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January 25, 2017 / 27 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘WOMEN’

Former General: Integrating Women in Combat Units a Conspiracy to Weaken IDF

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Major General Yiftach Ron-Tal (res.) former commander of the IDF Ground Forces, currently the CEO of Israel Electric Company, on Sunday told Galay Israel radio that the proposed plan to integrate women as Armored combat soldiers is being promoted “by entities that are trying to weaken the IDF.”

Ron-Tal said the initiative is “a scandal that will harm anything one might imagine, including the IDF’s ability.” Noting that the next goal of the women’s groups involved is to integrate women in combat infantry units.

“Anyone pushing this objective is, forgive the expression, simply nuts,” he said, adding, “Are we off our rocker? The next phase will be not just tanks, but Division 35 (paratroopers), Golani Brigade, Givati Brigade and the Nahal Brigade (combat infantry units).”

Major General Ron-Tal added that in his view, and based on material he has reviewed, behind the integration initiatives stand not feminist but leftwing groups, “whose aim is the weakening of the IDF.” Citing first-person conversations with knowledgeable sources, he warned against “interested entities who’ve been using this move, which on its face is democratic and very important … to weaken our military ability. This is terrible, I know it’s terrible, and I’m very concerned.”

The plan to integrate women in combat units was introduced last week by Head of IDF HR Gen. Eran Shani, who spoke to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. According to a senior IDF HR officer who spoke to ha’aretz Sunday, the IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, supports the plan.

An association headed by Rabbi Amihai Eliahu calling itself Tzav 1 (order 1), which supports the ability of religious soldiers to serve in the IDF in a manner that does not challenge their beliefs, has been warning that the military must choose between having Religious-Zionist soldiers or women in the tank, because they can’t have both. The association is accusing the entities behind the move of attempting to cleanse the IDF of its religious warriors.


Women Unite To Star In Jerusalem

Monday, October 31st, 2016

We all pray – but that’s very different from holding a back-and-forth conversation with G-d. If you’re the writer of a musical play, you’ll have to figure out how to represent such divine moments to an audience and how to act them out without having anyone “play G-d.” Sharon Katz and Avital Macales faced the challenge and came up with several creative solutions. I attended a rehearsal of Count the Stars, the story of Avraham and Sara, to find out how these dynamic writers and producers did this and so much more. As the play is debuting in November in Jerusalem, I suggest you book your ticket now.


A Sparkling Duo

Sharon and Avital at Eretz Bereishit

Sharon and Avital at Eretz Bereishit

Sharon Katz is film production manager at Shoot East Productions and Torah Live, both innovative filming projects. A former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, Show Business Newspaper and Voices Magazine, Sharon’s creative energy couldn’t be limited by the written word. She’s also the founder of four women’s performance companies, has produced seventeen shows and has co-written four musical comedies, all based on stories from Tanach. A powerhouse of positivity and fun, Sharon has performed on stage in seventeen productions. Now cast as Avraham’s trusty servant, Eliezer, she brings comic relief into the play – and a spirit of sincere caring to the cast. “I missed your shining face,” she calls to a twelve-year-old performer who missed a rehearsal. “Nice new glasses,” she tells another.

Avital Macales, svelte and gentle, her brown hair pulled into a simple ponytail, is the superstar of women’s theater in Israel. Born in Los Angles, Avital came to Israel when she was so young that she managed to pick up such erudite Hebrew skills that when she’s not singing, she’s working as (gulp) a Hebrew grammarian. How do the staunch and unwavering rules of Hebrew grammar come together with the muse of performance? It’s in the genes: Avital’s father is an engineer and physicist; her mother a musical director (who just happens to be the musical director of this play). Wait… there are even more contradictions to Avital. The superstar is actually reserved and bashful when she’s not full-flare on stage. “I was born to be on the stage; offstage I’m shy,” says Avital. It’s a loveable combination that turns me into an immediate fan.

Three-and-a-half years ago, Sharon and Avital took to writing Count the Stars. The creative process began with in-depth learning of the Chumash and commentaries. “Each week, we presented what we had learned to one another, and then we sang the song that came out of that topic,” says Sharon. The resulting play was executive produced in 2014 by Raise Your Spirits Theatre, the first theater company that Sharon had founded. Fast-forward to 2015.


The Song of Unity

Sharon was taking a course in script writing offered by The Jerusalem Center for Artistic Development (JCAD) at the OU Center in Jerusalem. At the time, a wave of terror engulfed Jerusalem. “Hardly anyone walked through the city streets. And if you did, you kept looking over your shoulder. The only place full of optimism and life was the OU Center,” recalls Sharon.

Sharon Katz at rehersals

Sharon Katz at rehersals

Driven to nurture meaningful friendships, boost self-esteem, have fun, and oust the feelings of isolation, Sharon and Avital, together with Shifra Penkower and Bati Katz, created the Women’s Performance Community of Jerusalem (WPC) and partnered with the OU Center. Through song and drama, women of all ages from different neighborhoods and diverse streams of Judaism joined into one loving and supportive group. It was community theatre at its best. Created by, with, and for a community, the WPC quickly fostered a feeling of community spirit and unity while developing the skills and artistic sensibilities of the participants.

The WPC began offering monthly programs, but the women wanted more… they wanted to stage an entire performance. Sharon and Avital reworked Count the Stars putting Sharon’s new-found knowledge to work. “It has been marvelous,” says Sharon. “The seventy women in the cast love it. Avital and I feel like this is a new show. But at the same time, when we hear our melodies being sung again, we feel like we’re meeting a familiar friend.”


Women as Stars

Since rehearsals began in June, the rooms and corridors of the OU Center have been filled with dance and song twice a week. Moving from room to room, I get an idea of what it takes to put together the show. Upstairs, lithe choreographer Judy Kizer works with endless patience and skill with a dozen lively young girls who are “yummy and fun to squeeze” in Sharon’s words. “It’s hard for children to focus,” says Sharon with a smile. “With adults, you tell them what you want and they understand. With children, you need more patience.” For their part, the children contribute their own creativity. I watch as they quickly put on their heads the orange and black striped tote bags that Sharon just had to buy when shopping for props and turn them into a headdress for Pharaoh. And as for stage fright… no one mentions the words. “This is fun and there’s no reason to be afraid,” says Sharon.

Avital Macales and her sister Eliore at Eretz Bereishit

Avital Macales and her sister Eliore at Eretz Bereishit

Downstairs, director Shifra Penkower, dressed in beautifully-coordinated green and red, leads the rehearsal for actress/dancer/singer Debbie Hirsch and Avital as they bring a TV reality show to life (more on that below). When Shifra isn’t guiding the performers, she checks out the rise of the backdrop, the width of the visible part of the stage, which booms are electric and which manual, the number of steps to the dressing rooms, and how good the view is from just about every seat in the Gerard Behar arts center where the show will take place.

When they’re done, Debbie, a young mother, tells me what motivated her to be part of the play. “This is what Am Yisrael is all about. Different streams of Jews all coming together without caring about the differences. Performing together gives us the chance to appreciate each other,” she says. Then she adds, “Performing reenergizes me and gives me the vigor I need to be a better wife and mom.”

Rhona Lewis

In Strongest Showing, Trump Fails to Bridge Gap with Women

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Had Donald Trump been as in command of his demeanor and of the debate subject matters in his previous bouts with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and had he been able to restrain his impulsive reactions to her skillful provocations, he would probably not be trailing her in the polls as badly as he is doing these days. The big story most media outlets have run with right after the third presidential debate in Las Vegas Wednesday night has been Trump’s refusal to commit to honoring the results of the November 8 elections—the first presidential candidate to have done so before the actual vote. But it’s doubtful that his coy response, that he’ll keep us in suspense, will actually hurt his numbers in the coming nineteen days. After all, he has done just that during the early primary debates, refused to commit to supporting the Republican nominee, no matter whom he or she would be — and his poll numbers increased. Trump’s devastating failure this third debate has been to move the needle on his appeal to American women.

A new CBS poll of 13 battleground states taken a couple of days before Wednesday night’s debate showed women voters favor Clinton by 15 points over Trump, compared with 5 points a month earlier. Regardless of how he got there, how unfair that hot mic recording of his uttering really vulgar words on the bus had been, how the media were ganging up on him and how the Clinton campaign was to blame for the ten or so women who came out to portray him as an abusive man — it worked, and it was Trump’s job to fix it.

He didn’t have to win over the swing state women, he just needed to bring their support back to what it had been — a +5 for his opponent, because he had the majority of male voters on his side. Making peace with women had to be his top priority, if he wanted a shot at winning Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, the must-win-2-out-of-3 states for Republican presidential candidates. He failed abysmally.

He didn’t even have to be contrite, he didn’t have to apologize, he didn’t have to make any of the PC gestures he—and many of the rest of us—despise so much. He just had to show empathy, take the high road, look and sound like a mensch. Instead, he willingly conceded the women’s corner to his opponent, and became entangled in a string of denials that focused attention on the accusations against him, rather than build him up as a human being. It wasn’t enough to repeat the line, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody,” which elicited one of the very few roars of laughter from the audience. He had to show respect, and he had a perfect opportunity right there and then, seeing as his opponent happens to be female. He couldn’t do what a number of better skilled American politicians have done with grace — including, most emphatically, presidential candidate Bill Clinton, who, during the 1992 campaign, was floored several times by very serious allegations of sexual misconduct. Bill Clinton showed the skill and smarts that were required to dig himself out of the hole every time some woman from Arkansas had stood up to remind him of their quality time together.

Instead, Trump went on the attack against his accusers, not understanding the fundamental rules of the complex game known as American politics: you can’t ever appear like the bully, you can’t ever express contempt towards people who are weaker and poorer than you, and you can’t ever, ever, tell a rape victim she’s a liar, even if she’s lying.

But when it came to hitting his opponent hard where she deserved to be hit, Trump was weak and unforcused. Hillary Clinton evaded the moderator’s hard-hitting questions with admirable facility, at one point turning Chris Wallace’s poignant question on the corrupt “pay to play” conduct of the Clinton Foundation into an infomercial on the good works of the same foundation, but Trump stood and watched, overmatched, as his rival was taking his lunch.

The media are congratulating Wallace on his strength and competence, and he certainly has been better than everyone before him, but look at this exchange, and notice how Trump was unable to deliver a devastating blow against his opponent, despite the enthusiastic support from the moderator on this issue:

Wallace: Secretary Clinton, during your 2009 Senate confirmation hearing you promised to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with your dealing with the Clinton Foundation while you were secretary of state, but e-mails show that donors got special access to you, those seeking grants for Haiti relief separately from non-donors and some of those donors got contracts, government contracts, taxpayer money. Can you really say you’ve kept your pledge to that Senate committee and why isn’t what happened and what went on and between you and the Clinton Foundation […] what Mr. Trump calls pay-to-play?

Clinton: Well, everything I did as secretary of state was in furtherance of our country’s interests and our values. The state department has said that. I think that’s been proven, but I am happy — in fact, I’m thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation because it is a world-renowned charity and I’m so proud of the work that it does. I could talk for the rest of the debate. I know I don’t have the time to do that, but just briefly the Clinton Foundation made it possible for 11 million people around the world with HIV AIDS to afford treatment and that’s about half of all the people in the world that are getting treatment in partnership with the American health association.

Wallace then reminds Clinton, “The specific question is about pay to play —” and he asks Trump for his input.

Alas, Trump is unable to form a coherent, razor-sharp attack and resorts instead to anecdotal arguments. He is not in command of the facts in those Wikileaks, he can’t make the case, and falls flat instead, coming across yet again as grumpy Trump.

Trump: It’s a criminal enterprise. Saudi Arabia given $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people that push gays off business, off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money. So I’d like to ask you right now why don’t you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly? Why don’t you give back the money? I think it would be a great gesture because she takes a tremendous amount of money. And you take a look at the people of Haiti. I was in Little Haiti the other day in Florida, and I want to tell you they hate the Clintons because what’s happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace. And you know it and they know it and everybody knows it.

There’s a reason why the vast majority of American politicians are Law School graduates. Law School is where you learn to think on your feet to form a counter argument quickly and convincingly, before a critical judge who isn’t interested in your trip to Little Haiti and how the folks down there hate Hillary. And while Trump was busy going nowhere, Hillary was preparing a massive counter attack. And, remember, she didn’t have to destroy her opponent, only to divert attention from the very real accusations made by Wallace against her conduct as Secretary of State, affording access to her foundation’s donors.

Wallace: Secretary Clinton?

Clinton: Well, very quickly, we at the Clinton Foundation spend 90%, 90%, of all the money that is donated on behalf of programs for people around the world and in our own country. I’m very proud of that. We have the highest rating from the watchdogs that follow foundations. And I would be happy to compare what we do with the Trump Foundation which took money from other people and bought a six-foot portrait of Donald. I mean, who does that? I mean, it just was astonishing. But when it comes to Haiti, Haiti is the poorest country in our hemisphere. The earthquake and the hurricanes, it has devastated Haiti. Bill and I have been involved in trying to help Haiti for many years. The Clinton Foundation raised $30 million to help Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake and all of the terrible problems the people there had. We’ve done things to help small businesses, agriculture, and so much else. And we’re going to keep working to help Haiti because it is an important part of the American experience.

This is how it’s done.

Finally, close to the end, when most pundits were prepared to declare him the winner, at least by points, Trump shot himself in the foot and provided the opposition with a golden slogan. The topic of discussion was entitlement programs, including Social Security, that “third rail of American politics,” where countless Republicans have lost to countless Democrats who knew that any voter over age 50 doesn’t care about the program’s solvency, they just want to be reassured their checks will be in the mail for as long as they live once they retire. Which is what Hillary gave them, possibly without a shred of real figures to support her:

Clinton: Well, Chris, I am on the record as saying we need to put more money into Social Security Trust fund. That’s part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it, but what we want to do is —”

And Donald Trump leaned into the mike and said hoarsely: “Such a nasty woman.”

Clinton either hadn’t heard him or chose to ignore him, but millions of women saw an angry man belittling and attacking one of their own. Expect T-shirts saying “I’m voting for the nasty woman,” very much like the Obama campaign’s T-shirts from 2008, with the slogan, “I’m voting for that one,” following Sen. John MacCain’s unfortunate reference to his debate opponent Sen. Barack Obama. And, as has been the theme of this post 3rd debate analysis, should he lose the election, Donald Trump will have mostly himself to blame for rigging it.

Finally, in the discussion of third-trimester abortions, Hillary Clinton presented the familiar, feminist argument about the woman’s right to make decisions about her body, with the support of her family, her doctor, and her spiritual adviser. Jewish law, which does not believe that we own our bodies, since they belong to the Creator, we are merely the custodians of our bodies, nevertheless sides with those who permit third-trimester abortion, for a completely different reason.

In a case where the birth of the fetus poses a threat to the life of the mother, before the birth has begun, as long as the fetus is completely in the womb, the fetus that threatens its mother’s life is considered a “rodef,” a person who wants to kill another person and should be killed first. In such a case, the midwife is permitted to even cut the fetus up and pull it out in pieces, to save the mother. In fact, Donald Trump described in great detail precisely what the halakha encourages the midwife to do should the fetus risk its mother’s life:

Trump: Well I think it is terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that is okay and Hillary can say that that is okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she is saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take a baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

Had he asked his Orthodox Jewish daughter Yael, she would have told him that this is exactly how our tradition describes what is permitted in that tragic case where the mother’s life is at stake.

However, everything changes in our halakha when it comes to partial birth. If most of the baby is out of the womb, we’re no longer dealing with a fully realized life—the mother, versus a potential life—the fetus. Now we have two fully realized humans with equal rights to life. According to our laws, if the baby’s head has emerged completely (the maximalist view), or 51% of the baby’s body has emerged (the minimalists), we can no longer kill the baby.

Two of our major scholars, Maimonides and Rashi, hold different views on abortion for reasons other than the health of the mother. In a cases where the fetus is likely to be born deformed, Rashi, who holds it is not a realized human, would permit an abortion, Maimoides does not.

By the way, all Jewish authorities agrees that for the first 40 days of pregnancy a woman may terminate without any question, because the fetus only receives a soul on its 40th day.

But overall, Jewish law never views the killing of an unborn fetus as murder, at most it would be a case of manslaughter, but more likely a case of civil damages, if done against the woman’s will.


60 Israeli Arab Women in Danger of Honor Murder in Lod, 15 Killed Since 2010

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Du’aa Abu Sarah, mother of four, was murdered a month ago in front of her children. Last week, her two sister and mother testified before the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women. Committee Chairwoman MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint Arab List) said the focus of the hearing was on police failure to defeat violence against women in the mixed cities of Ramla and Lod. “Fifteen Arab women have been murdered in Ramla and Lod since 2010,” she said, adding, “We’re not willing to continue counting the dead bodies.”

Du’aa’s sister testified that the murder victim had launched a complaint with police but no one followed up on it. “We have no one to talk to. We feel threatened, this murderer killed all of us,” she told the committee. She reported that her family members are forced to hide indoors in the evening. “I’m a strong woman, but recently I’m afraid I’m being followed,” she said.

The Arab committee members pointed an accusing finger at police, but were also critical of Arab society. MK Ahmad Tibi said the main problem was the lack of police deterrence of criminals. “When there are no solved crimes, there’s no deterrence of the next murderer,” he said. “In most cases police know who is the killer, but he remains free for lack of substantial evidence.” But beyond the problem of an inept police force, Tibi said, “we have a social sickness of men who think they can easilty take the life of a woman because she is inferior to them. It’s primitive, inferior thinking.”

Several other Arab MKs blamed the Israeli “colonialist” system which prefers to employ police in pursuing political activists rather than focus on crime in Arab society. But some, like MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint Arab List) acknowledged the need to reach beyond criticism of police to dealing will the general violence in Arab society, and specifically violence against women.

An Arab woman from Lod testified about the threats on her life. “I am being threatened. I filed a complaint with police but they told me not to complain. When they shot at my house police didn’t do anything to prevent the shooting and protect me. Everyone is aware of my story, including Police and Social Services. Social Services directs me to Police and vice versa. Today I’m still alive, but I don’t know when it’ll happen, when I’ll be murdered. No one is doing anything, they’re just waiting for it to happen.” Turning to the police representatives at the hearing, the woman pleaded, “Please change things. It’s not just me, men are also murdered and you’re doing nothing. There’s evidence, there’s cameras, there’s shooting. The man who shot at my house was pictured and his license plate is known, and you still don’t have sufficient evidence? What are you waiting for?”

Police Central District Officer, Commander Dado Zamir, told the committee the murders in question “are keeping me up nights. The files are being treated by our central unit and we don’t spare manpower to solve these cases. There are many women whose lives have been saved by Social Services and Police, be it treatment within the community or sending them to communities abroad. We’ve left no stone unturned and every shred of evidence is being examined.”

Zamir stressed the gap between police intelligence and evidentiary proof that can be used by a prosecutor, meaning Police may well know who committed a murder, or who had the motive and intent, “but the gap between that intelligence information and putting together an evidentiary foundation to support a murder indictment is great.”

Samah Salaime, who runs a countrywide project for the prevention of violence within Arab society said that one of the problems in Police being able to elicit testimony from Arab victims of violence has to do with the plea bargain system, which lets criminals out of prison in time to take revenge against the women who put them there. Therefore, she argued, “you can’t convince a woman to testify [against men who threatened her life] if she knows that seven years later they’ll come looking for her.”

Orly Dahan, representing the City of Lod, told the committee that she knows of 80 women whose lives have been threatened, 20 Jews and 60 Arabs.

Hagai Moyal, National Inspector at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told the committee it was difficult to recruit workers to deal with family violence in the Arab society.


Israeli Navy Prepared to Escort Women’ Gaza Boats to Ashdod

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

As Zaytouna and Amal, two boats with about 30 Gaza-bound passengers, mostly women, are getting closer to Israel’s shores, the IDF navy has been preparing to exercise the routine protocol in such cases, namely to board the boats and escort the passengers, politely but firmly, to the harbor city of Ashdod.

The website Women Boat to Gaza has been billing the endeavor as a “flotilla,” but the term commonly describes a fleet of ships or boats, so, in this case, the term “boats” is probably more accurate.

Ashdod has been serving as a destination for aid supplies for Gaza, for most of the decade since Hamas has taken over control of the Strip. Israeli officials go through the cargo, remove the contraband weapons and explosives that routinely arrive in those shipments, and clear the goods for trucking to Gaza, a few miles southward. Presumably, whatever goods the one or two boats manage to bring in will end up in Ashdod for inspection, followed by shipping to Gaza.

Israel’s Channel 2 News has reported that naval gunships have been waiting in Ashdod harbor for the signal to intercept the two boats. The same report suggested that the women onboard the boats are planning to exercise civil disobedience, which could get splashy.

The Zaytouna Captain is US Army retired Colonel Ann Wright, who served in the State Dept. diplomatic corps. She resigned from the US government in 2003, over her objection to the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. Since then she has been active in every single attempt to break through the blockade on Gaza.

It should be noted that the Turkish government, which ended up in a six-year tiff with Israel over the tragic end of the largest and most memorable 2010 Gaza flotilla, has expressed its anger at the mostly Turkish activists in that endeavor, for forcing it into this quagmire. Since Turkey has settled its dispute with Israel, Turkish goods destined for Gaza have been arriving in Ashdod regularly and then shipped to their intended recipients.

It should also be noted that the reason Israel has imposed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is because the Hamas government has been declaring practically every day its intent to destroy Israel, and has been devoting most of its international aid money to military preparations to carry out this threat.


The Power Of Jewish Women

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

The immense power of Jewish women has been documented from time immemorial, but there is one cataclysmic episode in the Torah that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been utilized as a prime example of exemplifying the absolute necessity of the presence of the woman/mother in Jewish history.

Before that episode is brought to bear, let us examine some prior history, as the Torah, in its inimitable wisdom, uses the iconic mother/heroines Sarah and Rivkah to delineate the incalculable preeminent position of women in the Jewish home.

Sarah, with her gifts of prophecy, not only knew that Yishmael was a mortal threat to Yitzchak’s existence, but also knew that as the son of an Egyptian woman, he could never identify as a Jew. Long before Ezra, she anticipated the necessity of matrilineal lineage, casting Yishmael out and making it clear to Avraham that only her son, only the son of a Jewish woman, could continue the line of the Jewish people.

As difficult as that action was for Sarah to take, the fact remains that Sarah was not rejecting her own son; Yishmael was Hagar’s, and thus the pain Sarah may have felt at Avraham’s own suffering at the loss of his son was not compounded by Yishmael being her own child.

Sarah’s difficulty may seem severe, but it pales next to Rivkah’s, as Rivkah had to reject her own son in order to preserve Jewish lineage. It is no accident that the episode in which Rivkah advises Yaakov to trick his father immediately follows the passage in which Eisav chooses wives from outside the Jewish people. Rivkah well knows that Eisav’s betrayal makes him unfit for preserving the Jewish line, and thus even though Eisav is her own son, she has the courage to reject him and make certain that Yaakov is chosen to become the progenitor of the Jewish people.

Yet even Rivkah’s test pales next to the unsung heroine of the Jewish people, Leah. The cataclysmic episode referred to above revolves around this utterly selfless woman who rarely gets enough credit for her critical part in the genesis of the Jewish people.

Just as it was Yaakov’s mission to keep his family together, to ensure that all of his children stayed Jews, it was Leah’s as well. Not only did she have to raise six sons of her own, but six others who weren’t hers; not only did she have to supervise the children of Zilpah and Bilhah, she had to raise the sons of her deceased sister, Rachel.

It is this dynamic – the raising of sons not her own and keeping them Jews –that elucidates the power of Leah and the crucial necessity of the Jewish woman in the home more clearly than any other instance in the Torah.

For centuries, the question has been asked: How could the sons of Yaakov have behaved so brutally toward Yosef, throwing him into the pit, selling him as a slave, letting their father believe his precious son was dead? Many explanations have been offered, including the thought that Yosef had threatened the preeminence of Yehuda with his dreams of supremacy, but the question remains: How could the sons act in such a way while their father was alive?

The answer is simple and instructive.

The brothers, led by Leah’s sons, were not disinclined to act in the fashion they did even though Yaakov was alive. His presence had little or no effect in dissuading them from their brutality.

The one whose presence was needed was Leah, their mother.

And Leah was dead.

According to Seder Olam Rabbah, Leah did not live over 45 years, which means she died the same year Yosef was sold. Rachel had died eight years before.

How do we know Leah died before her sons sold Yosef? Because in Bereishis 37:35, the Torah states, “Vayakumu chol banav v’chol b’nosav l’nachamo” – “And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him.”

There is no mention of Leah, for she was already niftar.

Now it finally makes sense. Why did the brothers treat Yosef so brutally? Why did they wait as long as they did to sell Yosef? It was because their mother was no longer there to say to them, “Treat your brother/cousin with respect. Behave yourselves. I know you are angry, but remember we are all one family.”

It is the very absence of Leah in which we realize the tremendous power and centrality of the mother in the Jewish home. Had she been present, the incident with Yosef may never have occurred, and the whole history of the Jewish people may have been different.

Yes, Sarah’s test was difficult; yes, Rivkah’s superseded Sarah’s, but only Leah – the unsung heroine, the woman enjoined with keeping her massive family on the straight and narrow – managed to keep Yaakov’s fractious family together as long as Hashem gave her life. When she was gone, everything came asunder.

The Torah’s emphasizes Rachel’s beauty, but in Leah we see a deeper beauty – in essence, the true beauty of the Jewish people. In Shmuel Bet, 1:19, David laments the death of Shaul and Yehonatan, crying, “Hatzvi Yisrael al bamosecha.” The word “tzvi” is variously translated as beauty, honor, or precious, implying the words’ synonymity. The closeness of “tzvi” to “tzaddik” can be seen in Yishiyahu 24:16, when Yishiyahu states, “Miknaf haaretz z’miros shaman t’zvi latzaddik” – “From the edge of the earth we have heard songs ‘Glory to the righteous.’ ”

Thus beauty and honor are quite closely related to righteousness. This concept goes to the heart of being a Jew. For Jews, unlike for others, true beauty is found in righteousness – and only righteousness.

And Leah, with her heroic struggle to raise 12 sons, six of whom were not hers, and knit them into one Jewish family after her sister had died, exemplifies the kind of selfless righteousness that is the essence of who we are as a people. Hers was the kind of exalted beauty that the Jewish woman and mother offers the world as a beacon in the murky darkness of immorality and violence; hers was the presence that inspired her sons to behave as just men, and her absence left a void that precipitated cataclysmic events.

It is the presence of the Jewish mother, with her selfless role in engendering harmony and peace, that is the fiercely burning flame within the holy light of the Jewish people.

David Shapiro

Weizmann Institute Professors Launch Course Helps Women Juggle Science and Motherhood

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Profs. Maya Schuldiner of the Molecular Genetics Department, Nirit Dudovich of the Physics of Complex Systems Department and Michal Sharon of the Biomolecular Sciences Department were discussing the challenges their female students undergo as they move from childlessness to motherhood, and they reflected on the difficulties they had experienced during this time in their lives.

“Why don’t we give them the benefit of our own experience? We all wished we had such a course when we were in that situation. Maybe if we’d had one, the transition to becoming a mother would have been easier for us.” – Michal Sharon

The three professors approached Prof. Daniella Goldfarb, the President’s Advisor for Advancing Women in Science, who was happy to allocate funds for the course. They then consulted Orit Viterbo, Head of Social Work at the Institute, and she joined them in the planning and execution of the course. Finding interested participants for the course was the easy part; the difficulty was in having to turn away others. To maintain an intimate and open environment, the course is limited to twenty women.

The course consists of six sessions, in which the young women are taught practical solutions for managing their career and family life, emphasizing the need to maintain open communication with their advisors and set realistic expectations. Decision making is another area they work on, as is learning to define their own interpretation of success and learning to pay less attention to the expectations of others.

 “We are part of this culture in which, as women, we are pushed to be perfectionists. To be the best mother ever. To be the best scientist ever. We say: You don’t have to be best at one or the other. You can be happy about the way you mother and happy about the way that you do science, and you can combine them in a way that is optimal for you and not the outside world.” – Maya Schuldiner

Although the presence of women in the field of science has seen notable increase, there is still much progress to be made. At the Weizmann Institute 85 percent of the principal investigators are male. In the life sciences 70 percent of the PhD students are female, but they make up only 15 percent of the principle investigators. The childbearing period is also the critical juncture where women often decide not to proceed to the next stage in a scientific career. Indeed, many women at the Weizmann Institute of Science have their children while they are doctoral students. According to Schuldiner quite a few women obtain advanced degrees; it is the lack of support just when they are deciding whether to continue that often leads them to abandon their careers. This, she says, is why the course is vital. The women who participate are learning how to navigate a challenging situation, but during this process they also become confidantes who encourage one another and continue to meet after the conclusion of the course.

“When a student feels her situation is impossible, even if it doesn’t directly help to solve her specific problem for the day, knowing that other women – women who eventually succeeded in their careers – faced the same difficulties, it gives her some perspective. I think there is something relaxing about knowing that you are not the only one who faces certain difficulties.” – Nirit Dudovich

Schuldiner, Dudovich and Sharon all say that the biggest lesson they hope the participants will take away is that they are the sole proprietors of their careers. Balancing motherhood and a scientific career is difficult, but with the correct approach it is doable and can be very successful.

“There are voices that say if you try to combine family and a career, this is doing science like a woman. We say this is a good thing: Do science like a woman! ” – Schuldiner.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/weizmann-institute-professors-launch-course-helps-women-juggle-science-and-motherhood/2016/07/12/

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