For Immediate Release: JOFA Conference Set to Tackle Social Changes in Orthodoxy

For Immediate Release: JOFA Conference Set to Tackle Social Changes in Orthodoxy

October 31, 2013, New York City – The Orthodox community will be addressing the issue of “slut-shaming” for the first time in a large public forum at the upcoming International Conference of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. This is one of many new topics based on social and cultural changes in Orthodoxy that will be tackled at the JOFA conference, which will actively explore the many innovative adaptations of Orthodox women and men working to create a more gender- inclusive religious community.

Other new issues for the Orthodox community to be discussed at the conference are: unconventional families, LGBT inclusion, new mikveh rituals, eating disorders, educating for sexuality, gender segregation in Israel, raising feminist boys, Women of the Wall, and the emergence of new Orthodox feminist communities around the world, including the newly formed JOFA UK.  The conference includes speakers from the US, Canada, UK, Israel, and Australia.

“This JOFA conference is different from past conferences because the world has changed so much over the past few years, and it’s time for Orthodoxy to address these new realities,” said conference coordinator Bat Sheva Marcus. “We are looking at new rituals, new family structures, and new communities, and we are particularly interested in reaching the younger women in our community and addressing the issues that are foremost concerns for them.”

The 8th International JOFA Conference, set for December 7-8 at John Jay College, is an iconic event for advancing women in the world of Orthodox Judaism. Since the first conference, in 1997, which paved the way for a new movement to change the way Orthodox women and men experience Jewish life, every conference has been a watershed, instigating important transformation within the Jewish community –from equal educational opportunities to sexual abuse to women clergy and more.

“JOFA has always been on the frontlines of Orthodoxy, urging the community to ensure that women’s voices are heard,” said JOFA President Judy Heicklen. “We are especially proud that our conferences have been such pivotal events for helping the Orthodox community progress and evolve.”

This conference also marks the first time JOFA is making a concerted effort to reach out to people who are less obvious participants –specifically to people who support the ideals but do not necessarily self-identify as feminists. This inclusive approach is also reflected in the use of technology at the conference, which will be live-tweeted and partially live-streamed in order to enable people from around the world to be part of the event.

Other innovations in this conference include a special Educators’ Track for day school educators, a teen track with a poetry slam, live-streaming and live-tweeting, and a Saturday night musical program including “Girls in Trouble”, an indie band with midrashic themes, a cappella singing groups Smadar from Barnard and Tizmoret from Queens College, and Penina Schram’s story-telling.  There will also be opportunities for networking, with lunchtime affinity tables.

“JOFA is dedicated to creating opportunities for women and men to connect and collaborate on building a more gender-inclusive Orthodox world,” said JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman. “All are welcome at the JOFA conference, and I urge everyone to register, connect, and attend.”

The 8th International JOFA Conference is set to take place on December 7-8 at John Jay College. Details can be found on the JOFA website www.jofa.org.

For more information, contact: Aaron Steinberg, Media Coordinator [aaron.steinberg@jofa.org]

 About JOFA

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) is the leading organization advocating for social change around gender issues in the Orthodox Jewish community. JOFA promotes spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for Orthodox women within the framework of halakha (Jewish law) in areas of women’s leadership and women’s ritual inclusion. Since its establishment in 1997, JOFA has been at the forefront of the movement advancing meaningful participation and equality for women in all areas of life: at home, in synagogues, in houses of learning, at work, and Jewish communal organizations. JOFA achieves this through educational and advocacy programming aimed at a variety of target groups, including: teens, college campus students, families, communities, women leaders, women scholars, rabbis, and the general public. JOFA has led some of the most significant transformations in Orthodox life over the past decade. Thanks to JOFA, today there are more opportunities for women’s ritual inclusion in synagogue, women’s leadership in both lay and religious roles in the Orthodox community, more outlets for promoting women’s scholarship, more women in senior educational positions, and overall more awareness in the Orthodox community of the importance of gender equity. This work is bringing much needed gender change to Orthodox Jewish society and thereby enriches and uplifts the entire Jewish people.