Current Feminist Jewish Events

Liz Lerman 

When atrocity occurs, what separates the bystanders from the upstanders? Commissioned by Harvard Law School’s Martha Minow for the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, Liz Lerman’s “Small Dances About Big Ideas” uses movement, spoken word and documentary soundscape to examine the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust and more recent atrocities in places like Bosnia and Rwanda. Related educational programs are supported by the Covenant Foundation, the Maxine Greene Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A short film about the project featuring Minow and Lerman has been released by Covenant.

Training for Male Mikveh Guides

People are using mikveh today in traditional and new ways — for healing and to mark a variety of transitions. To facilitate the increased use of mikveh by men, Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in Newton, Massachusetts is looking for men for a male-only training to take place in 2013. Successful mikveh guides, they say, are able to display compassion and empathy, adapt to a variety of situations in “real time” and maintain a strong sense of boundaries.

Cave… A Dance for Lilith

As the first woman — she came on the scene before Eve — and as the (eminently reclaimable) demon figure of Jewish folklore, Lilith has inspired the creation of a dance theater extravaganza. The Theatre Dybbuk company specializes in “provocative theatrical presentations based on Jewish myths, folklore and history.” Written and directed by Aaron Henne with choreography by Kate Hutter, this non-stop spoken word and dance piece debuted in Los Angeles in November as a co-production with LA Contemporary Dance Company and is available to travel.

Words Like Sapphires

It’s the centennial of the Hebraic collection at the Library of Congress in Washington (who knew?), and this beautifully named new exhibition is part of the celebration. Among the close to 200,000 works in Hebrew and related languages are illuminated wedding contracts, a prayerbook for the “Daughters of Israel,” Tamar Messer’s Shir ha-Shirim, several Esther scrolls, a National Council of Jewish Women guide to citizenship, Yiddish sheet music, and a Lynne Avadenka artistic rendering of the only medieval Hebrew poem attributed to a woman. On site through March 16 or online at The Hebraic Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division is one of the world’s 
foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials.

The Feminine Mystique at 50

Betty Friedan’s 1963 groundbreaking text critiqued the undefined social expectations keeping American women in the home. An exhibition at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York will feature student artwork in reaction to Friedan’s thesis. And a symposium will explore it all in lively conversation. February 21 – March 6,

Abusive Relationships

Domestic violence happens to one in four Jewish women — but sadly often remains a well-kept family secret. New support groups supported by local Jewish organizations are forming in San Francisco and the East Bay for women coping with abusive or controlling relationships, past or present. Call 866-742-5667 toll-free for help.

Toiling in a Jewish Workplace 

The environment, the culture, and the policies of these workplaces are the themes of the November issue of the journal Sh’ma. Felicia Sol writes about life as a single mother and rabbi; Phoebe Taubman and Ariela Migdal discuss parental leave policies; and Shifra Bronznick and Joanna Samuels analyze some of the Jewish community’s strides on behalf of women. Additional essays ask: Are the values in our mission statements aligned with our human resource policies? Do leadership models lead to burnout and women 
stepping off the professional ladder?

Who Welcomes LGBT Jews? 

It should come as no surprise that LGBT Jews are less involved in the Jewish community than their heterosexual counterparts, and this is often because they are unsure of where they will be welcome. A new survey, The Jewish Organization Equality Index, is a first-of-its-kind effort to rate U.S. Jewish non-profit organizations on their policies and programs as related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and constituents.

Women Call for Peace

An array of women artists “denounce violent aggression and advocate global peace through nonviolent conflict resolution.” Their messages reflect religious belief, race, and personal encounters with violence. Artists include Siona Benjamin, Judy Chicago, Linda Freeman and Faith Ringgold. You can see the exhibition at the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska until January 13, 2013. Then at Texas A&M University March 9 to May 28 and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York September 15 to December 10. Details at

Haredi Women Workers

Sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, always interested in the dynamics of family relationships, now turns her focus on computer training programs geared especially for ultra-Orthodox women whose husbands are full time students. She appears in a short documentary, which also features programs to increase the numbers of ultra-Orthodox men in the Israeli army, where they too obtain job skills. These are efforts by the Joint Distribution Committee to lift families out of poverty and lessen their dependence on public assistance. Says Westheimer, “As a Hebrew speaker, I know that the word avodah means both avodat hashem (worship of God) and avodat kapaim (employment). What I discovered now proves that the two can dwell under the same roof.”

Moscow Jewish Museum

This thoroughly modern new museum opened in November, with high tech exhibits spanning medieval shtetls and large cities, exploring the role of Russian Jewry in public life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the role of Jewish soldiers during World War II. Find out what it meant to be a “Soviet Jew’” and how and why so many left the U.S.S.R. If you go, please report back on the inclusion of the Jewish feminist renaissance in their portrait of Jewish life today.

 compiled by Naomi Danis

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