September 23, 2018

N.Y. State Senate Candidate Accuses Netanyahu Spokesman of Sexual Assault

Screenshot from Twitter.

Julia Salazar, the democratic socialist New York state senate candidate who has faced questions over her claims of Jewish ancestry, is claiming that David Keyes, the foreign media spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sexually assaulted her.

In a statement, Salazar said that the media was about to out her for her sexual assault claim:

Keyes has denied the allegations.

“This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life,” Keyes said in a statement. “This is yet another example of her dishonesty.”

The Daily Caller has reported that Salazar fits the description of a woman accusing Keyes of sexual assault in 2016 and that she deleted Facebook posts accusing Keyes of sexually assaulting her. The Daily Caller report also notes that “two journalists from The Intercept and one who currently works at The Atlantic” looked into Salazar’s allegations, but ended the investigation because “Salazar would not cooperate.”

As the Journal has reported, Salazar has claimed that her father is Jewish, a claim that was contradicted by her brother. Salazar then said that she took a conversion class, but never had a b’nai mitzvah. She is now claiming that she underwent the full conversion process.

Additionally, Salazar has said that she is an immigrant from Colombia, which she later backtracked on when members of her family said otherwise. Salazar’s family members have also contradicted her statements that she grew-up in a working class household.

Citizens Union, a good-government organization, rescinded their endorsement on Tuesday when they discovered that Salazar gave them inaccurate information on her academic resume. Salazar recently admitted to The New York Times that she did not graduate from Columbia University despite information from her campaign suggesting otherwise.

Former Obama CDC Director Arrested for Allegedly Groping Woman

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Frieden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) all eight years under President Obama, was arrested on August 24 for allegedly groping a woman’s buttocks in October 2017.

The woman, who has not been identified publicly, reported the alleged groping to police in July, claiming that Frieden squeezed her buttocks without her consent at his home. She added that Frieden apologized to her for it later and claimed that he was going through some personal issues.

Frieden turned himself in on August 24, facing charges of sexual abuse, harassment and forcible touching.

Frieden’s spokesperson told The Washington Post, “This allegation does not reflect Dr. Frieden’s public or private behavior or his values over a lifetime of service to improve health around the world.”

As CDC director, Frieden had to deal with outbreaks of H1N1 swine flu, Ebola and the Zika virus. Prior to becoming CDC director, Frieden was New York’s public health commissioner from 2002-2009, where he implemented bans on trans fats, smoking in workplaces and a program to clamp down on tuberculosis.

Frieden currently runs an organization called Resolve to Save Lives, which does work to help citizens in poorer countries from suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Where ‘Social Justice’ and #MeToo Fall Short

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

We live in an era of “social justice.”

By “social justice,” people typically mean a panoply of left-leaning policy priorities. But the phrase itself is pernicious and anti-morality — justice requires no modifier. Justice is by nature individual — we punish those who are guilty, not those who are innocent; we don’t punish children for the sins of their parents. But social justice suggests that we should allow societal context to inform whether a result is just. Thus, a guilty man from a historically victimized group ought to be let off the hook; an innocent from a historically powerful group ought to be punished in order to provide restitution for historical injustices. 

Judaism fundamentally rejects this notion. In Leviticus, the Torah states, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” We naturally assume that the rich are more likely to get away with perverting justice, but the Torah reminds us that our natural sympathies may be just as likely to pervert justice on behalf of someone unfortunate. As the old legal aphorism goes, hard cases make bad law — if we follow our hearts, we almost invariably pursue injustice.

All of this comes up this week thanks to the controversy surrounding Asia Argento, one of the leading #MeToo icons. Argento publicly accused megaproducer Harvey Weinstein of rape just a few months ago; now it turns out that Argento, who touted “women everywhere” having the “courage to share their most painful private traumas in public,” allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy back in 2013. According to The New York Times, former child actor Jimmy Bennett alleges that Argento invited him to a hotel room and sexually assaulted him when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent in California is 18. The documents reviewed by the Times included a selfie of the two in bed together dated May 9, 2013. 

Argento’s alleged gross misconduct doesn’t undermine her claims against Weinstein, of course. As it turns out in Hollywood, more than one person can be disgusting at one time. But it’s the reaction that’s been telling. Rose McGowan, another face of the #MeToo movement, tweeted, “None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.” All of which would be fine, except that McGowan, along with many others in the #MeToo movement, have suggested that an allegation is tantamount to a conviction. Back in January, she tweeted, “Believe women,” and in November, she tweeted, “It’s quite simple, all who have worked with known predators should do 3 simple things. 1) Believe survivors 2) Apologize for putting your careers and wallets before what was right. 3) Grab a spine and denounce. If you do not do these things you are still moral cowards. #ROSEARMY.”

We all tend to lend credibility to those we like and to disparage the credibility of those we don’t. In reality, we ought to hold the same standards for everyone.

Now, this is a problem. There must be one standard by which we can adjudicate public accusations of sexual abuse. That standard should require some evidence, regardless of the alleged victim; it should at least require a careful weighing of the allegations themselves. Instead, we’ve been told for nearly a year that we must believe all allegations at face value, mainly because so many women have been wrongly ignored in the past. But past sins do not excuse current ones, nor do current virtues absolve past sins. McGowan should be holding Argento to the same standard she’d hold others, whether or not Argento is a woman or a #MeToo icon.

Unfortunately, we tend not to do this. We all tend to lend credibility to those we like and to disparage the credibility of those we don’t. If we’re Donald Trump fans, we defend him against allegations of abuse of women; if we’re Democrats, we defend Keith Ellison against the same. In reality, we ought to hold the same standards for everyone. That’s what morality demands. And it’s what justice demands, even if social justice suggests otherwise.


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Congressman With Ties to Farrakhan Faces Allegations of Abuse

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who has previously come under fire for his past associations with Louis Farrakhan, is now facing allegations of abuse.

The allegation first came to light from Austin Monahan, the son of Karen Monahan, Ellison’s ex-girlfriend and an organizer for the Sierra Club. Austin wrote on Facebook that he and his brother “knew that something wasn’t right” with their mother after she and Ellison ended a lengthy relationship. Their mother insisted she was fine and was merely stressed.

But Austin claims he found a video on his mother’s computer that shows Ellison “dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming calling her a ‘f*cking b*tch.’” Subsequent texts from Ellison to his mother “were mixed with him telling my mom he wanted her back, he missed her, he knew he f*cked up and we wished he could do things different” while other times he would “bully her and threaten her if she went public.”

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reviewed text messages between Karen Monahan and Ellison; while none of them showed any abuse from Ellison, Monahan did send him a text in December 2017 about “the video I have of you trying to drag me off the bed,” which Ellison never responded to. Monahan also texted Ellison about her writing about their relationship, prompting Ellison to respond, “Horrible attack on my privacy, unreal.”

CNN was able to find three friends of Monahan who claim she told them about he alleged incident. However, Monahan told CNN that she couldn’t find the video of the alleged incident; she also told MPR that she wouldn’t the release the video at all.

“It sets the expectation for survivors of all kinds of forms of abuse, whether it be abuse toward women, abuse from police officers, abuse from other people in power, to have to be the ones, like I’m doing right now, to show and prove their stories,” Monahan said. “It’s feeding into that.”

Ellison has denied Monahan’s allegation.

“Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being,” Ellison said. “This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.”

Ellison’s ex-wife, Kim Ellison, is defending Ellison.

“I want members of our community to know that the behavior described does not match the character of the Keith I know,” Kim wrote in an emailed statement to reporters.

But Karen Monahan isn’t the only former girlfriend of Ellison’s to have alleged abuse. Amy L. Alexander, who said she a “hot and cold romance” with Ellison while he was married, wrote in The Wright County Republican in 2006 that Ellison “belittled me about my weight and constantly criticized my every word and action.”

A couple years later, Alexander thought she and Ellison had smoothed things over when Ellison refused to give her a job at an environmental activist group, calling her a “b*tch” and lamenting that he couldn’t “control you anymore.”

One day, Ellison allegedly stormed into Alexander’s house in order to “quiet” her.

“He berated me,” Alexander wrote. “He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way. I was terrified. I called the police. As he fled he broke my screen door. I have never been so scared.”

Ellison proceeded to launch “a smear campaign” against her, Alexander alleged, even going as far as obtaining a restraining order against her.

After #MeToo, an Orthodox Rabba confronts the limits – and possibilities – of her own power

In 2009, Rabba Sara Hurwitz made history when she became the first Orthodox woman to earn public ordination at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR), an established modern Orthodox synagogue. Later that year, she and her teacher, Rabbi Avi Weiss, then the spiritual leader of HIR, founded Yeshivat Maharat (YM), a New York seminary that ordains Orthodox women as “full spiritual and halakhic leaders.” In other words, as rabbis, but without challenging halachic limitations around what women can and cannot do.

Today, almost a decade later, there are 19 YM graduates working in clergy positions within and beyond the Orthodox community, and another seven will join them after ordination later this month. But for the 28 women currently enrolled in YM’s beit midrash, the year of the #metoo movement has unleashed new questions around the entrenched power structure of the Orthodox community and how it affects the growing number of women working to claim their place as leaders.

Hurwitz, 41, talked to the Journal about the “#metoo” effect on the modern Orthodox community, the power imbalance in traditional Judaism and how she squares the fact that even as a “rabba,” she doesn’t count in a minyan.

Jewish Journal: On May 9, you led an event at Yeshivat Maharat called “The complicated nature of power.” Why is the acquisition of power so complicated for Orthodox women?

Sara Hurwitz: As an institution that is training women to be authorities, we became very mindful during the #metoo movement [about] what our responsibility was in terms of helping our students know how to protect themselves, but also how to help them manage the dynamic between being authorities and protecting against authority. We realized this was a unique position for Orthodox women who, on one hand, are trying to protect [themselves] from harassment and power, and on the other hand, are trying to gain power.

JJ: What impact has the #metoo movement had on Orthodox women?

SH: The conversation has given women some language and confidence in speaking out about uncomfortable situations that they’ve been in. We all have had upsetting statements made about our bodies when we’re on display. [#Metoo] has given students and faculty a little bit more confidence in pushing all of us to come up with a more formal system of reporting and to explicitly create parameters around what’s appropriate.

JJ: Is the Orthodox community echoing the broader culture in terms of women coming forward to report sexual harassment and assault?

SH: I definitely think there’s more silence. We’re a traditional community that has used halachah as its guidepost and part of that system has been to be insular and to not have a system of reporting externally. That sentiment of not airing our dirty laundry still resonates for Orthodox people. But I certainly see a shift happening. It’s no longer possible to dust things under the rug.

Rather than throwing out the whole system, I’m really invested in trying to create change from within. I think about expanding the walls of the beit midrash rather than breaking down the whole building.

JJ: Do you see any connection between the power imbalance in Orthodox Judaism and the ability for a man to more easily abuse his power?

SH: It’s definitely a patriarchal system and men have held [the only] positions of authority for far too long. Our model is trying to ensure that women [be] seen as authorities in addition to men — not to usurp authority, but to create a system where both men and women are shaping communal conversation in partnership.

JJ: Earlier this year the Orthodox Union (OU) reaffirmed its opposition to ordaining women. How did you feel about a decision that essentially delegitimizes your work?

SH: The question about what to call women is just splitting hairs. We know there’s a tremendous need. In the last several months, we’ve [had] 20 phone calls asking to hire women or take an intern either in Hillels, schools or synagogues, so we haven’t felt a backlash in terms of placement. We’ve created a need, and the OU has put their imprimatur on the fact that there is a need.

JJ: As a spiritual leader, how do you reconcile your desire to share your gifts with the implicit limitations of a tradition that tells you you literally don’t count in a minyan?

SH: Rather than throwing out the whole system, I’m really invested in trying to create change from within. I think about expanding the walls of the beit midrash rather than breaking down the whole building. It’s true that I don’t count in a minyan, but I can create a certain experience for people davening in that space that resonates with my congregants.

JJ: Do you hope for an Orthodox Judaism that is inclusive of women in all aspects?

SH: I like to focus on all that women can do. I know it’s probably frustrating I’m not answering your question directly.

JJ: Are you careful because you think you’ll be deemed too radical or do you really not wish for that much change?

SH: Rabbi Yitz Greenberg always says that in order to be a really successful leader you have to be just a little bit ahead of your community, and make sure that you’re bringing them along; but if you’re too far ahead of your community, you’re just seen as a kook. I think about that statement often.

JJ: Where is the most glaring lack of power for Orthodox women right now?

SH: What I see more and more is that girls are choosing to opt out of having more of a religious experience because they don’t have any role models for what a serious religious female leader looks like. In school they’ll see a [woman] who leads tefillah in the morning, but there isn’t the more authoritative female leader. And I think girls are opting out of the religious community in droves because they’re becoming apathetic [about their possibilities within] religious life.

JJ: Do you think increasing openness to women within the Orthodox community will inevitably extend itself to other forms of openness like gay marriage, or more inclusion for intermarried couples?

SH: Obviously inclusion is always important and we always want to be thinking about and embracing those who don’t fit within our halachic system. What I really hope is that it will become very normal and natural to have women be equal partners in the communal conversation, and I think that when you have more wisdom and more perspectives, there is a tendency towards thinking about inclusion.

JJ: Why should you not be allowed to sign a ketubah as a witness to marriage when some guy in the congregation who may know half of what you know is allowed to be a witness?

SH: Look, there’s a system that me and others in the tradition buy into. It doesn’t mean we have to be happy about every aspect of the system. But for me, at least, there’s a willingness to fully embrace it and at the same time engage in the struggle. Being a witness is a halachic category that doesn’t have such good reasons for why it should be gendered, but it is. So we still have to struggle and contend with that.

New York AG Resigns Amidst Multiple Allegations of Assault

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman speaks at a news conference during a community gun buy-back program in White Plains, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who once was hailed as the Jewish attorney general “leading the Trump resistance” by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has resigned after being accused by multiple women of physically assaulting them.

Schneiderman issued a statement on May 7 that read:

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York. In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker detailed the allegations against Schneiderman in a lengthy article, with two women going on record and two others who were afraid of being identified due to the power that Schneiderman wields.

One of the women, Michelle Manning Barish, told The New Yorker she had on-and-off relationship with Schneiderman for nearly two years. After the first month of their romantic involvement, Manning Barish claimed that one night Schneiderman viciously slapped her “across the face.”

“My ear was ringing,” Manning Barish said. “I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me.”

Manning Barish added, “The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fibre, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

She claimed that Schneiderman later accused her of “scratching him” and then threatened her by saying that “hitting an officer of the law is a felony.”

Manning Barish claims that she had lingering effects from Schneiderman’s slap, as she frequently felt pain in her ear for months and had to get a “dried bloody crust” removed.

But Manning Barish went back to Schneiderman after he dogged her with calls, and she claims that every time they engaged in intercourse he would slap her. Throughout their relationship, Schneiderman allegedly berated her with insults about her weight and physical appearance, and pressured her into drinking voluminous amounts of alcohol. Schneiderman himself frequently consumed large amounts of alcohol, per the allegations.

Manning Barish eventually ended the relationship. She claims that she once vaguely referred to the alleged abuse from Schneiderman on social media, and Schneiderman threatened her over the phone by stating, “Don’t ever write about me. You don’t want to do that.” Manning Barish has now spoken out after seeing Schneiderman portray himself as a champion of the #MeToo movement.

The second woman who went on record, Tanya Selvaratnam, told The New Yorker that when she was dating Schneiderman, he would slap her multiple times and choke her when they engaged in sexual intercourse. Selvaratnam also alleged that Schneiderman verbally harassed her with insults about her appearance – including calling her his “brown slave” and urged her to partake in a threesome.

Selvaratnam was afraid to leave him due to his threats.

“He had said he would have to kill me if we broke up, on multiple occasions,” Selvaratnam said. “He also told me he could have me followed and could tap my phone.”

Both Manning Barish and Selvaratnam described themselves to The New Yorker as progressive feminists who are registered as Democrats.

The two other women who didn’t identify themselves from The New Yorker also had similar stories about their experiences with Schneiderman. One of them was making out with Schneiderman after a party but wanted the physical encounter to end after he made comments about her being “a slut” and a “whore.” Schneiderman responded by forcefully slapping her twice. The woman claims that Schneiderman then drove her home at her request despite being inebriated.

The fourth woman, who claims to be an ex-girlfriend of Schneiderman, told The New Yorker that she too was slapped, choked and spat on by Schneiderman in addition to being demeaned by his insults. When she told some friends about it, she was discouraged from going public with her story because “Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.”

 

On April 16, Schneiderman praised The New Yorker for their reporting on the #MeToo movement:

After the allegations were published, Manning Barish tweeted:

Back in 2013, President Trump seemed to hint at the allegations against Schneiderman:

Azerbaijan’s Unique Appreciation and Celebration of Women’s Empowerment

Statue of a Liberated Woman in Baku, Azerbaijan, depicting a woman who decides to remove her veil.

Statue of a Liberated Woman in Baku, Azerbaijan, depicting a woman who decides to remove her veil.

 

On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day across the world. Considering the state of the world we live in today, I am especially grateful to be from Azerbaijan, and to raise my daughter in a country that not only celebrates and empowers women, but one that has an impressive history of high standards toward women, where over centuries women have been successful and breaking barriers in academia, art, industry, and government.

Azerbaijan was the very first Muslim country in the world to grant women equal voting rights, in 1919, an entire year before the United States and decades before many Western European nations; just one of countless examples of Azerbaijan’s history and standards toward women. Azerbaijan’s example for the rest of the world, set long ago, has never been more important than today, when women’s rights are on the center stage of global media.

With the global movement of #metoo, more have come to understand the experience of women in the world, and how discriminatory, violatary treatment of women is rampant, and come in many forms – some violent and shocking, others more subtle yet all the same impactful in pushing women back from realizing their worth and their best quality of life. As much as #metoo is about violence against women, it is also about attitudes against women. As a Muslim woman from a majority Muslim country, one that has long upheld women’s rights and ingrained in its national character an attitude of respect and awe for women, I am aware of how lucky I am.

Our country is best known as a beacon of tolerance, an “Oasis of Tolerance”, as Rabbi David Wolpe once wrote, and as a critical diplomatic force, capable of crossing aisles, breaking barriers and stereotypes, and succeeding in all ways despite dealing with a brutal war waged against us by our neighbor for the past 30 years. But some may not know that Azerbaijan has a remarkable history of women, leaders across art and industry, with women today in the highest levels of prestige across every field.

We have laws in place that assert the protections and respect for women across Azerbaijani society. For example, Article 25 and 34 were added in 1993 to Azerbaijan’s Constitution, and they guarantee full equality between men and women generally, and equality of men and women within marriage specifically. In 2006, Azerbaijan passed a Gender Equality Law which guarantees that women receive equal pay at work and prohibits discrimination in hiring and promotional practices.

The first secular school for Muslim girls anywhere in the world was opened in Baku, in 1901, and today, over 50% of PhD holders in Azerbaijan are women. The Judicial branch of government has many female justices, including the Honorable Tatiana Goldman, who is Jewish, and an Azerbaijan Supreme Court Justice. The legislative branch is not lagging behind in this regard: there are 21 women in Azerbaijan’s Parliament (out of 125 total), including Bahar Muradova, the Deputy Speaker. Our commitment to women’s equality has grown quickly: in 1990, women constituted merely 4.3 percent of parliament. Today this number is 17 percent, which is only slightly lower than the U.S. Congress with 19.8 percent. In Azerbaijan, we can boast that the Deputy Mayors of 71 out of 78 Administrative Districts, as well as many state committee chairpersons and deputy ministers are women. Only at Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, 52 percent of all employees are women, including two ambassadors and an honorary consul (in Switzerland, Bulgaria and Australia).

There are so many examples to choose from, but I think you can see a lot about Azerbaijan by just looking at two of our famous women – current First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva, and one of the most groundbreaking early female pilots in the world, Leyla Mammadbeyova, from the 1930s.

One of my favorite things to hear people say about First Vice President Aliyeva, is that she is known as “Kind Lady”, or Mehriban Khanim, as we say in Azerbaijan. The First Vice President is known for her generosity, her tireless humanitarian efforts in Azerbaijan and beyond as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and her advocacy for health, women and children, among so many areas she works on to improve the world.

On the other hand, Leyla Mammadbeyova, who was called the “Mistress of the Skies”, was known for her daring, her strength, and her remarkable achievements as a pilot and mother to 6 children.

These diverse qualities of feminine heroism; kind and noble, daring and bold; all represent the history of positive attitudes toward women that hold strong in Azerbaijan. In the capital city of Baku, we have a famous statue, called the Statue of a Liberated Woman, and it depicts a beautiful woman, standing tall on a pedestal, casting her veil off her shoulders. I think this statue represents our attitude toward women in Azerbaijan; a celebration of our many strengths.

Hussein Javid, considered the “Shakespeare of Azerbaijan”, once said that “A country without woman is destroyed and remains helpless but in the hand of woman this world will only have bliss. She will exalt humanity.” My favorite part is the end, when Hussein Javid wrote, “She will exalt humanity.” I think of the First Vice President, and our famous pilot, both exalting humanity, literally raising it up, one with policy and charity, the other with wings – both with the courage to break barriers for women across continents. Happy International Women’s Day!

 

 

Awash in Self-Obsession

Photo from Pixnio.

There’s a new mode of transportation in Venice, Calif. It’s called a Bird Scooter. For anyone who has a 3-year-old, these are motorized, adult versions of your kid’s first Razor or Micro Mini, whipping through the streets of Venice like slim, individualized 21st-century gondolas. As whimsical and playful as their presence is in Venice, I have had more than one incident where a Bird gondolier lost in his zippy feeling of invincibility nearly crashed into my clueless perambulation, lost in my glass “Golden Calf” iPhone, almost rendering me a scooter-incident statistic.

There is a distinct tension I feel as an inhabitant of the 21st century that the Birds remind me of: It’s easy to become numb to the presence of others around us, especially those going in a different direction. As both an observer and a participant in this self-obsessed new world, I fear it is desensitizing us to the needs of others, which is one of the cornerstones for building a just society.

This is a national phenomenon. From our tribal allegiances to our cultural xenophobia, all sides are guilty and accountable for feeling that our right of way is the only right way. In our fast-paced flurry about town, our privileged and affordable access to the globe (both physical and virtual), our siloed social media universe facing inward, we have, ironically, lost a human quality — the ability to experience the Other.

In a recent University of Pennsylvania scandal, law professor Amy Wax was asked by the university to “take a sabbatical” in the wake of her publishing an unpopular op-ed in The Wall Street Journal spotlighting a return to “bourgeois values.” Wax recognized the moral decline in the United States, noting that more than half of all children in America are being raised in single-family households, a rise of opioid addiction is decaying our core, and increased tribalism is fracturing our country. Her theory of change was assailed by her colleagues and she was put in academic herem.

As a woman who loves Torah, the fallout from Wax’s editorial captures a unique form of heartbreak. Gone are the days of respectful disagreement; forgotten is the engaged discourse of our academic institutions. It seems that unpopular opinions must be reckoned with through shame, isolation and marginalization of those who generated them. Lost are the academies of Sura and Pumbedita; we have confused the messenger with the messages. Our fingers gliding upon the glass of new media has turned our touch cold to one another. Gone are the days of rigorous and respectful debate, which old-fashioned Jews called machlochet.

It’s easy to become numb to the presence of others around us, especially those going in a different direction.

Pirkei Avot 5:16, the Wisdom of our Fathers (a distinctly male-dominant claim of wisdom — should we ban it because we have yet to unearth its female corollary?) and one of our foundation texts on machlochet states: “Any dispute that is conducted for the sake of heaven, its outcome will ultimately be determined. And if not for the sake of heaven, it will not be determined.”

L’Shem Shaymayim, “For the Sake of Heaven,” hovers heavily. What does it mean to dispute “for the sake of heaven” for a 21st-century reader? The ancient idiom dominates, and our minds weigh it with authority. But what if the whisperings of those who came before us were read instead as: “Any dispute that is conducted for the sake of heaven, its outcome will ultimately be determined. And if it is not, for heaven’s sake(!), it will not be determined.”

The rabbis speak to us from the beyond both imploringly and playfully: Dispute! Debate! Disagree! For most of our musings are not in heaven’s realm. We must recapture the ancient art of machlochet, as our engagement with one another is our redemption while we are still here. Don’t zip speedily by your fellow with a false sense of invincibility because everything ever thought, written or known can be found in three seconds of a Google search. That’s for the Birds.

Let us recapture the awe of standing before the Other; fall in love with the world of ideas, not information. Not all unwanted advances — of ideas or sexual appetites — need be conflated into accusations of sexual assault or an unpopular opinion into an academic lynching. May we smash false idols of glass screens and reclaim the fine art of disagreement with an impish curiosity as we stare face to face with our opposition, as, for heaven’s sake, it is so not about you. It’s about us.


Rabbi Lori Shapiro is the founder and artistic director of The Open Temple in Venice.

Badass Queen of Purim

Screenshot from YouTube.

How do I love Vashti? Let me count the ways.

In case you aren’t familiar with this woman of the Bible, Vashti makes only a brief appearance at the beginning of the Book of Esther, in which we read the Purim story. We meet her as Queen Vashti, married to the King Ahasuerus, who rules across the Persian empire.

King Ahasuerus seems to care a lot about appearances. First, he hosts a six-month display of wealth for his subjects, an ego-stoking extravaganza. Then, he invites all the men of the kingdom to a feast, complete with open bar. One week in, when the guests are good and drunk, the king commands his queen to appear before the people and show off her beauty, wearing the royal crown.

And Vashti refuses.

Why does she refuse? There are many interpretations, of course, this being a Jewish story. The most classic one, on which many later traditions are based, is that the king asked Vashti to appear before the people naked, wearing only her royal crown.

Whether or not we accept the naked theory, Vashti does not comply with the king’s desire that she display her beauty before hordes of drunken men. His advisers are horrified. They urge him to banish her, so that the women of the kingdom will not wonder if they, too, should begin to think for themselves and disobey their husbands.

And so Vashti is banished from the kingdom, leaving the job of queen vacant, to be filled by Esther, the conventional heroine of the Purim story.

When a sacred text is discussed over many centuries, its characters take on the form of current events. In ancient Babylonia, the rabbis imagined Vashti as a wanton idolater. The earliest modern feminists, in the 1800s, lauded her as a model of liberation. And in our particular moment, Vashti resonates most obviously with the #MeToo movement as she refuses to comply with workplace sexual harassment in the palace.

When the king asks Queen Vashti to appear and display her beauty, she faces a fundamental human question: Should I do what is asked of me by others?

The term “sexual harassment” is new, but as we see from this story, it’s almost incredible how ancient and pervasive the act is. From her vantage point as queen of the Persian empire, our heroine sees this abuse of power for what it is and chooses to abdicate the throne rather than acquiesce. Courageously, Vashti gives up her wealth and power in exchange for … well, who knows what happens to a divorced ex-royal in ancient Persia?

But gender politics are not the only lens through which Vashti’s story has powerful resonance. I also love how her refusal can be an inner, spiritual teaching, as well.

When the king asks Queen Vashti to appear and display her beauty, she faces a fundamental human question: Should I do what is asked of me by others? Or do I, instead, dare to live by my own instincts?

We face this question in infinite ways. It can come in the form of deciding whether to speak the truth about our sexual orientation or gender identity. It can challenge us when we feel drawn to become more or less religious than our families of origin. Or it can manifest in terms of dreams for how to live our lives — I think of my high school friend, a gifted classical pianist who passionately wanted to pursue music but whose parents insisted she enter a fast-track, pre-med program.

And on a daily level, this question appears in decisions as simple as how to represent ourselves on social media. Do we include our struggles or present only a carefully curated spread of perfect-looking moments, as Ahasuerus presents the riches of his kingdom, as he seeks to present his perfect wife?

Vashti can inspire us to ask: What happens when we refuse to dwell on the level of appearances and see, instead, with our hearts? What happens when we refuse to aim for admiration, perfection, accolades, and instead make our goal simple: to be our most authentic selves?

If you dress up for Purim, keep Vashti in mind and be the queen of yourself.


Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician and Torah teacher who lives in Portland, Ore.

#MeToo and Mashiach

Women’s Bureau 1920, Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

I did not expect to hear a Torah teaching about the #MeToo movement in a Chasidic synagogue. Rabbi Reuven Wolf, however, is not your typical Chasidic rabbi.

On a recent Shabbat, he expounded some verses from one of the lesser-known books of the Bible, Habakkuk:

He shall speak of the end, and it shall not fail; though it tarry, wait for it, for it shall surely come, it shall not delay.

The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the water fills the sea … and

… a stone shall cry out from the wall.

In this prophetic description, the Age of Mashiach, i.e., the messianic age, will not be accompanied only by peace and goodness — the lion lying down with the lamb, etc. —  but also with knowledge of God, God’s plan and the true meaning of the elements in that plan. We will thus finally understand the spiritual purpose of everything, and everyone, in our physical environment.

At that time, even the rocks will testify whether we walked over them for a wholesome purpose or a selfish purpose. In other words, did we employ our resources to make God’s creation a place of greater holiness or less? A place of greater justice or less? A place of greater kindness or less?

If so for the rocks, Rabbi Wolf said, how much for the people in our lives? We will be called to account for the ways we treated everyone we met, and particularly those closest to us. Did we help them realize their true purpose in the creation, or did we exploit them for our own selfish ends?

It is a fact of biology that the human male gives the seed of life and the female receives it. Each provides half the DNA, but the female egg is vast compared with the tiny sperm, and it is the woman alone who nurtures the new embryo for the next nine months. So you would think that the male would be a humble, nurturing partner in the relationship.

Sadly, this has not been the case. Throughout the history of humanity, many men have exploited their size, strength and patriarchal role as giver of the seed to get what they want from women. The sexual relationship should be the holiest interaction on earth, one that enables both partners to join with God in the creation of new life, but men have often hijacked it to give themselves pleasure at the expense of women’s dignity. This is a grave sin — one that harms the woman, the man and the whole of creation.

The fact that we have now crossed a line, that people will no longer tolerate such an established pattern of behavior, is beyond momentous. In the annals of humankind, it is a change akin to the advents of consciousness, fire, language, agriculture, cities and democracy.

According to Rabbi Wolf, the #MeToo movement is not only a world changer, but evidence that the Shabbat of history is at our doorstep.

In the Hebrew calendar, the year is 5778. We are 222 years from Y6K, the dawn of the seventh millennium — a time that will be holy like the seventh day. Our Sages often liken the Age of Mashiach to Shabbat. And just as Shabbat begins before night actually falls, the messianic age is now settling in around us like dusk.

Jewish tradition, like Habakkuk, holds that the end “shall surely come,” and it will not come later than its appointed time. It may, however, come earlier.

We can hasten the redemption by earning it. If the human world grows in kindness and righteousness, Mashiach will come sooner and without pain. If we cannot achieve such growth, Mashiach will come with a sharp birth pang, more commonly known as the apocalyptic battle of Gog and Magog.

Such a battle is not hard to imagine on the current world stage, and its consequences would be horrific.

Let’s avoid that fate. Let’s buy in to Rabbi Wolf’s vision of an Age of Mashiach that we usher in by increasing peace, justice, lovingkindness and dignity in the world.

Let’s make sure the #MeToo movement succeeds in protecting women from exploitation and enables them to realize their true purpose as equal partners in the creation.

It’s a good bet. Even if Rabbi Wolf is mistaken, what have we lost? And if he’s right …


Salvador Litvak shares his love of Judaism with a million followers every day at accidentaltalmudist.org.

Episode 72 – #metoo and the Power to Forgive

On October 5, 2017, only a few months ago, a report published in The New York Times shook the foundations at the epicenter of America’s film and television industry – Hollywood. More than a dozen women accused the hugely successful film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

These allegations brought about a wave of accusations against prominent male figures in film and TV. It gave birth to a movement named #metoo and recently another movement named Times Up both aimed at empowering women to speak up against sexual violence and misconduct.

One year before this seismic report, there was a warning tremor. A tremor that was nonetheless seismic for the person reporting. A journalist from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal published an essay titled: “My Sexual Assault and Yours, Every Woman’s Story.” That journalist’s name is Danielle Berrin. Danielle refrained from naming names and instead conveyed her experience, her trauma and the devastation she felt from this once idolized man.

Soon it became clear that this man was the prominent Israeli journalist, Ari Shavit. Shavit apologized, begrudgingly, and stepped down from the public stage. Israel’s media world was shaken to its roots.

Danielle Berrin joins us today to talk about her story, the #metoo campaign and how, after the ashes settle, we might be able to build a better future.

Danielle Berrin on the Jewish Journal and Twitter

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“Folks, Time’s Up!” Babs has a message for the Foreign Press

34 years ago, a verklempt Barbra Streisand accepted a Best Director Golden Globe Award for her work on “Yentl.” “This award is very meaningful to me. I’m very proud because it also represents, I hope, for so many talented women,” she told the audience. The crowd ruptured in applause.

Last night, Streisand, yet again, took to the Golden Globe stage, this time to present the award for Best Drama. But first, she made sure to mention that since 1984, no other woman has received Best Director. “Folks, time’s up!” she said.

Streisand is only woman to have won Best Director at Golden Globes

"Folks, time's up!" The last time a woman won "Best Director" at the Golden Globes, it was Barbra Streisand for Yentl in 1984.

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, January 8, 2018

 

This year, no women were nominated for the Best Director category, a fact which did not go unnoticed. “And here are the all male nominees,” actress Natalie Portman said before reading out the list while presenting Best Director with Ron Howard.

 

Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims?

For the crime of shaking hands with her lawyer, cartoonist Atena Farghadani was forced to undergo a “virginity and pregnancy test” prior to her 2015 trial in Iran on a charge of “illegitimate sexual relations.”

Commenting on her case, Said Boumedouha, deputy director at Amnesty International, said, “The Iranian judicial authorities have truly reached an outrageous low, seeking to exploit the stigma attached to sexual and gender-based violence in order to intimidate, punish or harass her.”

Seeing the waves of protests that have broken out in recent days throughout Iran, I thought of all the other Persian women who must be praying to be liberated from such insidious oppression.

Why are they not part of the #MeToo movement?

Well, for one thing, because in Iran, women pay a price for speaking up. Farghadani herself, in addition to her “illegitimate sexual relations” trial, was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in an Iranian jail because she drew cartoons that “insulted” members of Parliament.

As I wrote back in July 2015, “Farghadani is not alone. There are thousands like her languishing in Iranian prisons because they had the nerve to oppose an evil and oppressive regime. How oppressive? According to Human Rights Watch, ‘In 2014 Iran had the second highest number of executions in the world after China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country remains one of the biggest jailers in the world of journalists, bloggers, and social media activists. ’ ”

Since then, after the 2015 nuclear deal that empowered Iran with billions in sanctions relief, the oppression has only gotten worse.

According to Amnesty International, “Iran continued to execute children in 2016,” including hanging 17-year-old Hassan Afshar because of homosexual activity. At least 49 inmates on death row were convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

In March 2016, the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee noted that in Iran “flogging was still a lawful punishment for boys and girls convicted of certain crimes” and that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children had been subjected to electric shocks to ‘cure’ them.”

The committee also reported that “the age of marriage for girls is 13” and that “sexual intercourse with girls as young as nine lunar years was not criminalized.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

How is all of that for motivation to run on the streets and storm the barricades of theocratic despots who treat women and children worse than slaves?

Yes, those are the same despots who suckered the West into empowering their evil regime in return for an agreement that, at best, delays a nuclear Iran by a decade.

And they’re the same despots who have been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East while remaining, according to the latest U.S. State Department report, “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

“Who knows? Iran may change,” President Barack Obama said to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times in April 2015, around the time that Atena Farghadani was being sentenced to jail for her cartoons.

Of course, at the time, Obama was eager to conclude his legacy nuclear deal, which may also explain why he stayed so quiet when protests erupted on Iranian streets in 2009. Instead of betting on the Iranian people, Obama spent his two terms in office betting on the mullahs who were oppressing those very people.

Obama was as passionate about his deal with the mullahs as he was silent about those who were hanged for being gay or women who were jailed for speaking up.

In his zeal to promote his deal, he kept making hopeful comments that all those billions in sanctions relief would help the Iranian economy and trickle down to ordinary citizens. As he told Friedman, he hoped the deal would “harness the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Iranian people” and empower the nonviolent forces inside Iran who’d want to “excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people.”

Two years later, the only thing that’s trickled down to Iranian citizens is more oppression and misery. But why should that surprise us? Obama bet on evil, and evil bit him right back.

The Iranian evil includes blatant corruption. For decades, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accumulated assets of about $95 billion through an organization, Setad, that was created to help the poor but has morphed into a business juggernaut.

As detailed in a Reuters investigation:

“Khamenei’s grip on Iran’s politics and its military forces has been apparent for years. The investigation into Setad shows that there is a third dimension to his power: economic might. … Setad gives him the financial means to operate independently of parliament and the national budget.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

It’s an unfortunate timing that this week is our annual Mensch issue, where we focus on human decency and goodness. Maybe the contrast between mensches and oppressors will spur people to launch a #ThemToo campaign, this one on behalf of desperate victims risking their lives right now on Iranian streets.

Leon Wieseltier apologizes for inappropriate behavior toward women

Screenshot from YouTube.

Leon Wieseltier, a former editor for The New Republic and a fellow for the Brookings Institute, has admitted to engaging in inappropriate behavior toward women.

“For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness,” Wieseltier wrote in an email to the New York Times. “The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them I will not waste this reckoning.”

Wieseltier was set to start to a new magazine after he left The New Republic three years ago, but the recent allegations have killed the magazine. Emerson Collective, a for-profit philanthropy organization headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs, announced that they were ending with their partnership with Wieseltier.

“Upon receiving information related to past inappropriate workplace conduct, Emerson Collective ended its business relationship with Leon Wieseltier, including a journal planned for publication under his editorial direction,” Emerson Collective said in a statement. “The production and distribution of the journal has been suspended.”

According to the Times, Wieseltier is alleged to have “sloppily kissed” female workers on the mouth and would frequently provide lurid details of his sexual escapades. He is also accused of criticizing women for wearing dresses that weren’t “tight enough” and forced a woman “to look at a photograph of a nude sculpture in an art book, asking her if she had ever seen a more erotic picture.”

The women also alleged that men in the workplace knew of Wieseltier’s behavior, yet did nothing about it.

Additionally, The Atlantic reports that some women had what they called “Leon stories” involving “everything from being called ‘sweetie’ in the workplace to unwanted touching, kissing, groping, and other sexual advances” and that there were rumors at The New Republic that Wieseltier frequently “bragged graphically about sexual encounters the way a teenaged boy might.” Former New Republic editor Michelle Cottle told The Atlantic that Wieseltier “delights in making women sexually uncomfortable.”

Wieseltier has a lengthy resume in the field of writing and commentating, having spent 30 years as the literary editor of The New Republic and is a current contributor to The Atlantic. He is now the latest person to be hit by the #MeToo movement of women sharing their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace.

#MeToo: No More To Violence and Degradation

Rabbi Yoshi ZweibackRabbi Yoshi Zweiback granted me permission to share his moving and meaningful #MeToo sermon from Friday, October 20, 2017 at Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California:

“This is the line of Noah: Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God.”

It was good that Noah walked with God. It was good that he was blameless in his age. It was good that he was a righteous man.

Because no one else was.

According to our tradition, Noah was the only righteous man of his generation. Everyone else was pretty much disgusting.

Our Torah portion this week tells us in fact that the whole world had become corrupt.

The great medieval commentator, Rashi, tells us that the Hebrew word “וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת” refers to a particular type of corruption – ערווה, usually translated as “liscentiousness” – sexual depravity.

WATCH: Soulful Shabbat Service Oct 20 2017 with Rabbi Yoshi’s sermon

Rashi notes that according to the midrash, ערווה so offends God that it leads ultimately to indiscriminate punishment, the “end of all flesh,” a punishment that is meted out on good people and bad people alike. It, in the words of the midrash, is something that הוֹרֶגֶת טוֹבִים וְרָעִים – it kills both the righteous and the wicked.

What a parasha for this week.

Like many of you I’m sure, I’ve been reading one #metoo story after another on facebook.

Friends, classmates, colleagues sharing horrifying stories of aggression, discrimination, degradation, humiliation, and violence.

Details of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior and the degree to which so many were complicit in it continue to emerge. There is a corruption, a type of ערווה in this town, in the entertainment industry, and – more broadly – in our world, that is gross, disgusting, nauseating.

How should we respond? What should we do? How can we make things better?

Although I had a mother and I have a sister, a spouse and three daughters, it is very difficult for me to relate personally to so many of the stories I read.

I’ve found it helpful, though, to simply try to listen to the experiences of others.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Margaret Renkl shared a moving piece about her own experiences. A few years back, she found herself sitting around her kitchen table with her sons. The subject of travel came up and her boys asked her why she hadn’t backpacked around Europe like their father had.

Here’s what she shared with them:

“It’s dangerous for a woman to camp alone,” I finally said at the table that night. “There are women who do it, but I’m not that brave.”
My children grew up with stories of their father’s adventures. They did not grow up with stories of mine. I didn’t tell them the story of the 16-year-old family “friend” who babysat while his parents and mine went out to dinner the year I was 11, how he followed me around the apartment, tugging on my blouse and telling me I should take it off, pulling at the elastic waistband of my pants and telling me I should take them off, how I finally locked myself in my bedroom and didn’t come out till my parents got home.

I didn’t tell my children the story of walking with my friend to the town hardware store when we were 14. I didn’t tell them that my friend used her babysitting money to buy a screwdriver and a deadbolt lock to keep her older brother out of her room at night.

I didn’t tell my children the story of my first job, the job I started the week I turned 16, and how the manager kept making excuses to go back to the storeroom whenever I was at the fry station, how he would squeeze his corpulent frame between the counter and me, dragging his sweaty crotch across my rear end on each trip…

There is nothing unusual about these stories. They are the ho-hum, everyday experiences of virtually every woman I know, and such stories rarely get told. There will never be a powerful social-media movement that begins, ‘Today I ate breakfast’ or ‘Today my dog pooped and I cleaned it up’ or ‘Today I washed my hair with the same shampoo I’ve been buying since 2006.’ We tell the stories that are remarkable in some way, stories that are surprising, utterly unexpected. The quotidian doesn’t make for a good tale.

And maybe that’s why the avalanche of stories on Twitter and Facebook this week has been so powerful. It started on Oct. 5, when The New York Times first broke the story of accusations of sexual harassment against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but it became a juggernaut 10 days later, when the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within minutes the hashtag #MeToo was all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — over 500,000 times on Twitter and 12 million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours alone — and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. The numbers keep ticking up as women tell the stories of men who used their power to overwhelm or coerce them.” (“The Raw Power of #metoo “-NY Times, Oct 19, 2017)

There is a terrible corruption in this world.

In this week’s Torah portion, God gets so fed up with humanity that She decides to start over, to destroy Her creation and begin again.
Our parasha tells us that Noah was indeed righteous.

But he is criticized by the rabbis who contrast Noah’s behavior with the behavior of Abraham. When Noah is told that God wishes to destroy the world, he says nothing. He builds the ark and saves his own family but he does nothing to address the core issue, the fundamental problem, the corruption that so angered God.

And maybe that’s one of the lessons for us. It’s not enough to be upright in your own behavior. Of course each of us at work and in our interactions with others wherever we are should behave according to the highest standards of our tradition and be particularly careful not to degrade, humiliate or harass – ever. But our tradition requires us to go farther: we have to actively work to build communities where the norms and standards of upright behavior in this regard are widely embraced so that we can build a world where 14 year old young women don’t need to put deadbolts on their bedroom doors.

On a closed facebook page for Reform rabbis, I read many stories of female colleagues across the country who have felt uncomfortable in their own shuls because congregants or co-workers had made comments about their dress and their appearance. They shared stories of being hugged or kissed at the oneg when they didn’t feel comfortable with that type of touch.

We can and we must do better. And we have to help each other as a community to do better.

If you didn’t hear Rabbi Knobel’s powerful and moving High Holy Day sermon about gender violence, you can find the video of it on our website (https://youtu.be/B5S2opBM_Ss). And if you heard it, watch again and think about it in the light of what we’ve seen over the past two weeks.

And I invite you, if you feel comfortable doing so, to share any of your experiences and any suggestions you have about how we can make this sacred space more comfortable for you and about how we can work together to change things in our City of Angels where so many of those awful, awful stories we’ve been reading took place. And then we must change things more broadly so that the violence and degradation, the terrible corruption that led God to want to destroy the whole wide world will become a distant memory so that no woman or man will ever again have to say “#metoo.”

Thank you to Rabbi Yoshi and Stephen Wise Temple for all you do: 

“We make meaning and change the world.”

אנחנו יוצרים משמעות ומשנים את העולם.

Women of the World Say: Enough

One of the quirks of publishing a weekly paper is that the news moves so fast that by the time you’re on the newsstand, everything can shift.  For this issue, we were preparing a cover story on “the complicity of silence” around the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

And then Sunday happened.

Actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter the words “Me too” and suggested that women who have faced sexual assault and harassment post “Me too” as a status. Well, within 24 hours, the words were repeated millions of times. Her tweet had more than 40,000 comments. On Facebook, more than 8.7 million users were posting or “talking” about it.

By the time we arrived at the office on Monday, the floodgates had opened. Instead of a complicity of silence, we were seeing the reverse — millions of women rising up and saying, Enough. No more silence. No more abuse. No more complicity.

A movement was unfolding before our eyes.

Our coverage shifted to reflect this fast-moving development. The story became larger than Harvey Weinstein and even larger than Hollywood. And it’s not new. Women are sharing incidents from their high school years, from college, from jobs. Women rabbis wrote about being harassed by colleagues and by congregants.

A movement was unfolding before our eyes.

First, we had to cover the event that precipitated these floodgates and explain how we got here. Senior writer Danielle Berrin does just that in her cover story on the Weinstein sex scandal and its many repercussions. We also asked Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman to share her thoughts on the #MeToo movement that has exploded across social media.

“The ocean of tears needs to evoke a sea change,” Zimmerman writes.

Will a sea change happen? Or will this movement evaporate until the next scandal or hurricane or terrorist attack comes along? In the coming weeks and months, the Journal will continue to keep an eye on this story and examine the role of our own community.

From Israel, one of our new contributors, Dahlia Scheindlin, asks if there’s a “Jewish answer” to the disease of sexual harassment. Her answer may surprise you.

While the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement were reverberating last week, the news kept churning.

Senior writer Eitan Arom reports on the devastating wildfires in Northern California and how the Jewish community is responding to the destruction at URJ Camp Newman. On our debate page, two experts argue the merits of President Donald Trump’s changes to the Affordable Care Act.

On a more uplifting note, Kelly Hartog covers a synagogue in Pico-Robertson that invites homeless people to engage with one another over a meal. They’ve been doing it every month for the past 13 years.

From Portland, Ore., Alicia Jo Rabins writes about how teaching the Hebrew alphabet connects her to her ancestors, while from Washington, D.C., Joshua Horwitz tells us why he’s not letting cynicism get in the way of his gun control activism.

Can Judaism help us regain our balance in a crazy world that is moving too fast? Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson writes about the special energy that greets us after a long month of Jewish holidays, and how that energy can help us attain that balance. Arianna Huffington shares her own ideas on the subject in our back-page Q-and-A.

And speaking of balance, this week we are trying something new — an exchange between denominations. Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and Reform Rabbi Laura Geller engage in an email discussion around the “true meaning of tikkun olam.” The idea for this page came when someone said, “Instead of preaching civility, why don’t we give an example?”

Can Judaism help us regain our balance in a crazy world that is moving too fast?

Of course, we can’t forget food. In addition to a full serving of the arts, we have Yamit’s Table. Just as she was passionate last week about egg salad, this week Yamit Behar Wood devotes her culinary passion to the miracle of the phyllo dough. It seems as if every culinary tradition in the world has its own version of phyllo dough stuffed with unique flavors and ingredients. In this issue, Yamit shares a Bulgarian recipe from her childhood, the Spinach Banitsa.

In her own words: “Nothing beats a fresh, hot, crisp banitsa right out of the oven. NOTHING!”

Yes, even in a world where darkness strikes, there’s still room to emote over a good banitsa.

Shabbat shalom.