we need you and your voices, as does the Orthodox community and Judaism in general.

We can't do this alone.

Monday, April 18, 2005

So What is This Thing....

A note on clarification. First of all, to those of you who have read and commented during the past week since this blog has been up, thank you so much for your kind, insightful responses and for the discussion you've started. We've been getting some questions about several issues, so here's the deal on our what and why:

We're a group of Orthodox women in our 20s. We've chosen to remain anonymous for the time being to not let our individual identities get in the way of the universality of what we're trying to say. Additionally, we recognize the fact that unfortunately, the controversial issues we want to flesh out here could brand some of our most potential valuable contributors by association in their Orthodox communities. As we put together our performance piece, we'll obviously be revealing our identities eventually--but we can't expect all of you to do the same.

We started meeting a few months ago to put together a show not unlike the "Vagina Monologues," in which a series of individual stories on a theme are expressed, showing a myriad of voices within a unity. Our unity is Orthodox womanhood--whatever that means. We've taken our own life stories and edited those of others we know. There are issues here that are hardly ever discussed within our communities, yet the experiences, the struggles, and the joys exist and should be acknowledged, even celebrated.

Some of you have commented on the fact that the posts seem to be written by one person. One of us did a majority of the work in putting these women's experiences on paper, and the rest of us have been chipping in.

But now we have to take it to the next level, and that depends on you. If you identify, to whatever degree, as part of the community we're endeavoring to create, then we invite you to email us your story. Tell us what your experience of Orthodox womanhood is, or has been. Tell us about a story that happened to your friend or family member. Send us a discussion on an issue you feel needs to be dealt with. We'll respect your confidentiality and won't post anything without your final consent.

We can't wait to hear from you.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

SuperJewGirl (Slam piece)

I am in awe of myself
you see, I stand here today not simply the mild-mannered schoolgirl you see before you, no.
there is more to me than meets the eye, for I am truly....

Super Jew Girl!
faster than a speeding matzo ball, able to leap to synagogue in a single bound!
I carry on my super shoulders the weight of a two-thousand year old traditionand a mission to bring heaven down to Earth.

sound hard? ah it's easy.
just a little Torah training, a little Jew Kung-fu, a nifty blue-and-white suit
and I'm set to defend liberty, honor, and the Israelite way,
every day, as I work to save the world from injustice and tyranny.
the whole world is watching me as I strive to be a constant symbol of everything from The Ten Commandments--the original, to "The Ten Commandments", starring Charlton Heston as Moses.
I work to break down the stereotypes, fight the forces of hatred,and still make it home in time for Sabbath dinner.

my calling, I'll reiterate,
is to educate others on what it can mean to be a Jew,
and what that means to all the "me"s and "you"s from Tel Aviv to Timbuktuwho think the Jewish thing's taboowho don't appreciate the innate exhilaration of their own truth.

I am the paradigm,
possessing every sign of the Nice Jewish Girl
keeping in line to be the Light Unto the World,
and given the high stakes of such a mission--mistakes?
no. mistakes are not an option

except...when they prove to be.
When I don't do what is "expected" of me.
and then, I feel the eyes of the world cornering,
imploring me to Explain Myself.

asking, who does this girl think she is?

I feel dirty, and small, not so Super after all, and I'm abad example,
scrambling to be too much at once,
and some would say it's time I turn in my Super Jew Girl cape,
just escape from the pressure,
leave it for whatever Sarah, Rachel, or Rebecca is next in line,
drive out to Middle America with no kosher food in sight,
go in hiding because I couldn't fill that role,
though I know my soul still moves toward the same goals,

and so I’m shocked when you accuse that I've boxed myself out,
and you're in doubt of my Super status,
you assume something's the matter.

and I say i've never felt better,
that I'm working to bring togetherwhat was never, in my mind, apart,
the secular and spiritual, one in my heart,
and that the only kryptonite that stops my plight from working out is my

because you've already turned and gone,
and somehow I'm wrong--see I can't be Super Jew Girl and Super Me at once,
and as such, I'm a walking desecration,
no matter what my revelations seem to be.
So I retreat.

Because, hey, maybe you’re right.
You seem to have this Jew thing down.
And I should be more grounded, see things as black and white

And I try....cuz what do I know about life?

But then I look around
And all I see is light.

And the strength it takes to say “I don’t know,”
To carve out a space to love and grow,
and althoughI may not ever be perfect,
I may shirk the superhuman thing for a fallible identity,
In this dynamic search, I create more through honesty.

So, I refuse to let you lead.
Cuz I’ve earned my cape, and wings.
I’m learning so many things.
And I’ll glorify a God Who’s far beyond any shell.
In awe of that Indwelling, within my self.