Women of Vision Fall Event

Through philanthropy, grantmaking, advocacy and education, Women of Vision is committed to improving the lives of women and girls locally and in Israel. At our fall event, which is open to the public, we will honor our outgoing chair, Penni Blaskey, and install our new chair, Marcy Bacine. Our keynote speaker for the evening will be Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, who has been a leader in the fight for social and economic justice for two decades.

Two Gratz Students Produce Hip New Jewish Toys

Partners in Yom Tov Toys: Elana Gootson (left) and Jessi Sheslow (right).

Using her coursework at Gratz College, student Elana Gootson launched Yom Tov Toys in 2016 with her business partner and fellow student Jessi Sheslow. The two entrepreneurs are now producing an innovative toy that is different from anything else available on the market today — a toy that seamlessly combines kid appeal with Jewish humanitarian values.   [Read more…]

PJFF Closing Night: Women In Shorts

For its closing night, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival presents four short Israeli films made by and about women:

  • In Women in Sink, winner of multiple international film awards, director Iris Zaki chats about living in what she sees as a divided country with Arab and Jewish women getting their hair done at a small, neighborhood hair salon in the heart of Haifa.
  • In Operator, a single mom, who works as a drone operator, finds a parallel universe at home, with her son playing video games, similarly pressing buttons to determine one’s fate in a virtual world.
  • In The Fine Line, winner of the Special Mention Award at the 2015 Jerusalem Film Festival, a young aspiring actress must compromise her personal boundaries while filming a love scene.
  • Winner of Best Independent Short Film at the Haifa International Film Festival and the opening film at the International Student Film Festival in Tel Aviv, Hounds is a bizarrely comic allegory exploring a day in the life of an all female unit of security guards working in an Israeli contemporary art museum.

Guest Speakers: Iris Drechsler (moderator), PJFF artistic chair; Gil Sima, producer of “Hounds”; Omer Tobi, director of “Hounds”; and Iris Zaki, director of “Women in Sink”

Special Event: Film followed by closing night party with food, libations and music

Film trailers available on closing night webpage.

Buy tickets here.

PJFF Film: “Sand Storm”

Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour), the head of a large household in a Bedouin village in the Negev desert of Israel, is besieged by emotions. Struggling to cover up her humiliation at being rejected while reluctantly participating in the required preparations for her husband’s second marriage to a much younger bride, Jalila privately fears the same fate for her own daughters.

Layla (Lamis Ammar), Jalila’s oldest, is a beautiful and self-confident university student who has fallen in love with one of her classmates. Aware that her husband, Sulimann (Haitham Omari), will not approve of her daughter’s affair, Jalila forbids 18-year-old Layla from seeing her lover again. But when Sulimann reacts more harshly than necessary and arranges a provincial undeserving groom for Layla, she takes up her daughter’s cause.

Director Elite Zexer delivers a riveting and hypnotic debut feature that offers viewers an intimate lens into the world of Bedouin women coming of age in contemporary Israel. This film, in Arabic with English subtitles, is the winner of six Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars), the top prize at Locarno Film Festival’s First Look on Israel, and the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It was also an official selection of both the Berlinale and the Seattle International Film Festival.

The guest speakers at the film presentation will be Steve Dinero, the Carter and Fran Pierce Term Chair for the Liberal Arts at Philadelphia University, and Iris Drechsler (moderator), the PJFF artistic chair.

Special Event: Post-film happy hour at Positano Coast (212 Walnut Street, 2nd floor), with complimentary appetizers and drink specials

Buy tickets here.

Twice Veiled: Jewish Women & Art

The place of women in Jewish art was problematic for thousands of years. Beyond the general prohibitions in representational art, women faced the additional challenges of traditional modesty. Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., and Joan Myerson Shrager, M.Ed., will discuss the image and role of women in Jewish visual culture from the origins of Israel to the present.

Registration is required.

Society Hill Playhouse Features “Golda Meir”: Interview

Golda Meir: A Life of Purpose

Written, conceived and performed by Rene Goodwin.

Sunday, June 22 at 3 p.m. at the Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. 8th Street, Philadelphia.

For Tickets, call (215) 923-0210. For information on Goodwin’s shows contact renegood@comcast.net.

The Society Hill Playhouse will feature the theatrical monologue, “Golda Meir: A Life of Purpose” this Sunday, June 22 at 3 p.m.  

The play will be performed by Rene Goodwin. In addition to being an actress, Goodwin is a singer and vocal coach. She trained in London, and has performed in Japan and throughout the Eastern U.S.

Before her one-woman show on Golda, Goodwin has researched, written and performed shows on women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Parker and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. But as she said in the interview, Golda is dear to her heart.  

Interview after the jump.


Rene Goodwin as Golda Meir.

Q: Are you from Philadelphia?

RG: I am from around the corner from my house here in South Philly. My grandparents got off the boat from Poland and, as I laughingly tell people, they thought it was California. They found that it was not, but they stayed anyway.  

I was about 13 when I started doing real performances. I had known from an early age that I wanted to perform. I seized every opportunity I could to study and train. I still teach voice.  

We all want to feel that we have a purpose. I believe strongly in what Jonah Salk said: “Our biggest responsibility is to be good ancestors.”  

Q: How did you come to develop this arsenal of iconic women you portray? What led you to this work?

RG: Over the years as a professional actress I was cast in roles of strong women, like Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead. I began to look at these women as pieces of a puzzle to put together: What makes a woman of such a caliber that people look at her and say that she is a strong woman? In men, people do not give it a second thought. They do not say, “he’s a strong man.”

Q: They assume it.

RG: That is exactly right. With that thought, consciously and subconsciously, I began to do a little reading and research. I had always been interested in Eleanor Roosevelt and I decided I wanted to write a piece about her. I had done some work with the American Historical Theatre, and their focus was on historical characters. I asked them if they would put a piece in their repertoire and that is how it started.

Q: Playing these roles, can you describe psychologically, physically, emotionally, what happens to you? Do you feel like these women inhabit you? Does your husband have to call you “Golda”? Did it make you stronger to inhabit these women?

RG:I love all of the people I do, but Golda in particular: I just fell in love with her. Golda’s story is amazing.

I started studying Golda because when I was doing a performance of Eleanor Roosevelt, a man at the performance said at the end of a show, “you should do Golda.” I thought, “nobody does Golda.” This was before William Gibson’s “Golda’s Balcony.”  

I started to think about it and play around with it in my mind. I started to do some casual investigation, and that is how it all started.

Golda epitomizes the resilience and adaptability of what we consider a strong woman. Because one of the universal truths about her story is that we experience what is it like for a family to emigrate to America, which so many of us have experienced in recent generations. Not only did she have to overcome obstacles as a woman, but she had to overcome obstacles as a non-American.

Q: And then moving to Israel too. When did she move?

RG: In 1921.  

Q: Why did she go? Can you tell me about Golda’s background?  

RG: When I start a piece, I am not sure what period of time I will cover. For this piece on Golda, I only knew Golda the prime minister. I have learned that she had become aware of herself politically as a child.  

In one scene in the show, Golda and her sisters are living in Pinsk; their dad has already come to the U.S. She has an older sister, Shana, and a younger sister, Clara. They are living in two rooms near a police station. Golda liked to sit on a warming shelf near the stove — that was her “little place.”

One day she was up there, and her sister Shana came in with some friends who were politically aware and unhappy with what was going on with the Czar in Russia. And the sister does not know that Golda is in the room, and they are whispering, and she hears them talking about this place where children like her, Golda, are being thrown out of windows, and women are being slaughtered. They seem to have committed no crime but that they are Jewish, and she does not understand, she is a child. Not that anyone could understand at any age.  

The sister realizes that Golda is there, and she tries to comfort her, because she feels that she has created fear in her, and she says, “We’re trying to change things.” Golda asks, “Well, how are you going to do that?” The sister answers, “If we can overthrow the Czar, then we can have a country like America” and Golda said that sounds like a good idea. Her sister said, “But it’s not a new idea, Golda. you yourself said it last Passover.” Golda asks, “I did?” The sister reples, “Yes. L’shana ha’baah b’Yerushalayim. Next year in Jerusalem.”

That was the start of it for Golda. By the time she was a teenager she was speaking on street corners in Milwaukee.    

Q: Some people might have said “Golda’s been done,'” and I am thinking about Gibson’s play, “Golda’s Balcony,” that Tovah Feldshuh performed on Broadway.  

RG: “Golda’s Balcony” covered such an expansive period of time, that it was almost overwhelming. Mine is a different approach, I call it a “theatrical monologue.”

The setting for my Golda show is this: On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted that there should be a Jewish state. But the Declaration wasn’t signed until May 1948. The Jews knew from the minute that vote was taken that they were going to be attacked. So what did they have?  

Golda was sent in early 1948 to raise money from American Jews because they knew once the declaration was signed, what was going to happen. So the setting for my piece is much narrower in my treatment of Golda. Golda is in America to ask for help, support and money form American Jews. She raised $50 million.

Q: Talk about the audience, and live theater, and what it means to you.

RG: Radio had a power that television does not have. Because the writers and actors and sound effects people would create something that required your imagination. Television and the movies so over-give it to you, you could be numb.

If these studies of iconic women I created were going to have any value to the audience, it would be a learning experience, of women in particular. I asked myself: what could I do to ensure it has the most impact?  

I had to figure out a way of drawing in the person so they have to invest: They have to invest what they know of that character; they have to invest their curiosity of what they did not know. They have to find something in which they connect with that character, and maybe something they do not understand. They have to invest themselves. This is not passive. I demand that they be there. I will give you my heart, and my soul, and my sweat, and my blood, but I want yours back; it is not an option.    

Women’s History Month: The First Female Chair of the Fed

Janet Yellen (center) watching a welding student yesterday as she toured City Colleges of Chicago, College to Careers Program in Advanced Manufacturing. (John Gress/Reuters)

And she is Jewish too!

— by Elanna Cahn

Janet L. Yellen took office as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 3, 2014, for a four-year term ending February 3, 2018. Dr. Yellen also serves as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the System’s principal monetary policy-making body. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Dr. Yellen served as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors, taking office in October 2010, when she simultaneously began a 14-year term as a member of the Board that will expire January 31, 2024.

Dr. Yellen is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley where she was the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics and has been a faculty member since 1980.

More after the jump.

Chair of the Fed Janet Yellin (center) with Women’s Leadership Network Co-Chairs Rep. Jan Schakowsky (left) and Barbara Goldberg Goldman (right).

Dr. Yellen took leave from Berkeley for five years starting August 1994. She served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System through February 1997, and then left the Federal Reserve to become chair of the Council of Economic Advisers through August 1999. She also chaired the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1997 to 1999. She also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

Dr. Yellen is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as President of the Western Economic Association, Vice President of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the Yale Corporation.

Dr. Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967, and received her Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1971. She received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000.

An Assistant Professor at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976, Dr. Yellen served as an Economist with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors in 1977 and 1978, and on the faculty of the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1978 to 1980.

Dr. Yellen has written on a wide variety of macroeconomic issues, while specializing in the causes, mechanisms, and implications of unemployment.

Dr. Yellen is married and has an adult son.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an annual campaign that was begun in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to connect battered-women’s advocates who were working to end violence against women and children.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence has scheduled a series of special events this month across the state.

Girls Achieve Grapeness

Jewish Women International (JWI), the leading Jewish organization working to end domestic violence and empower women and girls, worked with OPI to create the limited-edition nail polish ─ which is purple, the color of the movement against domestic violence ─ to support its programs that empower girls and women to be safe and independent. OPI manufactured and donated 10,000 bottles of the custom nail color, and the sorority Sigma Delta Tau will distribute the polish through its 65 chapters on college campuses across the country including the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State and Rutgers (New Brunswick and Camden).

More after the jump.
“Girls Achieve Grapeness is a statement color – and that statement is that girls can and will achieve great things. At the same time, it’s helping to fund JWI projects that give girls the resources to do just that,” said Lori Weinstein, executive director of JWI. “We are excited to be working with OPI and SDT, both longstanding partners of JWI, to provide a beautiful, high-quality product with such a noble mission.”

“OPI is excited to be a part of this winning partnership. Thousands of women and girls across the country will be wearing an OPI color that stands for the greatness that girls can achieve when they are given the tools for self-sufficiency and self-esteem,” said Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice-president and artistic director of OPI Products, Inc. “People use nail color to express who they are; this color makes the statement that girls can be anyone, and accomplish anything.”

“I am very proud of Sigma Delta Tau’s partnership with Jewish Women International. Girls Achieve Grapeness is a fabulous way for college women to make a visible statement against domestic violence,” said National Sigma Delta Tau President Michelle Carlson. “JWI continues to provide relevant programming and opportunities for young women to have an active role in raising awareness on key issues affecting the lives of women everywhere, furthering SDT’s mission of empowering women.”  

In addition to SDT’s distribution on college campuses, the polish will be available at JWI events throughout the month of October.  

US & Australian Commanders-in-Chief Deplore Sexual Assaults

On May 7, President Obama spoke out against sexual assault in the military:

The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.

Stars and Stripes reports that Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton criticized the President as Commander-in-Chief for having made comments that might “unduly influence any potential sentencing.”

I could not disagree more.

We need more leaders like Australia’s Commander-in-Chief (see video below) who are willing to take a strong moral stand against not just sexual assault but also sexual harassment and sexual degradation. Each defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but once found guilty there should be no question about the seriousness of the charges leveled against them. If the military justice system does not understand this, then Congress should give the criminal justice system responsibility in this matter.

Chief of Australian Army message regarding unacceptable behavior

Message from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.
Military sexual assault survivor Trina McDonald delivers petition to Congress

Trina McDonald-who survived multiple sexual assaults while serving in the U.S. Navy-traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver more than 215,000 signatures from her MoveOn.org petition and a CourageCampaign.org petition to Congress. Trina is calling on Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assaults out of the chain of command. This change would make it safer for survivors like her to report their assaults.

Sharansky Presents Western Wall Plan to Knesset Committee

— by Joshua Berkman

While Israelis were preparing for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), marking the unification of the city and renewed Jewish access to the Western Wall, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky met last Tuesday with the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, where he presented an outline of his plan to create a section for egalitarian prayer in the southern part of the Kotel (Western Wall).

More after the jump.
Mr. Sharansky addressed the committee:

Every Jew in the world has a unique relationship with the Kotel. There is no other place in the world that fulfills such a role in the life, history, and identity of any nation. It is naturally in our interest for every Jew to express his or her own connection as he or she sees fit. Ultimately, the solution will not come through court rulings or legislation, but rather through a broad agreement between all segments of the Jewish people.

Sharansky then laid out the details for an egalitarian prayer area that would be equal in size to the current prayer area, open around the clock, and accessible via a single, shared entrance, along with the current men’s and women’s sections. “Every Jew will enter the Kotel area through a single entryway and will then decide whether to pray in a traditional Orthodox manner or in a non-Orthodox manner,” he said. Sharansky also noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the plan in principle.

I had a very impressive meeting with Reform and Conservative leaders, with representatives of the Orthodox Union, of Agudath Israel, of Chabad, of Modern Orthodox organizations, in which all said they would be willing to accept this solution.

With regards to implementation of the plan, Sharansky noted that certain archaeological elements would have to be resolved, but suggested that construction could begin within one month, an initial stage could be completed within 10 months, and the entire plan could be actualized within two years. The government has insisted on covering all costs, he said.

Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum hailed Sharansky’s plan, promising support for its implementation. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who serves as Rabbi of the Western Wall and of the Holy Sites of Israel, acknowledged that he has some reservations about the plan, but said that the fact that no one is entirely satisfied by it could be an indication that it is the correct solution. Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Andrew Sacks of the Conservative Movement, and Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall all expressed support for Mr. Sharansky’s efforts.

Committee Chairwoman MK Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) summarized the discussion by reminding those in attendance that “we must never forget the Kotel’s place in the heart of the Jewish people,” and by telling Mr. Sharansky that “we are here for you and will extend any and all assistance in bringing your plan to fruition.”

“I share both the hopes and the concerns expressed today,” Sharansky concluded.

If we wish to reach a significant compromise, we will have to take unconventional steps. We must listen to one another and treat one another with respect, otherwise none of this will be possible.