Ninety years of providing vital social services and educational programs for women, children and families in Israel
MAGAZINE OF NA’AMAT USA
Vol. 31 No. 1 Editor Judith A. Sokoloff Art Director Marilyn Rose Editorial Committee Harriet Green Sylvia Lewis Elizabeth Raider Edythe Rosenfield Lynn Wax Marcia J. Weiss NA’AMAT USA Officers
Na’amat in My Life............................................................................................ 4 In celebration of the 90th anniversary of NA’AMAT USA, members write about the impact and meaning of the organization on their lives.
Jewish Feminists: What Are We Talking About Now?....................................... 10 As the feminist agenda continues to shape Jewish life, what direction will it take next? By Susan Reimer-Torn
Na’amat News................................................................................................. 24 Na’amat president calls for “Feminism Now,” university scholarships awarded to amazing women, successes in the fight for women’s rights.
PRESIDENT Elizabeth Raider
VICE PRESIDENTS Jan Gurvitch Ivy Liebross Gail Simpson Marcia J. Weiss
By Elizabeth Raider ......................................... 3
Heart to Heart: Mother’s Surprise By Judith Friedman Rosen.............. 18
TREASURER/FINANCIAL SECRETARY Debbie Kohn
Take Action! Let’s End Bias in Medical Research By Marcia J. Weiss.......................................................................... 27
RECORDING SECRETARY Debby Firestone
Book Reviews........................................................................... 28
CHAIR/NATIONAL FUNDS Harriet Green Na’amat Woman (ISSN 0888-191X) is published three times a year by Na’amat USA. Postmaster: Send address changes to NA’AMAT USA National Office, 21515 Vanowen St., Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. For change of address, contact email@example.com, phone 818-431-2200 or write to national office in California. Editorial and advertising, contact Judith@naamat.org, phone 212-563-5222 or write to Na’amat Woman, 505 Eighth Ave., #12A04, New York, NY 10018. Signed articles represent the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Na’amat USA or its editor. Websites: www.naamat.org and www.naamatwoman.com
Our cover: On the 90th anniversary of Na’amat USA — faces of some of the many thousands of Israelis helped by our organization every day, year after year.
NA’AMAT USA AREA OFFICES Eastern Area 505 Eighth Ave., Suite 12A04 New York, NY 10018 212-563-4962 firstname.lastname@example.org Southeast Area 4400 N. Federal Hwy., Suite 50 Boca Raton, FL 33431 561-368-8898 email@example.com
Mission Statement The mission of Na’amat USA is to enhance the status of women and children in Israel and the United States as part of a worldwide progressive Jewish women’s organization. Its purpose is to help Na’amat Israel provide educational and social services, including day care, vocational training, legal aid for women, absorption of new immigrants,
community centers, and centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence. Na’amat USA advocates on issues relating to women’s rights, the welfare of children, education and the United States-Israel relationship. Na’amat USA also helps strengthen Jewish and Zionist life in communities throughout the United States. Na’amat USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Midwest Area 10024 N. Skokie Blvd., Suite 226 Skokie, IL 60077 847-329-7172 firstname.lastname@example.org Western Area 16161 Ventura Blvd., #101 Encino, CA 91436 818-981-1298 email@example.com
National president Elizabeth Raider shows 90th anniversary stickers at the the recent national board meeting.
his is an auspicious year for Na’amat USA as we celebrate our 90th anniversary as an organization — 90 years of working with Na’amat Israel to provide essential social services and educational programs for women, children and families in Israel. Born in 1925 as Pioneer Women, our history predates by decades the State of Israel. We were here at the beginning, when Israel was just a dream. By responding to the needs of a developing country and then to the needs of the State, Na’amat USA has helped to create a unique and vibrant organization that addresses the hopes and needs of people at every level of Israeli society. As we celebrate, it is important that we recognize that our goals are fluid, accommodating the ever-changing needs and realities of Israel’s growing and changing population. During many years of Israel’s growth, our efforts concentrated on day care as the primary necessity. With the needs of Israeli women, children and families dramatically expanding, we have provided more and more opportunities for achieving a fulfilling future. In keeping with these expanding needs, I am proud to announce that our 90th anniversary national project
is the establishment of a women’s health center in Sderot. Located in the western Negev, the city of 25,000 has been an ongoing target of Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza since 2001. The center is based on Na’amat USA’s successful model in Karmiel. Another stepping-stone to Na’amat’s future, the facility will offer an array of educational programs to heighten awareness of women’s health issues, provide counseling for women undergoing treatment for catastrophic illnesses, and present information on family planning, preventative health care and family nutrition. Like the Karmiel health center, it will be a valuable asset for women in a broad area of Israel. Another major fundraising project is the Circle of Life Campaign for vital women’s services and female empowerment. This is the third component of our “Circle” campaigns. The others are the Circle of Love for
YOU’RE INVITED… to the biggest celebration of Na’amat USA’s 90th Anniversary on July 29-31, 2016, in Las Vegas. Details coming soon.
children’s services and the Circle of Hope for the education of disadvantaged and troubled teenagers. This magazine issue includes information and an envelope for your contribution to the Circle of Life. We look forward to a very busy and exciting year for Na’amat USA members across the country — with opportunities for all members and their communities to participate. Among the special campaigns and events honoring this year-long celebration: • CHAI 5 Campaign! Details in this issue. • Metropolitan New York Celebration of the 90th birthday, October 20, 2015. • Los Angeles Celebration of the 90th, October 25, 2015. • Launch of the Na’amat USA Speakers’ Bureau (information available soon). • A 90th Anniversary Celebration in Las Vegas will be the culminating event July 29-31, 2016. • Watch our website and check your emails for more 90th news and events. The Na’amat USA 90th Anniversary Celebration in Las Vegas will be a momentous occasion. We are not calling it a convention, which would usually occur at this time, as it is a celebration honoring 90 years of working in partnership with our sister organization Na’amat Israel. National board member Chellie Wilensky is chairing the event, which will include a souvenir tribute book. You’ll be receiving information regarding the festivities and registration in November. Be sure to save the date continued on page 26 FALL 2015
Na'amat in My Life In celebration of the 90th anniversary of Na’amat USA (once known as Pioneer Women), members write about the impact and meaning of the organization on their lives and share their memories.
hen we think about Na’amat, we usually focus on Building Our the amazing work it does for the Israeli people. Homeland But there are other benefits as you’ll see when you read the a’amat USA has had a major imfollowing essays. A common thread runs through them. pact on my life since I was a teenager and active in Habonim, the Labor Belonging to Na’amat USA has changed members’ lives, Zionist Youth Movement. From the inception of Na’amat USA (originally Pioproviding them with meaningful experiences they wouldn’t neer Women, the Women’s Labor Zionhave had otherwise. It has enriched their lives with feelist Organization of America), one goal was always clear: to encourage others ings of pride and accomplishment and has been the focus to join the organization in the effort to for their Judaism and Zionism. The Na’amat movement is the place where members have formed lifelong friendships while continuing to make new ones. As many say about being a part of the organizaJudy Telman and her husband Stew Telman at tion: You get back home in Israel. more than you give! National president Elizabeth Raider.
Chellie Goldwater Wilensky, chair of the 90th anniversary celebration.
build and sustain an independent Jewish homeland. The ideals of Zionism, Jewish activism and social justice still influence my participation as your national president and my goals for Na’amat USA: not just to survive but to live long and thrive. My life has been so entwined with Israel and Na’amat that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish where one existence begins and the other ends. I have experienced living in Israel in a way that was unique. During my Habonim Workshop Year (1958) I lived on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, close to the borders of Lebanon and Syria, and traveled the entire country from Metullah to Eilat. As an adult I lived in the Western Galilee, near the border with Lebanon. These years included the time of the Gulf War (1990). My perspective on the enormous impact that Na’amat has had on Israeli life and society reflects both my emotional ties and the country’s physical changes I have seen through time. Looking back to 1976, I was chosen to be part of a Na’amat USA national leadership seminar in Israel with a group of women from the United States, Canada and England. The three weeks included intensive touring, lectures and exciting meetings with Israeli politicians, including Golda Meir and Rahel
Barbara Novick, former Suburban Chicago Council president.
Na'amat has given me the education no college can provide. It has taught me the meaning of giving of yourself. Ben-Zvi [a founder of the Labor movement] — and an accidental encounter with Ben-Gurion who was out on his morning walk! The Na’amat facilities were typical of the era — solid, block buildings with a bare minimum of furniture. But the love and caring of the metaplot (caregivers) at the day care centers and the intense passion of the teachers in the high schools were evident everywhere we went. Some of those same buildings are still in use but have undergone major renovations, thanks to the generosity of Na’amat USA members. The preschoolers have colorful, well equipped classrooms and playgrounds, and the teens have up-to-date facilities with the latest technological teaching aids. Most impressive of all, the caregivers and
Former national president Gloria Elbling Gottlieb, left, and national vice president Marcia J. Weiss.
teachers continue to have the same passion to make these experiences an exciting and meaningful basis for a future bright with promise and success. Every time I visit Israel and see what Na’amat USA and our sisters in other countries have helped Na’amat Israel achieve, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride, gratification and wonder at our accomplishments. And it makes me want to do so much more. Elizabeth Raider National President, Na’amat USA Woodland Hills, California
Fifty-seven Meaningful Years
(Pioneer Women) has been a part of my life for many years. I have been a dues paying member for 57 years — 56 years as a life member. However, my affiliation began long before then, as my mother, Rose Krugly, was a member of the West Side club in Chicago and served as the treasurer of the club for at least 20 years. I attended their closing luncheons where she gave her reports. I was always impressed that the members prepared their favorite dishes and then paid the entry fee to participate. There was no such thing as a free lunch. Their purpose was to raise money
Na’amat activist Tal Ourian.
Na'amat has changed and shaped my life's focus forever. for Moetzet Hapoalot/Irgun Imahot Ovdot (now called Na’amat Israel), and they did so graciously and generously. I personally credit Na’amat and my Eilat club — to which I was introduced by a Habonim friend, Marilyn Schatten (whose mother was also a member of the West Side club) — for enabling me to find my voice, make a speech without shaking like a leaf and feeling that I, too, could contribute to what I believed was an important organization with an ideology I wholeheartedly supported. My membership in Na’amat provided me with an extended family — women who became friends that were, and still are, closer to me than my own family. Leaders like Esther Zackler, Judith Novick, Evelyn Kaplan and Phyllis Sutker became role models and helped set the tone for the direction I took. The American organization’s connection with the Israeli organization — its
Susan Agiert, 2014 Israel Leadership Seminar participant.
program to advance the status of women, to provide quality care for children, to give teenagers a second chance to find a place for themselves as adults with skills and achievable goals, and its legal advice offices helping women deal with the inequalities and problems they face at home, in the community and in the work place — conformed to my view of what Israel should and could be. I am grateful to Na’amat for the support I received and the encouragement to develop leadership skills. The Israel leadership seminar — three weeks of intensive learning about the organization, meeting the Israeli leadership and seeing dreams turned into reality — shaped my life and that of my family as well. At that seminar I acquired two sisters, Miriam and Rita Sherman, and the relationship continues to this day. I eventually served as national vice president. My involvement in Habonim as a youngster, my membership in the Labor
Barb Kitsberg at the 2014 Israel Leadership Seminar, front, second from right.
Zionist Movement and in Na’amat, and my children’s involvement in Habonim — which led three of the four to come on aliyah and my husband and me to do the same — illustrates the importance and impact that this entire movement has had on our lives. At this point, only one of our children and four grandchildren (one married and a great-grandson) are still in Israel. The other two returned to the States, but they continue to visit and be a part of the Israel experience. Our younger son, who did not come on aliyah, is a law professor. He brought 27 of his students to Israel for an intensive two-week visit last year and has another group scheduled to come in 2016. So the ties continue. His daughter attends Habonim Camp Tavor. Our younger daughter in Illinois is a Na’amat life member, as is our older daughter in Idaho. Here in Israel, I remain involved with our English-speaking Sophie Udin club in Jerusalem, and my connection with the organization remains strong and ongoing. Judy Telman Former National Vice President Mevasseret Zion, Israel
Sharon Sutker McGowan and her mother, the late Phyllis Sutker, a former national president.
Living Labor Zionism Born a Pioneer Woman
was born a Pioneer Woman. I can never remember not hearing about the importance of Israel and the work of Pioneer Women. When I was 27, Judy Telman asked me if I would like to try to start a club, and I gladly said yes. Na’amat has given me a focus for my Zionism. It has enabled me to do concrete things to show my love for Israel and her people. By assuming leadership roles, raising money for and publicizing the wonderful work Na’amat does, I feel I have done my small part to help promote the cause of the women and children of Israel. When I am in Israel and visit a Na’amat day care center or technological school and I see how dedicated the teachers are and how happy and well taken care of the kids are, I realize all over again the great significance of what we do. I come back home reinspired and again ready to do my part to help Na’amat succeed. Chellie Wilensky National Board Member Chicago, Illinois
here should I start? After all, I was influenced by the Labor Zionist movement at a very young age. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I would sit on the stairs in my family’s home listening in on a meeting of Chicago’s Golda Meir (at the time Myerson) club in the living room. Oh, of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention that my mother, Judith Novick, was conducting these meetings, and she became active in the national leadership. Or maybe I should start even before I was conceived, as my mother’s parents spoke and lived Labor Zionism. And yes, I am told that my grandparents were among the lucky few in whose house Golda slept when she was fundraising in the Chicago area. Another influence: November 29, 1947, listening with my family to the plastic cream-colored radio that sat in its cubby in the den, surrounded by glossy knotty-pine walls, as the United Nations voted to establish a Jewish homeland. And on May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate terminated, we gathered to hear the declaration of the “Establishment of a Jewish state in
Edith Paller, now living in Jerusalem.
Marjorie C. Moidel, national publicity chair.
Carole Wolsh, standing on right, visits the Na’amat Women’s Health Center in Karmiel.
Eretz-Yisrael to be known as the State of Israel.” A dream made real. Then there were the 10 summers I spent at Midwest Camp Habonim (Camp Tavor these days) and the rest of the years in the Chicago Moadon (recreation hall) with wonderful events, singing, dancing and learning to be a Zionist. Oh, by the way, did I mention Rita Sherman, formerly of Chicago now of Boca Raton? She contacted the daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, etc., of activist Pioneer Women (oops, I really meant Na’amat) to start up a new club soon to be known as Toladah. I really don’t know exactly when Pioneer Women, Israel, Zionism, women’s rights, social and family issues took over my daily existence, but once it started it has filled a major portion of my life. Among my many roles in the organization were Suburban Chicago Council president and Greater Chicago executive director. I am always a volunteer. It is because of all this — and so many other happenings — that I am the person that I am today: proud to be a Zionist, a woman, a Jew, a caring concerned individual. Barbara Novick Morton Grove, Illinois
Former national president Sylvia Lewis, right, with Shirli Shavit, director of the Na’amat International Department.
A Life-Changing Experience
became involved with the Eilat chapter of the San Fernando Valley Council of Na’amat USA in 2006. For the most part, I got involved as a favor to my sister-in-law Cipy Baron, now president of Eilat. I had never heard of Na’amat, I had never been to Israel and never had an interest in traveling there. Basically, I felt no personal connection to Israel. At first I kept my involvement with Eilat to a minimum. I attended the monthly meetings mostly because it was a chance to sit and talk with my sister-in-law. I didn’t sign up for committees and I didn’t volunteer. Then one year during a High Holy Day sermon, the rabbi said something that really stood out. He advised not to shrug your shoulders in indifference to what is going on in Israel and to give Israel a resounding “Thumbs Up.” I suddenly realized that by being involved with Na’amat, I was doing just that. I had an opportunity to make a difference and help change the lives of women and children throughout Israel. I just needed to get involved. That same year, I was asked to give a speech about the history of Na’amat USA at Eilat’s annual membership meeting. Being one of the newer members of the club, I didn’t understand why I was the one chosen to speak, but while educating potential new members about Na’amat ’s history, I ended up educating myself as well. Last year, I was selected to be one of the representatives from the San Fernando Valley Council to the national leadership seminar in Israel. I was the only member of the Eilat to attend the seminar and, again, I wasn’t sure why I was chosen. But I was beginning to see that my chapter was seeing in me things I didn’t see in myself. It was a life-changing experience to meet the women that lead Na’amat Israel, to see firsthand the
Thanks to my involvement, now I can say I have developed a very personal connection to Israel. work it has accomplished all over Israel — the lives that have been affected by Na’amat (both Jews and non-Jews) and the contributions that have been made by our organizations all over the world, but especially by Na’amat USA. I got involved as a favor to my sister-in-law but, truthfully, I am the one who has benefited by being involved. I have met amazing, beautiful, giving women from all over the country with the same goal to support Na’amat. Thanks to my involvement, now I can say that I have been to Israel, that I dream of the day when I can go back again and that I have developed a very personal connection to Israel. Susan Agiert West Hills, California
A Voice for Women and Israel
I have also been given the opportunity to engage in advocacy in the United States through my column “Take Action” in Na’amat Woman. Here I outline topics of current concern and inform members how to make their voices heard by contacting their legislators on pending matters. It is always gratifying to select important issues — such as abortion, violence against women, sex trafficking, bullying, job discrimination — and a welcome challenge to explain them clearly and concisely. Serving on the national board as a vice president and locally as Pittsburgh Council president has been meaningful and fulfilling as I express my ideas and add my thoughts to the issues under discussion. Marcia J. Weiss National Vice President/Program and Education Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
f the many activities provided by Na’amat, legal services have had the greatest impact for me. As a lawyer, I am well aware that proper legal counseling is extremely important. The nuances of the law cannot be appreciated without professional advice. Na’amat provides that advice in Israel. Legal counseling is available to all women without regard to financial status. Knowing that this service is offered is gratifying to me as it exemplifies our mission as “a voice for women and families, a voice for Israel.”
Rhoda Orenstein, center, is honored for 60 years of dedication to Na’amat USA in 2013.
A Real Education
rowing up on a kibbutz in Israel I had a vague knowledge of Na’amat. We were provided with all our needs and were pretty much clueless about those less fortunate outside the kibbutz. I started hearing about Na’amat years after, when I was in the army and served with a girl who was a “product” of many years at various Na’amat installations due to her problematic family situation. Who would believe that Na’amat would become an anchor in my life years later! I came to the United States to go to college and promised myself and my parents that I’d come back right after graduation. But life took other directions, and eventually I was introduced to our great organization. One afternoon on a sunny fall day, I was spending some quality time with my 5-year-old son at a playground in my Long Island (New York) town. Determined to instill Hebrew in my American son, I was conversing with him in my native language, not paying attention to another woman who was watching her son. Apparently, she knew Hebrew since she was, and still is, married to an Israeli. It didn’t take her long to tell me about a group of Na’amat women in formation right in our neighborhood. The rest is history. Na’amat has changed and shaped my life’s focus forever. It has provided me not only with a social structure that enabled me to become a productive member in my com-
munity, but it also set my priorities and fulfilled my desire to help others who are in need especially in my beloved country. It has taught me many lessons in life skills and building relationships. Na’amat has given me the education no college can provide. It has taught me the meaning of giving of yourself. I have learned how to be patient with others and accept people the way they are — how to see the positive in each person I come in touch with. It opened doors for me I otherwise would have never gone through. In each position I held I learned another skill — public speaking, organization, leadership and more. But most of all, I’m eternally grateful to all the unwavering, devoted and committed women I’ve met throughout the years, whose lives revolve around the Na’amat mission. My life has been spiritually and emotionally enriched by knowing them. Being part of Na’amat has made me a better human being. Tal Ourian Former National Board Member Huntington, New York
Sharing My Enthusiasm
am frequently asked, “What is Na’amat — what does it do?” I used to answer that it is an organization that helps women and children in Israel. I would then explain that we provide day care centers for young children and
services for abused women, including a shelter. While that is true, I have come to learn that Na’amat is so very much more. I have seen firsthand the wide range of people it helps in a multitude of ways. Its facilities are run by the most devoted people, who are so passionate about Na’amat and all it does. The programs for disadvantaged children offered by the multipurpose centers are second to none in helping families to help themselves. Women’s rights are being fought for every day by Na’amat. Being part of the support and growth of Na’amat is a special privilege to me, one that I embrace fully. As I begin my first year as president of Aviva chapter (Chicago Council) I am proud to lead our group of women to support this amazing organization. I am a stronger person for being part of Na’amat. Now, when someone asks me what Na’amat is, they get the whole story. It is so much more than an organization that helps women and children. I am so happy to share my enthusiasm for Na’amat and my love for Israel. Barb Kitsberg Vernon Hills, Illinois continued on page 30
continued on page 9
Frieda S. Leemon, former national president, greets Shimon Peres when he was Israel’s president. Past national presidents Harriet Green, left, and Lynn Wax.
Former national president Edythe Rosenfield at bat mitzvah ceremony during a Na’amat USA convention in Jerusalem.
What Are We Talking About NOW?
Today, Jewish women are rabbis and are counted in minyans in many synagogues. There are even a handful of female
Orthodox rabbis. Over the last few decades, women have been creating new rituals, liturgy and midrash and have become scholars of Bible and Talmud. As the feminist agenda continues to shape Jewish life, what direction will it take next? by SUSAN REIMER-TORN
orty years ago, the Jewish feminist movement appeared on the scene with the unfamiliar — and to some, disturbing — sight of women wearing kippot, arms wrapped in tefillin while demanding full access to all areas of Jewish religious life. Today, Jewish feminists from across the globe are
enthusiastically taking stock of how far we’ve come, while focusing on unresolved issues and key next steps. While Jewish feminism is not centralized and is without an official agenda, it still percolates vigorously across national boundaries with the Internet serving as a clearing house for controversial conversations and common causes. “Feminism is a coming together for a common project, even if it is anarchic in structure,” Dr. Judith Plaskow, the first Jewish feminist to identify herself as a theologian, recently explained. First-wave Jewish American feminists like Blu Greenberg, Phyllis Chesler, Judith Plaskow and Letty Pogrebin are aware of how different the world looks today than it did in the late 1970s when the revolutionary women-curated Passover seders started springing up all over the United States. Decades ago, Jewish feminism was predominantly an American movement, inspired by secular activism for women’s rights. Today, troubling socio-political issues arising in Israel often eclipse American concerns. The Israeli scene presents a conflicting picture of progress and backlash. Just a few months ago, in a stun-
Illustrations by Miriam Libicki (realgonegirl.com)
commonly ordained as
Feminism is about the still radical idea of treating women as full human beings.
ning departure, Orthodox women were ordained as rabbis for the first time at the Har’El Beit Midrash in Jerusalem. Its founder, Rabbi Herzl Hefter, went public in The Times of Israel (a Jerusalem-based online newspaper) with some striking declarations: “The yeshiva is post-feminist, bringing the Torah home to the people….” This is not a women’s smicha (ordination) program but even more radical than that.” He was alluding to his smooth integration of women into his already-recognized school for males without petition or polemic. What’s more, he cleverly kept the move under wraps, thus avoiding the heated controversy its prior announcement would surely have provoked in less liberal Orthodox quarters. Major gains notwithstanding, women in Israel face serious challenges that many assess as intricately interwoven with the national future. All those concerned with gender equality are warily viewing the integration of the ultrareligious haredim into the social mainstream. The gender-segregated haredi lifestyle poses a serious threat to women’s equality in the army, the universities, corporate culture and the public space. In some neighborhoods, images of women are removed, while women are asked to move to the rear of segregated public buses. The cavalier way that local officials often ignore legal rulings protecting women’s rights prompts a warning from Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Reform movement in Israel: “Women continue to pay the price for the integration of the haredim.” In a recent Op-Ed, The Forward declared the women versus haredi tension a high stakes struggle. Quoting an IRAC report, the piece stated,
“Israel’s success in balancing these two goals will determine not only its success as a pluralistic democracy, but also its ability to act as a moral center for Jews around the world.” Women’s issues are now more than ever in the eye of the storm. In the United States, the issues present a little differently. There are now more women than men enrolled in non-Orthodox rabbinical schools. This, however, has led some to decry the “feminization of the rabbinate” and even to blame the high visibility of women for the recent decline of the Conservative movement. Jewish institutions, both religious and secular, are under attack for a failure to create a women- or familyfriendly work environment. The issue of work-life balance is a related challenge. Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses (who grew up in Brooklyn), the first woman of the Syrian community to become a rabbi and the first Syrian to become a non-Orthodox rabbi, remarks, “Women will never be equal to men until men
share all domestic and child-rearing responsibilities equally. Most of them still don’t.” In a fast-moving American scene, Jewish feminism no longer enjoys the celebrity cache it once had. Like most millennials, the popular writer Jessica Dorfman Jones says, “I’m Jewish and I’m feminist, but I never thought how those two things fit together.” Personalities like stand-up comic Sarah Silverman and Transparent producer/director Jill Soloway are more concerned with redefining gender identity and sexual emancipation than with wearing a tallis or being called up to the Torah. When grandchildren of American feminist pioneers ask if it’s OK for men to be rabbis, too, the older women are only mildly amused. Judith Rosenbaum, executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive (and daughter of the late feminist scholar and pioneer Paula Hyman), explains: “Sure the question is cute. But it shows no knowledge of history or all that we were up against in the recent past.” While historical gains are cherished, it is the remaining challenges that keep feminists strategizing. And thanks to cutting-edge technology, the intergenerational sisterhood of scholars, artists and activists has recently gone global, keeping the still festering issues front and center.
ews of all genders and denominations spent an entire day celebrating gender equality and articulating new ideas last February in New York City, when Rabbi Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun marked the 25th anniversary of Judith Plaskow’s groundbreaking feminist manifesto Standing Again at Sinai. The more than 250 participants opened the “Meet Me at Sinai FALL 2015
Can feminism really sustain the sought-after pluralist alliance between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform women, who, while committed to gender equality, have very different attitudes toward the traditional status quo? Day of Learning” with morning prayers, some worshipping in the style of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, led by Rabbi Jill Hammer. Those present heard panelists raise provocative issues, such as male spirituality in the context of feminism and viewed a documentary, All of the Above: Single, Clergy, Mother about women rabbis and cantors raising children without men. The day culminated in a plenary where everyone co-created the imagined future by texting their feminist visions onto a large overhead screen while the hip singer-songwriter Michelle Citrin offered a musical performance. The guest of honor, Judith Plaskow, emphasized that feminism is about “the still radical idea of treating women as full human beings.” When asked if Jewish women could work across denominational lines, Plaskow responded: “Whether working within or outside of the boundaries of halacha (Jewish law), our project is the full inclusion of women in all aspects of Jewish life. This will look different for different segments of the Jewish community, but the goals are the same.” As for her vision of the future, Plaskow said, “In any movement for social change, you can’t imagine yourself too far into the future because every step you take opens up the next one.” The feminist message as sounded that day furthered an open-minded Judaism that welcomes women leaders, same-sex couples, LGBTQ and transgender individuals with the same inclusive humanity. The guiding principle is that society-wide ills like poverty, prejudice and exclusion often target women first; therefore, engagement with the feminist cause ultimately yields greater social justice for all. Professor Rachel Adler, a scholar raised as a Reform Jew who then embraced Orthodoxy only 12
to break with it over gender inequality issues, put it this way: “The feminist project begins with issues of security and power and prestige for women. It asks can we be safe and flourish? It then extends its redemptive power to all.” A friendly schism between the generations kept recurring at B’nai Jeshurun that winter day. Younger women like the journalist Elissa Strauss insisted that their feminism found potent expression online through the global influence of social media, while a veteran like Letty Pogrebin, co-founder of Ms. Magazine with Gloria Steinem, insisted that activism still called for “actually showing up, looking people in the eye and raising a human voice.”
ne of the panelists at B’nai Jeshurun was Elana Sztokman, an awardwinning author, Ph.D. in sociology, leading Orthodox feminist and former executive director of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA). That day, for the first time in her life, Sztokman experienced morning prayers where women addressed God as She and wove their own concerns into traditional liturgy. As a modern Orthodox American living in Israel, she wondered if the women of those two countries could find common cause. Can feminism really sustain the sought-after pluralist alliance between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform women, who, while committed to gender equality, have very different attitudes toward the traditional status quo? Sztokman decided to continue the conversation in cyberspace by offering a webinar on the “Dynamics of Jewish Feminism” over eight Sundays in May through June 2015, timing it so that participants from the West and East Coasts, Europe and Israel could converse. A few Australians also signed
up, though for them it was inevitably the middle of the night. Sztokman noted, “Technology offers a virtual handholding circle across the globe.” The webinar’s syllabus reads like a punch list of current feminist concerns, including What Is Feminism?, Slut Shaming, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence, the Agunah, Leadership and the Future. Some of the panelists — Letty Pogrebin and Judith Plaskow were veterans of the B’nai Jeshurun event, while many others — Orthodox feminist Blu Greenberg (co-founder of JOFA), Professor Alice Shalvi (founding director of the Israel Women’s Network), Lilith editor Susan Weidman Schneider, agunah legal expert Susan Aranoff and U.K. artist Jacqueline Nicholls, to name a few of the 40 panelists — were convening in cyberspace for the first time. Of all the issues raised, that of the agunah drew the most heat. Agunah is a uniquely Jewish phenomenon, considered by most people an outrageous violation of human rights. A woman becomes an agunah when she is “chained” to a dead marriage due to her husband’s refusal to give her a divorce. In Israel, the right-leaning, male beit din (rabbinical court) has resisted all good faith attempts to resolve this injustice even though many other rabbinic authorities argue that pathways to do so (such as annulment and prenuptial agreements) exist within halacha. Blu Greenberg has famously said, “Where there is a rabbinical will, there is a rabbinical way,” leaving many appalled by the intransigence of the beit din. Susan Aranoff, who has been an agunah activist for decades, remarked, “Gett (marriage decree) refusal is the ultimate form of domestic abuse.” She, along with other modern Orthodox feminists, has come to a conclusion that is radical and, to them, regrettable.
They caution women against being married according to Jewish law as the essence of the religious ceremony is the woman’s becoming her husband’s property. “They are relinquishing exclusive conjugal power to men. It’s a very bad deal,” said Aranoff. Dr. Susan Weiss, a sociologist and anthropologist who has been working to resolve this issue for many years through the Center for Women’s Justice in Jerusalem, does not hold out much hope for change within the ranks of the beit din. “We are battling a religious right that is pulling hard in the other
direction. After all, the male-female hierarchy is the very definition of Orthodoxy,” she observed. Since there is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, all Israeli Jews are bound by the religious divorce law. The agunah issue is one that aggravates potential rifts between religious and liberal feminists. Some nonOrthodox feminists have chided their Orthodox counterparts for choosing to live their lives and bring up their children in that stubbornly sexist culture. Others have demonstrated solidarity
for their Orthodox sisters much as they would for non-Jewish women who are oppressed by traditional cultures. But Weiss made it clear that condescension is misplaced as even non-Orthodox women who reject the authority of the beit din have no guaranteed immunity against this trap. Although for non-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, a marriage ends religiously with its civil dissolution, a Jewish woman cannot remarry in Israel without an Orthodox gett. Weiss warned, “You never know where you will end up in life or what you or your children will need. Israeli halachic FALL 2015
Agunah is a uniquely Jewish phenomenon, considered by most people an outrageous violation of human rights.
rulings are now becoming a kind of centralized Orthodox church expanding its tentacles around the world.” Communal leadership is another theme that Jewish feminists talk about today. Ironically, more strides have been celebrated in religious realms than in secular organizations, even though the Jerusalembased Rabbi Na’ama Kelman noted, “The Academy for the Hebrew Language in Israel still insists there is no such thing as a woman rabbi and therefore there is no word for it.” But smashing of the glass ceiling lags even more obviously in secular organizations such as the Jewish Federation of North America, where far fewer women rank above vice president than in the non-Jewish, not-for-profit world. Pogrebin exhorted her listeners in classical feminist terms, “That’s where the money and the power and the prestige are. These will never be given up, so they must be seized.” Pogrebin, Kelman and Sztokman went on to discuss “our own internal barriers” to leadership. “We often diminish ourselves before taking the floor. We need more training for assuming the right to speak, without apologizing, without fearing caricatures such as being called loudmouth Jewish women,” Pogrebin advised. When Dr. Melanie Landau, a recently ordained maharat, joined the discus14
NA’AMAT WOMAN FALL 2015
sion, the fault lines between the sisterhood began to show further. A maharat is a recent, New York City-based distinction within Modern Orthodoxy where women are sanctioned as spiritual leaders and teachers — albeit without the title of rabbi. A participant asked Landau how she could boast of an education that was as good as, if not better than, a man’s yet
not receive the title of rabbi simply because of her gender. Sztokman pointed to “the other grave personal insult” of still not being counted in a minyan — even when it is the maharat or one of Har’El’s newly minted women rabbis who leads the congregation. When Landau replied that to her these practices are “a dissonance rather than an insult,” and that she was willing to “stay in the relationship and wrestle for redemption from within,” Pogrebin insisted “it is personal, it is an insult, and it’s lunacy.” Sztokman wondered if she could impose her own feeling of insult “on women who don’t feel insulted, even as they move to the back of the bus.” (When Sztokman recently completed a tour for her acclaimed book, The War on Women in Israel, a black hat asked her to give up her seat on her El Al flight home so he could sit down. She refused. The stewardess wanted to know why she “couldn’t just be nice.” The flight was famously delayed for over an hour while they sorted out the matter. Sztokman was championed by some and excoriated by others for her refusal to give up her seat.) Sztockman’s subsequent telecourse in September, titled “Safe Sanctuaries: On Creating Feminist Synagogue Communities,” explored the meaning and continued on page 22
OUR 90TH ANNIVERSARY PROJECT
Help Us Build a Women’s Health Center in Sderot— A New Flower in the Blossoming of the Desert
In celebration of Na’amat USA’s 90th anniversary, we are proud to sponsor a new women’s health center in Sderot. The facility, serving the women of the town as well as surrounding kibbutzim, will be the first of its kind in the western Negev. Sderot, with a population of about 25,000, was established in 1951 as a development town for new immigrants. Less than one mile from the Gaza Strip, Sderot has been the target of Kassam rocket attacks since 2001, with a high percentage of the population suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite living with tension and uncertainty, the people of Sderot have shown great courage and strength. There is ongoing rebuilding, construction of new houses, opening of new businesses, improvements in the educational system and transportation, and an increase in cultural activities. What Sderot clearly needs is a women’s health center. Modeled on Na’amat’s outstanding health center in Karmiel, the Sderot facility will offer many of the same services: educational programs and workshops on health issues and
concerns, counseling and promoting women’s empowerment. The building that is being completely renovated for this purpose was once a Na’amat
day care center. (Na’amat runs two day care centers in Sderot.) In addition to three large activity rooms, the site will include a kitchen, safe room and large outside area. Sderot (“boulevard” in Hebrew) was given its name to symbolize the biblical prophecy of “making the desert bloom.” Our health center will be a new flower in the blossoming of the Negev. To contribute to this far-reaching project, the cornerstone of our 90th birthday celebration, please contact the national office: Na’amat USA, 21515 Vanowen Street, Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Phone: 818-431-2200. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mazal Tov from Na’amat Israel! Dear Haverot,
We are happy and proud to congratulate you on this special occasion — celebrating Na’amat USA’s 90th anniversary. We highly respect and appreciate our true partnership and friendship all these years. Since the mid-1920s, the haverot of Na’amat USA (then Pioneer Women) have been working with us to realize the Zionist dream, committed and devoted to building and enhancing the State of Israel. Na’amat, the largest women's movement in Israel, provides services to approximately 40,000 families all over the country. We count on your support and caring and on our mutual responsibility. Through the years you have helped us to make a difference and to influence the lives of our people. Your efforts can be seen throughout the country in the renovation and building of day care centers, technological high schools and youth villages; in our scholarship awards for higher education; in our women rights centers and more. All of us together in Na’amat are involved in tikkun olam (repairing the world), in trying to create a better world for women, children and families in Israel and for future generations. It is of the utmost importance that you continue to enhance and expand Na’amat USA. Getting more women and new members involved in your important activities and encouraging young leadership is the key to the future of our movement. We want to convey our appreciation to all of you for your hard work, your contributions and, above all, your concern and solidarity with Na’amat and with the State of Israel. On behalf of Na’amat Israel, on behalf of the children in the day care centers, the students in our schools and the women whom we serve, we congratulate you. We send you our gratitude, our love and appreciation for your support and devotion through these many years. Mazal tov on your 90th anniversary! Best wishes, Galia Wolloch, President, Na’amat Shirli Shavit, Director, International Department
2015 NA’AMAT WOMAN WOMAN FALL 2015
Celebrate 90 years of empowering women by joining the NA’AMAT USA
Circle of Life!
When you take part in the Circle of Life, you help create a better life for the women of Israel. You educate women to expand their opportunities and achieve their goals • You protect women from domestic violence • You help women overcome the obstacles to gender equality • You encourage women to participate in political life • You empower women to become agents of social change • You reinforce women’s awareness of their value and rights • You invest in the economic growth of women and their families
Your Circle of Life donation will help maintain and expand Na’amat’s invaluable services for women throughout Israel: legal aid bureaus; vocational and professional education; intervention, treatment and prevention of domestic violence; community center enrichment programs; and advocacy for women’s rights. You can join the Circle of Life by contributing $1,800. Two people each donating $900 also count as a circle. Donors’ names will be inscribed on the Circle of Life Wall at the Na’amat Women’s Center in Jerusalem. Use the envelope in this issue to send your contribution to Na’amat USA, 21515 Vanowen St., Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Phone: 818-431-2200. FALL 2015
How do you cope when your 90-year-old mother suddenly moves to Israel to fulfill a lifelong dream? A devastated daughter tells her story. by JUDITH FRIEDMAN ROSEN
t 6:55 a.m. on May 27, 2015, my youngest sister Tammy called me: “Judy, did you see what Mom emailed us?” What in the world could it be? I had just spent five days with her at my lake house over the Shavuout/Memorial Day holiday. We went to the little country shul across the road together. She sat next to a woman with whom she had become friendly over the last 11 years. The holiday seemed normal, status quo. I quickly looked at my email. The subject box read “Surprise.”
“How can this be?” I sobbed. No hint, no warning. Was I dreaming? Did my 90-year-old mother — the one I saw through months of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma three and a half years ago and whom I, just six months ago, convinced to see a fourth doctor to discover that she, in spite of three other opinions, did not have bladder cancer — just say she is going to leave in 46 days? Shock, dismay. How can she just up and leave without involving anyone in the process? How would the three daughters left behind deal with this sudden abandonment? Dear Judy, Sharon, We all had participated Debby, Eva and Tammy, in her move from Troy, I have not been happy New York, to Riverdale in at Riverwalk. Things have the Bronx with great joy. been going downhill. I have She would come to New decided to move to Israel. York, be part of our lives Many of you had suggested — meet me in New York that I move to a smaller for my meetings, for shows apartment, and that I am and celebrations. Judith Friedman Rosen saying goodbye to her mother Sue Friedman at the airport. doing, and that will be much I had not had such a more reasonable than Riverdepressing period since walk. I have done all my legwork, or rather computer and telephone my father died four years earlier. Everything seemed so work. I will be going with Nefesh B’Nefesh. They have been great in surreal. I cried inconsolably for three weeks until I became helping me and finding me a place. I have always wanted to move very sick. Because I was so stressed out and upset, I could to Israel. This was always my dream. not help my mother pack or be a part of the process. But, Love you, before the larger packing began, I came up to my mother’s Mom spectacular apartment on the fifth floor — with a panoramic view of the Hudson River and the Palisades from all vantage Crash, bang, boom. What?? And when will this emigrapoints of her light airy apartment — to take photos of the tion occur? In six and a half weeks, on July 13!! apartment and many of my father’s awards and mementos, 18
In the media, my mother was hailed as the 90-year-old grandmother of Knesset Member Rachel Azaria “finally going home” to realize a 77-year-old dream.
which I might never see again. I said goodbye to several people I knew in the dining room. I told them that I was sad that my mother was leaving so suddenly and that I and my two American sisters would feel a great loss. My mother countered this: “I have two daughters in Israel.” Me: “Thanks, Mom.” I felt the hurt and stress as I recalled all the holidays I had made a point to spend with my parents no matter how difficult. Though there are 15 nieces and nephews from my four sisters, only my three sons spent the holidays with their grandparents their entire lives. My mourning process began immediately. Although my oldest son questioned my approach, my middle son understood me completely. I had suffered two losses before when one of my sisters made aliyah and my very dear aunt moved to California. In both of these cases, they gave me ample
time to get used to the idea and to separate. This needed time. I needed sympathy. More of my life began to unroll as I tried to come to peace with this. Part of the fabric of my life as a very young girl growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a story of how my mother, as an adolescent, wanted to follow her Habonim counselor Lotte to “Eretz” rather than fleeing to the United States from southern Germany in 1938. Her father, a businessman who had traveled extensively, felt that America would offer more opportunity and a more comfortable life than Palestine. Although my father, a geologist, had corresponded with Professor Leo Pickard of the Hebrew University since the 1950s, it was not until 1962 that my parents first went to Israel to visit and begin a close relationship with the geology department of the Hebrew University. I remember this well, because I had entered my Tulsa school’s science fair as usual that year. My project, developed under the supervision of my father, won the school’s grand prize. I was the first fourth grader in the history of the school
Rosen’s family lived in Israel in the early 1960s when her father, Gerald M. Friedman (right), was teaching sedimentology at the Hebrew University.
Sue Friedman with many members of her American family the day before leaving for Israel.
My family lived in Jerusalem in 1967. We got our hair cut at the Pioneer Women beauty school at Beit Elisheva Community Center. My mother got involved in the Jerusalem Sophie Udin club.
ever to do so — yet he was in Israel. Part of the story includes my mother’s involvement in Pioneer Women (now Na’amat USA). The year of the prize and the subsequent one, my mother was president of Tulsa’s Pioneer Women chapter. Clara Leff, then national president, came to speak at the donor dinner. During that time there was a crisis in the chapter so my mother was not around that day to celebrate my tenth birthday. Each summer we drove across country to visit my four grandparents in Queens, New York. One year, we stopped at the Pioneer Women national convention. My father reveled in the jokes at the hotel’s “Early Bird Show.” He thought it was hilarious when the comedian asked, “ Are the bagels hot?” Who knew what bagels were? I came from Oklahoma. (Today, my three sons own three bagel bakery cafés in the hipster area of Brooklyn.) By 1963, my father had won a Fulbright Professorship to teach sedimentology at the Hebrew University. My parents upped the family from a lovely middle-class Southwestern existence and catapulted us into the pre-1967 backwater town of Jerusalem. Although it took some getting used to, we slowly acclimated. My youngest sister was born there. We got to know my mother’s Habonim counselor and her family at Kibbutz Givat Brenner very well. We got our hair cut at the Pioneer Women beauty school at Beit Elisheva Community Center. My mother got involved in the Jerusalem Sophie Udin club where she became friendly with former national Pioneer Women president Dr. Sara Feder. My mother proudly pointed out Beba Idelson — head of Na’amat for many years, Labor leader and deputy speaker of the Knesset — as she went into the Edison Hotel in downtown Jerusalem. Our parents took us on trips all over Israel with particular emphasis on the land’s carbonate (limestone) deposits. One Shabbat we hiked from our home in Central Jerusalem to Ramat Rachel, an outpost in the direction of Bethlehem, surrounded on three sides by Jordan. Seven months later, we found ourselves removed to Troy, New York, where my father began a distinguished career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), becoming a leading sedimentologist on the world scene. While my father led Israel and the rest of the world in petroleum research, my mother found a Pioneer Women group in Al20
bany where she became very active. My bat mitzvah album was filled with tens of “Child Rescue” (now called Day Care Plus) certificates from her Pioneer Women friends. While the Troy Jewish women played mahjongg and cards, my mother opted for the Albany Pioneer Women, who became her best friends and who worked on behalf of Israeli youth. She remained active in her group until her friends died and the group petered out. In her younger years, my mother regretted that she could not reach a national board position. She felt that there was a glass ceiling in the organization. I remember her saying that only women from Eastern Europe (Yiddish speakers) could be elected to the national board. Subsequently, my father had three or four long stints working at the Israel Ministry’s Department of Petroleum and Geophysics and the Hebrew University, which brought my parents to Israel for long periods of time. (Today there is a Gerald M. Friedman Chair in Sedimentology at the Hebrew University.) Two of my sisters made aliyah and 11 grandchildren were raised there. My father mapped out the topography of the Sinai Desert, which became a major asset to General Ariel Sharon in the Yom Kippur War. He did further oil and gas research along the shoreline of the Mediterranean. In spite of their devotion to Israel, my parents remained America- and world-centric. My father continued to teach sedimentary geology at RPI, opened up his Rensselaer Center of Applied Geology, wrote two classic textbooks, began several journals and taught fully subscribed carbonate petrology courses around the world. My mother was his site and business manager and travel companion. When he joined the Brooklyn College faculty as distinguished professor of geology, my mother was his driver (from Troy to my home in Queens), did duty for my father in the faculty lounge and proctored his exams while he traveled and lectured. When City College of New York hired my father, they got two for one! During the 20 years my parents were at CUNY they lived in my house from Sunday night to Tuesday or Wednesday. In the early years, Mom picked my children up from school in a pinch and read them bedtime stories. She babysat on her own when my husband and I attended a convention in Hawaii. When we returned we learned that she had cared for them while suffering from walking pneumonia! On Tuesdays for many months, my mother and I tran-
How can she just up and leave without involving anyone in the process? I cried inconsolably for three weeks.
scribed my father’s handwritten diaries of his imprisonment in two English enemy alien camps during World War II. My parents continued to visit Israel once or twice a year to see their two daughters, grandchildren and colleagues as my father continued to do new geologic research. They had passed over any idea of immigrating to Israel because forced retirement age was relatively young and my father had many years of creativity and opportunity ahead of him. When my father finally decided to retire, my parents surveyed a few Israeli retirement residences. To my relief, they felt that these were not for them. They decided to stay in Troy a few more years, then moved to Riverwalk with a beautiful vista, across the Hudson from my father’s beloved Triassic Palisade mountain range. Unfortunately, my father became ill and had a stroke six months after their move. Simultaneously, my mother discovered she had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Balancing the medical lives of two seriously ill parents was very difficult and emotionally stressful. Although my father got a little bit better, he succumbed to his illness. My mother recovered, but less than three years later contracted a severe bladder infection and was diagnosed by one laboratory and three doctors as having bladder cancer. Eventually, a fourth doctor determined it was not cancer. In the interim, my oldest son was nervous about his grandmother’s fate. He insisted that we bring as many family members as possible together for Pesach in a hotel to celebrate with his savta because life is so fragile. Only my sister Sharon and her husband were missing from the celebration. They couldn’t get to the States in time for the start of Pesach because their daughter, Rachel Azaria, was being sworn into the Knesset a day or two before. On the second night of Pesach one begins to count the days to Shavuout, 49 days hence. Who could guess, who could imagine what my mother had in mind? No hint, no clue. Did it have something to do with Racheli becoming a member of Knesset? Was she was frustrated with her steep rental at Riverwalk and disappointed with the downgrading of services there? Just six weeks (49 days) from our Pesach seder, the email with the simple but jarring subject “Surprise” arrived. Approximately four weeks have passed since my mother, Sue Friedman, made aliyah with great fanfare. She was hailed as the 90-year-old grandmother of MK Rachel Azaria
“finally going home” to realize a 77-year-old dream. The last press report I read opened with the question: ”How did the 90-year-old woman with close to a 100 (conglomerate) descendants announce to her family she was making aliyah?” She answered this on Israeli television Arutz (Channel) 10: “I sent an email to my daughters. I didn’t want my American daughters to dictate to me. I am an individual.” As a Zionist and a leader in the American Jewish community, I could never deny anyone’s right to make aliyah. To the contrary, I encourage and congratulate anyone who wants to go. When younger people go to Israel, it is expected that they will return to the United States to visit. In my mother’s case, it seems as if she is closing the door behind her. If this is the case, how much better it would have been if she had shared her thoughts with her three American daughters, if she had them join her in her journey by researching and talking and dreaming together? On the positive side, my cousin Ted Eckersdorff, former Olympic Pentathlete and World Games medaler, was delighted to watch the television video of “Auntie Sue” as she sprinted out of the airplane giving an Olympian yelp shouting, “I am home.” With a big grin, he exclaimed, “Good for her. At 90 she’s affirming life!” Today my mother is happily ensconced in a senior residence in Ra’anna near several grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is learning more Hebrew daily and enjoying her exercise, crafts, study session, swimming pool and Middle Eastern food. In the meantime, I have passed from shock to anger to numbness to accepting the situation as it is. The mother whom I spoke to one, two and even three times a day is far away. Gesundheit. All has changed, but I’ll see her on my next trip to Israel! Judith Friedman Rosen is a historian and New York Jewish community leader. Formerly on the board of Eastern Area Na’amat USA, Judy wrote the biographies of Sophie Udin (a founder of Pioneer Women) in the Encyclopedia Judaica and Dr. Sara Feder-Keyfitz (a national leader of PW) in the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia. Two of her sons attended Na’amat preschool in Jerusalem in 1982, while she pursued her doctoral research at the National Library (which Sophie Udin helped organize when she moved to Israel). FALL 2015
continued from page 14 experience of feminist synagogues with spiritual leaders Professor Tova Hartman, Rabbi Dr. Judith Hauptman and Dr. Debbie Weissman.
ewish feminism is still aligned with its beginnings in the demand for full access to Jewish study, prayer and rituals. In the decades since feminism’s inception, Jewish women have been going a step further by creating rituals of their own without waiting for permission from any ruling body. Dr. Alice Shalvi, founder of Peleg Religious Experimental High School for Girls, observed, “If Judaism has no ritual for childbirth, what else have we been missing?” Shalvi spoke with enthusiasm of new women’s rituals for giving birth, for the welfare of the embryo, for a miscarriage, the onset of menstruation and menopause, even the end of a marriage. “That way you raise these events above the mundane, you give a woman’s experience meaning and offer an opportunity for bonding with others.” She added that this is another example of feminist creativity enhancing men’s experience as well. “When women make themselves a beautiful tallit, you soon see men doing the same.” The controversy around Women of the Wall is one where questions of ritual, leadership and sisterly unity all converge in the public arena. For more than 25 years, the American activist Anat Hoffman demonstrated for women’s right to read Torah out loud and conduct services at the Western Wall, slowly gaining support from some Orthodox women as well. Her struggle was marked by a high media profile, not the least for the way it united liberal and Orthodox women and brought American sensibilities to an Israeli-held holy of holies. But recently, Hoffman, who is newly employed at IRAC, has accepted the compromise that women conducting Torah services pray at another location known as Robinson’s Arch, leaving the hotly contested Western Wall to the Orthodox. Hoffman’s former allies are furious. Phyllis Chesler, a prominent pioneering feminist, author and psychotherapist, decried Hoffman’s move, as “a complete betrayal and a death of feminist ideals.” Meanwhile, founding mother
NA’AMAT WOMAN FALL 2015
Chesler is also displeased with her former feminist allies for what she considers their excessive obsession with a return of the Occupied Territories. Hers is an unusual departure from the left-leaning, tikkun olam-tinged, feminist concern for the Palestinian oppressed. Chesler warns that the real danger lies with rising Islamic fundamentalism and criticizes other feminists’ “obvious hatred of the West, the very civilization that gave women entry to education and dignity.”
olitical differences are nothing new, but unflinching discussion of personal, marital and family matters such as mikveh, menstruation, slut-shaming, sexual abuse and women’s own sexual desire are relative newcomers to the feminist agenda. In her webinar, Sztokman found these sensitive topics to hit such a live nerve that she quickly designed a second course, “Desire: Feminism, Judaism and Sex.” She said: “I realize that almost all of our conversations lead to sex. When we talk about marital inequality and the agunah issue, it all comes down to practices that define a woman as the property of the man. Talking about our own desires explodes that basic assumption,” the intrepid Sztokman declared. Sexual abuse in the post-Freundel era [Washington, D.C., Rabbi Bernard Freundel was found guilty of voyeurism in the mikveh this year] is also in the spotlight. Victims are increasingly encouraged to come forth with their stories, while teachers, rabbis, mikveh attendants and parents are trained to look for telltale signs. Here, too, is an arena where feminist concerns will inevitably help not only girls, but also young Orthodox boys who can easily be victimized by predatory men. Lori Weinstein, CEO/executive director of Jewish Women International (JWI), remarked, “Boys are put in an all male environment at an early age, and feminist awareness can help ensure safeguards against their abuse.” In sum, the feminist conversation is evolving, multifaceted and reassuringly vital. There are themes, such as the over-accommodation to the haredim and incomplete inclusion of women in Jewish life that bring feminists together. Cyberspace provides an inviting space for collaboration along with
disagreements of all stripes. Blu Greenberg debates with Elana Sztokman whether women can be considered the same as men. Greenberg urges that we go for “equivalent but not interchangeable,” while Sztokman disputes “essentialism,” that is the theory that women by birth are different from men. Alice Shalvi is partial to essentialism, saying, “As women, we have our own biology, unique needs and experiences.’’ Topics that call for deeper inquiry are the relationship between healing past wounds and making effective social change, the relationship of women to money and how women might continue to tell our own stories to deepen awareness of our own journeys. Waiting, too, in the wings is the whole question of a post-gendered Judaism, one that makes room at the table — and in the synagogue, the study hall, the board meeting and the cemetery — for those who are not gender-identified. Feminist analysis of Talmud — a male-centric text, if ever there was one, — once confined to academia, seems now to be seeking a wider audience following the better worn path of feminist biblical criticism. By asking such questions as how did the sages characterize typical male/female behavior and how did women’s actual behavior, even as recorded by these same sages, already challenge these generalizations, Jewish feminists will be doing what Jews have always done. They will go back to the oldest sources of wisdom, dig a little deeper, deconstruct, re-imagine and come back to the ever-evolving mainstream with a whole new world of possibilities yet to be explored. The dissident daughter of an Orthodox Jewish family, Susan Reimer-Torn spent 22 years raising a family in France, writing for the International Herald Tribune on dance, culture and spiritual undercurrents in a self-consciously secular Europe. Since her return to New York City’s Upper West Side in 2001, she has become a life coach and hypnotherapist specializing in women, while writing about Jewish feminist issues for a variety of publications. Her most recent book is Maybe Not Such a Good Girl: Reflections on Rupture and Return.
Big Sale on Life Membership! In celebration of the 90th anniversary of Na’amat USA, we are offering a discount on Life Membership. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS UNPRECEDENTED EVENT! Life Membership is now ONLY $180 (reduced from $250) until June 30, 2016. Life Membership for Friends of NA’AMAT (men) is also $180. Make your grandkids Affiliate Life Members (under age 18) for $180. Life Membership for those 90 years young and counting is ONLY $90. To become a Life Member or gift a Life Membership, you can pay online at www.naamat.org or mail the form below to NA’AMAT USA, 21515 Vanowen St., Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Phone: 818-431-2200.
Name of new Life Member Address City/State/Zip Phone
Gifted by Address City/State/Zip
Enclosed is my check payable to NA’AMAT USA in the amount of $_____________
n Card #
Please charge my __MasterCard __VISA __AmEx __Discover Expiration
NA’AMAT N’ News a amat
Israel president Galia Wolloch spoke to a packed audience at a “Why Feminism Now?” forum at Bet Berl College featuring prominent Israeli leaders. Here’s what she said…
Why Feminism Now? Because so many men and women ask me that question. Because men are still afraid of feminists. Because women are still afraid of feminism. Because most women still open with the disclaimer: “I’m not a feminist but…” Because some people are “tired of” feminist “whining.” Because some people are still certain that feminists burn bras and grow their body hair (some of us do, and that’s just fine). Because when we make 35 percent less than men we’re told it’s because we work too little. Because when we try to get a job we’re told we’re either too young and might start having babies or we are too old. Because when we manage to climb to the top people say we’re bitchy. Because some of us don’t recognize or admit any gender discrimination on our way up. Because when we don’t get married they still give us that pitying look, and when they understand it probably won’t happen they warn us of the biological clock. Because our wombs and ovaries are public property and everyone thinks they can bother us with fertility advice. Because we are always “too” something — too fat or too thin, too shabby or put on too much makeup, because we show too much or too little, we’re too blunt, aggressive, sharp, competitive, ambitious, pampered, dramatic, demanding. We’re too, too, too. Enough! I’m a feminist because I feel like it. I’m a feminist because that’s the way I like it. I’m a feminist because I enjoy laughing and crying with women, learning from women, listening to women, being supported by women and supporting them in turn. Give women power. I’m a feminist because I believe in women’s solidarity. I just need feminism now!
Na’amat Awards University Scholarships to Women
wo hundred female students received university scholarships to study engineering, science, medicine and other fields at the annual Na’amat Scholarship Ceremony held in Tel Aviv in June. Sponsored by Na’amat USA and Na’amat Canada, the program helps women of merit from every area of Israeli society complete their degrees. Among the recipients were four Ph.D. candidates concentrating on gender studies and the status of women. An additional four research grants in science were awarded to students in doctoral studies. Among the Ph.D. candidates are Nomi Levenkorn in the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University. She is researching prostitution and trafficking in women during Israel’s national building period of 19481965 and also examining the method of formulating regulations in the field of prostitution and trafficking. Levenkorn will apply her findings to the accepted approaches in law enforcement, which
she finds flawed. focal point of our lives right now — acaMarian Tehawkho is researching the demic studies and social activity. Today role of the marriage market on the we are on the receiving side. Hopefully, decision of Israeli Muslim women to in the future, we will stand on the continue their education. Economist other side and contribute to promoting Ella Schachar is working on defining the higher education in Israel among young optimal policies for supporting mothwomen.” ers’ employment in Israel. The work “Our scholarship program has of Meytal Simchi deals with women’s contributed to the advancement and preferences for treatment for postpartum empowerment of many hundreds depression and anxiety based on ethnicof young women,” said Na’amat USA president Elizabeth Raider. “We are very cultural descent, level of religiousness proud of our support for this program and other factors. and congratulate this year’s exceptional Milena Iliasov, studying industrial scholarship recipients.” engineering and management at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, said the awards will “open doors for a successful integration into academia and the employment market.” Speaking on behalf of the recipients, she added: “We are filled with gratitude for the great giving that encourages growth and self-fulfillment, but, above all, allows us to devote our attention to At the scholarship award ceremony, from left: Masha Lubelsky, head of matters that are at the the scholarship fund; recipient Milena Iliasov; and Shosh Arad, president of the Ruppin Academic Center.
Advocating for Women’s Rights: Some Recent Successes
n the media: “Tempo does not want me? Well, I do not want Tempo” This was the catchphrase of a Na’amat media campaign calling on the public to boycott Tempo Beer Industries because of its sexist TV commercials for Goldstar beer. The slogan used by Goldstar is “Be thankful you’re a man and have a drink.” The protest generated much support as well as discussion about ridiculing and stereotyping women in ads. It also resulted in an apology from the company for any hurt it had caused. Na’amat also protested a
chauvinistic promotion of the Cleveland Cavs basketball team that made light of domestic violence. Na’amat approached David Blatt, Israeli-American head coach of the team, and the Cavs management later apologized. At work: Na’amat and the Histadrut have been advocating for replacing contract work with direct employment in government ministries and in municipalities. Most of the contracted workers are women teachers, secretaries and nurses. Their positions are precarious because they lack the rights and job security that come with direct employ-
sharply worded letter to David ment. We achieved success Maimon, El Al CEO: “I am not when the government agreed At the scholarship award cerconvinced that high heels to make 10,000 contract emony, from left: Masha Lubelare an absolute condition workers employees. sky, head of the scholarship for women’s presentability, Following a three-month fund; recipient Milena Iliasov, and and certainly not for a campaign headed by Na’amat, Shosh Arad, president of the RupEl-Al management retracted its female flight attendant who pin Academic Center. decision forcing women flight is required, as part of her attendants to wear high heels job, to be on her feet for until all passengers boarded extended periods.… I invite and were seated. Na’amat ’s Mr. Maimon to try walking position has been that the in high heels for just one decision constituted gender hour before requiring discrimination. Women do [flight attendants] to not have to wear heels to be damage their health considered “professional” or for no apparent “representative.” reason.” Kicking off the protest last June, Galia Wolloch wrote a
Na’amat USA Awards Research Fellowship to Dr. Pnina Lahav
or the 2015-2016 academic year, Na’amat USA has launched a research fellowship program focusing on the history of Na’amat USA. Applicants were asked to propose major research that would result in a scholarly study. The Na’amat USA Research Fellowship committee selected Dr. Pnina Lahav (Boston University) for her work on a new biography Golda: Through the Gender Lens. A distinguished legal scholar, Professor Lahav has taught at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzlia, Oxford University and Université Jean Moulin Lyon III. At Boston University she teaches constitutional law. Lahav has published numerous articles on constitutional law, freedom of expression and women’s rights. She is the author of Judgment in Jerusalem: Chief Justice Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century. The committee believes Lahav’s work on Golda Meir will be a significant and pathfinding contribution to the fields of Jewish history, women’s history, Zionist and Israeli history and legal studies. The committee is particularly intrigued by the implications of feminist theory for understanding Golda Meir’s involvement with Pioneer Women. The reciprocal relationship between Pioneer Women, many of whom had developed feminist consciousness, and Golda Meir will be researched in the annals of the organization at the American Jewish Archives (Cincinnati), American Jewish Historical Society (New York City) and elsewhere. “We believe Lahav’s fascinating biography project will prove to be of significant public and scholarly interest as well as an enduring contribution to the history of Pioneer Women and Na’amat USA,” noted the committee members. The committee consists of Mark A. Raider, chair (University of Cincinnati), Karla Goldman (University of Michigan), Daniel Greene (Northwestern University), Jack Kugelmass (University of Florida) and Laura Levitt (Temple University). In addition to the material published in her book, Lahav will deliver a public lecture based on her research and provide a version of the work to be published in Na’amat Woman magazine and on the Na’amat USA website. Pnina Lahav
Golda Meir, standing second from left, with leaders of Pioneer Women, circa 1934.
NA’AMAT WOMAN FALL 2015
continued from page 3 — you won’t want to miss the party! By-laws recommendations and nominations for our new slate of national officers will be done prior to the celebration. Instructions will be mailed to areas and councils for distribution to all club members. In honor of Na’amat USA’s milestone year, we have established a Na’amat USA Research Fellowship Program for a scholarly study of a major aspect of the formation and impact of Na’amat USA. The Na’amat USA Research Fellowship for the academic year 2015-2016 has been awarded to distinguished legal scholar Dr. Penina Lahav (Boston University). She is writing a biography of Golda Meir shaped by scholarship on gender, feminist and legal theory. A chapter in Golda: Through the Gender Lens discusses her influence in shaping the development of Pioneer Women as a distinctly women’s organization. The Milton and Mildred Rosen Foundation is the generous sponsor of the Na’amat USA Research Fellowship, honoring Celia Rosen and Helen Cohen, grandmothers of Jan Gurvitch, national fundraising vice president. Another exciting feature of this special year: The Na’amat USA national office is producing a video on our 90 years of achievement. It will be distributed to area and council offices shortly. Running 10 minutes, the video can be used for all events, gala celebrations and fundraising for our new national project in Sderot. This year is a wonderful time to review our nine decades of accomplishments and significant place in the history of the development of the State of Israel and the American Zionist Movement. Since its inception, Na’amat USA has looked to you, our members, to continue on the path of our early leaders, dedicating our goals to ensuring that every Israeli citizen has equal access to social services and educational opportunities. We can all be proud that we are part of this ongoing achievement. Mazal tov, Na’amat USA! Kol ha’kavod!
by MARCIA J. WEISS
THE ISSUE: There is a lack of gender equity in medical research, both in clinical trials and clinical research. Current law does not require medical researchers to ensure that both sexes are studied in the basic research that leads to human clinical trials. Experts say that an existing bias toward using male lab animals, tissue and cells can lead to flawed findings. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston summarize the issue as follows: “Medical research that is either sex- or gender-neutral or skewed to male physiology puts women at risk for missed opportunities for prevention, incorrect diagnoses, misinformed treatments, sickness and even death.” The lack of gender equity is especially problematic when looking at heart disease, which is the number one killer of women. Only 35 percent of participants in heart-related studies are women, even though heart disease kills more women than men. When women have a heart attack, their presenting symptoms differ from those of men. A better understanding of how that disease and others affect men and women differently will allow treatments to be tailored for both sexes. Sex differences in health and disease are underappreciated, resulting in our not getting accurate data from research findings. Another example of gender differences involves the development of osteoporosis. Men develop the disease at older ages than women and lose bone mass differently than women. Older men with a hip fracture are three to four times more likely to die within a year than women with the same condition. Even the effect of tobacco use differs between the sexes. Women have greater difficulty quitting and are more susceptible to tobacco-related diseases, yet they are not routinely included in research data. Lung cancer kills more women each year than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. A woman’s overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is almost twice that of a man’s. It is felt that this is because women live longer and female hormones play a role. A segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 2014 focused on the differences in medical research and explored the consequences, saying that women have “pesky hormones.” Many researchers avoid studying women of
Let’s End Gender Bias in Medical Research
childbearing age due to their monthly hormone fluctuations as well as concerns about pregnancy and safety to unborn children. Likewise, dosages of commonly prescribed medications such as the sleeping pill Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien) should be adjusted because women metabolize the drug differently than men and also eliminate its active ingredient more slowly than men. Without adjusting the dosage, the drug may be strong enough to impair a person’s alertness the next morning. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered drug manufacturers to lower the recommended dosages of certain sleep medications. Eight of the ten drugs most recently withdrawn from the market had higher adverse effects on women. The old-school view of women’s health as “bikini medicine” (i.e., that anything covered by a bikini is women’s health) should be discarded as antiquated.
NEW LEGISLATION: U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Cynthia Loomis (R-Wyo.) introduced a bipartisan bill called the Research for All Act that would bring gender equality to essential aspects of medical research. It would require inclusion and separate analysis of both male and female animals, tissues and cells in basic research conducted and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Act would also require thorough research to ensure safe and effective medicines for both men and women. This legislation is supported by numerous organizations, including the American Heart Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Center for Health Research, National Women’s Health Network, NOW and the Society of Women’s Health Research, among others. TAKE ACTION! Encourage your legislators to support the Health for All Act so that the inequities in biomedical research that impact the health of men and women can be corrected.
Marcia J. Weiss, J.D., is the Na’amat USA Vice President/Program and Education. Her last column (summer 2015) dealt with the attack on reproductive freedom. FALL 2015
Prayers for the Living By Alan Cheuse Bedford, New York: Fig Tree Books 367 pages, $15.95
hat a mouth on Minnie! And I don’t mean it pejoratively. Grandma Minnie Bloch is articulate and sensitive as she meticulously narrates the three-generational story that includes her own early life with her husband, their move to the United States from Eastern Europe and the family she creates. Minnie is the narrator/observer — acting almost like a Greek chorus — in the stirring novel Prayers for the Living by veteran novelist and National Public Radio literary critic, Alan Cheuse, who died in July after a tragic car accident. Although she is not educated in the formal sense, her intelligence and life experience enable her to depict the characters around her: her son Manny, a Reform rabbi and a businessman; his psychologically impaired wife, Maby; their problem-laden daughter, Sarah; and Manny’s mistress, Florette, a Holocaust survivor and a member of Manny’s congregation. And into this mix we must also include Maby’s brother, Mord, who takes brother-in-law Manny into the family business. How does Minnie narrate the rise and fall of this middle class Jewish family? By telling her story to friends during occasional coffee-klatsch meetings, portraying with motherly calm and painterly skill all the people she has encountered. Minnie has not personally experienced all the events she narrates, but she assembles them from talks with her son and other family members, from overheard conversations and even from information discovered by reading pertinent private journals, which she cleverly doesn’t call “snooping” but “learning.” Behind the voluble narrator, who 28
speaks always from the heart, and often with poetic grace, stands the artistry of Alan Cheuse, a sharp-eyed writer who is the voice behind the voice. It should be noted that this voice is appearing for a second time, since the novel was originally published in 1986 under the title The Grandmothers’ Club. Although the central narrator in Prayers for the Living (an ironic title, an inversion of the Kaddish — the Mourner’s Prayer or a Prayer for the Dead) is Minnie, the protagonist of the book is Manny. Well-regarded by his congregation, he splits his duties between rabbinic work and business, ultimately not a happy partnership. As the novel progresses we learn of daughter Sarah’s missteps in college, Maby’s mental imbalance and alcoholism, and Manny’s visits to Florette, who is ostensibly painting her rabbi’s portrait but has other (nonaesthetic) designs on him. In her telling, Minnie does not hide her family members’ flaws. The character of each, often shaped by earlier events in combination with the exigencies of the present, leads them to their destined paths. Cheuse plans the suspense, gives hints of things to come and arranges for Minnie to occasionally offer remarks akin to: “But I’ll tell you about that a bit later....” By so doing he achieves a unique fluidity of time zones. Minnie is the bedrock of the family, the only solid and trustworthy character in the book. She has perfect pitch for rhythms of speech of Jewish women of a certain age and faithfully reproduces the conversations of others. This enables Cheuse to penetrate the psyches of his characters, their hopes and tremors. Some central events are sparks that build up to a conflagration. Among them: Minnie, in Europe, fleeing from a groom who has been forced on her; an accident in New York involving Minnie’s husband, which their son, Manny, witnesses; and Sarah caught strumming a guitar on Yom Kippur by her rabbi dad.
With its riveting intricacies and trajectory, you can’t wait for one page to lead to another. You have a sense of what is going to happen — Minne gives you little choice — but you still hope that a surprise will come your way. Thank you, Minnie, for sharing with us your words and thoughts, your motherly wisdom and compassion. Yes, it all comes from Minnie’s mouth — to our ears and to our hearts. — Curt Leviant Novelist Curt Leviant’s latest book, King of Yiddish, will be published in December 2015 by Livingston Press/The University of West Alabama.
Made in Detroit: Poems By Marge Piercy New York: Alfred A. Knopf 173 pages, $27.95
t age 79, after 18 previously published books of poetry, Marge Piercy can still infuse a poem with the quiet wonder of an artist whose gaze collects no dust. The hinge of the year the great gates opening and then slowly slowly closing on us. The lines are from “N’eilah,” part of Piercy’s cycle of Jewish poems from her recently published Made in Detroit. It is a poem that binds tradition and devotion to the hard shifting ground of the present moment. The Judaism she explores in her work is among other things a faith rooted in the rigors of human commitment. From “Working at it”: So much in the Tanakh is a mixed bag, a tangled message. Eliyahu and Elisha come to the Jordan; the elder prophet strikes the water and parts it for them. He makes a safe dry road through what
would drown them. We all try to do that for those we cherish. Reading a poem like “A hundred years since the Triangle Fire” makes one think of that group of progressive Jewish women poets that once included Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich and Grace Paley, of whom only Piercy and Alicia Ostriker remain. Poets whose focus is the abandoned of history and the casualties of the natural life cycle with its harvest of rude endings. Poets of the big picture, of whom there are too few in contemporary poetry. Piercy is the most religiously engaged of the women. She is a Cape Cod Reconstructionist, drawn to its “egalitarian,” “rainbow-ish” strain, to its offerings of meditation, Kabbalah, an atmosphere in which rituals can be freely re-examined. She has 17 published novels to go with her books of poetry. The Detroit poems that begin this new volume are hard-stitched with memories of childhood poverty in her working-class family. In “Detroit, February 1943”: My clothes were shaped by other bodies, my books had corners turned down, notes I could not read. Rummage sales were our malls. She finds among “Detroit’s steel tits” points of light. In her title poem she writes: I dived into books and their fables closed over my head and hid me. Libraries were my cathedrals. Librarians my priests promising salvation. A veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, Piercy comes out of a period in history that is start-
ing to become wobbly in memory. Her political poem “Ethics for Republicans” generates contradictory emotions: joy at its truth telling, yet sadness, too. Her sarcasm has a lonely ring in a time when there is little social action to make a nest for her anger. Let us make babies and babies and babies; children are something else, probably future criminals, probably welfare cheats whose education hikes taxes. You can freely dispose of them. The non-political reader may find interesting another Piercy subject almost as enduring as social injustice: cats. Her 2002 memoir, Sleeping With Cats, comes with the dedication: “For all of those I have loved, two- and four-footed.” In Made in Detroit, she writes about “my old cat Malkah” who howls at night and awakens her: She is frail, gets two kinds of medicine daily. I am not so frisky myself— arthritis in my knees from a treadmill accident in a run-down gym To sink into Piercy’s poems is to sink into a life fully lived and carefully examined, shortcomings included. She is always vowing on Rosh Hashanah to be less impatient in the coming year — and always failing. The vowing habit may be old, but the vow itself is new, and as the fine poet she is, Piercy is always trying to live in newness. At the same time she finds herself living with the aging and dying of many of her poet friends. “Another obituary” reflects her struggle to come to terms with her losses. In its elegiac beauty and humanity, it is what makes poetry essential. First Muriel, then Audre and Flo, now Adrienne. I feel like a lone
pine remnant of a virgin forest when my peers have met the ax and I weep ashes. Yes, young voices are stirring now, the wind is rising, the sea boils again, yet I feel age sucking the marrow from my bones, the loneliness of memory. Their voices murmur in my inner ear but never will I hear them speak new words and no matter how I cherish what they gave us I want more, I still want more. — Robert Hirschfield Robert Hirschfield is a New York-based journalist and poet. He has recently focused on writing about Jewish poets. His work appears in Tablet, The Jerusalem Report, The Canadian Jewish News as well as other publications. He reviewed Jacqueline Osherow’s Ultimatum From Paradise: Poems in our summer 2015 issue.
Two Great Novels From Author Lisa April Smith Exceeding Expectations “From turbulent Nazi-occupied Paris to Palm Beach in 1961, this one will take you on a ride you won’t forget.” “The heat of Jacqueline Susann and the sophistication of Dominick Dunne.” “Witty fun and sassy.” And the thrilling sequel to Exceeding Expectations
Paradise Misplaced “Sophisticated, Smoldering and Suspenseful = Sensational!” “Wonderful and magical use of characters!”
E-Books – $4.99 Paperbacks – $14.99 At Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com
http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com FALL 2015
Na’amat in My Life continued from page 30
Zionism Demands Justice and Equality n recent months, I have been thinking a great deal about what Na’amat means to me, in the context of growing concern over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Can one be a Zionist and also support the rights of the Palestinian people to social justice and fair treatment in the State of Israel? As a proud member of Na’amat, a Zionist organization, I believe the answer is yes. I don’t accept that justice for Palestinians requires a “non-Zionist” Israel. In fact, I believe the tenets of Zionism demand justice and equality. That’s how I interpret what my mother, Phyllis Sutker (a former national president of Na’amat USA — 1981-1985 — and member of the World Zionist Organization’s executive committee), wrote in 1989, during the first intifada: “As with the State of Israel itself, the failure to realize all our dreams does not mean that we should never have dreamt. The inability to achieve an ideal society does not mean we should abandon our ideals.… We cannot abandon our concern about what kind of state Israel is. The strength of Israel must be in the quality of the society that has been built and must continue to be built.” She went on: “Labor Zionism sought a just society with equality of opportunity for all. Na’amat has had a tremendous impact on providing that opportunity for women as well as for men, children and young people; for Ashkenazi and Sephardi; for Arab and Druze as well as for Jews.” Na’amat ’s impact has only grown since my mother wrote those words. I’m confident that as women, Jews and Labor Zionists, we will continue, as Mom said, “to translate our ideology into action.” Sharon Sutker McGowan Former National Board Member Chicago, Illinois Thank You, Na’amat a’amat has been an integral part of my life since I was in elementary school. My mother, Janet Merlin, was
an active member of Cleveland Na’amat USA from the mid-1930s until her death in 2000. I remember her spending countless hours on the phone, soliciting support for this young organization. She and her Na’amat friends prepared hundreds of meals to bring to annual fundraising bazaars. She was a leader of her chapter, the Cleveland Council and a member of the national board. Even in her 80s, she continued to prepare delicious luncheons at her home to serve at chapter meetings, always trying to save expenses for the organization. So it was a given that I would join Pioneer Women after I married in 1951. Membership in Na’amat was not only a commitment to Israel, but also a social outlet. We were newlyweds, then homebound young mothers, then working women. I remember hosting an opening meeting featuring Rose Kaufman, z"l, a Cleveland leader who later became national president. There were so many women in my small house that some sat on the floor and others on the steps leading to the second floor. Rose mesmerized us with her inspiring talk. Every one of the young guests joined that evening. My husband, Eddie, z"l, and I socialized with Na’amat friends and their husbands for over 50 years. Today, these members (those who are still with us) continue to be my best friends. My mother’s generation was the model of dedication and leadership. They were unique in not holding onto their officer posts forever but encouraging and training us to take on leadership positions. So I also assumed responsibilities in the Cleveland chapter, Cleveland Council and then the national board. I remember being chapter president and very pregnant with my second daughter when we held a big fundraising event — a successful art auction. Our children helped us with Na’amat. They pulled their red wagon around the neighborhood to deliver salamis or oranges with me and did other fundraising projects. Our two young daughters even had their own group to support Na’amat. My chapter was called Azour. Their club was the Azourettes. My most meaningful experience was to be selected to participate in Pioneer Women’s young leadership seminar in Is-
rael in the summer of 1963. My motherin-law volunteered to be the main babysitter for our three children — and they all came down with chicken pox! For five weeks I traveled with 20 Na’amat women under the age of 40. We learned about Israel, met with Zionist leaders, visited historic sites around the country and saw Na’amat in action. We returned to our home cities, re-dedicated to Na’amat service. (I still have all my notes and photos from that 1963 trip.) The seminar was a turning point in our lives — most of the 20 women developed further leadership commitments to the organization, and five became national presidents. Zionism was our family’s heritage. My parents had five grandchildren; four made aliyah between 1973 and 1985. Since joining them in aliyah in 2008, I continue to be involved in Jerusalem with the Sophie Udin Na’amat club. Now in my later years, Na’amat is again an important social outlet with many of my good friends belonging to this club. The icing on the cake is the amazing opportunity we have to actually visit Na’amat ’s installations around Israel and to interact with the children and teens who benefit from its outstanding services. This summer, our club dedicated music corners in three Jerusalem-area Na’amat day care centers in memory of three beloved members. What a pleasure to share a morning with the adorable children, to hear them play their new musical instruments with their caring teachers, to watch the joy and happiness in their faces, and even to throw and catch a ball with them. This face-to-face involvement is the bonus for 75 years of connection with our organization. Thank you, Na’amat, for enriching my life. Edith Paller Former National Board Member Jerusalem, Israel A Way of Life y best friend Shirley Katz (may she rest in peace) invited me to join in 1953 when a new chapter, Hanita, was organized in Pittsburgh. Little did I imagine that this organization would become a way of life for me. Meeting
Golda Meir and becoming best friends with all the members in my chapter were life-changing. Becoming active for the young State of Israel and committing to many Zionist ideals, I started raising funds, recruiting members and going up the ranks of the group until I became the co-chair of the Pioneer Women national convention in Pittsburgh in 1961. Along the way, my husband Mel and I raised three wonderful sons who are embedded in many of my personal activities for Na’amat USA. Spreading my wings in the Pittsburgh Jewish community (JNF, Federation, Israel Bonds) as well as Pioneer Women, I attended a weekend seminar at Three Rivers Habonim and was invited to participate in an Israel seminar for four weeks. It was sponsored by Pioneer Women and the Jewish Agency when Rose Kaufman was national president. She co-opted me on my return to take over the membership chair on the national board, and I also served for many years as national publicity chair when Esther Zackler was president. I served as first national chair for the 1979 Pioneer Women/Na’amat USA convention in Israel, where 900 members and guests had amazing experiences, especially interacting with members who had moved to Israel. Along the way I met the president of Israel, Israel ambassadors and Beba Idelson (secretary-general of Moetzet Hapoalot for some 40 years). These events broadened my life and strengthened my personal feelings for Israel and our organization. My sister members, no matter where they lived, became my friends. I feel very blessed to have contributed my energy and strength to the building of Israel in some small way. We moved to Florida after our sons married and made a life here. I got involved in the organization right away in the Broward County chapter. I also served as Southeast Area coordinator for six years and as national publicity chair. While I am very active in many endeavors here, as well as serving on the national board, I am looking forward to stepping back at the end of my term on the board and retiring! Marjorie C. Moidel National Public Relations Chair Coconut Creek, Florida
Lasting Friendships any years ago, a friend invited me to join Pioneer Women. The Pittsburgh Council president spoke about the goals and purpose of Na’amat, our sister organization in Israel. I liked the mission to help the women and children in Israel so I joined and became involved. I have made many strong, long lasting friendships through my participation and I honed my organizational skills. I was president of Pittsburgh Council for three years. Then I became an Israel seminarist and learned firsthand about the inner workings of Na’amat Israel. I learned about Na’amat ’s close affiliation with the then Labor government of Israel, and we got to meet leaders including Golda Meir, Rahel BenZvi, Shimon Peres and Abba Eban. We visited many of the child care centers, agricultural and vocational schools and kibbutzim, and we learned on site how Na’amat is part and parcel of the State of Israel. When my friend Gloria Elbling was installed as national president of Na’amat USA, my husband and I had the honor of being in Israel for this special occasion. I served two years on the national board and presently am co-chair of Pittsburgh Council’s Spiritual Adoption event. Most recently, I visited Karmiel/ Misgav in Israel and toured the Maurice and Adele Weiner Women’s Center that Pittsburgh Council was instrumental in funding. I was so delighted when I saw the plaque thanking Pittsburgh Council and I saw the names on the plaque of our dear friends Gloria and [the late] Irv Elbling and of my husband Harvey and me. I was so proud of this accomplishment. Carole Wolsh Former National Board Member Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Getting Back More Than You Give ixty-two years is a lifetime for belonging to Pioneer Women/Na’amat USA. Sixty-two years is a lifetime for almost anything. It’s so hard for me to believe it’s been more than six decades since I moved to Massapequa (New York) and joined Pioneer Women. My member-
ship is truly entwined with my life. I am a charter member of the South Shore chapter, and I was its first treasurer. The club received its charter and had its installation in my living room in 1954. And that was the beginning of how we succeeded. We became like a family. I made lifelong friends in our club. I have always said, “We take out more than we give to Na’amat.” Of course I will continue working for Na’amat on Long Island and in Florida. Let’s be aware of how much Israel and Na’amat still need our aid. Rhoda Orenstein Former Long Island Council President Massapequa, New York Meeting the Greats eetings in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with President Carter or Secretary Brezinski were not unusual for this past national president of Pioneer Women (1977-1981), living in Detroit, Michigan, far from the seats of power. It was not only a great honor, but also a wonderful opportunity to mingle with the greats of Israel reborn, with world leaders and the members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Updates on what was happening around the globe came to me daily. Having an Atari computer in the late 1970s was of great help to my work. Being national president expanded my world and made me proud of myself. I experienced a life with accomplishments that I would otherwise have never realized, and I formed friendships that have lasted until today. I have countless memories. Here are just a few. Before I became president, my life was already enriched by Pioneer Women. One outstanding memory is of the national convention held in Cleveland in 1959. Golda Meir spoke at our luncheon. Her message was to “start packing,” as her ever-riding theme was aliyah. I also had the pleasure of being with her at our 50th Anniversary Pioneer Women Tour in Israel and Na’amat world movement meetings. That was back in the days the Labor Party was in power. Some older history: Golda was part of our leadership in 1928 when she came here as a shlicha (emissary) and again in the early 1930s when she headed Pioneer Women. Our
founders in the United States were Yiddish-speaking women, and it took the persuasive Golda Meir to come to the United States to form our Englishspeaking young women into clubs. During my early trips to Israel, I remember almost all the members of the Knesset saying that their early education took place at one of Na’amat’s day care centers. The importance of Na’amat was so inspiring — a motivation to make our organization as well known in the United States as it is in Israel. In 1981, the national convention voted to change the name of Pioneer Women to Na’amat USA to better reflect our purpose and connection to Na’amat Israel. Na’amat is an acronym in Hebrew that means women who work and volunteer — and that is who we are. In later years, until recently, I spearheaded what we called the Perpetual Scholarship Fund (now the Professional Scholarship Fund). Every year, it awards more than 200 stipends to Israel women pursuing higher education. Helping women to achieve their education and career goals has been a great source of pride and satisfaction. Now 94, I have returned to Michigan from Florida to be close to my family. I reside in a senior residence near my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and it is fraylach (happy). I have many exciting and unforgettable Na’amat years to look back on. Frieda S. Leemon National President, 1977-1981 West Bloomfield, Michigan
onist background. My leadership abilities were recognized and I was elected to both chapter and Pittsburgh Council presidencies. I traveled to conferences and conventions, which I often chaired, garnering new ideas and new friends. In 1963, I was chosen to attend a Pioneer Women leadership seminar in Israel, which included Jewish Agency meetings and a Labor Zionist young leadership gathering. It was an eye- and mindopening experience. We were asked to remain active for two years following the trip. Two years turned into many more. In 1985, I was elected national president and installed during a convention in Israel. I am still involved in Na’amat USA 52 years later, continuing to chair our big fundraising dinner in Pittsburgh. My second marriage was a result of asking for funds from Walter Gottlieb, z"l. He agreed to donate and asked me out to dinner. All five of my great grandkids are life members of Na’amat. I ended up going to Israel 39 times and meeting with Abba Eban, Golda Meir, Leah Rabin, Shimon Peres and U.S. diplomats. I received many local, national and international honors. I feel blessed to celebrate our 90th anniversary. In spite of our struggles, Na’amat USA is still carrying on our mission in this ever-changing world. My prayer is for us to go from strength to even greater strength. Mazal tov! Gloria Elbling Gottlieb National President, 1985-1989 Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania Coconut Creek, Florida
Blessed to Celebrate was invited to attend a Pittsburgh Pioneer Women meeting and listen to a speaker make a pitch for membership. I was hooked, and it set the direction for my life. My husband and I were financially strapped, and I could pay only half the dues at the time. This group gave me the opportunity to meet and associate with women who shared my interests and passions. Among the dividends were lifelong friendships. I immediately volunteered for chairmanships and responsibilities. My husband Irv Elbling, z"l, was very supportive and proud of me. He also became a community leader. I come from a strong Jewish and Zi-
Partnering With the Women of Israel t was 1947, and I had just married, when the Akron Chapter of Na’amat USA decided that Akron needed a Na’amat chapter made up of young women. I was invited to attend a meeting and liked what I heard about the work of Na’amat. Since that first meeting, the organization has been an important part of my life. I was thrilled when a few years later I was invited to participate in a leadership mission to Israel. As much as I knew about Na’amat, and as devoted as I was to its work, that trip made a real difference in my understanding of
what Na’amat accomplishes every day in serving the women, youth, children and families of Israel — and it made Israel a part of my soul. I saw such devotion on the part of the teachers to the children in our day care centers; the concern for the youth in our agricultural and vocational high schools; the many activities in our community centers; the efforts to support women and elevate their status and so much more. I was also so impressed with the leadership of Na’amat in Israel as they worked to provide new services as they were needed. My life is filled with pride knowing that Na’amat USA has enabled me to be a partner with the women of Israel as they fulfill their commitment to serve the women, youth, children and families of my beloved Israel. In 1993, I was elected national president of Na’amat USA. What an honor! Being president gave me so many amazing experiences: meeting President Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres, interacting with the presidents of many women’s organizations and traveling many times to Israel. Na’amat USA gave me experiences of a lifetime! Sylvia Lewis National President, 1993-1997 Beachwood, Ohio Lifelong Commitment n 1960, I was a young bride of two years with a new baby. One evening, a friend asked me to come with her to a meeting. I was looking for some time away from home for a couple of hours, so I agreed to go. My husband was just finishing his service in the air force and we had just moved back to Chicago. I liked the idea of getting out of our house for a while, but had no idea what I was in for and knew nothing about this fairly new group of women. Mostly I listened but had no real connection to Israel at that time. Hearing their stories and explanations was an eye opener and a real life changer for me. I’ll never forget the enthusiasm of the people in that room for the work that Pioneer Women did; meeting people whose values were the same as mine; the warmth and welcoming I felt; and the time people took to explain to me why Na’amat was so im-
portant for the women and children in Israel. I felt this was something I should listen to and become part of. Within a year I held a chairmanship, and within three years I was president of this club. Helping people, working hard to raise money for women and children in need, and donating whatever I could to make a difference in the lives of so many really grabbed my attention. Before long, I became president of the council and my life changed. I was no longer shy and I was no longer afraid to speak out about the cause and the need. I was asked to participate in a national leadership seminar and then the following year in an Israel seminar. There I saw with my own eyes and felt with my own heart how the work we did in the United States to raise money and to support all our programs in Israel made a real difference in the lives of Israeli women and children. I knew then that this was going to be a lifelong commitment. Traveling through Israel to see our day care centers, special high schools for troubled teens and women’s centers, and talking to the lawyers who help women in trouble made me feel even more connected. Then I became national president. I traveled throughout the United States many times, speaking to Na’amat USA clubs and councils. I visited Israel many times to see what our donations did to improve our programs and to build new facilities — and I knew that many years before I had made the right decision by joining. There is a plaque with my name on it in a day care center in the city of Shoham. I am very proud that I’ve been able to be such a big part of Na’amat USA. Lynn Wax National President, 2001-2004 Morton Grove, Illinois The Righteousness of Giving a’amat has given me so much. Our organization offered me the opportunity to make new friends and develop new skills. Na’amat became my link with my Jewish identity. Na’amat awakened my awareness to the fact that women could do more than just be wives and mothers, that they could use their marketable skills learned at the university level and other educational venues.
My life was influenced by my mother’s identification with and leadership in Pioneer Women. The organization taught me to care, to feel the righteousness of giving. For my very little contribution, I have received an overwhelming dividend. Looking back, it was a period of substance and experience offering opportunities that I may never have had otherwise. I had the opportunity to meet with American and Israeli leaders. I was impressed with the quality of the Na’amat leadership and the scope of our activities. I served Na’amat in every facet on the national scene, eventually reaching the national presidency. My life has revolved around my organizational friendships and ideals. I have been given the opportunity to visit Israel many times, witnessing Na’amat in action and Israel growing. I have seen Na’amat become a leader in developing programs, activities and services that help find solutions to problems faced by women worldwide. Throughout the years I have shared much laughter and many tears with my haverot. My life has been fuller and more meaningful and my horizons have broadened because of my involvement and the friendships I have developed in Na’amat USA. Harriet Green National President, 1979-1983 Coral Gables, Florida Proud to Be Involved hrough Na’amat USA I was able to visit Israel and see firsthand what I had only heard about: our vital work with and for Israeli women and children. Hearing an Israeli president say that Na’amat was doing the necessary work that should be the responsibility of the government was an eye-opener. Another eye-opener occurred when I was attending an international conference in Jerusalem. At one point I went out for some air, and when I wanted to go back in, a female soldier asked me for my ID. I said I had to get it from my purse and that I was with Na’amat. With a big smile, she said: “Na’amat, kol beseder, kol beseder” (That’s OK) and let me in. All over Israel, you can witness the tremendous respect people have for Na’amat.
On another occasion, I was taken to our day care center in Jaffa, where both the Arab and Jewish mothers had asked Na’amat to create a center for both their children — not two separate ones. Walking through the halls I saw colorful pictures of toothbrushes, combs, forks and other everyday objects. Under each picture was the word in Arabic and Hebrew. I was told they celebrate Jewish, Christian and Muslim holidays. The atmosphere was one of harmony, joy and understanding. That is Na’amat at work. And I’m very proud to be a part of such a significant organization. Edythe Rosenfield National President, 2007-2010 Middletown, Connecticut Have Something to Say? Na’amat USA welcomes your essays (150-250 words) on the impact/meaning of the organization on your life. Essays may be used in the magazine and/or on the Na’amat USA website and be edited for length and clarity. Please send to email@example.com.
Visit NA’AMAT Installations! See Na’amat in action when you travel to Israel. Na’amat’s International Department will arrange for you to visit a day care center or technological high school. Just contact Shirli Shavit at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks ahead.
NAâ€™AMAT WOMAN FALL 2015
NA’AMAT USA: 90 Years of Standing Up for the Women and Youth of Israel! The largest women’s organization in Israel, Na’amat works to improve the status of women and provides educational and social services for women, children, teenagers and families.
With 300,000 members — Jewish, Arab and Druze women — and 30 branches, Na’amat provides a huge social service network throughout all of Israel.
Na’amat DAY CARE centers provide loving care for 18,000 preschoolers, with 25
Women, children and men get help at the GLICKMAN CENTER FOR THE
shelter for battered women.
Students get a fresh start at 18
COMMUNITY CENTERS throughout Israel
MULTIPURPOSE CENTERS devoted to
TECHNOLOGICAL HIGH SCHOOLS,
two youth villages, and vocational and professional education classes for adult women. Thirty LEGAL
provide women with legal advice and representation for issues concerning employment, marriage, divorce, single parenting and aging.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, which also has a
provide cultural and educational enrichment.
Na’amat FIGHTS FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN in the Knesset and the courts so they
can be full and equal participants in Israeli society.
Every year, more than 200 SCHOLARSHIPS for higher education are awarded to deserving women. WOMEN’S RIGHTS CENTERS offer legal,
financial and family counseling; mediation and support groups.
For more information, please contact NA’AMAT USA, 21515 Vanowen Street, Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Phone: 818-431-2200; e-mail: email@example.com; website: www.naamat.org.