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 Chabad.org.)

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.