Jewish Cooking

Zelda R. Stern's Speech Announcing the Initiative to Fund a Maharat Leadership Position

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

The following are remarks made by JOFA founding Board Member Zelda R. Stern announcing the initiative to fund a Maharat position in the National Synagogue in Washington, DC

By Zelda R. Stern

Zelda SternParshat Behar, which we read this past Shabbat, was my Bat-Mitzvah Parshah.  Having been raised along with my five siblings in a Conservative Jewish home, I was privileged to celebrate a Bat-Mitzvah, something not yet done in 1962 in the Orthodox world.  And I was fortunate that my parents rejoiced in the Bat Mitzvah celebrations of my three sisters and me and afforded us the same dignity and value as they did the Bar-Mitzvahs of my two brothers.

In my 20s I became more observant, and finally, in my late 20s, declared myself Orthodox, having fallen in love with the richness and depth of learning and ritual I found in the Orthodox world.

I continued on my journey, but in my late 40s began to feel increasing discomfort with the way women were excluded from so much of Orthodox life.

Women's Organizations to Party Leaders

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

This is a statement sent out by Kolech and Mavoi Satum in Israel about a mutual respect campaign.  

Women's organizations to party leaders: "Do not support extortion during divorce proceedings"

30 organizations have sent a letter to political party leaders demanding legislation to prevent get refusal and extortion during divorce proceedings.  

Yesterday thirty women's organizations led by "Mavoi Satum" and Kolech " asked all political party leaders to support a solution to get refusal during divorce proceedings in Israel. In a letter to party leaders  the organizations suggested a way to avoid the phenomenon of extortion and get refusal by encouraging couples to sign a prenuptial agreement known as the “mutual respect agreement”. 

Women plus Minyan equals Winyan

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Helyn SteppaBy Helyn Steppa 

So, I started this thing called a Winyan. You know, Women plus Minyan equals Winyan? (Just to clarify, Winyan isn’t a davening group, a lot of people think that. Winyan is actually a place where we share personal stories, debate issues and inspire one another). I know I was asked to discuss how I came to start this group, but I’m not sure how to articulate all that it means to me, and besides, we’ve only had two meetings. I remember when I was around eight years old and my dad asked me if I could read a map. Fancying myself sassy and clever I said “No… but I look good standing next to one.” My dad’s eyes flashed uncharacteristically and he said “I hate when people say that. Never say that you’re just good at standing next to something.” (Love you dad!) They say that a girl’s self-esteem has to do with her relationship with her father, well, I’m a feminist now and my life mission is to empower women. Not to say that my mom had nothing to do with it. She was the one who defined feminism for me (third wave, anyone?) and insisted on calling private parts by their scientific names. What a woman (that’s not sarcastic, seriously she’s awesome.) 

The Rabba Revolution Continues

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Elana Sztokman

Rabba Sara Hurwitz

Three years ago this month, Rabba Sara Hurwitz made history in the Jewish world by becoming the first publicly ordained female rabbi in the Orthodox community. Since then, the 35-year-old mother of three has been working as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, an institution dedicated to training women Orthodox clergy, as well as working as Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. The first three women are set to graduate this June with the title of Maharat — an acronym for “Religious, spiritual, Torah leaders” — marking yet another important milestone for women in Orthodoxy. Rabba Hurwitz spoke to The Sisterhood to explain what this all means.

Stand Up for What you Believe In

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Bat Sheva Marcus 

Photo from Mohammed YassinMarissa Mayer has been blasted as of late because of her move to get the Yahoo employees back into the office. There are any number of groups viciously attacking her, some with fairly reasonable arguments but many with purely ad hominem attacks. One group that seems to be on the war path are the feminists who seem to feel that equality somehow comes with an inbuilt guarantee of job flexibility and a work-from-anywhere approach. Sorry. As a fellow feminist, I respectfully disagree. 

So How Does She Do It?

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Elana Sztokman

Elana SztokmanSince I began working at JOFA, first as Interim Director and then as Executive Director, the staff and I have been inundated with the question: “How does she do it?” I tend to wonder what “it” is – work in a high-pressure job, leave my kids once in a while, or take a job that I really love? But let’s assume that for the most part the question refers to the issue of my travel and living arrangements; after all, I live in Israel and work in New York, and I have four children ages 9-19, and that feels like an impossible combination.

Rabba Hurwitz Online

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By: Deborah Fineblum Raub  

Tell me that you’re surprised.

Since last February when the creators of MAKERS launched their website to spotlight the women who’ve changed the face of America and the world, quite of few of these trailblazers turn out to be Jewish.

Among the MAKERS are Ruth Bader Ginsburg of course and Barbara Walters. There’s Madeleine Albright(a latecomer to be sure but we’ll take her) and Nora Ephron, whose recent passing left the world with a serious irony deficiency.

Profile of Rachel Kohl Finegold

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

RKFRachel (pronounced ra-ĤEL) Kohl Finegold, The Education and Ritual Director of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation, where she also holds the Dr. Carol Fuchs Kaufman Rabbanit Chair, will be part of the first graduating class of Yeshivat Maharat this coming June. As a member of the newest cohort of religious women leaders in the Orthodox world, and one of a handful of women around the country who hold official clergy positions in Orthodox shuls, Ms. Finegold has a vital perspective on religious life in America and on the transformations around gender and leadership that the community is witnessing today. Ms. Finegold, the 32-year-old mother of two, spoke with JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman about the changes happening for Orthodox women leaders, and about the special role that JOFA supporters have in this process:  

Our Sisters, May We Become Thousands of Myriads: The First Ordination of Yeshivat Maharat

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

by Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson

It was a beautiful Sunday and a perfect day for an ordination. The hall was crowded, and everyone joyfully hugged and wished each other a mazel tov. There was a ritual, some spirited singing and clapping, giving of documents, speeches, and of course, food. Just like every other ordination I’ve been to.

My Daughter at the Pulpit

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Chaye KohlBy Chaye Kohl 


March 14, 2008

Author's note: The Purim story highlights the leadership of Queen Esther. Today, in the modern Orthodox community, more young women have become leaders within Jewish communal life, providing services that until now were the purview of assistant rabbis. This column highlights Rachel Kohl Finegold, a former resident of Highland Park, now Education and Ritual Director at Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in Lakeview, Chicago. The writer is her proud Mom. 

Meet the JOFA Leadership: Allie Alperovich

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Allie Alperovich

JOFA Treasurer and Board Member Allie Alperovich received the honor of being “Kallat Bereishit” this year at her synagogue, Darkhei Noam,, on the holiday of Simchat Torah. Ms. Alperovich, 36, is an attorney at Ropes and Gray and mother of two who was named one of "36 under 36" Jewish leaders by the Jewish Week in 2011.  She is an integral part of the JOFA lay leadership, with a strong vision for women’s inclusion in Orthodox Jewish life.

JOFA Interim Director Elana Sztokman interviewed Ms. Alperovich following her Kallat Bereishit honor: Allie Alperovich

How did you get involved with JOFA?

I got involved with JOFA prior to the 2007 conference when JOFA put out a call for volunteers to work on programming. I volunteered for the conference and really enjoyed it, and got very involved first in the conference and then in other aspects of the organization. And then I eventually asked to be on the board, and I’ve been here ever since.

Maharat: A new model of leadership by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Orthodox Jews believe that men and women are fundamentally different.  They have different characteristics, different strengths, different obligations and different ways of seeing the world and approaching life.  Thus, it follows that especially for us, (as opposed perhaps to more liberal Jewish movements in which the boundaries between the genders might be more blurred), it is vital that we have both genders leading our people.  If men and women see the world differently and have different voices then to have only male leaders is to limit the Jewish vision by fifty percent.

I would like to caution us against seeing women spiritual leaders in the way that  liberal Jewish movements have in the past, that of expecting women to be rabbis just like their male counterparts.  That a Rabbi is a Rabbi, a role blind to gender.  In fact men and women are very different and we would be losing out on hearing women’s unique voices of leadership and Torah if we expect them to be just like male rabbis.

JOFA Changing of the Guard: My conversation with Robin Bodner

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

When I decided to take this job as Executive Director of JOFA, one of the most thrilling incentives for me was that I would have the opportunity to work with women whose work I have admired for so long. The image of standing on the shoulders of giants keeps returning to me, as I learn more about the organization and its powerful history of making change. To honor this truth, and to give the well-deserved respect to women whose dedication to gender advancement in Orthodox life built this organization, the staff and I have decided that we are going to use the space of the Spotlight Blog to profile the JOFA leadership. We started with JOFA treasurer Allie Alperovich, and we will continue to do so throughout the year.  

Now, as I enter this privileged role leading the organization, I sat down with my predecessor, Robin Bodner, who served as Executive Director for ten years and steered JOFA through most of its journey until now. I wanted to gain wisdom from her experiences, her about her dreams and vision, and of course honor her vital contribution to the cause. The interview was moving, engaging, and enlightening, and gave me some great motivation in moving forward:  

Robin BodnerHow did you come to work for JOFA?

In 1997, I went to the first international conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy. It was exciting to see so many people who were thinking and talking about issues that were on my mind.  I remember feeling back then that I wanted  to be part of this movement. 

JOFA Appoints Elana Sztokman as Executive Director

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Robin & ElanaNYC, November 28, 2012 -- Longtime Orthodox feminist activist Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman has been named the new Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, effective immediately. Dr. Sztokman, 42, who holds a doctorate in gender and education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the author of two books on gender issues in Orthodoxy, and is one of the founders of the organization Mavoi Satum, which helps women denied divorce in Israel. She brings a rich and varied background to the position, and a strong passion for the issue. 

“We are very excited to have an Executive Director with such a lifelong commitment to Orthodox feminism” said JOFA President Judy Heicklen. “We look forward to JOFA’s next chapter with Elana, where we will work together to expand women’s leadership roles and bring about greater ritual inclusion for women in Orthodox life.”

Introducing JOFA’s new Associate Director: Dr. Ali Yares

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Ali YaresDr. Ali Yares, the new JOFA Associate Director, brings with her a decade of Jewish organizational experience and a doctorate in communication design. The 31-year-old mother of two, who did her undergraduate degrees in the joint Columbia University JTS program, recently moved from Baltimore, Maryland, to Syosset, New York, in order to work at JOFA. She spoke to the JOFA Spotlight team about her ideas, impressions, and dreams:

Interview with Tamar Frankiel

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Dr. Tamar FrankielDr. Tamar Frankiel, an accomplished and impressive Jewish scholar, was recently appointed President of the Academy for Jewish Religion in California (AJRCA), making her the first Orthodox woman to head a rabbinical college. The author of seven books on Jewish mysticism and religion, including one on women in Judaism titled, The Voice of Sarah: Feminine Spirituality and Traditional Judaism, Dr. Frankiel has an illustrious record of teaching and scholarship and is considered a leading expert on Jewish mysticism. In honor of her new appointment, Dr. Frankiel shared some of her experiences and insights with JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman: 

Interview with JOFA's Office Manager Heather G. Stoltz

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Heather StoltzJOFA is blessed to have a dedicated, diverse professional staff, a team comprised of women with strong passions and impressive skills that all contribute to JOFA programming. Heather Stoltz, whose official position is JOFA Office Manager, is not only an invaluable asset to JOFA daily operations, but also brings with her a rich background in Jewish text study and art. This year, Heather was designated one of the 2012 “36 under 36” by the Jewish Week, and has had several exhibitions that have given her some well-deserved exposure. She is also the Co-­president of the Women’s Caucus for Art New York Chapter and received a 2011 Manhattan Community Art Funds grant for Temporary Shelter, her installation piece about homeless New Yorkers. Her work has been exhibited nationally and featured in Jewish Threads, Creative Quilting: The Journal Quilt Project and several other publications. She was a Drisha Arts Fellow 2008-­2010 and was an Artist-in­-Residence at the 2008 National Havurah Committee Summer Institute.  

Heather splits her time between JOFA and her art work. JOFA is very proud to have Heather on staff, and is thrilled that she is pursuing Jewish feminism through art.  JOFA Director Elana Sztokman spoke with Heather about her work and recent achievements:

Interview with JOFA Journal editor Roselyn Bell

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

The JOFA Journal has been a phenomenal instrument for creating a world-wide community engagement and connection Orthodox feminists. Now going on its thirty-third issue, the JOFA Journal has covered a broad range of topics, such as women’s leadership, birth rituals, wedding rituals, gender in day schools, women the arts, body issues, women in philanthropy, and more. JOFA Board Member Roselyn Bell, the engine behind the JOFA journal who became editor in 2012, brings to the job a love and a passion for the project, as well as a wealth of editorial experience. As the Spring 2013 issue hits mailboxes – a fascinating issue which covers the vital and often under-reported topic of gender and aging in the Jewish community – Roselyn Bell shared some of her insights with JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman:

Roselyn Bell


I was born in Houston, Texas, to a mainstream Jewish (traditional Conservative) family and first encountered Orthodox Judaism in Israel at Hebrew University and in Berkeley, California, at Congregation Beth Israel. I was fortunate that my early rabbis were among the greats of modern Orthodoxy—Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Yosef Leibowitz—and I was much influenced by their open and engaged view of halacha and Jewish issues of the day. I participated in Drisha from its beginning, serving on its first board and studying with Rabbi David Silber, whose literary and wide-ranging approach to the biblical text opened my eyes to the richness of close text study.

Community on the Lower East Side in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Rachel Lieberman

As I traveled down to the Lower East Side on Friday morning, I saw a startling version of Manhattan. Buildings and traffic lights were dark. A few stores were open, and operating by candle light. Army trucks were positioned on the streets.  Shuttle buses were packed to the gills, unable to stop to pick up passengers waiting on the streets. Hydrants outside of buildings were open, with a trickle of water, so that residents without water could gather a pail of water. Lines snaked around multiple blocks as people stood in line for drinking water, ice, food and a chance to charge their cellphones. It was an incredibly grim, disorienting, and heartbreaking picture—a majestic city paralyzed.

But the heartbreak outside stood in stark contrast to the acts of kindness that took place inside many apartment buildings.

Celebrating the Work of Jewish Women on International Women's Day

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Elana Sztokman

This year on International Women’s Day on March 8, Jewish women have quite a lot to be proud of – but we also have a lot of work left to do. 

Jewish women are leaders in politics, law, business, social activism, sports, and science and technology. We are innovators, engineers, writers, thinkers, activists, speakers and fighters.  We are at the forefront of important movements in every major area of life, and we are helping to mold and shape culture and society not only in America but around the world.

Chief JusticesA few examples that stand out in politics: Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsberg have given Jewish women a disproportionate representation on the Supreme Court. Senator Dianne Feinstein is the Chair of the Intelligence Committee and Senator Barbara Boxer chairs both the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Ethics Committee. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. And Gabrielle Giffords has proven to be one of the most formidable personalities in American politics, recovering with incredible strength from her shooting last year and emerging as a vibrant spokeswoman for gun control and other important issues.

Bemakom She’ein Isha…

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

In a place where there is no woman… 

The case for Orthodox female chaplains. 

 Female ChaplainBy Chaplain Daniel Coleman 

 I often wonder what it would take to encourage Orthodox females to become chaplains. 

 Board-certified chaplains are members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams, providing spiritual care to patients, families, and staff in moments of illness, loss, crisis, transition, and celebration. To become a chaplain, advanced post-high school Jewish education and clinical chaplaincy training are required; Semichah (rabbinic ordination) is not.  When it comes to suffering or healing on humanity, God doesn’t discriminate. In the same vein, chaplains are trained to bring healing by providing care that is sensitive to all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, faith (or lack of it), etc.  That said, the lack of Modern Orthodox female chaplains in this country leaves the profession poorer. Their voice, along with many other qualities that can help educate and sensitize healthcare professionals to the unique concerns of observant women, is missing. 

Beit Shemesh Women Sue the Municipality over Segregation of Women

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Nili Philipp 

Since our family moved from Shoham thirteen years ago, we've seen Beit Shemesh transform from a quiet, pastoral and diverse city, to a city associated with volatile extremism. Within the first few months of our move, I had a hint of what was ahead. I had swung through Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet (RBS-B), a brand new haredineighborhood, to run some quick errands. RBS-B is conveniently located close to home and boasts a vibrant commercial district with adjacent parking and the area's only cash machine. After my errands, I offered two haredi women a ride to Jerusalem and the conversation was pleasant and friendly, until they commented in a quiet, evasive tone “we like our apartments, but the neighborhood's a bit too religious for us.” 

These women were unequivocally ultra-orthodox, wearing thick opaque stockings, foam head coverings, and modest robes. They had moved from Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, and yet Beit Shemesh was too restrictive for them. That's when I understood the fallacy behind comments such as “they like it that way.” In subsequent conversations with other haredi women, that quiet, understated tone has repeated itself with the consistent message --the emphasis on modesty is oppressive and the women are afraid to speak out. At first I thought the fear was exaggerated. I soon learned better. 

Atlanta, Georgia: Where a teenage girl is leading change for Orthodox women

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

by JOFA Staff 

Eden FarberThe women of the Orthodox community of Atlanta, Georgia, are going to be celebrating Simchat Torah like they have never celebrated before – and it’s all thanks to the hard work and vision of a young woman who led the way. Fifteen-year-old Eden Farber wanted more opportunities for women’s ritual inclusion, and spent the past six months working with her rabbi and community in a series of events that will be culminating with the first ever women’s Torah reading on Simchat Torah at the Young Israel of Toco Hills. 

Eden, who studies frequently at the Drisha Institute and learns daf yomi, has been frustrated with women’s limited roles in synagogue, which she wrote in an article published in Fresh Ink for Teens last year:  (

A Rebbetzin is not a Rabbi

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez

I have been involved in a few conversations lately about a topic that really agitates me, so when I saw the premise used to prove the exact opposite, I simply couldn’t not say my piece publicly any longer.

A Rebbetzin is not a female Rabbi. Sorry Orthodox Jewry, but its just not reality.

While many Rebbetzins or Rabbanits (not getting into the semantics on this one now, been there done that) do serve as leaders in their communities, many do not. While some have a high level of education, some do not. And on the flip side, while some women who want to be leaders in the community marry Rabbis, others do not. The premise is that all women who want to lead have to marry Rabbis, and that all Rabbis have to marry women who want to be leaders. This is not realistic and it is not fair.

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