Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why am I still frum?

I've spent so much time slamming the frum community on this blog that it's probably starting to sound like the answer to my question of, "Am I a frum feminist?" is that I'm more feminist than frum. I admit that I have misgivings about the frum community and my place in it. Why, after all, would I want to be a part of a community that I see so many flaws in?

In short, if I have so many problems with the frum world, why am I still frum?

The answer came to me this past week when I attended the bris ceremony (aka circumcision party) of my friends' 8 day old son.

As I stood in the crowd of people waiting to partake in the ceremony, I thought, "Oh my G-d, this is so barbaric! Crowding around a tiny baby, waiting to do that to him while serving a huge meal to celebrate, and everyone's smiling and laughing with each other..."

Except the celebration and the joy was about bringing this tiny person into a covenant (the real translation of the word, "bris",) - into a bond - with G-d, turning this apparently barbaric ceremony into the greatest sign of loyalty and love to G-d.

In a world where the moral code is based on human understanding, circumcision absolutely is barbaric. But in a world where the moral code comes from G-d, it becomes a sign of devotion.

There's no hope in this world for a moral code based on human understanding. Think back to the Germans pre-World War II. Germany was the birthplace of the Enlightenment. They were considered the most cultured of people, studying the latest sciences and philosophies.

And yet with their sophistication and their philosophies about humanity, they managed to rationalize the most inhumane behavior mankind has ever seen.

Why am I still frum? Because in a world where morality is based on human understanding - in a world without a G-dly moral code, - we are doomed.

I believe in G-d because I know that humanity without G-d allows atrocities like the Holocaust to happen,

I'm frum because I believe in G-d, and all the downfalls of the frum community cannot discredit that belief.

Is the community flawed? Yes. But these flaws are ones made by us puny humans, not by G-d.

So I continue to follow the word of G-d in spite of the flaws in the community, just as I will continue to fight to fix those flaws.

I continue to be frum. I continue to be a feminist. And they needn't be mutually exclusive.

Note: For a thorough, and beautiful explanation on bris milah - circumcision - click here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Quote Time

"Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

-Psychiatrist who refused Woodrow Wilson's request that he classify Alice Paul, a suffragette, as insane.

Ultimately, she helped win the fight to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women in the United States the right to vote. Aside from in Jewish community councils. Heaven knows I'd be thought insane if I challenged that norm.

It's on my to-do list.

(I haven't had a "Quote Time" in a while but I came across this one while reading an old post that I wrote and I thought it worth repeating.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Women's Revolution

The story of the upcoming holiday of Chanukah is one of the Jewish people being tyrannized by the Greek Empire. Not an unusual occurrence for the Jewish nation, in this [hi]story, the Jewish people got sick of it, started a military revolution, and won.

Ah, revolution. Music to my ears. And - even better! - I just read that it was a revolution fought for the women:

(The following is an excerpt from an article by Chana Kroll at

The hall was packed. This was no ordinary wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of one of Jerusalem’s most prominent families. Leaders in the still quiet and nonviolent rebellion against the Greeks, they were respected and loved by Jews throughout the Land ofIsrael. Not to mention that, as priests in the Temple, the family had been looked up to for generations.

Amidst the elegant flowers, soft music, and the conversations of the guests, the bride suddenly stood up, walked to the center of the room, placed her hand on her chest, and tore open her gown.

Shocked, angry, and embarrassed, her brothers rose to drag her from the room. But she stood firmly in place and addressed the room: “You who are so zealous that you would kill me, are not zealous enough to protect me from the hands of the Greek governor who will come here to assault me tonight.

“Did you not learn from Shimon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, who, though only two men, killed the entire city of Shechem for her sake? Place your faith in the One Above, and He will help you.”

Her five brothers declared their willingness to go to war, and were answered by a voice emanating from the Holy of Holies promising victory. [...]

The Greeks outlawed Shabbat, the celebration of the New Moon, and Torahstudy. Jews hid in caves and continued to observe all three. The Greeks found hundreds of ways to try to stamp out Judaism. Jews found hundreds of ways to quietly rebel and to remain what they had always been. Then the Greek soldiers started assaulting Jewish women. The governor made a decree—unfortunately, a common one in ancient cultures—called jus primae noctis, “first night rights.” The governor would kidnap and assault every bride on her wedding night.

And then the Jews went to war.

The victory we celebrate on Chanukah is a victory on many levels. It is a victory of the few over the many, of light over darkness, of Jewish continuity in the face of all those who had sought, or would seek to, wipe out Judaism and Jewish history.

The Jewish people—men and women—defied every Greek law with enormous self-sacrifice, yet it was largely by and for the sake of Jewish women that the Maccabees were led to declare war.

The decisive moment occurred when one Jewish woman looked her brothers in the eye and told them, “You cannot let this happen to me.” It was a war, first and foremost, for sanctity—the sanctity of the Temple, the sanctity of Torah, and the sanctity of every human being.

Among the many miracles we acknowledge and commemorate as we kindle the lights of the menorah, we also acknowledge the simple truth of every woman’s sanctity and her right to personal safety and dignity.

I was excited to read this article because, as I was discussing with a colleague of mine recently, there aren't very many stories in modern Jewish history of frum women standing up for themselves. There are biblical and ancient stories, like this one, but even those are rare.

We need more female heroes in the frum community. Of course, I'd prefer killing the Greek bastards who tried to pull that jus primae noctis crap on me myself, instead of letting the guys do it, but - hey! - we've got to start somewhere.

Stop the Hush

The frum community excels at pretending that life within its borders is perfect. What else could life be in a world that is dedicated to serving G-d?

But evil knows no borders and it exists within the frum community just as surely as it does outside of it. The community is just good at hushing things up. I don't understand how anyone can prefer child (and spousal) abuse to admitting that there is a problem, but there you have it.

In more upbeat news, a book was recently published that tells the story of one of these hush-ups. The book is appropriately titled, "Hush," and is,

"...the story of Gittel, a girl growing up in Hasidic Borough Park, Brooklyn, who witnesses her best friend’s Devory’s sexual abuse at age 9. The perpetrator is Devory’s brother, a promising scholar home from yeshiva. Horror ensues, but the entire community conspires to pretend nothing has happened." (Click here for full book review.)

I applaud the author of this book for being brave enough to stand up and publish her story.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Republicans Winning Women?

Here's an interesting bit of news:

Last week's election results show that women voters, who have traditionally been primarily Democrats, are shifting to the Republican camp. (Like my color-coding?) The Los Angeles Times called it, "a jolting drop in female support this year for House Democrats".

The article went on to say that the drop is mostly because more married women voted Republican this year, but that single women, "historically one of the party's most loyal demographic groups" also voted for Republicans more than previously.

Pollsters blame it on Obama and Democratic leaders for failing to ease their financial stresses.

Thank you, Mr. President. We knew you'd have our backs.

We appreciate your support.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Burkhas in Beverly Hills

It's a sunny day here in Southern California and I just saw a woman walking down the street in Beverly Hills covered head to toe in black, the only part of her showing: her eyes. She was even wearing gloves. It was obvious that she was Muslim woman wearing the traditional garb that you see in movies and read about in the news but rarely see yourself.

It gave me a bit of a shock. I couldn't help staring and wondering about the woman underneath all that black cloth. About what makes her choose to wear it - or if she even was the one to make the choice to begin with.

And I couldn't help thinking, "For all that I complain about misogyny in the Orthodox Jewish community, these Muslim women have it so much worse."

It isn't very fashionable in the frum community to sympathize with Muslims and believe me, I have no sympathy for those of them who are evil or are terrorists, but I can't help feeling sorry for their women. They are treated worse than dirt in many (if not all) Muslim countries.

It makes me grateful that I'm a Jew. Yes, there are problems in the frum world with how women are treated and, yes, I do write this blog anonymously for fear of what it could do to my "reputation" in the frum community, but those things seem trivial next to the fears that so many Muslim women live with all their lives.

Now there are some women who need a serious dose of feminism.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Study: Orthodox Women Have More Anxiety

According to a study done at the University of London about Orthodox Jews:

"Quantitatively, severe stress and clinical levels of depression and anxiety were similar among the men and women studied, but women had overall more eventful lives than men, and were more likely to suffer from borderline depression and anxiety..."

Not that this surprises me, but I found it an interesting anecdote nevertheless. Women in the Orthodox community are expected to be mothers and homemakers and, particularly in recent times, also to be breadwinners. Is it any wonder that they're stressed?

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Opening for Frum Women

'Tis the season for the High Holidays. We've just gotten through Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Those of you who have attended services during these holy days are probably aware of the custom in many synagogues to sell portions of the high holiday services to the highest bidder.

(Side Note: Yes, we hold auctions in our holiest sanctuaries on the holiest days of the year. If that sounds strange to you... Well, join the club. If it doesn't, can you explain it to me?)

The parts of the service that are up for auction are all parts that the men perform. Opening the ark, getting to say a blessing on the Torah when it is brought out, having the honor of lifting the Torah up in the air for everyone to see and make their own blessings on, etc.

I wasn't aware of it when I was a child, but apparently there are some serious politics that take place in the men's section of the shul over these bids. There are certain parts of the service that are favored more than others and the guy who gets them is considered pretty important.

One these parts in the Yom Kippur service is the act of opening the ark for the last prayer of the day - neilah. Even without being aware of men's-section politics, I always knew that this part of the service was considered important because it always sold for a lot more than other parts of the service. Getting "psicha d'neilah" is a big honor for whatever man wins it.

You can't imagine my delight when I was told by a friend last night that she, along with 19 other young women, got together in a shul in Brooklyn and outbid all the men for this part of the service. And not just any women. Single women, who weren't just out bidding for their husbands. They bought it for themselves.

It's an historical event. Unheard of, as far as I know. No, they weren't able to perform the actual service: they had to have a man stand in and open the ark for them. But he did it on their behalf, acting as a stand-in, and all the credit for this age-old honor went to them.

To those young women: I salute you. You are an inspiration to frum women everywhere. I thank you for creating an opening for the rest of us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

American Woman

"American Woman" song a "slap in the face to American women everywhere!"

It's always Canada's fault.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Women can be Geeks too

I have no data to back this up, but I think that we can all agree that there are more male geeks than female geeks. As a female geek myself, my personal experience has shown me to be a minority among women.

Take the LOST finale party I attended last week. There were eight guys, and then there was our hostess and me. That's a 1:4 ratio. Not a scientific calculation by any means, but it sounds about right to me. Whatever the numbers are, we are a minority.

You'd think that the mere fact that we were attending a LOST finale party would be enough to prove our geekness, yet still we were treated with suspicion.

"You women over there," our host warned us, "No talking!"

"What?" I asked. "Just because we're women that means we're going to be talking throughout the show? We want to see the finale just as much as you guys! That is so sexist! This is totally going on my blog!"

To be fair, once the show started, the hostess and I did have to be shushed. We couldn't keep from laughing out loud because the guys were all leaning in toward the screen with looks of rapt adoration on their faces. Can you really blame us?

Post dedicated to Holy Hyrax. ;)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bend over, Israel

In a recent AP report criticizing Israel:

"Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. But the international community does not recognize the annexation and considers the Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to be illegal settlements."

Just who is this "international community"? The United Nations? Because they're not anti-semitic. (Sarcasm, there, in case you missed it.)

So the anti-semitic international community considers Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to be illegal settlements. Better bend over to the anti-Semites, Israel. Don't worry: they promise not to make any, "Final Solution"s.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Women in the frum community cover their hair after they get married. It's halacha (Jewish law,) the explanation of which is longer than I want to get into right now, so let's just acknowledge this as fact. Orthodox women cover their hair.

They use scarves, hats, wigs, and (ugly) snoods. Depending on the community, some wear only scarves, only wigs, only hats, and even only wigs with a hat on top. I never understood that one - it seemed kind of deceptive to me to be wearing a hat on top of a wig, which could be mistaken as the real hair that the woman is trying to cover with her hat.

Personally, I like hats. Not for covering my hair (unless you count bad hair days) but just because I like hats.

That doesn't mean that when I get married I'm going to wear hats to cover my hair; in fact, I plan to wear -- very expensive, very authentic-looking -- wigs when I get married.

But you can't say, "I like hats," in the frum community without getting a barrage of comments about covering your hair for marriage.

Case in point: I visited some cousins in Israel during the summer a few years ago and happened to be wearing a hat. It was sunny and the hat was cute, so I wore it. As girls tend to do, I asked my cousin, "So, how does this hat look?" and instead of telling me whether she liked the hat, she said:

"Don't wear it. You look married."

Seriously? I'm supposed to give up wearing hats because someone might mistake me for being a married woman? Oh, the horror.

I haven't given it up, and neither have the double-takes that people I know give me when they see me wearing a hat. Just a few weeks ago I was wearing a hat in the supermarket and bumped into the husband of a friend of mine. It was raining hard that day, which should have been enough to keep him from standing there blinking at me owlishly, but it wasn't.

"Did you get married?" he asked me.

"Nope. It's raining. I like wearing hats," I answered him. "And that's hat discrimination!"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bring in the Firemen

We had a bit of a scare last night and wound up calling the fire department to come check out what turned out to be some burning food.

Embarrassing? Very.

But what horrified me even more, as I watched three firetrucks, one ambulance, and about a dozen firefighters invade my neighborhood and home, was the feeling of, "Omg, you really need a guy to deal with things like this."

In retrospect, it seems irrational - there was nothing about the situation that I shouldn't have been able to handle by myself. But in the moment, circumstances (the smell of gas, smoke coming out of the vents, a kitchen full of smoke...) made us women panic and call 911 where a guy would probably have just thrown open every possible source of smoke, careless about the fear that "something" might happen, and discover that it wasn't anything major.

The truth is that, given the circumstances, I know we did the right thing in calling the fire department. Better safe than sorry. But that doesn't make me feel any better knowing that these "circumstances" included the fact that we females were just too panicked to handle it on our own.

I'm left struggling with the question of whether women really are more emotionally fragile than men. My feminist side is yelling, "NO WAY!" while this other voice is poking at me saying, "Um, remember last night?"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conversation Glimpse

Conversation I had recently with a friend on Facebook where we joke about the frum community's attitude about several topics, including having kids and a woman's role in society.

(Wait, aren't those the same thing?)

look at the pics


what pics?


I put up some more


i'm looking and commenting now


: )


holy moley, that's a lot of kids

8 grandkids?



let me count

4+2+2+1+1=10 actually

a bunch are babies


HOLEY $%^#!

0-10 in, what, 10 years?


5 years

how long have you been married? There were no grandkids at your wedding.


almost 6 yrs


so, 0-10 kids in 5 years


hmm well yeah


it's like a conspiracy to repopulate the world with their own offspring


omg lol


*conspiring in a back room somewhere*So we have to marry them off - one after the other, after the other, and then tell them that it's their duty to have a kid every 9 months






*continues planning* "if you can manage two at a time, you'll get a special award!"


What, a third kid?



*announcement* "the award will be... a lifetime supply of caffeine and tylonol!"


(I sense an article)



"we'll even throw in a free Pesach* experience!"

*Succos is available as an alternative


how bout some earplugs?

(a humor piece must be written..)


earplugs? var vus i need earplugs? chas v'shalom! the sound of children is the biggest blessing!

besides, my hearing will expire from all the noise on its own




*alternatively* "NOISE? WHAT NOISE? I CAN"T HEAR YOU!"


“what??? did you say s/t?”




“oysh, mine went as well… I dont know… I dont remember anything…

my memory went, since the last time i slept 4 consecutive hours was, oysh, maybe 30 yrs ago?”




“yes mine neighbor told me about that giko”





“safe, much better than going to a doctor”


"Scientific studies say it's a hoax, but what do these scientists know? My neigbor? HE knows!"


“yes well not he, we dont talk to people called ‘he’”

of course


"Right. I'll talk to his secretary, tell her my symptoms, she'll tell him, he'll ask her some questions for me, she'll come back and get my answers, then she'll go back to him and then he'll prescribe some healthy herbs."


“exception for talking to these ‘he’ creatures: for my new baby boy, my tzaddikel”

“husband - not so much”



"I'd go to a lady doctor, but you know ladies don't really have the brains to be doctors..."



especially an ob-gyn

u must go to a man

women are too emotional to make good decisions


because men are so much more sensitive to women's issues (i've actually heard people say that about going to male OBs)


(truth- this could a a thread outta imamother- they really truly say that)


Daaaaaaamn (excuse my French)


i'm gonna copy and paste this into my blog.

take the names out to protect the innocent, of course