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Paying Attention to The Press

After colleagues told Occidental College psychology professor Gail M. Gottfried three years ago that their department chair had complained about her “typical New York Jewish personality,” she confronted him. Scott Carlson reported in the November 16 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. And that. Gottfried told The Chronicle, is when her troubles began. Gottfried, who had previously received departmental evaluations that praised her scholarship and teaching, said she was ostracized by her colleagues. A subsequent departmental review accused her of criticizing and refusing to communicate with her colleagues. Finally, in May, Occidental College denied Gottfried tenure.

“The panel said institutional considerations— the effects of her alleged negative interactions with her colleagues— outweighed her strengths as a scholar and instructor,” The Chronicle reported. About 680 students, or one third of the student body, and half of Occidental’s professors have signed a petition, objecting that the faculty handbook does not adequately define “”institutional considerations.” Such vagueness, the petition states, “leaves untenured faculty vulnerable to a power differential and discrimination.”

Gottfried plans to sue Occidental for discriminatory retaliation.

As a result of pressure by L’maan B’nos Yisrael International, a group representing agiiiwt. or “chained wives.” whose husbands have refused to grant them a divorce, or get, Orthodox rabbis have issued guidelines for the batei din, the rabbinical courts that grant divorces, reported the January 5 edition of The Forward. Prior to this. The Forward said, there was no oversight of batei din, which often dragged out divorce cases for years. Some Ixitei din have been accused of extorting money from women in exchange for granting them a get. which in traditional Jewish law must be initiated by the husband.

“Women had no rights.” Marilyn “‘Mattie” Klein, founder of L’maan B’nos Yisrael. told The Forward. The new standards, which among other things, mandate that the get must now be the court’s first order of business, were signed by Orthodox centrist organizations such as Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, as well as individual rabbis.

But in the fragmented world of Orthodoxy, there is no central authority to enforce the new standards. “We still consider beit din to be a dangerous place for women,” Susan Aranoff of Agunah Inc., another grass-roots group, told The Forward. “For the hardcore aguna problem, these changes are practically irrelevant.”

On the topic of agunot, the British newspaper The Guardian reported in December that Orthodox Rabbi Pini Dunner had placed a large ad in The Jewish Chronicle, in which he castigated one Yiki Loewenstein for refusing to grant a get to his wife Bryna. Yiki Loewenstein. religious affairs correspondent Stephen Bates wrote, has been refusing to grant his wife a divorce for nine years.

In December. USA Today reported that a Palestinian women’s group sent a letter of protest to Yasser Arafat, in which they demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop using their children as human shields. Aisheh. a mother of six. was quoted as saying: “We don’t want to send our sons to the front line, but they are being taken by the Palestinian Authority.” Aisheh and others refused to give their full names. USA Today said, for fear of reprisals.

by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

It’s been years—four, in fact—since Anita Diament’s debut novel. The Red Tent, made its quiet appearance in bookstores. A lively story that reimagined the biblical rape of Dinah into a surprisingly optimistic epic from Dinah’s perspective (no rape here), the book was pleasant but unremarkable in its sales. Then the rustling started. Friends passed it around. Women were spotted with it on the subway. Rumors flew that Jewish book groups around the country were all on board.

Proving the book’s breakthrough, in February Newsweek devoted a full page to the “word of mouth phenom.” St. Martin’s Press, which published the book, says in the February 5 issue that the book’s sales initially numbered “not many.” and Diament decided to take charge. She sent the book to 1,000 rabbis, many of them women. and they told their congregants, who told their friends, and so on. To dale. the book has hit the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists, has been optioned for a movie, and there are now three-quarter of a million copies in print.

Criticism came from an unlikely quarter, however. One Orthodox rabbi, “who did not wish to be associated by name with the book,” told Newsweek he thought the book was a mockery. “‘A woman was raped!'” he said. “”It’s disgusting to portray it as a love story.” …There’s more news in the same issue. Turns out that Linda Richman— inspiration for Saturday Night Live’s perpetually “farklempt” Jewess—is making a name for her real live self. Newsweek reports that the “rising star” on the “self-hope” circuit has been lecturing at the Canyon Ranch spa. preparing talks for public television, and publishing a new book. I’d Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You – all in the “no-nonsense” style of “one of America’s most famous Jewish mothers.” Even self-help guru Deepak Chopra has taken notice. “”1 have never met anyone who is as aggressively uncredentialed and yet so extremely helpful to people who are seeking some kind of solace,'” he told Newsweek. (Sound like anyone you know?) Still, Richman tells Newsweek hard knocks—a bad marriage to a compulsive gambler, her agoraphobia, her temporary homelessness after her divorce— have earned her the right to preach. Her advice? Talk talk talk. No surprise there.

by Sarah Blustain