Recordings from 2013 International Conference

Opening Plenary: Voices of Change

Abigail Tambor, Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, Judy Heicklen, Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold, Leah Sarna, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Ronnie Becher

Chapters of opening plenary: 
Judy Heicklen begins at 00:00 | Bat Sheva Marcus begins at 09:33 | Ronnie Becher begins at 18:16 | Rabbi Asher Lopatin begins at 30:36 | Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold begins at 38:50 | Leah Sarna begins at 49:08 | MK Dr. Ruth Calderon with introduction begins at 57:56 | Abigail Lindenbaum Tambor begins at 1:15:40

Sessions, by track

Breaking the Chains | Breaking Barriers | Blogging for Change

How Is a Partnership Minyan Like IKEA Furniture?

Libi Ba-Mizrach | State of Marriage | The WOW Factor

First Ladies | How to Talk So Your Rabbi Will Listen | Passing the Baton | Women Rule | Fasting for Two

Educating in the Divine Image | Generation Gap

Brits Do It With an Accent | Baghdad, Benghazi, and Brooklyn | The Y Factor

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? | Green Is the New Black | Modern Family | I Don’t Know How (S)he Does It

Time Is on Our Side | Splitting Hairs | Baby, It’s You | Responding to Our Critics

Fertility and Jewish Law | Mirror Image | “Slut!” The Shame Effect | Here, Queer, and Machmir | Teach Your Children Well


Listen to the full playlist here



Breaking the Chains: Making a Difference in the Agunah Fight

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Speakers: Rabbi Jeremy Stern, Dr. Rachel Levmore
Moderator: Beverly Siegel

What is the current state of agunah activism? How can communities support agunot and the organizations that advocate for them? What are the different tactics used in Israel and America? This session will explore the current advocacy strategies employed by agunah organizations, as well as strategies to prevent iggun from happening to you or your family members. Click here for this session's handout.

Breaking Barriers: Religious Women Leading Social Change in Israel

Speakers: Riki Shapira Rosenberg, Devorah Evron
Moderator: Dr. Anat Sharbat

This session will explore the social activism in Israel around the status of women in a religious context. Riki Shapira Rosenberg, one of the leading lobbyists advocating for women’s rights vis-à-vis religion, will discuss progress on issues such as gender segregation, events in Beit Shemesh, and the exclusion of women from public spaces. Devorah Evron, who is studying to become an Orthodox rabbi, will look at the struggle for women to become religious leaders in Israel.

Blogging For Change

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Speakers: Sonia Isard, Talia Weisberg, Sarah Marian Seltzer
Moderator: Gabrielle Birkner

Read a blog post lately? Blogs are going viral, and these posts can be a powerful catalyst for change. Join experienced writers and bloggers to learn first-hand about the this exciting new forum and how to shape your ideas into blogs with the potential to create real change on the ground.


How is a Partnership Minyan Like Ikea Furniture? It's Do It Yourself But It’s Worth the Effort

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Speakers: Evan Hochberg, Judy Abel, Shari Kleiner
Moderator: Miriam Schacter 
Creating a partnership minyan, and working to sustain it, can be daunting and time consuming, but, ultimately, tremendously gratifying. What does it take to start a minyan, and to ensure its continuity? What particular challenges are involved in fostering a minyan that is dedicated to traditional halakha and to creating a prayer space that belongs to both women and men? These questions will be addressed by our panel members, who have each been instrumental in founding a partnership minyan.


Libi BaMizrach: Status of Women in Israel

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Speakers: Dr. Biti Roi, Yaira Frankel-Schroeder
Moderator: Miriam Zussman
What is with the gender divide in Israel these days? How are women treated on buses, on the streets, at the markets, at mikvahs and in politics? This session will present an in-depth discussion about how women are regarded in Israel featuring personal reflections from panelists on the current status of women in Israel. Panelists will also explore the impact this conversation has on Jews and feminists in the diaspora.

State of Marriage: Marriage and the State

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Speakers: Susan Weiss, Dr. Melanie Landau
Moderator: Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin
The state of marriage in the Orthodox tradition poses a variety of challenges for feminists. Panelists will explore two of these challenges, their impact on the general population and proposed solutions. Susan Weiss will focus on the current state of marriage laws in Israel and the Israeli religious courts' monopoly on conducting and terminating marriages. Dr. Melanie Landau will focus on the unequal nature of kiddushin (betrothal) and the legal and social consequences for women.

The WOW Factor: Women of the Wall

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Speakers: Rahel Jaskow, Cheryl Birkner Mack, Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson
Moderator: Rabbi David Kalb

How women choose to pray at the holiest Jewish site has incited controversy and clashes, making its way to the highest courts in Israel. What is really going on with the Women of the Wall and how does it affect Jews and feminists in the diaspora? Get the latest updates from activists and members of Women of the Wall. This panel will explore the monthly reality on the ground, the potential solutions for the kotel plaza and the implications of these events for the Jewish and feminist communities in the diaspora.


First Ladies

Speakers: Dr. Rachel Levmore, Rivy Poupko Kletenik, Dr. Tamar Frankiel
Moderator: Devorah Evron
Has the glass ceiling truly been shattered? What does the current field look like for women in Orthodox communal leadership positions? Hear from Orthodox women leaders who were among the first women in their respective positions. Panelists will discuss their personal journeys, including challenges they overcame and tips for the next generation of women leaders.
Click here for this session's handout.

How to Talk So Your Rabbi Will Listen and Listen So Your Rabbi Will Talk

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Speakers: Dr. Michelle Friedman, Rabbi Maurice Applebaum
Moderator: Carolyn Hochstadter Dicker

An exploration of strategies for congregants and community members to effectively express and communicate their concerns, thoughts and suggestions for change around gender issues in their respective communities.

Passing the Baton: Models of Young Women Leaders

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Speakers: Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Gilah Kletenik, Dyonna Ginsburg
Moderator: Avital Chizhik

A frank discussion about the future for women in Orthodox communal leadership positions. Today’s female leaders discuss the expanding halakhic, spiritual and communal opportunities available to Orthodox women today.

Women Rule: Feminist Influences on Halakha

Speakers: Rabbi Ethan Tucker, Professor Tamar Ross, Rabbi Dov Linzer
Moderator: Rabbi Jeff Fox

How does the halakha change to accommodate new roles and opportunities for women? Where do these innovations come from? Do they stem from minority opinions that have been hidden for centuries? Do they arise from a sociological or a halakhic need? What are the opportunities for innovation and challenges to innovation that are intertwined with questions of gender and advancing women's roles in Judaism?

Fasting for Two: Who Makes the Call?

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Speaker: Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold
Moderator: Dr. Giti Bendheim
For centuries, halakhic questions around pregnant and nursing women fasting have been asked by women and answered by men. This session will explore the sources surrounding fasting from the female perspective. What does it mean to study these sources with a woman who is a halakhically knowledgeable member of the clergy who has actually experienced pregnancy and nursing? The answers may surprise you. Click here for this session's handout.


Educating in the Divine Image: Gender in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools

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Speakers: Dr. Chaya Rosenfeld Gorsetman, Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman
Moderator: Dr. Tamara Beliak
What is it like to be a girl in our Orthodox Jewish day schools? What kind of environment is created for our daughters? This session explores the presenters' newly released book on gender issues in Orthodox Jewish day schools. Hear how different areas of school life, including pedagogical practices, curricula, books, décor, leadership structures, rituals, dress codes, and school policies, construct gender roles and identities in our schools. Then learn practical tips for parents, educators, students and members of the community on raising consciousness about gender issues and promoting gender-sensitive educational practices.

Generation Gap: The Israel Year

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Speakers: Shoshana Benjamin, Debbie Braverman, Aminadav Grossman, Laura Shaw Frank, Dr. Michelle Waldman Sarna
Moderator: Dr. Michelle Friedman
Spending a post-high school year in Israel learning in yeshiva or seminary has become a rite of passage for most Orthodox day school graduates. This panel discussion will explore how gender concerns intersect with the "shana ba'aretz." Panelists will address the process of selecting a seminary, the messages conveyed to young women and men learning in Israel, and the impact of the year in Israel on post-Israel family and university life.


Brits Do It With An Accent: Orthodox Feminism Across the Pond

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Speakers: Dina Brawer, Lindsay Simmonds, Miriam Shaviv
Moderator: Rachel Lieberman

Learn about the progress feminist leaders have made in spreading the gospel of Orthodox feminism in the United Kingdom. JOFA UK held its inaugural conference in June 2013 in London. Panelists will discuss the pressing issues for British Orthodox feminists, as well as strategies for creating grassroots change.

Baghdad, Benghazi and Brooklyn: Feminism in the Sephardic Community

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Speakers: Ellen Cohen, Sara Aharon, Ronda Angel Arking
Moderator: Morris Shamah

What is the state of feminism in the Sephardic community? Explore the challenges and vision for progress in this community. Panelists will address these questions and more.

The Y Factor: Men and Feminism

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Speakers: Simon Fleischer, Yishai Schwartz, Rabbi Steven Exler
Moderator: Susan Fader
What does it mean to be a male feminist in the Orthodox Jewish community? Hear from three self-identified male feminists about their personal experiences navigating feminism, and their approaches to advancing inclusivity and the role of women in their respective communities. Panelists include a congregational rabbi, day school educator, and recent, active college campus leader.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I See a Feminist Looking at Me: Shaping Our Children's Sensibilities

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Speakers: Rabbi Yossi Pollak, Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Samantha Kur
Moderator: Devorah Zlochower 
A discussion about shaping feminist values for boys and girls in the Orthodox world. Learn how to address the challenges of preaching equality within the framework of a practice that ascribes specific gender roles. Panelists will talk about their efforts to teach balance and equality, while embracing Orthodox traditions.

Green is the New Black: Women and Money

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Speakers: Judy Heicklen, Gloria Perelman Schneider, Judith Stern Peck
Moderator: Dr. Carmella Abraham

Who pays the bills in your family? Who makes the large financial decisions? Who makes decisions about charitable donations? This discussion will explore the ways that Orthodox women and men approach money and how these dynamics are affected by women’s careers and stature in the secular world.

Modern Family: Unconventional Structures

Speakers: Judy Heicklen, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman
Not all families look alike, even if they share a commitment to Modern Orthodoxy. This panel will discuss the issues that arise for people with non-traditional family structures who embrace some traditional Jewish views. What challenges arise in communities, day schools and synagogues?

I Don't Know How (S)he Does It: Balancing Work and Home Life

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Speakers: Brooke Pollak, Frani Pollack, Russel Neiss
Moderator: Allie Alperovich

Can Orthodox women and men have it all? Is it possible to lean-in at work, be an active member of an Orthodox ritual community, and have a fulfilling home life? This is the challenge facing Orthodox feminists who strive to reimagine gender roles and responsibilities in their homes and communities. Female and male panelists will discuss their personal experiences negotiating work, home and ritual obligations from the particular vantage of an Orthodox feminist.


Time is on Our Side: A New Look at Mitzvot Aseh She ha Zman Grama

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Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Shanks Alexander
Moderator: Professor Tamar Ross 
New historical research suggests that when the rabbis formulated the rule exempting women from time bound, positive commandments (m. Kid. 1:7), they were not attempting to regulate women’s time nor were they offering accommodations to a preconceived notion of women’s schedules.These new findings call into question the explanatory value of traditional explanations for the rule and consider the implications this new take will have for contemporary Jewish feminists. Click here for this session's handout.

Splitting Hairs: Views on Kisui Rosh

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Speakers: Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Dr. Naama Weinstock, Amy Newman
Moderator: Victoria Sutton

Jewish women make the personal choice to cover or uncover their heads and their hair for a variety of reasons. Some decide after an in-depth study of halakhic sources, others feel communal pressures, while others follow family traditions, without understanding why. Panelists will address their own experiences and journeys with kisui rosh. They will talk about the social and communal implications of their choices and address the ways in which their decisions have affected them as role models in their communities.

Baby It's You: Ceremonies for Newborn Girls

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Speakers: Sharon R. Siegel, Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Moderator: Ruthy Rosenberg

How do we welcome our daughters into the Jewish covenant and community? Explore ways to create the ceremonies that welcome newborn girls into the Jewish community. The session will present both historical and contemporary trends.

Responding To Our Critics: Text Study

Speaker: Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber
Moderator: Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin

Women’s ritual participation has advanced in recent years, however, the movement is not without its critics. This text-based session will explore how women’s ritual participation has developed, discuss opportunities for advancement found within halakhic boundaries, and offer halakhic responses to the criticisms that have been levelled. Click here for this session's handout.


Fertility and Jewish Law: Feminist Perspectives on Orthodox Responsa Literature

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Speaker: Dr. Ronit Irshai
Moderator: Rachel Berke

Gender studies scholar, Ronit Irshai, will explore the concept of sex without procreation, the main thesis of her book, Fertility and Jewish Law. New insight is shed on halakhic responses to contemporary reproductive issues through probing the gender-based values that underlie their halakhic interpretations and determinations. This lecture explores the tendency to rule strictly on abortion and birth control, while ruling leniently on issues of assisted fertility, and uncovers inherent gender perceptions underlying the decisions.

Mirror Image: Eating Disorders in the Orthodox Community

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Speakers: Dr. Sarah R. Roer, Dr. Esther Altmann, Professor Yael Latzer
This panel will discuss how to nurture the development of a healthy body image and healthy eating in ourselves and in our children. Parents will be encouraged to consider how struggles with their own bodies may influence their sons’ and daughters’ body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Problematic messages in the culture at large and in the Jewish community in particular will be discussed. Data from Israel will also be presented.

'Slut!' The Shame Effect

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Speakers: Leora Tanenbaum, Rachel Hercman, Laila Goodman
Moderator: Dasi Fruchter

Girls and women in the Orthodox community are taught to guard their bodies from the male gaze, conform to implicit and explicit dress codes and to physically embody the values of tzniut and modesty. There is a narrow line between preaching the sanctity of modesty and creating a culture that actively shames girls and women who explore their sexuality through relationships, behavior and clothing. This session will discuss the phenomenon of slut shaming and its manifestation in the Orthodox community.

Here, Queer and Machmir: Orthodox Life in the LGBT Community

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Speakers: Viva Hammer, Miryam Kabakov, Rabbi Steve Greenberg
Moderator: Diane Werner

How can the Orthodox community be more inclusive of the LGBT members of the community? How can Orthodox feminists and Orthodox LGBTs work together as allies? How can parents of LGBT children and others create a more inclusive, open and welcoming environment for LGBT individuals and their families? This session will explore the ways in which the feminist and LGBT communities can learn from each other and work together to create a more inclusive Orthodox community. Click here for this session's handout.

Teach Your Children Well: Raising Sexually Healthy Children

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Speaker: Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus
Moderator: Dr. Marcy Goldstein

A discussion of the major issues facing parents trying to raise children in the Orthodox community with a positive, healthy attitude towards sexuality. The session will focus on tzniut, masturbation, introduction of taharat hamishpacha and sexual identity. It will address the issues that arise when messages from a community, school or synagogue on these topics conflict with what is taught at home.
Back by popular demand, from the 2010 conference!