JOFA's blog

Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) to launch in the UK

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 3:49pm -- JOFA

By JOFA Staff

Dina BrawerJOFA is to launch activities and programs in London. This follows the comprehensive JLC report entitled Inspiring Women Leaders: Advancing Gender Equality in Jewish Communal Life.

While only one element of the report focused on ritual participation for women, this issue received disproportionate attention from the women who attended the consultation meeting held on March 22, 2012. Numerous women raised the issue of their lack of participation in Orthodox ritual life and expressed their frustration that their voices were not being heard by the Orthodox rabbinic leadership.

Kol Ishah - Don’t Drown Out a Woman’s Voice

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 12:53pm -- JOFA

By Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Vayishlach, 5773 

As Yaakov is preparing to meet his brother Esav and he is afraid of what his wicked brother might do, the Torah tells us that Yaakov brings his eleven children across the river to meet Esav (Genesis 32:23).

Rashi citing the Midrash immediately notices that Yaakov has not eleven children, but twelve. Rashi asks: “Vedinah heichan haytah? Where was Dinah?” Rashi answers:

He put her into a box and locked her in, so that Esav would not set eyes on her. Therefore, Jacob was punished for withholding her from his brother- because perhaps she would cause him to improve his ways-and she fell into the hands of Shechem. [Rashi 32:23, from Gen. Rabbah 75:9]

The Agunah Issue Goes Mainstream

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 9:45am -- JOFA

By Elana Sztokman

I was excited to participate last week in a colloquium of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on the subject of “The Chief Rabbinate and Israel-Diaspora Relations” because it marked a very important moment for women advancing social change in Israel. The colloquium, organized by Dr. Steven Bayme, brought together some 50 leaders of Jewish organizations from Israel and America to discuss the impact of the state rabbinical institutions on Jewish identity in Israel and America. The event was not only a welcome opportunity to engage with top Jewish minds on topics of great interest, but more importantly signaled an important stage of development in the impact of so-called “women’s issues” on Jewish discourse at large. It was a moment, I believe, when we can say that the agunah issue has gone mainstream.

JOFA Appoints Elana Sztokman as Executive Director

Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:43pm -- JOFA

Robin & ElanaNYC, November 28, 2012 -- Longtime Orthodox feminist activist Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman has been named the new Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, effective immediately. Dr. Sztokman, 42, who holds a doctorate in gender and education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the author of two books on gender issues in Orthodoxy, and is one of the founders of the organization Mavoi Satum, which helps women denied divorce in Israel. She brings a rich and varied background to the position, and a strong passion for the issue. 

“We are very excited to have an Executive Director with such a lifelong commitment to Orthodox feminism” said JOFA President Judy Heicklen. “We look forward to JOFA’s next chapter with Elana, where we will work together to expand women’s leadership roles and bring about greater ritual inclusion for women in Orthodox life.”

So How Does She Do It?

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:25pm -- JOFA

By Elana Sztokman

Elana SztokmanSince I began working at JOFA, first as Interim Director and then as Executive Director, the staff and I have been inundated with the question: “How does she do it?” I tend to wonder what “it” is – work in a high-pressure job, leave my kids once in a while, or take a job that I really love? But let’s assume that for the most part the question refers to the issue of my travel and living arrangements; after all, I live in Israel and work in New York, and I have four children ages 9-19, and that feels like an impossible combination.

Assessing Problems of Women’s Status in Israel

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 3:01pm -- JOFA

Israel Panel

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen 

Nearly every month, it seems, there is troubling news relating to the status of women in Israel. Late last year it was women forced to sit at the back of public buses, and then Haredim attacking schoolgirls in Beit Shemesh for being insufficiently modest. In October the leader of Women of the Wall was arrested and allegedly mistreated by police for leading others in prayer at the Kotel. And recently, according to the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Knesset candidate Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan declared that the agunah issue is caused by women’s groups trying to besmirch the rabbinical courts, rather than by husbands who refuse to divorce their estranged wives.

We Need A Security Dome In The Home

Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:52pm -- JOFA

By Dr. Ruti Feuchtwanger

“The sword without, and terror within” (Deut. 32:25)

On November 18, the fifth day of Operation "Pillar of Cloud”, the body of a fifty-year-old woman was found dead in her home in Ofakim. The police suspect that she was killed by her spouse. Many people have never heard of this story – even an internet search comes up with very few results, all with few details, (like this one and not a single news item in English.

It is hard not to compare the coverage of this death with the coverage of the deaths of three people in Kiryat Mal'achi – not far from Ofakim – a few days earlier. The three victims from Kiryat Mal'achi have names and faces, and the Ofakim victim remains anonymous; they were killed by the missile of a foreign enemy, and she was (allegedly) murdered by the stabs of a “loved one” in her home; their death got widespread coverage, while hers was barely mentioned in the margin of the news.

JOFA's Response to Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan's Attack of Women's Groups and Denial of Agunot

Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:49pm -- JOFA

We at JOFA are deeply disappointed by the recent comments of Israeli Knesset candidate Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, former head of the Jerusalem rabbinical court, who claims that there is no real problem of agunot, but merely a problem caused by "women's groups" that are trying to unfairly besmirch the Rabbinical Court with supposedly fabricated claims of gett refusal. These statements may serve Rabbi Dahan well in his bid for a Knesset seat, but they reflect a short-sighted and misogynistic view of women's real lives.

First Women’s Tefillah Group at The Hampton Synagogue

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 11:58am -- JOFA

By Chavie Kahn

The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, New York held its first Women’s Tefillah Group on August 18, 2012 in celebration of my daughter Sarina Kofman’s Bat Mitzvah.  In short, a part of my Jewish dream for my daughter came true.

My daughter had the opportunity to leyn for the first time in her life, as did I. As it was both Rosh Chodesh Elul and Shabbat, Sarina chanted Hallel andleyned the first aliyah of Parashat Re’eh, the maftir aliyah for Rosh Chodesh and the haftarah for Rosh Chodesh.   The remainder of the aliyot were chanted by close female family members and friends. 

Training the Next Generation--Youth involvement in the Shaarei Tefillah Women’s Tefillah Group

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 11:47am -- JOFA

By Joanne Kamens Niewood

Shaarei TefillahOne of the first special events of the Shaarei Tefillah Women’s Tefillah Group (WTG) was a Bat Mitzvah. Since that time, girls and young women in our kahal (congregation) have actively participated in many aspects of ritual including leading Shabbat services, reading Torah, participating in a women’s Simchat Torah service, and reading from Megilot Esther, Eichah and Ruth. We have also developed an innovative Bat Mitzvah tutoring program where older girls (15 and older) have the opportunity to teach the younger girls for their B'not Mitzvah.  We are currently exploring ways to expand the WTG’s community activities beyond ritual, and into other areas such as learning. This will likely give more girls (and women) a chance to participate after Bat Mitzvah.  Not all girls (just like not all boys) enjoy the public performance aspect of leading a service or chanting from the Torah.  While we are advocates of teaching all girls to read and appreciate the Torah trope, in my opinion, we will do well to find ways for the girls that don’t enjoy that aspect of synagogue involvement to participate in other ways with the WTG community of women.


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