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Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

My stepmother just sent me this note from NIF (the New Israel Fund), an organization that is near and dear to her heart. What separates NIF from other US-based groups dealing with Israel is its focus on domestic issues, which are often overlooked in light of Israel’s international political symbolism. Domestic issues all around the world are in large part comprised of issues of women’s rights, which, as we know quite well, intersect with marriage rights.

Check out this release from NIF:

This Sunday, for the second year in a row, NIF is sponsoring a wedding. It’s Tu B’Av, Israel’s Valentine’s Day, and like most Jewish weddings in Israel there will be flowers, dancing and a chuppah. But unlike most weddings in Israel, this one will be a Jewish alternative ceremony, joining the lives of two young people without the assistance or interference of Israel’s Orthodox-only Chief Rabbinate.

In Israel, the only way to have a legally recognized wedding is to have an Orthodox ceremony, and the only way to have an Orthodox ceremony is to meet the ever-harsher requirements of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate.  Yulia and Stas, the bride and groom, are choosing a public ceremony in Tel Aviv to help raise awareness about the need for a civil marriage alternative in Israel.

By sundown on Sunday, Yulia and Stas will have had a Jewish wedding, but not one recognized by the laws of the State of Israel. Like many couples who wish to avoid the involvement of the Orthodox rabbinate in their wedding, Yulia and Stas will have to get married outside of Israel in order for their union to be legally recognized in their own country.

The need for a civil wedding option in Israel was driven home dramatically during the last few weeks, as emotions have flared in Israel and throughout the diaspora over the Rotem bill legislation introduced into the Knesset that, if passed, will grant the ultra-Orthodox an iron monopoly on conversion and on who is a Jew.

It’s one thing to get married in the United States, where a marriage does not have to involve religion and where the core issue at hand is denial of same-sex marriages. In Israel, there is another issue that falls under the umbrella of marriage equality: denominational representation. The ultra-Orthodox rabbinate controls marriage laws in Israel where there is not an option for a justice of the peace AND there is no such thing as a marriage that is not performed by an Orthodox rabbi in observance of very specific halakha.

The scary part is that many of these ultra-Orthodox rituals and observances go against the beliefs of the majority of the population. A marriage, an act that is supposed to create a union of two identities, ends up contradicting the beliefs of the two people who are united.

So take action now and contact Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to recognize all forms of Judaism as valid.

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I just got back from Boulder, Colorado where I stayed for my cousin’s wedding. To be honest, I’m not a big wedding person. Many people assume that is because my parents are divorced and that is probably part of it, but I see the inequality associated with the ritual, its institutionalization and the commercialism that has boomed in accordance with an event that is supposed to be about love rather than exclusion and magazines. Cynicism is great when it allows me to think outside of the box and to create alternatives to rituals I deem discriminatory, but it’s not so great when it puts up a wall between me and appreciating a ceremony that is so much bigger than myself.

While one wedding did not get me to change my personal views on marriage, I did learn to appreciate the beauty of my cousin and his wife displaying their love and sharing it with family and close friends. And it was beautiful. The ceremony was at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the chuppah outside overlooking an expanse so wide that it just feels Jewish in the faith sense of the term.

The rabbi (my second cousin) was upfront about the fact that this would not be a “traditional” wedding. By that, he meant that it would be egalitarian, featuring men and women equally and, in this case, within the boundaries of most Jewish laws. The ceremony began with circling. Traditionally, the bride circles the groom seven times, but in their wedding, my cousin also circled his beloved, creating a union based in equality. Then, when the Ketubah (marriage contract) was signed, they had four witnesses rather than the required two. They had four because it is mandated that there be two male witnesses, but female witnesses do not traditionally count. The happy couple made certain to have equal representation on both sides.

This was only the second wedding I’ve been to (the first being my dad and stepmom’s who were married by the same rabbi as in this one) and it made me feel safe in both Judaism and in my family, like I was not part of something that would be considered exclusive. That is a wonderful feeling and one that should be the basis of a union rooted in law, religion, and love.

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Name: Lucille Weisfuse

Age: 88

Place of Birth: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Neighborhood: Boca Raton, Florida

Denomination: Conservative

Race: White

Ethnicity: Jewish (very strongly)

Sexuality: Heterosexual

Profession: Math Teacher

There is a look people have when they have everything they could possibly want in life. There is a glimmer in their eyes, a posture in their bones not of resignation, but of contentment. But even more telling than those physical attributes is their willingness to reveal absolutely everything about their lives to the world. When people have nothing to hide, they shine with the verbosity of their stories.

As I sit in the dining room of my grandmother’s Century Village (this is the name of her retirement community where I am convinced people live for centuries) apartment, she has this look and intense need to tell her story as much as and to whomever she could. For the purpose of this narrative, however, she is not my grandmother; she is Lucille Weisfuse because her life began way before she was a grandmother, a mother, or a wife. She has a long story to tell.

Our discussion begins with Lucille revealing bits about her Jewish upbringing as a Conservative Jew born and bred in Brooklyn. She grew up with a concern for the Jews around the world, those whose homes were being burnt in Eastern Europe and those whose fates were unknown in faraway ghettos. Her heightened sensitivity to anti-Semitism is apparent.

Attending a Conservative synagogue her parents helped to open, Lucille reveals that “women did not go up to the bima and they could not really participate, but [men and women] did sit together as equals. There was no separation between men and women in synagogue.” Because of where she comes from, Lucille and I identify separation and sexism differently. I begin to wonder if she is blinded by the myth of sexist traditions that do not allow women to the bima or if she is simply more respectful than me of an institution (Judaism) that is greater than the values of one person.

She was confirmed in that synagogue. Bat Mitzvahs were not as popular or accepted in 1935, when the Conservative movement was still deciding which ancient laws to follow and which to reform. A Bat Mitzvah means that girls read from the Torah. In most synagogues at the time, that was still an exclusively male role yet the Conservative movement wanted to find some way for women to participate. Then came the creation of the confirmation. Lucille says of the ceremony, “They had a confirmation class. It was all in English and I gave a talk.” The English is what makes a confirmation different from a Bat Mitzvah. While the talk she gave was meaningful, it was not holy in comparison to the sanctity of Hebrew in a Bat Mitzvah in an assimilated society where only the most educated and devout spoke this founding religious language. The initial intention of a Bat Mitzvah is to provide a ceremony for hard-learned Jewish literacy to be showcased. A confirmation is cultural, but less literacy-based.

(more…)

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This post is cross-posted at JWA

The Washington Post Outlook section featured an interesting article this weekend on a surprising topic—whether or not marrying someone of the same religion is likely to make your marriage more successful. This is particularly relevant to Jews, who now find themselves with an intermarriage rate of almost 50%.

The article comes out clearly on the side of intermarriage being more likely to bring about divorce and separation, citing the fact that according to “calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.” A Jew and a Christian supposedly have a 40% of getting divorced in five years, while two mainline Christians only have a 20% chance.

The article raises some questions, especially in light of Leah’s recent post on JDate and the pitfalls of assuming that the same religion means the same values. The author claims that religion is about more than just religion, but rather about values, such as how to raise children, how to spend money, and how to choose friends. Consequently, as the millennial generation becomes more and more willing to marry people from outside of their religion without discussing religion prior to the marriage, they will end up having to deal with conflicts over those values. But does sharing a religion, even if only in name, mean that people share the same values?

Read the rest here

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Cross-posted at Jewesses with Attitude

Why have an American actor and Israeli model become hot topics for the Jewish press ? Lehava, a Jewish organization created to prevent assimilation, recently sent a letter to Bar Rafaeli, a prominent Israeli supermodel, not to marry DiCaprio because it would be bad for Judaism. Some excerpts from the letter:

It is not by chance that you were born Jewish….Your grandmother and her grandmother did not dream that one of their descendants would one day remove the family’s future generations from the Jewish people… Assimilation has forever been one of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Well, Lehava certainly has chutzpah, to say the least. I don’t think that it’s their place to be telling an independent woman (or man) who to marry, but it does bring up the interesting issue of what happens when a prominent Jewish figure marries out. While Bar Rafaeli may not be a political or religious figure, she is an Israeli supermodel famous around the globe, and that certainly counts for something in terms of influence. So what kind of example does it set if she chooses to intermarry? (Which she has denied, by the way).

Read the rest at Jewesses with Attitude

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This is my first cross-post at JWA’s Jewesses with Attitude.

This past weekend was Purim, and amidst the celebrating and partying one thing stood out in my mind that most people tend to ignore: the fact that the feminine hero of the story, Esther, is intermarried. Not only this, but as Esther is wooing the King, Mordechai specifically instructs her not to reveal to him that she is Jewish: “The girl found favor in his eyes and won his kindness…Esther did not divulge her race or ancestry, for Mordechai had instructed her not to tell.”

There are Jewish sources that argue that Esther was coerced into marrying Achashverosh, that she managed to keep Kosher while in the palace, and that she only hid her identity because Mordechai foresaw the impending Jewish crisis and knew her Judaism should only be revealed at a crucial moment. But there are other people who argue that Esther was an assimilated Jew with a Babylonian name who most likely was not able to observe Judaism in the palace, and who did not reveal her Jewish identity because of fear of ruining her chances to become queen.

To read more, go to my post on the JWA blog.

(I know, another post about Purim, but what can you do, it’s a crazy holiday…!)

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Domestic Felicity, a blog written by a Jewish stay-at-home mother living in Jerusalem, warns us against the dangers of feminism.

Oh, I’m scared.

But I’m not scared of my beliefs in a woman’s right to choose, which aren’t going to change any time soon. I’m scared of this blogger’s frightening understanding of what feminism means. According to Mrs. Anna T, feminism is synonymous with “having it all.” And to Mrs. Anna T, “having it all” means being forced to do it all, rather than having the choice to have all one chooses to have.

But this blogger defines feminism as a rather strange conspiracy theory:

I think that saying, ‘oh, go ahead and get a full-time career, you can juggle a marriage, children and household successfully along the way, and you can have a baby whenever you want’ is much more dangerous than ‘career is a better choice, go forsake your family!’ – Why? Because honestly, can you imagine a decent woman stand up and say, ‘hey, I choose to neglect my family, I don’t care if my marriage suffers, my laundry piles up and my children never see their Mommy!’? But she can be tempted to buy into the I-can-have-it-all idea.

First of all, many women who do not want full-time careers are forced to get them out of financial necessity. Not everyone can be wealthy Jerusalem suburbanites of privilege who can live off of a single income and many women are single mothers who work in order to put their children first, not the other way around.

Second of all, why is it that if a woman chooses to have a full-time career, she is “neglecting her family,” whereas if a man has a full-time career, he is “providing for his family.” It is the exact same choice yet one parent is labeled neglectful for doing so and the other is labeled responsible. It is an age-old double standard that must be recognized.

Third, I simply wish that Mrs. Anna T could recognize that her lifestyle is a feminist lifestyle. She is choosing to stay at home and finds fulfillment in doing so. That choice, that conviction that she is able to fulfill her own agenda is what feminism is about. Many other women choose different paths and feminism is also about recognizing and supporting the fact that all of those paths are entirely valid and it is a woman’s right to be given all the necessary tools to dodge the double standard and live her life as she sees fit.

Feminism is a safety net, not a danger. It does not mean that women must “have it all;” it means that women can choose from that “all” because we are not being restricted in our choices.

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