Tag Archives: Judaism

Jewish History, Reproductive Justice, and the Two of Us

Laurie and Debbie say:

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) ended tonight at sundown. The Jewish High Holy Days continue for another week, culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when religious Jews make themselves right with G-d and are written into the Book of Life for another year.

We don’t usually write about Judaism, and we often leave the topic of reproductive justice to others, but the timing of Leanne Gale’s “Jewish History Demands Solidarity with Reproductive Justice Movement” in The Sisterhood section of the Forward got us both to thinking about our own relationships to these issues. (The Forward has been the leading Yiddish newspaper in the United States for well over 100 years, and didn’t even have an English-language edition until 1990, let alone a blog.)

Laurie grew up in a culturally Jewish atheist politically radical family. Debbie grew up with a religious Jewish mother and grandparents, and an atheist father, in a liberal community. Laurie’s passion for justice stems from the values and expectations of the people around her, most of whom were Jews; Debbie’s is somewhat more centered in the actual religious practice and expectations. Both of us were drawn early to the Jewish understanding that you work to make the world a better place not for any reward in this life or the next one, but because it’s right.

Leanne Gale invokes the Jewish obligation to behave justly:

On Yom Kippur, many congregations will read the Leviticus passage that commands, lo ta’amod al dam re’echa, do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. The blood of my history cries out to me; am I to remain silent?

She focuses, in her short article, on the reproductive justice framework:

Developed by women of color in the mid 1990s, the reproductive justice framework expands beyond the “right to choose” and insists on combating the racial, economic, and cultural systems of oppression that intersect to limit reproductive freedom. It is rooted in basic human rights, including the right to full autonomy over our bodies, the right to have or not have children, the right to birth and parent our children with dignity, and the right to live and raise a family in a safe, healthy environment.

She acknowledges, as we both do, our own privilege in this context. What she chooses not to discuss is the ways in which the Jewish passion for justice has in many contexts failed the religion’s own women. (Other failures of the Jewish passion for justice are well known and well reported, and not the subject of this particular blog post.) While all branches of Judaism believe that abortion should be performed if the life of the mother is at stake, Orthodox Judaism stops there, and conservative Judaism while somewhat more lenient, does not acknowledge a woman’s right to choose. Reform Judaism supports women’s choice. And, of course, the more traditional Orthodox and Conservative congregations have many sexist practices. Orthodoz Judaism is well known for making women and men worship in separate spaces, and treating menstruating women as unclean.

Nonetheless, the religion has never made a distinction between men’s and women’s obligations to improve the world. We both find it extremely satisfying to see Gale discussing reproductive justice and structural racism in The Forward; may her article open some eyes and change some minds.

Talking to Gentile Boys

Laurie and Debbie say:

Lance Pauker at brobible.com shared a fraternity email on how to talk to Jewish girls, allegedly written for a mostly-Christian fraternity which was paired with a mostly-Jewish sorority for Greek week. Pauker wants us to understand that:

Before the Politcally Correct Priscillas and Sensitive Susies get all hot and bothered, really read this. It is amazing how harmless this is. Abundantly clear the whole thing was done in good fun. For a fraternity, I am astounded that the subject matter is so maturely light-hearted. It’s incredible work while not being awful. This is incredibly rare. Good work guys.

Of course, there’s nothing okay about this kind of stereotypical reduction of a complex group of people to a few oversimplified expectations. We may be far too old to be sorority girls, but we’re both Jewish, we both grew up on the East Coast, and we don’t think this is funny, or (in the words of the original poster) that this is “funny but also serious.”

So here’s a partial reformulation for the sorority girls on how to talk to Gentle boys that might point out some of the problems.

1. HOMETOWN: If from an allowed hometown you are fine.  If not, lie and say you
are from an allowed area.  Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.

Areas you can be from: New York, New Jersey, PA (only Philadelphia area, sorry
redacted), Massachusetts, Rockville/Bethesda area, Pikesville

Not Allowed Areas: The rest of Maryland (especially rural counties, looking at you redacted), Baltimore, Atlanta, anywhere in the south, Connecticut

1. HOMETOWN: Pick some place that isn’t known for its large Jewish population. Avoid New York, Westchester, Long Island, parts of Boston. Kennebunkport is good if you don’t pretend you know the Bush girls personally.

3. OVERNIGHT/SLEEPAWAY CAMP:  Make up a camp you went to.  Say it was in upstate
PA, NY, or Maine.  Say it starts with “Timber” or ends in “Lake”.  You could
also make up an Indian (redskin kind, not the slumdog kind) name.  For example,
Lack-a-wa-taka or Saska-Rata.

Say you started when you were ten years old, but stopped going when you were 15 in order to play high school sports.  You liked it a lot.  You still talk to your camp friends when you can.

3. OVERNIGHT/SLEEPAWAY CAMP: You didn’t go to camp because you and your friends got used to hanging around in the neighborhood, which was nicer  in the summer when the Jewish kids were in camp. You went to the country club, worked on your tan, and learned to drink cocktails with umbrellas in them.

4. ARE YOU JEWISH? If you are Jewish, say yes.  If you look somewhat Jewish but aren’t, just say you are.  If you are not Jewish and don’t look Jewish, then say: a. No I’m half-jewish but didn’t get bar mitzvahed of anything.  My dad is jewish. b. No, but I’m from a really jewish area.

4. ARE YOU CHRISTIAN? No one will ever ask you this because they will take it for granted. All you have to do is not mention that you are Jewish, and not wear a star of David.

6. MAJOR

-You are a business major or an econ major or a communication major

-You want to “do something with business, maybe finance” or start your own
business

-Alternative 1 to that: Some science major, but you are going to med school to be a doctor (why? because both your parents are doctors)

-Alternative 2: You are a crim major and plan on going to law school

6. MAJOR

-You are a business major or an econ major looking forward to grad school at Wharton.

-Your daddy wants you to go into the family business, but you’re not sure you want to be tied down like that.

-Alternative 1 to that: Computer science, because that’s where the money and the good jobs are.

-Alternative 2: All you really want to do is raise a family and be a good wife and mother.

7. WHAT TO WEAR

-Jeans are definitely preferable to other pants

-V necks are ideal

-Button downs work too, but try to avoid flannel.  Solid colors are a better bet

-T shirts and graphic t shirts with words on them are great

-If you wear a cross on your neck, don’t wear it

-Hats are fine, if they are backwards and snapbacked

7. WHAT TO WEAR

-Skirts are better than pants. If pants, wear a button-down shirt and leave an extra button open at the top.

-Colors bright, but not too bright; noticeable but not flashy. No t-shirts with words or graphics on them unless you get comments on how funny that shirt is from strangers on a regular basis (so you know it’s not obscure).

Or, everybody could just tell people who they are and find out who the other person is.

Thanks to Jezebel for finding this one.