Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hannah Rosenthal Under Fire

By Symi Rom-Rymer

The mock outrage and cheap scoring of political points that has ensued in the wake of a Haaretz interview with Hannah Rosenthal, the new U.S. Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism, is quite a thing to behold.  Conservative American Jewish leaders made it clear from the moment that Rosenthal’s appointment was announced that they were upset with the Obama administration’s decision.  From writing open letters (Abe Foxman) to writing condescending op-eds, (Gregg Rickman) those who disagree with her views have sought to undermine her judgment and competence from the start. Continue reading

Now even Jewish grandmothers hate the Israeli Rabbinate

By Sarah Breger

Grandma is fighting back. The Center for Women’s Justice, the Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to upholding a woman’s right to just treatment in the Rabbinical Courts in Israel has created a series of web clips highlighting the injustices and injuries that result from the very workings of the courts. Issues such as agunah, conversion and divorce have been reported about in the Israeli and Jewish press for years but these videos are hoping to reach a broader audience and make the public sit up and pay attention to the biases of the rabbinical courts that act behind closed doors.

In each video the fictional character, Savta Bikorta (Critical Grandma) tells a true story revolving around the Rabbinate. In one, the rabbinical courts rule that although a husband is molesting his daughter the courts will not force him to give his wife as divorce since the molestation of the daughter is not a marital issue. In another, a woman who went to the courts to receive a divorce was instead informed that she and her children were not Jewish anymore.

The cloying sweetness of Savta coupled with the tragic stories she is telling put the issues into stark relief.

So far CWJ has produced one English Savta Bikorta video (link below) and four Hebrew ones (with English subtitles). It is hard to know what impact they will have. After seeing them all there is not much to do—just sit and fume. But who knows, if Grandma can fight back why can’t we?

How about a little peace, love, and understanding?

By Caroline Kessler

Well, that’s what we’ve got at the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, where two eight-year-olds from differing backgrounds are recovering from wounds inflicted by distressingly similar causes. Ethan Bronner’s carefully poignant article, “A Mideast Bond, Stitched of Pain and Healing” appeared in The New York Times on New Year’s eve-eve.  Perhaps this signified the ushering in of a new age and a new feeling towards writing on the Middle East.

Or perhaps not. Nevertheless, it’s a compelling tale of two kids, Orel and Marya. They play together in hospital corridors and they play their expected roles: he’s a Jewish Israeli injured by a Hamas rocket, she’s a Muslim from Gaza who was injured by an Israeli missile. In the vein of articles on transcending the changing borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories, Brommer shows that relationships can transcend things like borders as well. Continue reading

A Gold Star for ‘Mommy Queerest’

By Sarah Breger

Going to Mommy Queerest at Theater J the other night was a bit like going to Miami—the theatre was packed with old Jews and gay people. Luckily, I love both. The one-woman show starring comedian Judy Gold relates the story of her life, her family and her quest for her own TV sitcom through jokes, songs and the occasional Mary Tyler Moore impersonation. Gay, Jewish, the mother of two children and the daughter of the stereotypical Jewish mother on steroids, she has one heck of a story to tell. Gold describes everything from growing up as a tall outcast in high school to realizing her dreams of being a comedian at Rutgers, to her first girlfriend and subsequent breakup, to her current relationship. Most of this is told through the lens of the TV sitcoms of her youth that she watched as an escape from her stifling New Jersey home. Shows like The Partridge Family and Welcome Back, Kotter informed her views of what family and the world should be like. Unfortunately, it was those parts that often fell flat for me  (although admittedly it might be generational—if she had been discussing Full House or 90210, I might have found it hysterical). The parts that were the funniest were when Gold described her relationship to her parents, such as the one time her father asked if she was gay and she denied it or her mother’s paranoia about potential anti-Semitism (“But would they hide you?” she asked of all Gold’s non-Jewish friends).

These autobiographical performances seem to be increasingly popular and but often veer into the self-indulgent (for example, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays), but Gold manages to avoid that pitfall and create a moving and engaging show. During the second half of the performance, Gold takes us through the various pitches for her show she made with different studios and producers who couldn’t understand the concept of a “manless” marriage or the lack of hot lesbian love scenes.

Unfortunately the play does not go very deeply into Gold’s life—she describes herself as an observant Jew and a lesbian, yet any stories of her grappling with her sexuality or dealing with it in high school or college are missing, as is any information about her faith. Gold ends with an impassioned plea for the legalization of gay marriage—it is one of the only serious parts of the whole production but it hits exactly the right tone and comes off as sincere and not self-righteous. The show kept me laughing the whole time, and even though the production is ending its run at (the truly terrific) Theater J, it is worth seeing on tour. And if Gold finally gets her own sitcom, I for one would watch it.


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