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April 14, 2008 § 3 Comments


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Guest Post by Debbie Wolen: Ta’anit Esther and Mardge Cohen

March 17, 2008 § 1 Comment

Guest Post by Debbie Wolen*: Ta’anit Esther and Mardge Cohen

I had never heard of the holiday [Ta’anit Esther] until one year ago, when Rabbi Brant said that the JRF and the RRC wanted to honor Dr. Mardge Cohen for Ta’anit Esther. Mardge asked me what Ta’anit Esther was. I had never heard of it, and I have been Jewish all my life.

Isaac Saposnik is working on the Philadelphia side of this RRC/Kolot “reconstruction” of Ta’anit Esther as a Jewish Day of Justice. Ta’anit Esther is described in the Book of Esther (which I did actually read for the first time, in preparation for organizing this event. It describes Esther’s initial reluctance to get involved with advocating for her people. When Mordicai first told Esther about the plot, she was afraid to intervene. Apparently, her conscience and sense of justice/solidarity/responsibility was stronger than her fear, and gave her the energy and courage to intervene. Her struggle is interesting and a process that I know I face often in my life, so I can really identify with Esther’s struggle. Prior to her intervention, Esther fasted, and asked the whole Jewish community to fast with her in solidarity. Thus, the Fast of Esther is one of several Jewish fast days. (It lasts from sunrise to sundown on March 20. That is why we are having East African (Ethiopian) hors d’ouerves at the March 19 observance.)

I bought an Art Scroll prayer book recently, so I looked, and sure enough, Ta’anit Esther is listed as a fast day. It is not described as a Jewish day of justice, however. This is the new reconstruction of it. I also mentioned it to an Israeli fellow, and he said, “Oh, yes, sure, Ta’anit Esther, of course.” But, I have asked other people who are much more knowledgeable and involved Jewish people than I, and they had not heard of Ta’anit Esther previously.

When I read the Book of Esther, I was somewhat concerned about the justice described there and the assumptions I made about what the reconstructionists meant by “Jewish day for justice.” The justice in Esther is revengeful and quite bloody! I asked Isaac about this. He said this Jewish Day for Justice implies social justice, the type of justice that Mardge Cohen and others in Rwanda are working for, making the lives of the survivors of the 1994 genocide better, making the lives of the poor and powerless more empowered. Well, it was obvious, but the bloody revenge in Esther is called justice, too.

Mardge Cohen, MD, is a woman who has struggled with social injustice during her whole medical career. She is really a remarkable woman, and her work is on the level of Paul Farmer, in my opinion. I saw some slides she showed at our workplace in 8/2000, of her tour of HIV projects in South Africa after the 2000 International AIDS conference. I was inspired by her slides so that I started trying to educate folks at JRC about AIDS in Africa, and to raise funds for HIV projects there. I am just one of many she has inspired by her example.

Here is a jewish text study by Jordan Appel Ta’anit Esther text study

Thanks a lot for your interest and support

Debbie Wolen

*About Debbi:

I’m a family nurse practitioner, have worked in HIV primary care at Cook County Hospital for nearly 17 years with people who are medically indigent and suffer the indignities of poverty. I was a public health nurse before that. I have sought inspiration from many sources. My first source of inspiration was my childhood rabbi, Leonard Mervis, who gave sermons on social justice, anti-war and in support of the civil rights movement (like you, my parents insisted on my attendance through high school, every single Friday evening! So, rather than be bored, I listened to the interesting sermons.) I am a product of Cicero, Illinois. My cousins marched against Martin Luther King when I was 15. That was a radicalizing experience that affects me even today, in my middle age. Also, your mother [Tina Escobar] was the only teacher I could really relate to in my two years at Rush College of Nursing, and she only taught our class for 2 weeks!

The Cuentos Foundation

February 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

I just submitted the work of Michele Feder-Nadoff, to the magazine I work for Zeek. Michele is a dear friend and a phenomenal artist, activist and educator. I thought it would be a good idea to share some information about Michele and to promote her organization the cuentos foundation.

Artistic Director, Michele Feder-Nadoff, who is Jewish, founded Cuentos in 1998 with the humanist vision and commitment to tikkun haolam, a Jewish principal expressing each person’s responsibility to play a part in “healing the world.” Cuentos members believe art is a transformative catalyst for effecting positive social change. Our work combats prejudice and discrimination through artistic and educational intergenerational projects and programs promoting mutual understanding.

The abundance of cultural wealth living doorstep to doorstep in our neighborhoods provide all of us an opportunity to engage with and learn about each others’ backgrounds. What connects us and how can live in peace together, connected by mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures from around the globe?

 

CUENTOS PROGRAM OBJECTIVES:

To design programs that promote strong personal and cultural identity, as well as cultivate the ability to positively engage and communicate across cultures. We believe these are the keys for empowering youth, families, and communities with the capacity for participating in positive social change and mutual understanding.

To provide reciprocal learning/ educating of artistic strategies and art-making practices, techniques, traditions, such as copper-smithing, poetry writing & publishing, performance, curating.

To provide a safe, nurturing, extremely creative environment to test out ideas, performance, theater, music, a poem, or an exhibition idea in Cuentos’ storefront windows or space.

To empower through collective practices: A place to collaborate with others from similar and different backgrounds.

To make cross-cultural links and networks between groups.

To use art across disciplines to give projects a holistic and contextualized vision.

To develop the acquisition of transferable skills and knowledge: artistic, social, and cultural.

To provide an opportunity to express differences in cultural heritage, history, and traditions.

To act as an incubator for creating community connections and fellowship.

check out their new book: Ritmo de Fuego

Ritmo del Fuego / Rhythm of Fire is a unique achievement, telling the story of the deep-seated copperworking tradition of Santa Clara del Cobre, an ancient community in the forested mountains of Michoacán, Mexico. What is often seen as “folk art” is shown to stem from early workshops established in Michoacán during the 8th-9th centuries AD, by coastal traders and artisans from the Andean Region of South America. Since then, the manufactures have included utilitarian and ornamental objects. Many have been recovered at archaeological sites, most notably from the 15th century Tarascan Kingdom. Others embrace forms of Spanish origin after the 16th century conquest. Today in the expanding international market, Santa Clara copperwares include a wide range of sophisticated decorative vases, pitchers, trays, dinner wares and related forms. A vital community has evolved with this ongoing tradition, portrayed with affection and care by the project organizer Michele Feder-Nadoff, and the many other authors in this remarkable, well written contribution to the cultural history of the Americas.

click here to purchase

Identity Issues Affecting Puerto Rican Girls: An Artist Speaks

May 23, 2007 § 19 Comments

In her essay The Myth of the Latina Woman/ Just Met a Girl Named Maria, Judith Ortiz Cofer describes her Puerto Rican upbringing in a strict Catholic home in New Jersey, where she was taught to behave like a proper señorita. Cofer explains that the conflicting messages she received as a child, were those commonly propagated by Puerto Rican mothers. “They encourage their daughters to look and act like women and to dress in clothes that our Anglo friends and their mothers found to mature for our age.”

When the mere notion of latinidad equates passion and sexuality to gringos, why is it that Latino men are the first ones to point finger and to call these same women suelta (loose) or facil (easy)? Wouldn’t they understand? Have they not been subjected to the same treatment? Perhaps it is comes down to the way they were raised.

In the Latino culture ideas of masculinity and femininity are delineated very early on. Author Evelyn P. Stevens, first introduced this concept know as machismo and marianismo in 1973. Machismo grants supreme authority of the man over the woman. Under this doctrine women, who are considered to be morally and spiritually superior to men are able to endure abuse. They grow up expected to follow the sexual code of marianismo, and are submissive to the man’s authority.

Puerto Rican culture places women into one of two categories the virgin or the whore; mujeres de la casa (women of the home) or mujeres de la calle (women of the street). Una mujer de la casa, is expected to be pure, giving and compassionate. While, una mujer de la calle is considered to be sluty, wild, and dangerous.

In Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community, author Ruth Horowitz says the following:

The very presence of a woman outside the household implicates them in promiscuity and/or sexual misconduct. Puerto Rican girls learn this good girl/bad girl dichotomy most clearly in the recruitment into reproductive labor… A good girl cooks, cleans, takes care of younger siblings, and helps her parents. In contrast una muchacha de la calle is a transgressive women who has gone beyond patriarchal control whose sexuality is unbounded and therefore dangerous.

While in Puerto Rico this January, I had the privilege of meeting the incredibly talented video artist, Tamara Liz Rivera Boria. Tamara and I instantly bonded, finding similarity in the content of our work, and decided that we needed to collaborate.

I conducted a short series of interviews with her (documented with the camera from my laptop), where she describes her work as it plays on the screen behind her…


click on above image to view video

Interview with Puerto Rican Artist Tamara Liz Rivera Boria

Maya: Tamara, what can you tell me about muchachas de la calle and muchachas de las casa?

Tamara: De la casa and de la calle girls might as well be related. They exchange roles sometimes, de la casa girl wanting to be de la calle, and vice versa.

Maya: How has this affected you?

Tamara: I was raised in a catholic home, in a catholic school. I can tell you, I have been fucked up. I didn’t want to be told what to do, or what to believe in.How can you tell someone that using a condom is a sin? I had many issues over the years being raised like that. Even though my parents are not Catholic extremists. They were pretty easy going that’s how they could understand me or deal with me. Deep inside it made a mark, no matter how much I tried to live and understand the world. I became insane trying to understand other people lifestyle because indeed I might have been raised inside a bubble. I still am kind of in there, don’t wanting to look at how things really are.

Maya: What role does your cultural upbringing play in your work?

Tamara: Recently I made a video called él, baño de marîa. In this video I present various symbolism about religion, pecados (sins), sexuality, purity, faith among other things. Mainly because our culture has raised us thinking inside the box, controlling us with Christianity, especially Catholicism. Being pure, waiting till marriage although most don’t do it, is deep inside the mind. Like it is wrong to embrace sexuality.

Aglubium, is another video I made in collaboration with Ralph Vazquez and Rebecca Adorno. In this video I am drowning, or trying to kill myself by submerging my head in the water. It’s aggressive, and it’s beautiful. We just want to end, we don’t want to think. We don’t want to face fears. We don’t want to wait, we want to get it over. We want to drown our fears. We don’t want to face reality. Escape its what we do.

Maya: How do you escape?

Tamara: Most people (Puerto Ricans) use drugs. Puerto Ricans that do not use illegal drugs, use legal pills, alcohol or even coffee. Everyone has an addiction. It’s a shame but I have seen most of my friends doing drugs. I been there, I done that but I never had an addiction. My new boyfriend said I was an alcoholic, he didn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t. It wasn’t till he lived with me for over a moth when he saw that I didn’t drink for so long that he believed me, and with the cigarettes the same.

For some weird reason I can try things for as long as I want and not create any addiction. I wish it were the same with those that surround me. But in the arts almost all the people I know use some kind of drugs, are the ones that worry me the most are the most intelligent that keep using. I guess they are not that smart…

Maya: Is there an alternative to escape?

Tamara: I can see clearly that with true art I can make a difference, I can say what I understand to be real and important. I might help somebody. Other people just ignore what is going on (Puerto Rico). So many things had happen here, that demanded the people marching up the streets in protest, because our government is insane. But people don’t, they just “sit quietly”. They don’t want to get involved, they think they cannot change anything. They believe they have no power, when indeed I say, with all your power, what would you do? – I love that flaming lips song-

Maya: How does this affect Puerto Rican girls?

Tamara: Puerto Rican girls have many issues. Not only because of gringos (Americans) our identity issues extend into religion and the ways women are portrayed in the reggaeton culture. Girls want to be thin like gringas (American girls), they don’t like they’re beautiful curves, ass and tits. They always feel fat no matter how thin they are. I bet this happen everywhere, but these are issues we shouldn’t have.

Accepting ourselves, as we are its what we should do. Because we are not gringas! We are not blonde and white! But boys see these girls in TV, and everywhere and they expect girls like that. It’s the gringo media. I’ve forgotten all about this, but I also had these issues. I think I kind of still do, I just ignore most of the time.

Maya: You mentioned Reggaeton, what message do you think Reggaeton is sending to young women?

Tamara: Reggaeton is a part of that movement leads ladies to feeling less than the man, like he has to buy her. Girls learn to use their sexual power way to early with reggaeton. It is a confrontation for some, between what they like (reggaeton movement, lifestyle) and the religious foundation they might have. But since it probably was forced (religion) they escaped thru reggaeton. Ultimately ending in ugly situations.

Maya: Okay , I agree with you. But I am not going to lie, I love reggaeton… are you sure you don’t secretly like it?

Tamara: I don’t dig reggaeton; I see how girls embrace being just a piece of meat, especially high schools girls. How much is this necklace, like a million? Said a girl, the boy answered – no. The girl said – well then, work and buy me this necklace.

Yesterday I heard a senior girl say that to her boyfriend at a hotel, it was their prom. Girls parade in lil’ dresses, easily they could have been mistaken for high-class whores. I won’t even comment on the dancing. It has gotten worse, every time. Since parents are so young they allow they’re children to behave like this. I mean, I see a problem with these situations. Boys catch another boy,looking at their girls, no matter if its sexual or if they just passed and look because its simply there, they get all worked up and want to fight. What is that dumbass looking at? So basically, what, people cant look at each other now? Girls can’t stand if you look at them either. Puerto Rico was not like that; you went to the mall, smiled and people smiled back at you.

The reggaeton anger and sexual damage can be easily identified. Even kindergarten boys are sexually harassing little girls. My mom is a teacher and I have heard some stories. I haven’t analyzed reggaeton issues deeply; this is just for what I have seen.

Maya: Thank you for your insight Tamara, I can’t wait to see what you produce next. I hope we can collaborate together in the future.

Tamara: I know I could make more sense out of my ideas, since they’re not organized very well, but it doesn’t matter. This is just the beginning of many wonderful works to come, ideas to flow… I’m glad that I can collaborate with you.

“Everything that surrounds me, mi entorno, makes a part of who I am and what I say in my videos. Little by little its somehow implicated.”

As I begrudgingly stated in my interview with Tamara, I am a fan of reggaeton. Like most, I don’t even acknowledge the lyrics or really think too much beyond the beat of the music. Yet now I find myself wondering, are most girls conscious of the message? I guess to some extent they must be, after all as Tamara shared many sing the lyrics as they grind (rub up) on men.

In my research I found extensive commentary regarding the direction of Salsa and its implications on women in the Puerto Rican community. However, as it is relatively new form of music, the writing concerning Reggaeton seems to be incredibly limited.

So I turned to a more contemporary source and found a blog entitled REGGAETONICA, written by Raquel Z. Rivera; author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. In a recent post: From White to Mulata: The Darkening Powers of Reggaetón, she shares an email addressing this very issue:

I think reggaeton has been raunchy & explicitly all along, but I think the lyrics have reverted back to the “Reggeaton Sex” days of Underground. I think that “raunchiness” & degradation have become more mainstream & therefore are seen as less scandalous & more acceptable to society, so I think it has questioned our value as a community. The fact that Reggaeton outright refers to sexual references & acts & is accepted as mainstream Puerto Rican culture posing an interesting cultural issue for me. Now you can go to Puerto Rico and see young girls singing “dame con el palo, ” & they’re parents paying no mind to it, which I think is crazy. In the beginning of Reggaeton I found the lyrics to be much more raunchy, violent, & drug-related. Then mainstream Reggaeton came along, switched the “sexo” to “amor” & the “nenas” to “gatas.” I think these subtle changes in language allowed Reggaeton to be more successful in the mainstream, but now a lot of artists are moving back to the original lyrics because they already have a stable fan base. I mean, look at someone like Tony Dize, if you translated some of his songs into English, they could put even 50 Cent to shame with the blatant sexual references & degradation of women.

Perhaps reggaeton is so widely accepted by mainstream and popular culture, because it provides a free ticket to promote these concepts in a non-threatening form. If Puerto Rican women and other Latinas are fine dancing to this music, then what harm is there in gringos doing the same.

This then becomes representative of Puerto Rican culture. When a gringa dances to reggaeton she can purse her lips and grind on men, but without an attached stigma. She is just acting like a Latina girl. The Puerto Rican girls participating in this scene are aiding in the further perpetuation of the stereotype of Latina’s being easy.

However, as Tamara explained a lot of this has to do with a search for independence. Wanting to rebel against the forced restrictions of being una mucha de la casa, girls go to the furthest extreme to break down those barriers. But to what cost?

I myself am unable to provide a concrete solution. Yet I do think that one of the primary steps to forward progress is conversation. Tamara and myself have opted to publish the text on the web so that others may join in the dialog…

Shomer Negiah Panties

February 13, 2007 § 16 Comments

SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES NOW AVAILABLE ON ShomerNegiahPanties.com


Shomer Negiah
is a concept in Jewish law halacha that prohibits any degree of physical contact with, or touching of, a member of the opposite sex, except for one’s spouse and immediate family. Shomer means “guards”, but due to its common use in phrases relating to religious practice, it has come to mean: “adhere to” as well. Negiah is the Hebrew word for “touch”, and thus Shomer Negiah is a term used to describe one who “guards the touch” or simply “adheres to restrictions of touch”. Although the feminine form of the term is technically Shomeret Negiah, it is almost always used in the masculine, even when in reference to women. Shomer Negiah Panties allow a woman to abide by the halacha, but still be individual and sexy at the same time.

shomer negiah panties

post by dovbear on the panties recieved these comments

my pink sexy low cut bras say vlo sasuru in micro print … lol
frumbabe | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:00 pm

why don’t you ASK her, DB? Or would that be un-tznius (as opposed to, say, visiting her blog, looking at her panties, and then tattling on your own blog…) 🙂
Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:34 pm

this is much more tzanuah.Trust me. I’m a man 🙂
DovBear | 02.22.07 – 2:44 pm

“Shomer Negiah Panties,” essentially ordinary cotton undies, I’m going to run over to CafePress and put some “Shomer Negiah Thongs” up for sale.
Al Gore | 02.22.07 – 3:07 pm |

What about the fringes? Women unite for equality! We want fringes on our panties!
Anonymous | 02.22.07 – 3:13 pm

How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!
Anna Nicole | 02.22.07 – 3:18 pm |

How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!

Totally unecc. In Willy. they’ve found the combination of bald heads and really thick stockings serve the same purpose.
DovBear | 02.22.07 – 3:27 pm |

that’s a weird fetish. 🙂
Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 3:31 pm |

Not a fetish. A form of birth control.
Anon | 02.22.07 – 3:39 pm |

I think it’s just for giggles. I could imagine SN girls giving each other these panties as a joke… the number of SN guys who’ll ever see them on a girl is probably tiny.
quietann | 02.22.07 – 4:10 pm | 

Granny panties are by definition shomer negiah.——–

Perhaps what the world REALLY needs are burqas with playboy bunnies or ‘party-babe’ stencilled across the front.
The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:18 pm |

DB:
Been done before. Look, don’t you think this makes the statement just a bit more…… pointed? http://www.corkscrew-balloon.com…torture/ 31.html

Anon:
A form of birth control

A form of birth control??? Wow, I’d hate to know what you consider birth-out-of-control, then.
Baal Devarim | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:33 pm |

that’s hot….
ThePervert | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:52 pm |

I just don’t see it.Then why bother giving old Maya and her incredibly unfunny, juvenile and tasteless underwear any more free publicity? What motivates you to post what you do really mystifies.
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:13 pm |

Oooh, these could be useful for the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. Warning, guys — all lookie, no touchie.
GoldaLeah | 02.22.07 – 5:19 pm |

the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:28 pm |

Kinda like the “Sanitized for your protection” ribbons on motel toilets.
Psycho Toddler | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 5:54 pm |

A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs…I now have this mental image of bearded young gentlemen wearing ill-fitting ‘gentile’ clothes yelling “remove your sheitel, remove your sheitel”. Thank you. It will take me a while to get over this trauma.
The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:14 pm |

BOTHDain ershtoinung iz gornit antkegen der ershtoinung fun zaira vaiber If only such occurences were as humurous and harmless as the “sleeveless bar” scene that you conjured.
Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 6:20 pm |

I can see them being a present for a friend too–or a joke for one’s husband.I don’t see them having any halachic purpose, though. Unless there’s a mitzvah to wear tacky panties that I somehow missed.
balabusta in blue jeans | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:27 pm |

I’m married, and I would wear them. I think they’re hilarious. But I’d be too scared to give them to anyone I know–they might take it the wrong way.
Rivka | 02.22.07 – 8:39 pm |

Pardon me for the overshare, but I have a pair of panties that say “Girls know best” on the front. And there are times that they are appropriate for the situation, like maybe when I need a reminder that girls really do know best 🙂 (I am almost 43, so hardly a girl, but the sentiment is the same.)Similarly, I could see a shomer negiah young woman wearing these panties on a date. Just knowing what her panties say might help her keep her skirt on!
quietann | 02.22.07 – 10:21 pm |

at the mall any day now, i’m expecting to see “Shomer Negiah” stenciled on the butt of some babes yoga pants…
eliyahu | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 11:15 pm |

I am truly mystified that this post exists
reality | 02.23.07 – 7:38 am |

It’s obviously a gag. What’s the big deal? Girls that are really shomer are never going to wear them with any expectation that a guy will see them, and those that aren’t will wear them for their ironic humor.
nicejewishguy | Homepage | 02.23.07 – 11:15 am |

How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind?Also know as a “Tramp Stamp.”
Al Gore | 02.23.07 – 12:26 pm |

It should also say “shomer negiah” in braille in case it’s dark in the room when being read.Should also say it in Hebrew or Yiddish, so the message is clear to all chareidim as well.
B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:54 pm |

Ah, should have looked at her site first. DB, now you’re linking to tushies?! What a shonda. I go away for a few weeks…In any event, perhaps she could tatoo it on the small of her back, then could wear any panties she likes? Just a thought.
B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:55 pm |

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