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Noted in the Press

In a major victory for Orthodox feminism,” writes Jonathan Mark in The Jewish Week (“Women Take Giant Step in Orthodox Community,” Dec. 19, 1997), a prominent New York Orthodox synagogue “has hired a woman to serve as pastor, teacher and counselor, essentially an assistant rabbinic position usually given to a newly ordained male.”

Just one week after Julie Stern Joseph’s appointment, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Rabbi Avi Weiss’s Orthodox synagogue, announced that it had hired Sharona Margolin Halickman as congregational intern and that it would subsidize the salaries of other women it is training if they are hired by Orthodox synagogues. The Jewish Week reported.

Israel, reported The New York Times in a January 11 article, has become a common destination for Ukrainian and Russian women sucked into prostitution by “economic hopelessness in the Slavic world . . . since the fall of Communism.” The Times’ story reports that women “often start their hellish journey by choice, seeking a better life” in places like Israel. “Prostitution is not illegal here,” the Times reports, “[There is not even a specific law against the sale of human beings.”

The Times cites a recently released study entitled Crime and Servitude: An Expose of the Traffic in Women for Prostitution from the Newly Independent States. “Russian women are in high demand in many countries because of their ‘exotic’ nature and relative novelty in the sex market,” the study found.

They’re trying to keep human rights workers out,” asserts Rhoda Berenson about the Peruvian government’s continued imprisonment of her 25-year-old daughter Lori on charges of treason in the November 1997 issue of the left-leaning Jewish Currents, which devoted its “Jewish Women Now” column to the interview. “If they give her a fair trial, it paves the way for everybody else to get a fair trial,” she said.

A New York City native, Lori Berenson captured national headlines when she was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in 1995 for alleged arms dealing and complicity in planning an armed insurrection against the Peruvian congress. The arrest and imprisonment without due process was possible, Jewish Currents reports, because of Peru’s anti-terrorism law, which that country’s government has repeatedly promised to revoke—and which they renew year after year.

Rhoda Berenson reminds readers that the campaign to free Lori is ongoing and that Lori is just “one of many” in this situation. Visit the Berensons’ website at www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/9968 for more information.

The Hebrew on the bus stop sign reads: Alabama, B’nai Brak. The sign, which graced the saucy cover of the Fall 1997 issue of Noga, an Israeli feminist journal, refers to the race-based segregation that once divided buses in the American South. Now, Israel’s Egged bus company has recently capitulated to ultra-Orthodox demands that women en route to B’nai Brak be sent to the back of the bus.

But apparently this shameful reseating by Egged, noted in Lilith last Fall, is only the tip of the iceberg. According to “Rosa Parks Redux? Israeli Bus Segregation Is Just the Beginning,” an article in the national Jewish campus magazine NewVoices, “community leaders routinely demand that businesses which open in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem hire only men. Israeli supermarket chains and banks have agreed to such requests . . . . [A] post office brance in the haredi [ultra- Orthodox] neighborhood of Geula agreed to the demand not to hire women as clerks.” though—thankfully— Communications Minister Limor Livnat stepped in and annulled the decision a week later’. New Voices reports that ultra- Orthodox rabbis have also demanded that the major airlines flying to Israel initiate flights which run without female flight attendants or in-flight movies.

True to form, the September issue of Commentary launched an attack on feminist activists working to promote women’s participation in the military. “Thanks to feminism . . . a new, strange—and deeply troubled— future has arrived for the American military.” writes Walter A McDougall in “Sex, Lies, and Infamy.” Noting the failure of the Israeli army to successfully gender-integrate its combat units, McDougall suggests that “everyone knows that combat units which include women will not perform up to par, whether (as in the Israeli case) because of male over protectiveness or because of male resentment, or both.” McDougall is happy to blame women as well: “Everyone knows . . . that some servicewoman [sic] have courted pregnancy to escape hazardous or inconvenient duty.”

The journal Israel Social Science Research devoted its 1997 issue to Feminist Theory and Research in Israeli institutions and society. Among the articles: “The Oppression of Women by Other Women: Relations and Struggle Between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Wome in Israel.” by Henriette Dahan Kalev; “Wife Abuse: A Method of Social Control,” by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian; and’ “Feminist Awareness and Narrative Change: Suicide and Murder as Transitional Stages Toward Autonomy in Women’s Protest Writings,” by Rachel Giora.