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November 17, 2014 by

Excuse Me: When a Stranger Says “Good Morning”

Welcome to another edition of Excuse Me, a new illustrated advice column about maddening things. Installments will be posted here every other Monday. Need advice? Send your questions to liana@lilith.org.

excuseme2


Liana Finck’s graphic novel is called A Bintel Brief. She writes and draws a monthly column for The Forward and her cartoons appear irregularly in The New Yorker. She often thinks about the age-old question: fight, or flight?

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November 12, 2014 by

Street Harassment, Seat Harassment and Women’s Bodies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s conduct a thought experiment. A far right wing Christian preacher claims a direct revelation from God, and it goes something like this: Jews are the chosen people. So chosen, so holy, the group from whose midst Christ emerged, that they cannot be touched.

Literally.

So, says the preacher to his congregation, if you find yourself next to a Jew on a train or an airplane, you should ask to change seats immediately. Get up, stand in the aisle, change seats. Ask nicely, of course! Really, it’s not discrimination, they assure the rest of us. It’s personal religious practice. And Jews, if you get this request from a sect member, just try to be cool about it, okay? Let’s not reinforce the reputation that we Jews are pushy and difficult and always angry about anti-Semitism. It’s not an insult from these folks, it’s an honor.

I doubt my fellow Jews would heed calls to “tolerate” this treatment, and the embedded insults, in the name of religious freedom?

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November 11, 2014 by

Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Helena Rubinstein XIX 27-11-1955, 1955. Conté crayon on paper, 17 1/4 x 12 5/8 in. (43.8 x 32.1 cm). Himeji City Museum of Art, Japan. © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Helena Rubinstein XIX 27-11-1955, 1955.
Conté crayon on paper, 17 1/4 x 12 5/8 in. (43.8 x 32.1 cm). Himeji City Museum of Art, Japan. © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

You knew Helena Rubinstein. That is, even if you didn’t actually know her, you know her type: the smart, feisty, implacably-willed Jewish woman who just goes ahead and does what she wants, no matter what the world tells her. Like others of her ilk—Estée Lauder, Georgette Klinger, Beatrice Alexander and Ruth Handler—she made her name in an arena—cosmetics—where being a woman was an advantage, not a liability.  The newly opened show at the Jewish Museum, interdisciplinary in nature, offers a fascinating glimpse into the life the Jewish girl with humble roots in Poland who grew up to become, “a global icon of female entrepreneurship and a leader in art, design, fashion and philanthropy.”

Born in 1872, Rubinstein fled an arranged marriage in 1888. By 1896, she had gone from Krakow to Vienna and then to Australia, where she established her first business. She flat-out rejected the notion that only prostitutes and women of questionable virtue wore make up, and instead built an empire on the premise that wearing make-up was a self-assertive, empowering act, one that allowed a woman to literally create the face that she showed to the world. The title of the show is a tag line from one of Rubinstein’s own advertising campaigns, and the exhibition’s wide-ranging offerings—primarily artwork, but also clothing, jewelry, packaging and advertising, and miniature rooms—demonstrate the many ways that statement can be interpreted.

As a collector, Rubinstein was both canny and idiosyncratic in her taste; her acquisitions include works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadleman, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Joan Miró, and Henri Matisse and when she was alive, they graced the homes she kept in London, Paris, New York, the South of France and Greenwich, CT. Also represented are 30 pieces from her visionary collection of African and Oceanic art, a collection that ultimately helped to reshape the way this work was viewed—and valued—in the west.

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October 27, 2014 by

Excuse Me: Supermarket Line Etiquette

Welcome to another edition of Excuse Me, a new illustrated advice column about maddening things. Installments will be posted here every other Monday. Need advice? Send your questions to liana@lilith.org.

excuseme2


Liana Finck’s graphic novel is called A Bintel Brief. She writes and draws a monthly column for The Forward and her cartoons appear irregularly in The New Yorker. She often thinks about the age-old question: fight, or flight?

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October 23, 2014 by

Beyond Pinktober

Pink_ribbon.svgThe world (or in other words, journalists and the blogosphere) is officially disenchanted with Pinktober.
 
Of course, Breast Cancer Awareness Month does have its merits: pink lip gloss, pink sneakers, pink tote bags, pink key chains,pink tee-shirts, pink pens, and pink punching gloves. Also, all pink stuff. 
 
Seriously, though: women learning how and being reminded to perform breast self-exams is amazing. Increasing “awareness,” whatever that means exactly, is not the worst thing that could happen, either. Increased funding for research on the prevention and treatment of breast thing is decidedly a very good thing.
 
But we’re used to all this by now. We’re asking: What does Breast Cancer Awareness month actually accomplish? What and/or whom does it ignore? What are Pinktober’s limitations?

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October 22, 2014 by

What the Wicked Witch Taught Her

512ZYHvHmyLTaken together, the pieces by Bonnie Friedman in Surrendering Oz: A Life in Essays, just out from Etruscan Press, form an autobiography of sorts, one in which we follow the progress of a shy, bookish Jewish girl as she slowly but surely comes into her own. From the Bronx bedroom she shares with her older sister to the thoroughfares and cities of the wider world, we watch as the girl grows and gains confidence, both as a writer, and as a woman.  The essays that chart her growth—she’s now 56—have an internal sequence all their own, determined by their emotional valence, not the calendar. Dorothy from Kansas and Gertrude Stein, Victoria’s Secret and bedbugs—in Friedman’s skilled hands, the quotidian stuff and mess of the world come together in a benign—and even divine—order. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough asked Friedman about the singular faith that infuses every single page of this indelible book: 

YZM: Did you write these essays with the goal of gathering them into a book? Or did their coming together in a single volume happen after they had been written? 

BF: I wrote these essays over many years, always in the grips of a presiding passion — something I needed to figure out in my own life but that I thought reflected something unspoken or unresolved in the lives of other women. Late in the process I saw that the essays connected up – they all concern how one learns to think for oneself, how one gains possession over one’s own life. Once I saw that, I believed I might have a book.

YZM: You offer a brilliant, feminist interpretation of the film The Wizard of Oz; do you feel its messages have particular meaning for Jewish women?

 BF: Historically, shtetl women were allowed take on a larger role in running the family and even the business so as to free up the husband to study Torah, if possible. The spiritual was privileged over the pragmatic, and to some extent this allowed women to take on a more vigorous role out in the world. But gender roles in America were different. I grew up in the Bronx in a Jewish neighborhood, and I marveled at the version of femininity I saw on TV and in old movies, with its demure reticence and picturesque helplessness. It didn’t match up with the way I saw women behaving in the streets and classrooms around me. And yet, of course, television is our school, especially when we are young, and we unconsciously absorb its values. In The Wizard of Oz, Aunt Em talks about how, being a “good Christian woman,” she can’t tell the town bully, Elvira Gulch, what she thinks of her dominating ways. Nor can she advocate for Dorothy. Many of us Jewish girls, to be acceptable, learned to muffle and constrict ourselves.

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October 21, 2014 by

What I Posted on Facebook About the Freundel Case

1377580_10152203108461729_809245696_nOctober 15 at 8:21am
If this is true — IF, of course — the implications here are enormous. Women in Orthodoxy have been complaining about rabbis who carry all kinds of patriarchal and misogynistic ideas with them into the community and into their work. If this story is true, it confirms women’s deepest pains in dealing with certain orthodox rabbis. Layers and layers of practices that hurt women….

October 17 at 8:31am
Take back the waters “In the summer of 1986, I wrote what many consider the first piece about non-Orthodox women using the mikvah…….”
[After reading this post by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein] This, exactly. The system that encourages women to use the mikvah is the same one that supports and enables the sexualization of women, that supports men like Freundel. Yes.

October 17 at 8:41am
And so apparently the RCA knew about Freundel’s predilections and did nothing. They sent the complaining women home. Same with the Washington rabbinical group. Needless to say, all these orthodox rabbinical groups are comprised of men only. Men who go out of their way to exclude women from every aspect of Jewish leadership, from every opportunity to have a voice. Are we still surprised that women who approach these groups are dismissed and discounted, that rabbis are more concerned with protecting one another than with supporting women? Are we surprised to learn that the RCA is little more than a men’s club, like every other men’s club throughout history, there to look after the power and prestige of its own ranks?
I think perhaps the only reason freundel was caught at all — why women were finally believed and heeded in this case — is because Kesher Israel has a woman president. Elanit Rothschild Jakabovics is without a doubt the hero of the day.
Let this be a lesson to the rest of Orthodoxy: The community needs more women in positions of power. PERIOD. http://forward.com/articles/207382/orthodox-group-probed-alleged-mikveh-peep-rabbi-ba/

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October 21, 2014 by

Diving Into Charges of Rabbi Barry Freundel’s Voyeurism

השקה2

A leading Modern Orthodox rabbi is taken away in handcuffs by police Oct. 14 on criminal charges of voyeurism, more precisely for installing and maintaining an electronic device to secretly record “female complainants using a bathroom or restroom or totally or partially undressed or changing clothes.”  In court the next day, the rabbi denies these charges of deviant acts of seeking out women with a hidden video camera in the mikvah of his own congregation– Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C.

O Rabbi Barry Freundel! If indeed you did this deed, how could you?  

This is the stuff of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story conjuring up the demonic side of shtetl life. Not the schoolboy prank where Yentl the Yeshiva Boy is approached by her bad-boy classmates to join them in spying on naked women in the bathhouse. No. This is something deeper, darker, if indeed true.  It is the kind of unnatural tale that in I.B. Singer’s hands could terminate in damnation.  In our modern demonic world, the damage seems to be spreading beyond the soul of the alleged perpetrator.

The higher the status, the more tragic the fall.

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October 21, 2014 by

The Barry Freundel Case 101

http://www.flickr.com/fmmr

http://www.flickr.com/fmmr

By now we all think we know most of the story.

Rabbi Barry Freundel, longtime spiritual leader of the Modern Orthodox synagogue Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., has been arrested on charges of voyeurism for having spied upon—and recorded—women undressing and dressing at the mikvah next door to the shul.

Some of the women were preparing to immerse in the ritual bath to mark the end of their menstrual cycle, some as part of the final step in conversion to Judaism, some for reasons of their own accounting perhaps. For all who have used that mikvah in recent months, there’s uneasiness about whose images are on the recording device that Freundel secreted in a digital clock in a mikvah dressing room. But the anxiety—and anger—spread well beyond those who might have been affected directly by the sordid crime of which Freundel is accused.

In brief, and not ranked in order of heinousness, are some of the themes drawn into the web of violations this particular accusation of spying on naked women entails.

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October 20, 2014 by

Lilith Magazine Named One of North America’s Jewish Organizations Having the Greatest Impact on the Lives of Women and Girls

selected-womenandgirls-14-15New York, NY – Lilith Magazine ​was named today as one of 19 leading Jewish organizations committed to having the greatest impact on the lives of women and girls​.​​ ​Lilith is described as “Shaping the gender justice discourse of the Jewish community with fearless journalism and face-to-face salons.​” ​​​​Lilith appears in one ​of three supplements to the Slingshot Guide​ accompanying the tenth annual Slingshot Guide, Slingshot 2014-15. Being honored in this supplement, published for a second year, along with two regionally-focused ones, will help further expand Lilith’s reach and our ability to carry out our mission, as well as to draw in activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects that, through their innovative nature, will ensure the Jewish community remains relevant and thriving with input from women and girls in very arena.

Selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by 112 professionals with expertise in grantmaking and Jewish communal life, ​Lilith is hailed in ​the Guide ​as “a leader in in-depth feminist journalism.”

Organizations included in this year’s women and girls supplement were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results.​ ​”Lilith Magazine is proud to be among the 21 organizations included in the second year of this supplement,” said Susan Weidman Schneider. “The organizations included in Slingshot’s women and girls supplement demonstrate the potential impact on and by women and girls in Jewish life today. Lilith Magazine is thankful that Slingshot continues to highlight women and girls as it expands the scope of its Guide, and we are honored to be part of the community of innovative organizations that have benefited from the Slingshot Guide over the last ten years.” The supplement was supported through a generous partnership with the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. Joy Sisisky, Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.

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