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Happening

Your indispensable guide

Bedtime Stories About Divorce

The Center for Women’s Justice (cjw.org.il) which battles to protect women’s rights under Jewish law, has created five videos featuring Savta Bikorta (her name means critical grandma), played by the comedienne and actress Devorah Evron. She reads aloud bedtime fairytales about real-life divorce cases handled by the Israeli rabbinic courts. These painful true cases make abundantly clear the need to reform the divorce process. youtube.com/watch?v=pE5 HBUzOVAY&feature=related

The Role of a Synagogue When Marriage Ends

How do congregations respond to divorce? Sociologist Kathleen E. Jenkins advises that “we require an overall synagogue perspective that acknowledges the ending of life-partnerships as a complicated and ongoing process that can stretch out over years, affecting numerous lifecycle events and influencing children’s religious education long after the divorce itself is final.” You can read her report at http://synagogue3000. org/files/S3KDivorceReport.pdf.

Le Guide du Divorce Religieux (guet) en France

In order to diminish the number of agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a Jewish divorce) the Women’s International Zionist Organization of France offers a guide explaining to women why and how to obtain a religious divorce when they get a civil divorce. wizo.asso.fr.

Liturgical Experiments: A Siddur for the Skeptical

is the working title of this atheist-feminist prayer book composed by Tzemah Yoreh, who teaches Bible at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He writes that “prayer is one of religion’s gifts to humanity… human beings can use it as a conduit for whatever they wish. I pray according to a structure and in a language dictated by my tradition, I pray for peace, the end of poverty, the end of hunger, the end of gender hierarchy, I pray that you pray for good.” The full Hebrew text of this siddur (an English translation is planned) is at religiousatheist.com.

One Less Thing to Worry About

By partnering with local professional maid services, a foundation aims to offer free monthly housecleaning for four months to any woman in the United States and Canada undergoing chemotherapy for any kind of cancer. cleaningforareason.org

Encounter

is an organization taking Jewish diaspora leaders from diverse religious and political backgrounds on one and two-day journeys to Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem, exposing them to Palestinian life. The programs are designed as richly Jewish experiences, and participants are encouraged to ask questions and grapple with fresh perspectives across lines of enmity, to expand personal and political understanding, catalyze conversation between Jews and Palestinians as well as among Jews from across the political spectrum. Founded and staffed by Rabbis Melissa Weintraub and Miriam Margles, and activist educators Ilana Sumka and Shana Tabak, the program has brought over 750 Jewish leaders on these journeys. Encounterprograms.org

How Many Go to Bed Hungry Every Night?

A Kid’s Guide to Hunger & Homelessness: How to Take Action by Cathryn Berger Kaye includes provocative questions, useful information and project ideas involving gardens, hunger banquets, clothing banks, emergency kits, building projects, food pantries and more, for grade 6 and up. The 44-page workbook is $6.95, from freespirit.com. (The answer to the question is 800 million.)

Mourning Experiences

Following her mother Beverly’s death from breast cancer in 2008, Deena Fox received a number of books about the experience of mourning and saying kaddish, all written by men. She is now collecting stories from Jewish women across many demographic groups‚ ages, denominations and types of loss, in the hope that women experiencing fresh grief will be able to find common threads and thus be comforted. Fox invites your brief retelling of the most poignant moment during your mourning period. Send your vignette/essay of 2-10 pages by May 15 to deena.fox@gmail.com or call 646- 337-8001. For more on how some women have mourned, see Lilith’s spring 2009 article “Feminist Funerals” by Amy Stone at Lilith.org.

Dawn 2010

is a happening, and also a reinvention of Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the Giving of the Torah, when the Israelites stayed up all night at Mount Sinai. Reboot — sponsor of the biennial Dawn programs — describes itself as “a catalyst to catalysts — a growing network of thoughtleaders and tastemakers who work toward a common goal: to ‘reboot’ the culture, rituals, and traditions we’ve inherited and make them vital and resonant in our own lives.” Originally by invitation only, Reboot now creates replicable programs so others can gather, engage, question, and self-organize with their own networks, using magazines, books, films, records, local salons and gatherings. rebooters.net.

As it is Written: Project 304, 805

A year-long exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco explores the Torah as a historical artifact, ritual object, scribal tradition, and contemporary muse. Observe soferet (professionally trained female scribe) Julie Seltzer complete an entire Torah scroll, an accomplishment once reserved for men. The exhibit, through October 3, 2010, includes an interactive, multi-media art installation, The People’s Torah, a Torah which will be “written” collectively, letter by letter (all 304,805 of them), by online participants in collaboration with visitors to the museum. peoplestorah.org; thecjm.org.

Women Soldiers’ Testify

It might be more comfortable to imagine our daughters, sisters and girlfriends carrying out “different” assignments. The organization Breaking the Silence, founded at the start of the second intifada, brings us reports from women serving in the Occupied Territories. They describe the routines of controlling a civilian population and portray what they see as a moral deterioration of the commanders and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, in the belief that a society needs to know what is being done in its name. ShovrimShtika.org

Taking Steps Out

People from the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities who choose to enter mainstream life are in many ways like new immigrants from a foreign land; they face cultural disorientation and isolation coupled with a lack of practical and marketable skills. Footsteps, founded in December 2003 by Malkie Schwartz, provides educational, vocational and social support to individuals making this difficult transition. (See “Leaving the Hasidic World,” by Malkie Schwartz and “Yearning to Breathe Free: Refugees from Hasidism Tell their Tales,” by Hella Winston in Lilith Winter 2004-5.) Footstepsorg.org

Stalking. Know it. Name it. Stop it.

The National Center for Victims of Crime has declared January stalking awareness month, but they have helpful resources for all year round. “Are You Being Stalked?” is a brochure with suggestions: call 911 if you are in immediate danger; trust your instincts; take threats seriously; contact a crisis hotline; develop a safety plan; don’t respond to or communicate with the stalker; keep evidence; contact police; consider getting a restraining order; and tell friends, family, roommates and co-workers. ncvc.org.

Ezrat Nashim: Early Activists

In the early 1970s a group of Jewish feminists called themselves “Ezrat Nashim” (for the women’s section of a traditional synagogue) and attended — without invitation — a convention of Conservative rabbis, where they presented a manifesto that women be counted in a minyan and called to the Torah. Nearly 40 years later, members of this group will share what it was like to be in the advance guard of Jewish feminism. How have they shaped their lives? How do they view the struggles remaining for future generations? Judith Plaskow will lead a discussion with Martha Ackelsberg, Arlene Agus, Leora Fishman, Eva Fogelman, Rabbi Judith Hauptman, Paula Hyman, Maureen McCleod, Dina Rosenfeld, and Judith Hyman Rosenbaum plus other members of the next generation. May 9, at the JCC of Manhattan. jccmanhattan.org