If you go to to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, you might see men singing loudly and dancing in circles. What you might not notice right away are the women, who are quietly murmuring and praying. The men’s side looks way more fun – plenty of my male friends have stories about that time they hung out at the wall with a Jewish celebrity. My boyfriend danced the hora there with Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. The total disparity in the fun department isn’t a personal preference – it’s actually Israeli law.
But a group of brave female activists, The Women of the Wall, are working to change that. Keep reading »
Call me a humorless feminist, but I’ve always thought certain subjects were beyond the realm of comedy: Helen Keller, rape, the Holocaust. But then last week I caught a clip of Joan Rivers’ E! show “Fashion Police.” While critiquing a photo of Heidi Klum wearing this dress, Rivers quipped, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” And then something odd happened. I laughed.
I’m Jewish. So is Joan Rivers. Does being in “the club” mean that it’s okay to laugh at jokes about our own people? One of the reasons I don’t think Holocaust jokes are funny is that they poke fun at people who are victims, and it’s much funnier to laugh at the bullies. Did I laugh because Rivers was making fun of a German person in relation to the Holocaust, instead of a Jewish one? Keep reading »
I liked being Jewish. I just hated my face. I wanted desperately to like my face better. I’d spent too many years laughing with my hand over my nose because I thought it looked even bigger when my face was happy. Stupid, right? It’s amazing, in retrospect, the things we are tormented by.
When I was a little girl, I thought I’d grow up to look like a queen—exotic, powerful, with a strong, regal profile. Queen Thayet, in Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, had a hawk nose and she was the most beautiful woman in the world! Why not me? I had a hawk nose! I figured I would be decent at ruling a kingdom, too.
But then when I was 14 a girl told me I needed to get my face fixed. She said she had a friend whose daddy could do it because he was a rich plastic surgeon. She said that if I went to him he’d make me pretty.
The things kids say! Keep reading »
It’s almost Hanukkah time; the Jewish holiday begins on Saturday, December 8 and goes to Sunday, December 16. We think it’s about time that we celebrate the other miracle of Hanukkah — the hottest Jewish guys we could think of. Imagine if you really could decorate your menorah with Andrew Garfield, Ira Glass, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lenny Kravitz and more. Click here to see larger image…
In Brooklyn, a 17-year-old girl just testified against the man accused of sexually assaulting her. On the surface, this case is sadly too familiar: she and her accused rapist are both members of a strict right wing sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, known as the Satmar Hasidim.
Extreme groups exist in every religion, and Judaism is no exception. However, the Satmar Hasidim are a fringe group within a fringe group. Though they are ultra-Orthodox Jews (meaning that they keep kosher, observe the Sabbath, and follow all the other rules), they differ from other super-religious Jews in that they don’t support the nation of Israel. Like other ultra-Orthodox Jews (this isn’t really a thing in the more liberal branches of Judaism), they keep strict gender segregation, sending boys and girls to different schools that teach different subjects and keeping men and women separated in synagogue. But the rape case currently happening in Brooklyn could blow the roof of the place. Keep reading »
Living in New York City means getting used to street harassment. In the past few years, my name has been Baby, Sexy, Bitch, and Hey You, Why Don’t You Smile? I’ve learned when to give the finger and when to hide. My friend Jen Dziura, a life coaching columnist, advises women that the best way to counter street harassment is to walk calmly up to the whistler or catcaller in question and politely let him know that he needs to learn how to speak to women in a respectful way.
It’s because of her that I finally said something to the Hasidic men who harass me in my neighborhood. Keep reading »
In my mid-twenties, I came out as a lesbian. But the hardest part wasn’t even coming out: it was realizing my wedding would be different and therefore I was different. It took me a few years to come to terms with the fact that my wedding wouldn’t have a groom or any of the other stuff that goes along with heterosexual weddings.
A few months ago, my girlfriend of three years proposed. A couple of weeks after we got engaged, Chriss told me she was thinking about converting to Judaism. So as we started planning our wedding, we began attending synagogue together and Chriss enrolled in an Introduction to Judaism class. When we became full-fledged members of our synagogue and reserved the chapel for our wedding it dawned on me: I have no idea what a lesbian Jewish wedding would look like. Keep reading »
Dating is hard enough. But what about dating when you’ve recently left an insular religious community that pretty much forbade interaction with the opposite sex?
Such is the problem faced by ex-Orthodox Jews who are “Off the Derech” (derech is Hebrew for path), or OTD, and assimilating into secular society. Hasidic communities separate boys and girls while young; girls often marry around 18 or 19, while boys tie the knot in their early 20s, having children shortly after. Touching members of the opposite sex to whom you are not related is forbidden and interaction is generally discouraged. Is it any wonder ex-Orthodox Jews are utterly bamboozled when it comes to l’amour?
That’s where dating coach Israel Irenstein comes in. Keep reading »
A few weeks ago, an article in the Orthodox Jewish newspaper The Jewish Press began to make waves in the religious community. Yitta Halberstam, a well-known Jewish author, wrote about the process of trying to find her son a wife. In her part of the Jewish community (a right-wing faction of Orthodoxy sometimes known as yeshivish), it’s not uncommon for a professional shadchan (matchmaker) to pair up young eligible men and women. A shadchan who makes a successful shidduch (match) can be paid well for their services. However, there has been a recent “shidduch crisis,” which is that there are more prospective brides than grooms. Orthodox boys are waiting longer to marry, while girls are essentially considered over the hill if they’re not married by 18 or 19.
One way that shadchanim (the plural of shadchan) have tried to solve this issue is by hosting events where mothers can meet and interview prospective daughters-in-law. Halberstam attended one of these events and she admitted that the whole process made her uncomfortable. However, as the mother of an eligible bachelor and therefore someone in a position of relative power, Halberstam could have called off the whole thing and pointed out how awkward and unfair it was to the young women involved.
Instead, she penned a long rant about how young women should wear more makeup and their families should be willing to pay for plastic surgery if that’s what it takes to land a husband. Keep reading »
I once spent a 4th of July weekend with about 15 hardcore evangelical Christians. (Ex-Mr. Jessica’s sister was a born-again.) Explaining to some of the women what kind of website I write for proved to be awkward. But when I told one woman that The Frisky was similar to Cosmopolitan magazine, she exclaimed, “Oh, I read that!”
“Really?” I asked. “Isn’t it a little … uh … raunchy?”
She laughed. “Oh, I just flip past all the shirtless guys and stuff about sex.”
Then what part of the magazine do you actually read? I thought to myself.
That conversation popped into my head again when I saw this article on The Daily Beast about religious websites selling sex toys and the horrifying — not being hyperbolic here — opening story about a Christian woman who was married for 25 years before she finally bought a vibrator and had her first orgasm. Praise be! Keep reading »