A Note to post-Feminists who just don’t seem to get it

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I just read a comment to an article about guys learning to make challah on the Forward’s sisterhood blog. Somehow I felt the young author missed the point of what happened oh so long ago, when women finally took to the streets and said, “Enough! We are not chattel or pieces of meat. Get over it!” Feminism has become a dirty word. When we fought for it, it meant getting lives instead of being forced to stay in the kitchen with our heads in the oven.

As an old hag who marched in the women’s lib parade 40 years ago, it seems to be that today’s youngsters just don’t get what our bitter battle for basic human rights was like. We had bosses putting their hands up our skirts with impunity (and that did happen to Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she first got married and worked in a social security office in St. Louis, as well as to me and thousands of others.) Equal work was not equal pay and is not to this day.

Men are still in charge because some young women think that feminism means you can sell yourself like a sex object and that women’s manners are disgusting, so men don’t take most of us seriously. And the serious ones they dismiss with sexual comments like “she needs a little” or “she must swing the other way.” etc. When I see it around my community, I want to pull my hair (whatever is left of it) out of my head.

Face it. With a few exceptions, MEN HATE STRONG WOMEN, and thanks to the post feminists who never understood what we were fighting for, they are busily, legislatively and religiously, taking away our rights.

There are those of us who helped our families live better lives by contributing our incomes, sometimes more than one income, to the rest of the family and we did it while putting up with constant abusive or insulting behavior from men….and the author seemed to denigrate those kinds of women. Just the other day, my mother said to me, “You always wanted to be a man.” which is what the author seems to say about old time feminists like me.

No. I do not want to be a man. I grew up with a twin brother in a haredi household. I wanted to be treated with the same respect and humanity and equality in learning and observance as he. And I soon discovered that the reason men are the way they are is because their mothers and fathers and teachers never bothered to tell them that women are valuable and have rights.

Mom is cooking, doing the dishes, the laundry, and running the house, including getting someone to mow the lawn, etc., while also holding down one or two jobs or even running a small business, while dad sits and complains that she’s not good enough, the kids are too noisy, helping them with homework is not his job and he’s too tired to do the dishes or take out the garbage, ’cause he had a hard day at work. Compared to running a household, let me tell you that work in an office or retail store is easy. Been there done that with millions of other women. But there are Jewish women trapped in even worse situations.

Some female members of my family are not permitted to attend school where secular subjects and English go beyond 9th grade. College has been verboten. Women are not permitted to drive or go to an event on their own, birth control is forbidden. So are computers and smartphones.

The sex stories are outrageous. There are a goodly number of concubines and there are also child molesters who got away with it for decades–stuff swept under the rug which is now exploding. Four guys just were let off the hook for trafficking a young Hasidic girl with emotional issues, and possibly more than that… Right now I am dealing with a woman in Brooklyn whose son is one of those molested kids who became a druggie. Her husband is abusive, and she is struggling to get out. She needs money to support her kids, and because she has no education, she has to go out and literally beg. How can I help her? Where are her sisters? They rejected her because she is no longer Orthodox. She has become an atheist. Where can I find the money for her? Answer: I can’t, certainly not by myself.

That’s the part the feminists forget about. And it’s not just the silence on the molestations. The turnout on behalf of women who are agunot is pitiful. Women are more than half the population. Where are the pro-active Feminists? Are they afraid of losing their jobs if they speak up? Are they too busy arguing feminist philosophy while the house burns down?

Yes, strong women scare most men. When we call for Halakhic reform they call us nuts, crazy, dismiss us like flies on a horse. And then they lie about the rules. Like the agunah situation, which can, indeed be fixed, since halakha, according to the Talmud, is supposed to be adjusted to meet community needs. Then there’s the bit forbidding women to wear talit and tefillin. Not true. It’s a chumrah created by chauvinists which has ZERO to do with halakha, and is based on the fact that the Remah and Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg thought women were arrogant.

Where are our Devorahs? Why are women buying into the misogyny? The Haggadah states: “AT psach lo”–The feminine You–“You teach them.” It’s a woman’s job to teach her children to respect women and allow them to explore their full potential for the benefit of their own lives. Take from texts that which uplifts women and forget the Aishes Chayil stereotype.

Teach your children how to be. And don’t let them watch trash TV and think real life is like that. It’s only a weapon of mass distraction so that they don’t even think about what really matters–whether it’s making a relationship work, being a decent and moral person (you hardly see that on TV) or paying attention to politics. And paying attention to politics is vital.

Politics in this day and age is very, very personal, especially for women, as people, by the millions, are being kicked out of their homes in their old age, jobs disappear, wages keep falling, expenses keep going up. The Republicans make a concerted effort to stop any jobs bill and real help to homeowners, while cutting education to the bone, preventing women from getting equal pay for equal work, seek to control their uteri, and let insurance companies deny half the population proper medical care while hospitals are charging people $3,000 for a $300 test, or big pharma charges $1090 for 90 pills of Nexium, a heartburn pill. We dare not remain silent in the face of these issues, because they lower the quality of our lives and roll back everything we fought for so long ago.

Here’s a hard and fast rule about Judaism (and I guess real life), as per Herman Cohen, who got it from the prophets: “If it’s not just, ethical and reasonable, it’s not Judaism.” And from its inception, it is a religion with constantly evolving rules. That doesn’t mean we go backwards.

You want things to change? Start with your own children, and don’t make someone like me feel that the battle we fought and won so that you young women can do whatever you want…don’t, just don’t make me feel that it was a total and complete waste of our time.

Did Jewish Values Die with the Six Million?

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How can you be a Jewish state when you have no Jewish values? Do we need to quote Tanach and Talmud to remind ourselves of the Jewish values that have been ingrained on our souls since we were tykes? Don’t we do that every week in the synagogue? Is anyone listening? Isn’t Israel supposed to be, you should forgive the expression, the Mecca of Diaspora Jewry?

So why is it that fewer and fewer Jews care about Israel? Maybe it is because they don’t like what they see in a host of Israeli policies, from making nice with some of the vilest governments in the world to treating refugees from genocide like criminals. It is something that is hard to wrap your head around. As hard as trying to understand how rabbis in New York refuse to let victims of child abuse dial 911 without their permission.

Who are the people throwing rocks through black-owned shop windows in Tel Aviv and setting fire to Eritreans in Jerusalem? People who were educated in the Land of Yad Vashem? How many billions did we spend trying to teach people how to live together and prevent genocide? As Jews and as a Jewish community, we yell “hate crime” every time someone looks at us cross-eyed, denies the Holocaust, or paints a swastika on a wall, including at Yad Vashem in early June. In the meantime, we Jews treat each other, our children, and the strangers among us like we are less than worthless.

Did the Six Million die for nothing? They had faith in a free, democratic and ideal state of Israel that would be the salvation of the world. Ani Mamin they sang in the Ghettos and camps. Hatikvah was on their lips together with the Shma as they went to the gas. We sing those songs on Yom Hashoah along with the Partisaner Hymn and Kaddish.

Where is that land of Israel, the land of Jewish values and ideals? Today it’s a place where Israeli government officials tell the big lie about North Africans, and prevent their own people from protesting peacefully. Government officials said that these refugees from genocide are raping Israeli women, giving them AIDS, and are a cancer on Israeli society. And they are deporting them back to their countries of origin with ugly rhetoric and violence reminiscent of Kristallnacht.

The ideal Israel in our souls, the Israel of blue skirts and embroidered blouses, of campfires and idealism, only exists in our imaginations. As a student of history, not bubbeh mayses, the story of the birth of Israel, the story of how the Jewish community behaved before, during and after the war in Mandate Palestine, in Europe, in America, in community after community–except for a handful of people who put themselves on the line in the attempt to rescue Jews–is not a pretty story.

The fictional Ari Ben Canaans of Exodus and the Rabbi Michoel Wiessmandls were rare characters. The Israeli right wing murdered the man who saved my mother and thousands of others during the Holocaust. To this very day, the behavior of the established Jewish communities in the secular and denominational world is shameful–from the treatment of the North Africans, including Ethiopian Jewry and women in Israel and everywhere else where they are forced to sit in the back, not drive, not go to school, etc.(in the organizational Jewish world there is equal work, not equal pay and glass ceilings) to the decades of covering up child abuse and domestic violence everywhere. And if anyone tells you that women in Judaism are free, look them in the eye and say “Agunot.”

The typical American Jew looks on, aghast, as Israel self-immolates in front of Diaspora Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry faces its own house of horrors. So much for being a light unto the nations. So much for the lessons from the Holocaust. So much for Jewish values. How the hell did we become the monsters we teach our children not to be. How can we, just four generations after the Holocaust, remain silent in the face of our leaders’ moral bankruptcy? How can we tolerate it when a Jew calls another Jew a Nazi? How can we tolerate it when our own people behave the way they do?

Maybe Jewish values died with the Six Million. Maybe that’s when Jewish leadership died. Elie Wiesel once said, “Jeanette, don’t wait for leaders. Be your own leader.”

Listen to Wiesel. Speak truth to power. If you don’t like what you see in the Jewish community, don’t wait for someone to lead you. Pick up a phone, post something to facebook, make your voice heard. Protest and demand the end of hypocrisy. Be your own leader.

I.B. Singer Festival in Warsaw

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click on the image to enlarge it, and use the magnifying glass if you still can’t read the type!


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On the Friday night immediately after Rosh Hashanna, my son Dan called for Shabbat dinner at Occupy Wall Street. There were about 25-30 of us who made kiddush, ate cholent (translates these days into vegetarian chili), had tuna fish instead of gefilte fish and drank lots of juice while eating home-made challah. When a CBS reporter found us under the sculpture on the northwest corner of Cedar and B’way, he didn’t want to know why we made Shabbat in Zuccotti Park. He didn’t care that there were ethical, principled reasons to have Shabbat at a protest, to sanctify a day by speaking out for justice. This guy wanted us to be hippies having pot luck dinner. Sorry we didn’t fit his stereotype. “I only have 10 seconds, no time for this Shabbat thing,” he said.

I was the senior in the bunch, and David Peel, a real hippie who hung with John and Yoko back in the day (and was singing Tevye’s greatest hits), was one person who asked me why I was there, as did a struggling freelance journalist. They both looked pointedly at my gray hair and my grandmotherly physique.

“I am here because when things were circling the drain, the banks wouldn’t renegotiate our mortgage. The credit card companies hiked their interest rates. My husband got sick and lost his job. And the co-pays on drugs have become obscene. My Nexium went from $30 for 90 pills to $640+ on a co-pay. Full price for that formerly $30 bottle is $1080. That’s why I am in Zuccotti Park. I marched against Vietnam in 65 (and married a Viet Nam vet). I marched in the Women’s Lib Parade in 1970, because my Orthodox Jewish husband refused to grant me a Jewish divorce for seven long and bitter years. I marched on behalf of Soviet Jewry and for the State of Israel. Now I am marching for me.”

In bankruptcy and foreclosure, after paying every bill for 21 years, we lost a state tenant in our investment/retirement home in Arizona and lost the house. Then clients bailed on us because they had no money, others canceled projects because of investments with Madoff and other shaky stuff. Now our home in New Jersey is underwater.

We write books, we edit books, we print books. We are a necessary niche market business. But the trustee for U.S. Bankruptcy court will not allow us to sell the books we print for our clients, let alone our used books, and is demanding $21,500 for the books I need to do my work, for the mementos of a full and not-boring life, for my beloved Brooklyn Bridge collection, and my Judaica. That’s why I go to Zuccotti Park and exercise my first amendment rights.

If anyone missed what the media says about people like me and my son Dan—they are saying we are young (I wish), smelly, nasty, ignorant know-nothings who do not believe in the system, we are criminals, etc. You really have to see the Jon Stewart take on this to see what they say about people like you and me. CLICK HERE.

We are not who the media says we are. We know who we are. We are those who struggle just to keep it together, to rescue something from everything we had ever worked for. And those of us who have parents watch them in the last days of their lives as they suffer along with us. And trust me—it is infinitely more difficult when those elderly parents are Holocaust survivors.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Isaiah speaks for God, who essentially says, “Who needs you to fast and say all these prayers of repentance and offer me all of these sacrifices if you don’t take care of your widows, your poor and your orphans?”

That’s why it is precisely on Yom Kippur that I am with my son in Zuccotti Park. It is precisely here that I can, with a clear conscience, ask for forgiveness for selfishness, apathy and pride. I want people to understand that it’s not just about ATM fees and interest rates; it’s about human beings who are just like you and me. It’s about millions of Americans who are teetering on the edge of the abyss, and nobody out there with the means, the power and the vision wants to step forward and give us the help we need to survive as our American dreams turn into nightmares.

I knew it a long time ago, but you cannot, like Isaiah, be a prophet in your own hometown. Check out youtube.com. On May 1, 1979, Ayn Rand, the grand diva of the free market, was a guest on Donohue, who at the time had the only intelligent talk show on TV. My sister-in-law and I were in the audience. I wore a white dress and had long, black curly hair and big glasses. I was eight months pregnant with Dan, my son who called for Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. Rand and I had a knock down drag out with Donohue as referee, and it dominated the show. For Rand, it was all about keeping whatever you make, charity is a waste and it’s not the government’s job to protect anyone or give them a leg up, and how dare Donohue allow her to be attacked by hippies!

For me it was quite the opposite. When Donohue explained to me that according to Rand, corporations will do the right thing, I said that I didn’t believe that. “The more money you have,” I said to him, “the more power you have.”

Now, if anyone on Fox Not the News cares to show up at Kol Nidrei services at Occupy Wall Street, I would be proud to answer any questions intelligently. But I have learned, again, through bitter experience, that Fox never lets reality get in the way of Fox facts.

David Kranzler’s Orthodox Ends, Unorthodox Means from the Goldberg Commission Report, 1985

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This was published by the Goldberg Commission to Examine the Role of American Jews During the Holocaust. David, a dear friend, is now gone, but he should be credited with doing an enormous amount of research into this issue. He also wrote “Thy Brother’s Blood” on the subject, published by Artscroll, and also, The Nazis, Japanese and Jews published by Ktav.

The Role of the Vaad Hatzalah and Agudath Israel during the Holocaust
By David H. Kranzler

“The Orthodox were flexible in their approach and were thus able to adapt to conditions of ‘total war’ more readily than other Jewish groups…apparently it set the pace for other groups.”1
Professor Aryeh Tartakower (World Jewish Congress)

In this essay, the term “Orthodox” refers to two small Jewish organizations based in the United States: the Agudath Israel (The Agudah) and the Vaad Hatzalah. The Agudah, a branch of World Agudath Israel, began its work on refugee and immigration matters in 1938 in response to requests for rescue from Austria and Germany. It concentrated on obtaining sponsoring affidavits and visas for Orthodox Jews in occupied Europe. But it handled all requests that came its way, including those from the non-Orthodox.2

Read more here.

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