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JEWISH WOMEN HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN TAKING OUR PLACE

alongside men as equals on the bema and as leaders of Jewish life, culture and community. In honor of the 25th anniversary of Women of the Wall, which was seed-funded by the New Israel Fund in 1988 and which is spearheading the fight for equal rights for women at the Kotel, NIF is sponsoring the “Taking Our Place” campaign. We invited you to tell us how your connection to Jewish heritage has been strengthened by the Jewish community's move to more gender equality. We also asked you what needs to be done in the next 25 years to ensure that Jewish and Israeli women continue to rise as spiritual, political and cultural leaders and that the impetus for equal rights succeeds. The following essays are a selection of the intimate, thoughtful, honest outpouring of responses we received.

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MEN AND WOMEN TOGETHER AT THE KOTEL 1967
By Andrew Kaplan

I’M AN AMERICAN WHO SERVED WITH THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS DURING THE SIX DAY WAR. A FEW DAYS AFTER THE WAR ENDED, I WAS IN EAST JERUSALEM, WHICH AT THAT TIME WAS STILL UNDER
martial law. I immediately went to the Western Wall, which of course, we Jews had not been able to go to since 1948. At that time, there was no big plaza like today. Only a narrow street. It was jammed with soldiers and people, men and women, boys and girls together, praying, singing, so happy together. That’s right, men and women praying together at the Western Wall and you know what? It didn’t fall down. I enclose a photo I took at the time to prove it.

IT’S A NEW WORLD
By Marcia Cohn Spiegel

I GREW UP IN THE 1930S WHEN I WAS ONE OF THE RARE GIRLS ALLOWED TO STUDY HEBREW, KNOWING THAT I WOULD NEVER READ FROM THE TORAH OR BE ON THE BIMA OF MY SHUL.
As a grown woman in the 1970s and beyond, I became a member of various groups of women who struggled with the language of liturgy and the role of women in the synagogue. We were part of the changing society that redefined the role of women. We taught, organized, and created new ways for women to be. We wrote songs and wrote articles. We gave sermons. It was exciting not only for us but for our daughters and granddaughters. When I visit Israel, I want to be able to function as I do at home. I do not want to be deprived of the status it took so many of us so long to achieve. There are a few places around Jerusalem where I am comfortable, but not yet at the Kotel. While I will not live long enough to see a great-granddaughter’s bat mitzveh at the Kotel, I hope my granddaughter will be able to join her daughter there. Marcia Cohn Spiegel is a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Jewish Communal Service. Her expertise is in addressing stigmatized behaviors in the Jewish community, i.e. addiction, physical, sexual and domestic violence.

DAVENING IN MONSEY
By Michal Boyarsky

AS A CHILD, I ATTENDED A SHUL IN ULTRA-ORTHODOX MONSEY, NEW YORK. OURS WAS THE ODD ONE OUT IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD: OTHER FAMILIES WALKED TO SHUL, THE MEN DRESSED IN BLACK-AND-WHITE SUITS AND BLACK HATS, THE WOMEN WEARING DARK DRESSES AND THICK STOCKINGS. OUR FAMILY DROVE FIFTEEN
minutes to get to our shul, which my parents affectionately called Conservadox. The congregation was a mix of modern Orthodox families and Conservative families. My father used to joke that everyone walked to our shul—some walked from home, and others walked from the parking lot. There was no mehitzah (gender division) at our shul, so I could sit next to my father and play with the fringes on his tallis even after I had my bat mitzvah. But women “weren’t allowed on the bima”—that’s the language that was used to describe gender at our synagogue. For my bat mitzvah, I read Haftorah on a Sunday. Afterwards, during our monthly Teen Shabbatot, the teenage boys would lead services, and I was occasionally asked to give a d’var Torah—once the ark was firmly closed. The tallit still feels Today, I can leyn (read) Torah, and I’ve played a large part in getting an independent minyan started forbidden, bewildering in a way. in Seattle, WA where I live now. The daveners at our minyan are often strong, independent women with Like draping myself in a flag that much more clarity on gender and Judaism than I had as a kid davening in Monsey, New York. announces to the congregation A few months ago, a good friend of mine gave me a gift: a tallis, my first one. When I wrap myself that I am a Jewish adult, a full and inside it on Shabbat mornings, it feels wonderful—and complicated. Growing up, women never wore tallitot. The tallit still feels forbidden, bewildering in a way. Like draping myself in a flag that announces important member of the to the congregation that I am a Jewish adult, a full and important member of the community. community. And I am.

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SUMMER OF ’89
By Ruti Kadish

IN THE SUMMER OF 1989, AT THE AGE OF 25, I CELE-BRATED MY BAT MITZVAH AT JEWISH SUMMER CAMP.
Growing up in Israel, reaching the age of mitzvot was marked by a meal with extended family in our home. In my secular Ashkenazi home, heavily informed by my mother’s kibbutz roots, religiosity was non-existent and any Jewish symbolism was limited to cultural holiday celebrations. Nevertheless, living in the States in the mid 80’s I reveled in my new ‘discovery’ of feminist Judaism, and let the deluge of Jewish feminist writing and creativity wash over me and carry me with it. In 1989 I decided to have a Bat Mitzvah. As I stood before the camp ‘congregation’ on the Shabbat morning of my Bat Mitzvah, in our rustic amphitheater/synagogue in the Santa Cruz mountains surrounded by Redwoods, I marveled out loud at the privilege of standing before them as the shlichat tsibbur, donning tallit and kippa, and leyning (reading) Torah. This was not a given; I described how only a week before women attempting to pray at the Wall in Jerusalem were accosted by ultra-Orthodox men. One woman had been injured by a chair hurtled at her from across the gender barrier. Later that evening, after havdallah, the camp director called me down to a meeting with the shlicha (Israeli emissary to the community). The camp director was ill at ease but the shlicha didn’t hesitate: what I had done was anti-Zionist and anti—educational; I had jeopardized the entire mission of the camp. Blindsided, it took me several moments to understand her contention: I had dared to criticize Israel in public; by speaking in favor of Jewish pluralism (Women of the Wall), and criticizing the ultra-Orthodox I had undermined the mission of this pluralistic Zionist summer camp. Blinded by my tears and overwhelmed by a sense of injustice, I didn’t have the presence of mind to point out the irony—the shlicha, who self-defined as ideologically secular and couldn’t fathom why I would even bother to have a Bat Mitzvah, was defending the ultra-Orthodox. Conversely, I was labeled an anti-Zionist. A year later, I stood for the first time with Women of the Wall at the Kotel for a Rosh Chodesh service. Serendipitously, I will be there again next month for the rosh chodesh service celebrating WOW’s 25th anniversary, humbly and proudly joining those who for the last twenty five years have stood without fail for equality and justice. They were and remain the true Zionists.

MIXED MESSAGES
By Rachel Mann

I GREW UP WITH MIXED MESSAGES. MY PARENTS ENCOURAGED ME TO SUCCEED ACADEMICALLY, AND I ALWAYS FELT MY PROSPECTS WERE LIMITLESS; WHEN I GREW UP, I COULD BE ANYTHING MY BROTHERS COULD BE. WITH ONE EXCEPTION. IN OUR CONSERVATIVE NON-EGALITARIAN SYNAGOGUE, MY BROTHERS, ONCE OF AGE,
could read Torah and lead tefilot and count in the minyan, and I could not. It was a jarring inconsistency in what was otherwise a thoroughly modern household. As a young adult, I had to find a way to reconcile my Jewish identity and my progressive feminist identity. Forsaking either one was never an option. For a time, I infrequently visited a synagogue. When my first child was born, it felt natural and necessary to join a spiritual community. It was finally my chance to choose the community that I wanted to be a part of; how lucky for me to live in New York City, where we joined a thriving intellectual, egalitarian, and As a young adult, socially progressive synagogue. Every time I listened to our talented woman cantor beautifully lead the I had to find a way to reconcile tefilot, my Jewish identity and feminist identities were affirmed. my Jewish identity and I have three young daughters, and already their education has been different from mine. They expect my progressive feminist equal opportunities for men and women, in both the religious and secular spheres. I look forward to celebrating my oldest’s bat mitzvah and watching her proudly read the Torah and don a talit. And I dream identity. Forsaking either one of a day when she will be able to practice Judaism as she sees fit, no matter where she is in the world; was never an option. even at the Kotel. Rachel Mann is a blogger at No Turning Back: http://becomingajewishparent.blogspot.com

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WOMEN IN ZIONIST PIONEERING HISTORY
By Nachum Meyers

WHEN ARYEH MALKIN LEFT THE BRONX, LISA ENGELS TOOK OVER OUR HASHOMER HATZAIR (YOUTH GUARD) EDUCATION. SHE TOO LIVED ON KIBBUTZ EIN DOR.
Our separate groups of boys and girls were joined and we had discussions on gender equality that led us young male chauvinists to appreciate the role of women in the new world we were going to create in Palestine. Lisa was probably physically stronger than any six of us scrawny kids put together and that made for gender equality too. Women’s role in Jewish life, however unequal it might appear from the practices of the religion, was far more emancipated than in most other religions and societies. Our discussions in Hashomer Hatzair on feminism, the role of women in kibbutz and in politics, and on their capability in the variety of human endeavors, led to a keen appreciation of the difficulties that women faced in achieving equality in the world. Even in the supposedly emancipated kibbutzim, women worked in the laundries, the kitchens, and the children’s nurseries just as in bourgeois society. Interestingly, they themselves hooted men out of their “women’s” domain when some brave male attempted to integrate himself into the laundry work force or the children’s houses. The dam of tradition held strong against the currents of gender equality. Lisa led her newly post-pubescent charges with aplomb and high intelligence through the intellectual exercises of Marx, Engels, and Freud. We read, discussed, and argued into the nights. We all fell in love with her, boys and girls. She did set our Jewish consciousness straight on so many aspects of what was expected of us in the new society we were creating. The real outcome of all this was that being Jewish meant relating to women with a sense of equality rather than with a Victorian sense of respect. Nachum Meyers: My life is a Jewish life of equality. Being Jewish, and educating my children as Jews, has been an integral part of my existence as a Jewish man. In Hashomer Hatzair from 1937 to 1948 and living in Israel from 1948 to 1960, and now back in the United States, my life and work, with women in marriage and at my side in equality as I have built many businesses, has made my years full as I celebrate my 87th year.

CHEERING VASHTI
By Alexandra Stein

I GREW UP IN A REFORM CONGREGATION IN WASHINGTON, DC THAT FULLY EMBRACED THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT. OUR CANTOR AND ONE OF OUR RABBIS WERE WOMEN, AND ON PURIM, WE NOT ONLY BOOED HAMAN, WE ALSO CHEERED VASHTI—BECAUSE SHE KNEW THAT HER BODY WAS HER OWN AND SHE DID NOT
let a man (even her husband) force her to do something with it that she did not want to do. As a girl, it was empowering for me to see women on the Bima reading Torah and leading prayers and sharing learning. I knew that I could grow up to be a Rabbi if I wanted, and I also knew that when I was thirteen, I would read Torah and Haftarah and be received by my congregation as a full adult member, able to help make a minyan. Receiving my tallit just before my Bat Mitzvah was very exciting. Putting it on then, and most subsequent Shabbatot, focused my mind on prayer and on G-d. Gender equality is not just about individual empowerment (important though that is). When I think of the impact that gender equality in American Progressive Judaism has had on my community, I mostly think of people—my childhood Rabbi and Cantor, another female Cantorial Soloist, and many lay leaders in the congregation—who quite simply would not have been there in another generation. These women had a profound impact on my life, shaping how I think and how I pray and how I live, and I know that many others in my congregation, men and women, feel the same way. Our Jewish experiences would have been deeply impoverished had they not been ordained, or allowed on the Bima.

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13 YEARS OLD
By Barb Shulman

AS A RAMAH-NICK IN THE LATE 60S-EARLY 70S, I WAS AN IMPRESSIONABLE ADOLESCENT RIGHT AT THE BIRTH OF THE RE-EXAMINATION OF OUR ROLES AS WOMEN, AMERICANS, AND JEWS. THUS, I WAS TAUGHT IN RAMAH TO LEYN (READ) TORAH, HAFTORAH, ACHAH, ETC. BUT NOT ALLOWED, AT LEAST INITIALLY, TO ACTUALLY USE THE
skill. At home in my Conservative synagogue, the rabbi, an older but somewhat remote gentleman, wanted to allow me full participation for the purposes of my upcoming Bat Mitzvah. However the “ritual committee” (remember those days?) would have none of it. My parents, especially my mom, made a heartfelt plea—and I gently recall them being “mad as hell” when the committee wouldn’t move. So they changed synagogues to one that would. The fact that another synagogue, and then all Conservative synagogues and Ramah, ultimately promoted egalitarianism forged an unbreakable bond between me and Judaism, even through the years when I was too busy to attend services or otherwise participate. And the fact that my parents changed synagogues, for me—well, I considered that remarkable at the time, and 40+ years later, I still consider that a bond between my late father and my more-feminist-than-ever mother and me that held through the adolescent angst years and the many moons since. Barb Shulman is an attorney in NYC.

A FATHER COMES AROUND
By Charles Weiss

MY ATTITUDE ABOUT WHAT WOMEN OF THE WALL WERE TRYING TO ACHIEVE WAS SOMETHING VERY PERSONAL. YOU SEE, MY DAUGHTER IS ANAT HOFFMAN (NÉE WEISS), THE LEADER OF THE MOVEMENT.
At the outset, I confess, I was very ambivalent. Why go to all this trouble just to make it possible for women to read aloud from the Torah at the Kotel? Israeli women have more important battles to fight, I told her. Once, I was at the Kotel as a spectator when a policeman dragged Anat away by one leg, her skirt up around her waist. But that was many years ago. Anat stuck it out. Braving the calumny of incensed Haradim, she and her little band were at the Kotel at 7 in the morning every Rosh Hodesh come rain or shine. It is thanks to their perseverance, with an assist from organizations like NIF, that their cause has been recognized and given a place at the Kotel. But this only is partly a victory for Women of the Wall. The struggle that they fought and won The struggle that they (Women of the Wall) fought and won was a victory for women’s rights in every area in Israel. was a victory for women’s rights in every area in Israel. It has ramifications on the shameful practice of agunot, husbands who simply refuse to grant a divorce to a wife who wants out of the marriage. Essentially, it is a breach in the Haredi monopoly over what women can and cannot do. Charles Weiss made aliya in 1949 and lived in Israel till 1991 working mostly as a journalist. His four children, of whom Anat is the oldest daughter, all live in Israel. He is retired and lives in New York.

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ROLE MODEL FOR A GAY JEWISH MAN
By Seth Morrison

AFTER MANY YEARS OF REPRESSING MY SEXUALITY, I MET A WONDERFUL RABBI, LEILA GAL BERNER, WHO IS BOTH FEMALE AND A PROUD LESBIAN. SHE HELPED ME ACCEPT MYSELF AND GUIDED ME IN FINDING A THERAPIST TO BEGIN THE COMING OUT PROCESS. HAVING RABBI LEILA AS A ROLE MODEL WAS A KEY ELEMENT
in overcoming my fears. Since that time I have attended services and worked on Jewish Community projects with many Rabbis, male and female, gay and straight. This diversity creates a community where each of us can feel comfortable being ourselves. This diversity creates a community where each of us Seth Morrison is a long time Jewish peace activist volunteering for a number of can feel comfortable being ourselves. organizations. He serves on the NIF Leadership Council for Washington, DC.

THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN (OF THE WALL)
By Rachel Cohen Yeshurun

I’VE BEEN LIVING IN THE JERUSALEM AREA FOR OVER 20 YEARS. I GREW UP ORTHODOX AND, BEING SO BUSY WITH STUDIES, WORK, AND CHILDREN, I NEVER THOUGHT MUCH ABOUT RELIGION AND MY PART IN IT.
And then I chanced upon a Facebook post about Anat Hoffman’s arrest for carrying a Torah at the Kotel. When I read that I felt terribly ashamed; ashamed of my country but mostly ashamed of myself for not knowing about this group before, for not being with these people all these years, for ignoring a cause so blindingly right and just. There and then, I swore to myself that I would join these women for the next Rosh Hodesh service. And so I did. At the service there was a policeman who kept telling us to “lower the volume.” Did I have to listen to him? I stopped singing every time he said that. I didn’t want to get arrested for singing too loudly. There was shouting coming from the left. I was so scared I didn’t dare look around. Next to me there was a woman who must be a regular; her tallit was wrapped comfortably around her and from time to time she told the policeman in charge something which made him back off for a few minutes. I started to concentrate on the tefilah. And it was beautiful. Hallel over, we sang our way to Robinson’s arch for the Torah service. By this time I had a bit of a stomach ache so I found a rock to sit on and tried to calm down. You obviously need to be made of strong stuff to be a Woman of the Wall! Then I heard someone asking if anyone wanted to read from the Torah. I volunteered to read the 2nd aliyah. My stomachache miraculously gone, I read the three psukim. Only after, I started to notice things: The guy with the “This is a Jerusalem Feminist” t-shirt, the woman with a baby snuggled in a carrier, the blue sky and warm sun. I can do this again, I thought to myself and vowed, G-d willing, to come back next Rosh Hodesh. Postscript: I came back the next month, and the next, and the next. I joined the Women of the Wall board soon after. It’s been a privilege and a learning experience - especially learning what the inside of the Jerusalem old city police stations are like (dull!) and most recently, the art of negotiation and leadership (fascinating!). Rachel Yeshurun is a software developer in Jerusalem and is on the board of directors of Women of the Wall.

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AN EYE OPENING SHABBAT
By Amiee C. Kushner

AS A YOUNG WOMAN WHO GREW UP IN THE ‘80S WITH A FEMINIST MOTHER IN THE BAY AREA, DISCRIMINATION WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT WAS TO BE STRIVED AGAINST, BUT RARELY DID I ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE IT. AS AN ADULT THERE WAS ALWAYS AN ORANGE ON MY SEDER PLATE, WOMEN ON THE BIMAS IN MY SPIRITUAL
homes and a mechitza was something from old dusty books about sheltl life. This past July I embarked on my long delayed first trip to Israel. Through my involvement in NIF I knew of the institutionalized gender discrimination that occurred in Israel, but I was thoroughly unprepared for the pain of experiencing it first-hand. People talk of their “ah-ha” Israel moments and mine began the minute I stepped up to the entrance of the Kotel for Kabbalat Shabbat and saw the signs indicating separate entrances for women and men. The bold, black lettering over the gates began a profound, almost physical, shock at the realization that a significant portion of the Jewish men I was surrounded by saw me as lesser and unworthy of same level of spirituality connectedness to my faith as they. As a young woman who grew up in the ‘80s with a feminist mother in the Oddly our group was granted entrance through a third gate, not Bay Area, discrimination was always something that was to be strived against, segregated by gender, or I doubt I would have been able to enter. I but rarely did I experience it. made it a few feet past the mechitza into the tiny women’s’ section shrouded under a scaffold, before turning back and awaiting the rest of my group to finish their prayers, desperately wanting to flee. I was told by our tour Rabbi prior to walking to the Kotel that I would experience a deep spiritual connection to Judaism and my ancestors, but all I could feel was spiritual deflation. Upon returning home my first act was a donation to Women of the Wall. I then reveled in rediscovering the joy of my home community where girls are called to the Torah alongside the boys, where women are rabbis and leaders, and the Sabbath bride is greeted is among equals. Amiee C. Kushner is an active leader in San Francisco’s Young Adult Jewish community, including as a New Gen Leadership Council Member for the New Israel Fund.

REMAINING AWAKE THROUGH A GREAT REVOLUTION
By Rabbi David Rosenn

MY WIFE AND I SIGNED UP FOR THE REQUISITE NATURAL BIRTHING CLASSES WHEN WE WERE ABOUT TO HAVE OUR FIRST CHILD, AND IT MADE ME CURIOUS ABOUT MY OWN MOTHER’S EXPERIENCE GIVING BIRTH. “ARE YOU KIDDING?” SHE SAID TO ME. “I WAS OUT COLD DURING THE WHOLE THING. THAT’S JUST HOW THEY DID IT BACK
then.” It shocked me to find out that the medical establishment treated women this way just a few decades ago—as passive actors in one of the most significant moments of their lives, knocked out so things would be easier for the (male) doctors. A lot has changed since then. Thank God, women are active full participants in modern life and in many aspects of modern Jewish religious life. The 25-year struggle of Women at the Wall stands out as a powerful, The 25-year struggle of Women at the Wall stands out as a powerful, determined determined rejection of the idea that rejection of the idea that women can or should be knocked out from participating in life’s most significant moments. women can or should be knocked out from participating in life’s most significant moments. Here’s to the inspiring example they provide to all of us—men and women, religious and secular—of the importance of (in the words of one of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s great speeches) “remaining awake during a great revolution”. Rabbi David Rosenn is the Chief Operating Officer at the New Israel Fund.

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A TOUCH OF PATRIARCHY
By Leanne Gale

I STILL REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I PRAYED WITH WOMEN OF THE WALL. I WASN’T PARTICULARLY AFRAID TO GO: AFTER ALL, I WAS SIMPLY RETURNING TO A PLACE I HAD BEEN COUNTLESS TIMES BEFORE, TO OFFER PRAYERS I HAD MEMORIZED FOR AS LONG AS I COULD REMEMBER. AS A YOUNG AMERICAN JEW STUDYING
abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I was excited to wake up early in the morning in time to make it to the Kotel and celebrate Rosh Hodesh with a friendly group of inspiring women. But that morning was scarier than I thought. As we prayed, donning prayer shawls and harmonizing our melodies, police snapped pictures of us from up close. More than once, a particularly aggressive officer approached our shlichat tzibbur (the woman leading services)and demanded that she remove her tallit. Other women, opposed to our prayers, screamed in our direction and spat on our shoes. In the end, four women were detained, and we all finished our Rosh Hodesh “celebration” outside of a local prison. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I realized the enormity of my experience. On my first Shabbat back at Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania, I rejoined my beloved Reform Jewish community for Kabbalat Shabbat. My dear friend, Rachel, donned a prayershawl as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and effortlessly rose before the mixed gender congregation to lead us in song. But as I looked around me, my mind flashed to the image of the Israeli police officer reaching out to touch the woman who had led us in prayer at the Western Wall. To the screaming. To the prison. I slowly leaned back in my seat, feeling relieved to be back in Philadelphia rather than Jerusalem. I felt safe and loved in the American Jewish community. Before Women of the Wall, I had never realized how vulnerable women can be to the patriarchal practices of many religious authorities. The experience jolted me to examine the religious experiences of other women, Jewish and otherwise, and to more deeply explore the implications of feminist thinking for all of our immediate lives. Today, despite the rapid changes that have taken place, I still feel unsafe as a Reform Jewish woman at the Kotel. I sincerely hope that I can live out my Judaism in Israel just as intentionally and fully as I can in the United States. But even more importantly, I hope that more of us can open our eyes to the patriarchal legacies that remain alive and well today in our tradition. We must all work towards a future in which a woman need never fear a strange man touching her body as she attempts to offer her prayers to God. Leanne Gale is currently living in Jerusalem as a NIF-SHATIL Social Justice Fellow.

CRACKS IN THE WALLS OF JEWISH PATRIARCHY
By Letty Cottin Pogrebin

WHEN MY MOTHER DIED IN 1955, I WAS 15, AND THOUGH I HAD BEEN EDUCATED “LIKE A BOY,” AND WAS A PIOUS LITTLE SYNAGOGUE RUG RAT AND ONE OF THE FIRST GIRLS TO BECOME A BAT MITZVAH IN CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM, I WAS NOT PERMITTED TO COUNT IN THE SHIVA MINYAN SAYING KADDISH FOR MY OWN MOTHER IN
my own house. If my tradition won’t count me in, I reasoned, I will count myself out—and I did. For many years, I maintained the home-based rituals I learned from my mom but I felt estranged from synagogue life and the Jewish “we.” If not for the immense strides made by Jewish feminists fighting to advance women’s equality, I probably would have remained permanently disconnected from the Jewish If not for the immense strides made by Jewish feminists community. The key events that turned the tide for me were the early Jewish feminist milestones of the Second Wave: Rabbi Sally Preisand became the first fighting to advance women’s equality, I probably would have remained permanently disconnected from the Jewish community. woman ordained in Reform Judaism; women won the right to be counted in the minyan and to have aliyot, and girls were liberated from the Friday night bat mtzvah ghetto and accorded equal status with boys on Shabbat mornings. Once these cracks appeared in the walls of Jewish patriarchy, and females began to count as full and authentic Jews, I felt able to re-affiliate with the tradition in which I was raised and the heritage that I revere and love. Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America and co-founding editor of Ms. magazine.

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A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR THE WOMEN WHO OPENED THE DOORS
By Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

WHEN I WAS ORDAINED IN 1985, WOMEN RABBIS WERE STILL RATHER RARE. I WAS THE FIRST WOMAN RABBI IN EVERY CONGREGATION I SERVED IN THE 1980S, AND IN MOST CASES I WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY WOMAN RABBI IN THAT CITY. I LOOKED TO THE WOMEN WHO PRECEDED ME AS MY ROLE MODELS AND GAVE THEM
credit for opening the doors to full equality in congregational life through which I was honored to enter. Now that I am working with Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), the affiliate of lay-women of the Reform Movement, I realize that much of that credit was misplaced. To be sure, the women who were ordained in the 70s crossed that rabbinic threshold with a great deal of difficulty and, in doing so, they made it easier for me to succeed. But long before there were women rabbis, there were women in congregational life who unlocked the doors and opened them just wide enough for us to walk through. For a hundred years, WRJ women have worked to bring women fully and equally into religious life. Each ‘first’ cracked that door open a little wider: the first woman to step onto her congregation’s bima, the first woman to lead worship in her community, the first to chant from the Torah, the first to create liturgy with a woman’s voice. They bravely ‘leaned in’ and secured a place for women in congregational life that would eventually lead to my ordination. They were stalwart advocates for women’s ordination and they did not relent until women had full access to every aspect of congregational life and leadership. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. It is no surprise that WRJ continues its efforts to bring about full equality for women in religious life by supporting Women of the Wall, worshipping with them, advocating for their cause, and joining with WOW and others to seek a robust pluralistic Israeli society. Just as Women of Reform Judaism did not relent until women could be ordained, we will not cease our efforts until women achieve full equality in Israeli society, on and off the bima. Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is the Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism.

THE WORLD MUST CHANGE
By Rabbi Menachem Creditor

ON MARCH 16, 2010, EXTREMISTS THREW CHAIRS AT MY SISTER AND MY LIFE AS A JEW, AS A RABBI, AS A PERSON CHANGED FOREVER. JUDAISM IS MUCH, MUCH BETTER THAN THAT. THANKS TO NIF’S SUPPORT OF WOMEN OF THE WALL, THE WORLD IS CHANGING AGAIN, AND FOR THE BETTER. WE DARE NOT ALLOW
fundamentalists to destroy Judaism, and to infect Israel with hatred. Today, Women of the Wall, born of a diverse group of women without ideological conformity and evolved into an Orthodox women’s group, has now reclaimed its role as a group of powerful women who represent the vibrancy of the entire Jewish world. For this we all should be very grateful. New Israel Fund reminds me to champion the beauty of Judaism’s roots in today’s Jewish world. Rabbi Menachem Creditor (menachemcreditor.org) serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA and was cofounder of Rabbis for Women of the Wall. Named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America (2013), he is a published author, musician, teacher and activist who has spent time working in Ghana with American Jewish World Service and in the White House with the PICO Network to amplify the prophetic Jewish voice in the world.

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A LONG WAY TO GO
By Ilona Lee AM

THIRTY YEARS AGO WHEN I BECAME PRESIDENT OF MY WIZO GROUP, THERE WERE NO FEMALE RABBIS AND NO FEMALES PRESIDENTS OF MAINSTREAM JEWISH ORGANISATIONS IN SYDNEY.
There have been marked changes since in both the general and the Jewish community. A woman was elected for the first time as Prime Minister of Australia and, in Sydney, we now have three female rabbis attached to reform and Masorti (Conservative) synagogues. Over the years, I have been president of one of our major communal organisations and have been on the executive of four others including the roof body of the New South Wales community and the major fund-raising organisation. Surveying the Australian scene today, however, we still have a long way to go. Our first female Prime Minister was Until we make further strides forward in the general community and the tasks of poorly treated and driven from office (many would say, managing home and family are more equally shared, women will continue because she is a woman) and, in the Sydney Jewish community, there is currently only one female president of to be underrepresented in Jewish communal leadership roles. any major communal organisation, including our day schools and synagogues. Why is this so? It is true that the way is open to women. But, most Jewish women in Sydney still shoulder the major roles of house management and child care whilst also holding down responsible jobs. Being a communal leader here is usually at least a half-time occupation, often more, but with no remuneration. Thus it is almost impossible for a woman to put her hand up for a leadership position until her children have grown and professional responsibilities decrease or she is wealthy enough to have paid assistance. So, until we make further strides forward in the general community and the tasks of managing home and family are more equally shared, women will continue to be underrepresented in Jewish communal leadership roles.

Ilona Lee AM NIF Au Board Member

THE FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IS FAR FROM OVER
By Susi Brieger OAM

AUSTRALIAN JEWISH WOMEN FACE CHALLENGES COMMON TO ALL WOMEN IN SOCIETY. THEIR RESPONSIBILITY AS PRIMARY CAREGIVERS FOR CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY AND THE SICK HAMPERS THEIR DEVELOPMENT AS SPIRITUAL, POLITICAL AND CULTURAL LEADERS. NEVERTHELESS SINCE 1988 INCREASING GAINS HAVE BEEN
made in the fight for gender equality. In my own field of education, the equal contribution of women has been recognised in Jewish Day Schools with the appointment of female principals. More women could rise to positions of educational leadership if employers and communal organisations recognised the need for affordable care for children and if cultural changes within the communities occurred so that care work could be shared between men and women. In the area of decision making not a lot of progress has been made since 1988. While more women lead committees within communal organisations, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the elected representative of the Jewish community has not had a female president; the Jewish Communal Appeal which is concerned with planning and fund raising is predominantly male orientated; currently, only one woman Without equal representation in communal power structures, the fight for equality is far from over. heads a communal organisation in NSW. Without equal representation in communal power structures, the fight for equality is far from over. To facilitate the rise of women as leaders a communal register could be established along the lines of “appoint women” an initiative of the Australian government designed to give women opportunities to be considered for appointment to a variety of decision making bodies.

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TAKING OUR PLACE
By Elaine Reuben

BAT MITZVAH, PRESENT, ABSENT OR PARTIAL, SEEMS TO BE SIGNIFICANT IN MANY OF THE STORIES HERE. UNUSUAL AS IT STILL WAS THEN, I DID HAVE A BAT MITZVAH, “JUST LIKE THE BAR MITZVAH BOYS,” IN 1954: MY THEN RABBI, IN A CONSERVATIVE CONGREGATION IN THE MIDWEST, THOUGHT HIMSELF A
Reconstructionist, the movement in which this modern recognition of daughters began. The congregation didn’t mind (as far as I know), that I read and lead and spoke on the bima, wearing a tallis—but they didn’t let it affect them positively either. No adult women there wore a tallis, none were offered (perhaps few sought) any ritual roles except lighting candles and opening the ark: there was no egalitarian community to enter and participate in after my Bat Mitzvah. And would not be for many years. In those years, there was more than slowly and not-so-simply bringing girls and Finally, however, the pieces of our stories and the women to the bima. There were Rosh Hodesh groups and developments of non-sexist possibilities of our Jewish lives have come together here: language and liturgy, art and literature reflecting women’s voices, scholarly work on we wish that for our sisters and brothers in Israel. both the past and present of Jewish women and efforts toward their future with the ordination of women and the establishment of women’s study and t’fillah groups. Many of us had grown up proud to be Jewish women, but—Bible stories aside—more of that pride came from the work of women’s organizations like Hadassah and National Council of Jewish Women (or tales of women in the IDF and on the kibbutzim and in social justice movements around the world) than from the spiritual center of our religion. Finally, however, the pieces of our stories and the possibilities of our Jewish lives have come together here: we wish that for our sisters and brothers in Israel.

OUT OF THE DEPTHS
By Rabbi Neil Blumofe

AS ONE WHO CAME OF AGE WHILE WALKING THE WARRENS OF JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY, I COULD EASILY DISAPPEAR INTO THE MIRACLE OF A VIBRANT AND EXCITING JEWISH LIFE THAT HAS BEEN FOUGHT FOR AND ESTABLISHED IN THIS PLACE OF MIRACLE. AND YET—OUR SAGES OF OLD ARE STILL CALLING. CALLING FOR US
to not live complacently or with complicity, or to use our received wisdom as a bludgeon. Rather, we are invited to continue to turn and reimagine a flourishing Judaism that beckons us into a deeper relationship with each other—finding kindness and generosity as we ingather and make room to live with each other. Women’s rights is not an American import—authentic exploration that is steeped in tradition is a timeless Torah value that inspires and strengthens each of us as we quest for meaning and community before God. I stand with those who support Women’s rights is not an American import—authentic exploration that is steeped gender equality to further Jewish life that is based in curiosity, in tradition is a timeless Torah value that inspires and strengthens each of us as purpose, and love of regular ritual. May we all write our Torah we quest for meaning and community before God. that is in conversation with ways that we can bring forward inspired kedushah, without fear of reprisal or accusations of speciousness. May we honor the precious legacy and the holy places that we inhabit and be worthy of God’s name as we call out from our labyrinthine narrow places. Neil Blumofe is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas. A Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, he is also a Fellow at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

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JUDAISM BELONGS TO EVERY JEW
By Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman

MY CONNECTION TO GOD WAS STRENGTHENED AT A WOMEN OF THE WALL SUPPORT SERVICE IN NY LAST MARCH. THERE WERE OVER 300 PEOPLE. SOME DIDN’T EVEN PERSONALLY UNDERSTAND WOMEN WHO CHOSE TO WEAR TALLITOT, BUT BELIEVED IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR ALL—NOT JUST THOSE WHO AGREED WITH
them. Seeing all these people who didn’t even know us personally, and some who have never been to the Kotel, care so much for this issue was incredible. I had an aliya that day, and when I called out Barchu et Adonai hamvorach, and the congregation responded, Baruch Adonai Hamvorach Leolam va’ed, my heart expanded. It was the most honest and vulnerable prayer of my life. I am sad that I have not had this amazing kind of connection at the Kotel yet. When I am there my awe of God is clouded by my fear of violence. Israel needs to step up and stop enabling the ultra-Orthodox. If one is not pushed to give back to its country, work for a living and think about anyone outside of his/her community, then how can we possibly expect s/he magically knows how to compromise? The ultra-Orthodox are not the core problem of this issue. We are, the government is, and our country that has been enabling this kind of behaviors is. Like anyone who has been enabled, there is Haredi panic and anger, and in their case violence, at the prospect of losing the safety of their bubbled life. But Judaism belongs to every Jew, and every Jew must stand up and engage, despite threats from the entitled few. In NY on Rosh Hodesh, surrounded by people who whole-heartedly supported what I have been fighting for month after month was an incredible feeling. One that I’m not used to on Rosh Chodesh. There was not one part of me that was scared, not a bone in me that wasn’t connected to God. It will be a blessing when I can call out God’s blessedness as openly and freely in Jerusalem as I can in New York. Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman can be followed on twitter @purplelettuce95.

FIRST CLASS CITIZENSHIP
By Faye Moskowitz

I CAN STILL PICTURE MYSELF, A LITTLE GIRL, SITTING AMONG MY AUNTS, MY BUBBIE, AND MY MOTHER IN THE BALCONY OF THE SMALL DETROIT SCHUL WHERE FROM TIME TO TIME WE LOOKED DOWN TO PICK OUT OUR FAMILY’S MEN AS THEY PRAYED. I HAVE EARLIER IMPRESSIONS OF A TIME WHEN I WAS STILL SO SMALL I COULD
sneak onto the bench where my father sat and snuggle into the V of his knees. Later I was told my feminine presence near the bema, young as I was, caused consternation among the men. It took me a while to understand that my gender “sat in the back of the bus” in Orthodox Judaism, and I rebelled. I joined the Labor Zionist Movement in my teens and reveled in their philosophy of a single standard. In the movement it was possible to be a Jewish woman and not feel part of an underclass. Much later my daughter and I trained for our b’nai mitzvot under Rabbi Avis Miller, a rite my Orthodox background would have deemed unacceptable. Think of it! A woman rabbi and a bat mitzvah for me, the little girl in the balcony. Of course I have supported Women of the Wall. Perhaps one day all Jewish women regardless of affiliation will be granted first class citizenship. Faye Moskowitz, a professor of English and Creative Writing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is author of the memoirs, A Leak in the Heart (1985), And the Bridge is Love (1991), and Peace in the House (2002), as well as the short story collection Whoever Finds This: I Love You (1988). She was twice recipient of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and is presently she is poetry editor of Moment Magazine.

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BE THE CHANGE
By Cantor Linda Shivers

I HAVE LIVED THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGE. I HAVE FELT A LOT OF THE GROWING PAINS THROUGH THE CHANGES, BUT I AM PROUD OF ALL THAT HAS BEENACCOMPLISHED FOR JEWISH WOMEN IN THE MAJORITY OF AMERICAN SYNAGOGUES. I HAVE SEEN CHANGES IN THE TREATMENT AND ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN MY FAMILY,
my shuls, my seminary, and in me. When I was at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the women were barely tolerated. We had women’s services just once a week in the basement. No professors, not even female professors, ever came that I can remember. Now there are egalitarian services that draw the largest numbers of worshipers. Now synagogues require tallit and kippot for the girls at their bat mitzvahs, and every girl wants a beautiful tallit. More women than not have their own tallit that they wear proudly. After 30 year of role modeling, I seem women in my synagogues trying out new roles—shilchot tzibor and ba’alot kriah. Their experiences bring the holy closer to them and become renewed in their Judaism. They are awestruck with the power of Jewish ritual. I have been saddened by the lack of opportunities and appreciation for women’s spirituality in Israel. I have been ridiculed for wearing a tallit and have had dirty water thrown at me. People have assumed motives and intentions that I don’t have and have been unwilling to engage with me with an open mind. I know that many of my sisters and brothers in Israel are working hard to change this and I am trying to support them any way I can. Cantor Linda Shivers has been a congregational leader for 30 years.

BEING THE FIRST BAT MITZVAH AT SHAARE ZION SYNAGOGUE
By Marion L. Usher

I GREW UP IN MONTREAL, QUEBEC IN A MOSTLY JEWISH NEIGHBORHOOD. I SAY MOSTLY, SINCE WE HAD NO CONTACT WITH THE FAMILIES OF OTHER FAITHS. MY FATHER HELPED BUILD THE FIRST CONSERVATIVE CONGREGATION IN OUR NEW NEIGHBORHOOD. BOTH PARENTS WERE TOTALLY IMMERSED IN SYNAGOGUE LIFE.
Our parents kept us close to them with weekly Shabbat celebrations, and inviting our friends over after dinner to play ping pong or watch a movie. Our friends enjoyed good food and fun times at our house. When I turned 13, my father turned to me and asked me what I thought about having a Bat Mitzvah. I was totally surprised since there had never been one in our synagogue. Our Rabbi, Maurice Cohen, had approached my father to see if I might be interested. I was totally delighted. The event was celebrated on a Friday night. At that time, 1955, we still had separate seating and women were not able to have allyiot. A Friday night service was the compromise solution. I did my Haftorah, a D’var Torah, sang some of the liturgy, and ended with Adon Olam. It was one of the most important experiences in my life. I felt empowered, something I have held onto always. What a gift Rabbi Cohen gave me when he suggested that I become the first Bat Mitzvah in our congregation, actually in Montreal! Marion L. Usher, Ph.D, Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine, Creator of “Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.”

www.JewishInterfaithCouples.com marionusher@aol.com FaceBook: Love and Religion

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BIGGER THAN FEMINISM, BETTER WITH FEMINISM
By Susan Silverman

WHEN I BECAME A WOMAN OF THE WALL, I BECAME MORE FULLY JEWISH.
I had been a rabbi for almost 20 years the day I was rounded up, with nine other women—including my seventeen-year-old daughter—by police for wearing a tallis and praying out loud at the kotel. That day was followed by a lot of forced introspection—the media requests for interviews came flooding in. I knew in my heart why I was there. My Jewish practice called me to it, the desire to join the historic flow of Jews at that place called me to it, feminism called me to it. But over the weeks of forced introspection, I realized something much deeper and more existential. Judaism was at stake for women and men. For all our children. For the Jewish future. I had always felt that the centuries of missing women’s voices had created a skewed Judaism – like a tree that had been deprived the right balance of sustenance. Now a narrow, idolatrous view of God and covenant was being codified in civil law! Mitzvot were more and more the jurisdiction of Hareidi Jews, becoming ends in themselves, not building blocks for a society in which the prophets could rejoice. With WoW, I realized that my feminist, progressive fight was for the deepest purposes of our nation. Rabbi Susan Silverman is a writer and activist. She and her husband Yosef Abramowitz have five children and live in Jerusalem.

A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR THE WOMEN WHO OPENED THE DOORS
By Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

WHEN I WAS ORDAINED IN 1985, WOMEN RABBIS WERE STILL RATHER RARE. I WAS THE FIRST WOMAN RABBI IN EVERY CONGREGATION I SERVED IN THE 1980S, AND IN MOST CASES I WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY WOMAN RABBI IN THAT CITY. I LOOKED TO THE WOMEN WHO PRECEDED ME AS MY ROLE MODELS AND GAVE THEM
credit for opening the doors to full equality in congregational life through which I was honored to enter. Now that I am working with Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), the affiliate of lay-women of the Reform Movement, I realize that much of that credit was misplaced. To be sure, the women who were ordained in the 70s crossed that rabbinic threshold with a great deal of difficulty and, in doing so, they made it easier for me to succeed. But long before there were women rabbis, there were women in congregational life who unlocked the doors and opened them just wide enough for us to walk through. For a hundred years, WRJ women have worked to bring women fully and equally into religious life. Each ‘first’ cracked that door open a little wider: the first woman to step onto her congregation’s bima, the first woman to lead worship in her community, the first to chant from the Torah, the first to create liturgy with a woman’s voice. They bravely ‘leaned in’ and secured a place for women in congregational life that would eventually lead to my ordination. They were stalwart advocates for women’s ordination and they did not relent until women had full access to every aspect of congregational life and leadership. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. It is no surprise that WRJ continues its efforts to bring about full equality for women in religious life by supporting Women of the Wall, worshipping with them, advocating for their cause, and joining with WOW and others to seek a robust pluralistic Israeli society. Just as Women of Reform Judaism did not relent until women could be ordained, we will not cease our efforts until women achieve full equality in Israeli society, on and off the bima. Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is the Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism.

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PRAYING FOR TRUE BEFUDDLEMENT
By Virginia Avniel Spatz

“DO YOU HAVE TO BE A MOMMY TO LEAD SERVICES?” MY SON ASKED ME WHEN HE WAS VERY YOUNG. HIS QUESTION WAS UNDOUBTEDLY MOTIVATED BY THE FACT THAT I WAS ACTIVE IN AN EGALITARIAN WORSHIP COMMUNITY WHILE HIS FATHER, A NON-JEW, WAS NOT. AND, NOW 20, MY SON IS WEARY OF HAVING THIS ONE
innocent query repeated. But I continue to marvel at the worldview it limns. What is it like to grow up knowing that gender need not determine participation in public worship or in learning? How is it to take for granted that Jews, regardless of gender, regularly approach the bima, lead services, read from the Torah? How is my son’s idea of “Jew,” of “woman,” of “man” influenced by the egalitarian world in which he was raised? How did an egalitarian environment affect his sister’s views? Perhaps social science research will have some answers for us someday. Meanwhile, I rejoice in the generations of Jews who are living in a universe of religious participation that once seemed unimaginable, or a kind of pipe dream, to many of us. In my youth there was a riddle involving a surgeon who stated, “I am not this boy’s father, but I unable to operate on him, because he is my son.” This was truly puzzling in its day. I have tried to explain this to my children and their friends. But their instant response was always: “You mean she’s the mom, right?” May Israel move—in 25 years, if not sooner and in our day—to a society where any suggestion of limiting women’s roles is greeted with the same befuddled expression that my kids gave that riddle. Virginia Avniel Spatz is a writer and activist living in Washington DC. She advocates for public education, promotes interdenominational and interfaith understanding, and blogs on Jewish topics at Songeveryday.wordpress.com.

I DREAM…
By Barbara Ford

BORN IN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A MEMBER OF A LIBERAL/PROGRESSIVE CONGREGATION. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY CHANGES SINCE I DID MY BAT MITZVAH WITH A GROUP OF 10-12 GIRLS ALL DRESSED IN WHITE. RABBIS WERE MALE ONLY WEARING CEREMONIAL GOWNS.
I have been privileged to be on a Synagogue Board and be Vice President for a short time at my congregation. Now as President of ARZA I am able to tell the story of the WOW. I have been at the Kotel with WOW when a lady was detained for wearing a ‘mans’ tallis. Many find it hard to believe the struggles that have taken place over the past 25 years. We salute WOW on the amazing milestones that they have achieved. I dream that Israel will fulfil its promise as stated in the Declaration of Independence and that this will ensure that Israel becomes a truly I dream that Israel will acknowledge and embrace the fact that democratic and inclusive society. there is more than one way to be Jewish. I dream that Israel will respect the way I want to be Jewish and will allow me to be legally married by a Pluralistic Rabbi; that either all or no Rabbis will be paid by the state; and that land will be given to the Reform movement to build its synagogues as it does to other groups. I dream that I can go to the Kotel with my family and be able to wear a tallit, if I choose, and to pray as a family at the Wall together. I dream that Israel will acknowledge and embrace the fact that there is more than one way to be Jewish.

Barbara Ford ARZA President

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The NEW ISRAEL FUND (NIF) is the leading organization advancing democracy and equality for all Israelis. We believe that Israel can live up to its founders’ vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race, gender or national identity. Widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch, we have provided over $250 million to more than 800 cutting-edge organizations since our inception. And we are more than a funder; NIF is at philanthropy’s cutting edge thanks in large part to SHATIL, the New Israel Fund Initiative for Social Change. SHATIL provides NIF grantees and other social change organizations with hands-on assistance, including training, resources and workshops on various aspects of nonprofit management. Today, NIF/SHATIL is a leading advocate for democratic values, builds coalitions, empowers activists and often takes the initiative in setting the public agenda. Our values drive our work. We fight inequality, injustice and extremism because we understand that justice is the precondition for a successful democracy—and the only lasting road to peace. The New Israel Fund’s founders wanted to connect with Israel in a way that reflected their progressive values, and thousands of Israelis and Diaspora Jews have joined with us for that reason. Our supporters love Israel, and see it clearly as striving for an ideal not yet attained.

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