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...

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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. ...

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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.

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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...

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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 http://www.mako.co.il/news-law/crime/Article-7749585b2331b31004.htm&Partner=rss) and not a single news item in English.

It is hard not to compare the coverage of this death with the coverage of the...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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Tue, 11/06/2012 - 11:41am -- JOFA

By Hannah Hashkes

In loving memory of my aunt, Sarah Vakshtok, and my cousin, Rachel Toiber, beautiful women.

This week’s parashaHayyei Sarah, begins with the count of Sarah’s days, a rare occurrence where women are concerned in the Torah: וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה. 

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.  

But stating the length of Sarah’s life is not the only unusual feature of the verse. A similar structure is used in the reports...

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Sun, 11/04/2012 - 11:37am -- JOFA

By Rachel Lieberman

As I traveled down to the Lower East Side on Friday morning, I saw a startling version of Manhattan. Buildings and traffic lights were dark. A few stores were open, and operating by candle light. Army trucks were positioned on the streets.  Shuttle buses were packed to the gills, unable to stop to pick up passengers waiting on the streets. Hydrants outside of buildings were open, with a trickle of water, so that residents without water could gather a pail of water. Lines snaked around multiple blocks as people stood in line for drinking water, ice, food and a chance to charge their cellphones. It was an incredibly grim, disorienting, and heartbreaking picture—a majestic city paralyzed.

But the...

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