What To Follow Now

I Have Two Mothers

timmyIn a park, a small boy meets a turtle and finds they have much in common, including the universal challenge of making friends and — incidentally — the fact that each has two mothers. This first Hebrew picture book portraying everyday life in a lesbian family was created by author/illustrator and former kindergarten teacher Tehila Goldberg. A first printing sold out, and a recent Kickstarter campaign has raised funds for a second edition.

Holy Place Rotations

holyLong a place of controversy and violence, the site known to Jews as Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque is one where both Jews and Muslims worship. (According to the Book of Genesis, the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron was purchased by patriarch Abraham, father to both Isaac and Ishmael, as a burial place for his wife Sarah.) Two films by video artist Nira Pereg explore the “status quo” that regulates use of the Cave which is administered by the Israeli Defense Forces. “Abraham Abraham” (2012), and “Sarah Sarah” (2012), show each group of worshippers locking away their religious objects and furniture before the other takes over the space. Not even a single chair is left for the other group to use. Wordless soundtracks highlight the power struggles underlying these temporary evacuations and illustrate the strange but inevitable symbiosis between religion and the military, between civilians and soldiers. You can see the side-by-side 15-minute films until December 27, 2016, at The Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot) in Tel Aviv. bh.org.il

How Do You Know When Someone Wants to Have Sex?

Reports show most people want sex education to teach students about consent and sexual assault, but few programs actually do. To help fill that gap, no matter where students live and regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, a video series, Consent 101, teaches teens and young adults in a lively and — says its creator — “sexy” way. From Planned Parenthood. plannedparenthood.org

Jewish Mothers Going It Alone 

San Francisco single Jewish mothers not currently involved in Jewish life now have a new opportunity to connect with congregations, organizations and micro-communities of women like themselves. Big Tent Judaism is a national, trans-denominational organization reaching out to Jews who have felt marginalized by mainstream Jewish practice. This new project, directed at solo mothers and their children, is open to interfaith and interracial families, the LGBT community, and to individuals and families facing social, emotional or financial challenges. More at bigtentjudaism.org or contact “concierge” Wendy Kenin at Wendy@BigTentJudaism.org.

Holland’s Open Jewish Houses

Dozens of homes opened to thousands of visitors on the Netherlands’ Day of Remembrance of the Dead, May 4. Visitors had an opportunity to talk about the Holocaust in an intimate setting, where hosts and guests often discuss the specific Holocaust victim who lived in that place, as well as talking about the broader context of World War II. Many volunteer hosts reportedly use the Yad Vashem website to research the stories of the former residents. Perhaps because in Holland most housing was rented, not owned, current residents may feel more comfortable hosting the visitors than they might if they had acquired a residence owned by a murdered Jewish family. Coordinated by Denise Citroen for Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum, this project is made possible by the existence of a database listing the former addresses of 104,000 Dutch Jews murdered during the Holocaust. joodsmonument.nl

You Can Become Someone’s Grandchild Today

Adopt-a-Safta pairs young adults in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel. Based on the Big Brother/Big Sister model, young volunteers “adopt” a grandmother or grandfather in Israel (“Safta” is Hebrew for grandmother) who is in need of love and attention. The goal: to train as many volunteers as possible and to connect young professionals seeking to make a meaningful contribution with survivors appreciative of the warmth and connection. The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, has found that 40% of Shoah (Holocaust) survivors feel lonely, 12,000 lack even proper heating, and 5% suffer from shortages of food. AdoptASafta.com

Yiddish on Stage, Then & Now

Molly Picon in the “The Jolly Orphan,” 1929.

Molly Picon in the “The Jolly Orphan,” 1929.

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, a thriving Yiddish theater culture blossomed on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, entertaining over 1.5 million first- and second-generation Eastern-European Jewish immigrants. Second Avenue became the “Yiddish Broadway,” with cutting-edge dramas, musical comedies, and avant-garde political theater. As stars of the Yiddish stage gained mainstream popularity — think Stella Adler, Celia Adler, Berta Gersten and Molly Picon — New York’s Yiddish theater became an American phenomenon. Highlighting this connection is a conversation  on video  between playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman from the current play “Indecent,” a retelling of the 1920s Yiddish lesbian drama “The God of Vengeance.” Says Vogel of the original Sholem Asch play, “The love between these two women is presented in the play as equal to Romeo and Juliet. Which is an extremely radical act for the beginning of the 20th century.” Their conversation is part of the exhibition, “New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway,” curated by Edna Nahshon, a co-presentation of the Museum of the City of New York, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the National Yiddish Book Center and the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene. The exhibit is accompanied by an eponymous book. Until August 14 at the Museum of the City of New York. mcny.org/yiddishtheater 

Food & Love

Kochbuch (cookbook) by Rosalie Höchstädter, 1891.

Kochbuch (cookbook) by Rosalie Höchstädter, 1891.

“Food and cooking are often how we express love. This includes love for those we cook for, and love for our communities,” says curator Melanie Meyers of the exhibition “Nourishing Tradition,” which includes objects, mostly cookbooks, from the collections of the five partners of New York’s Center for Jewish History — the American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. You’ll see Jewish cookbooks in four languages from 1888–2005, including handwritten heirlooms, recipes from food manufacturers like Crisco, Proctor & Gamble and  Manischevitz, community cookbooks and DP camp ration cards. Through September 9, 2016, at the David Berg Rare Book Room of the Center for Jewish History. www.cjh.org/rarebookroom

Wed-Locked Agunot

Susan Aranoff and the late Rivka Haut worked for three decades to liberate Jewish women from sexist Jewish divorce laws. They authored the just-released The Wed-Locked Agunot: Orthodox Women Chained to Dead Marriages, a heartfelt and cogently argued case for curbing the authority of rabbinic courts to arbitrate matters of divorce. Most traditional Jewish religious courts insist that only the husband can end a marriage; it is his right and responsibility to use the writ of divorcement. He, however, is free to remarry even if he has not issued a “gett,” while his former wife is trapped, neither wife nor widow, and cannot remarry. Any children born to such an agunah, or “chained woman,” are declared “illegitimate” under Jewish law. The authors call on the state to protect the fundamental human rights of their female citizens and not to succumb to a “cultural relativism” that would deny these rights. Their conclusion, they say, is rooted not in animus toward Judaism, but is based on their extensive experience of witnessing injustices committed by rabbinic courts and recorded in this book. McFarlandpub.com, (800) 253-2187

Compiled by Naomi Danis.

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