March is Women's History Month and across the country organizations celebrate the achievements of women past and present. This program enrichment guide synthesizes resources available from the Schusterman International Center, our colleagues in the field, and our partner agencies in preparation and support for your programs on campus. Your feedback is welcome and encouraged.
"Everything derives from woman." - Midrash: Genesis Rabbah, 17
Feminism, the campaign for equal rights, and so much more have laid the foundation for this generation of women. Opportunities have been made and doors have been opened for women that were unheard of thirty years ago.
Generally, the recognition of women in accounts of Jewish history has often been overlooked. Only in the past few decades has the influence of women in Judaism been recognized, yet the voices and experiences of women in Judaism are still largely neglected.
According to the 2002 Campus Strategic Services - Self Assessment Survey, nearly half of the 110 Hillel Foundations (does not include HPC or schools served by the Soref Initiative) now have a Women's Group of some kind. Many more offer programming targeted to their female students. In the field, 74 out of 158 Directors (46%) are women. The percentage increases dramatically for Program Professionals where 113 of 166 are women (68%). Of rabbis working in Hillel (in all positions, on all types of campuses), 14 of 59 are women (23%).
What follows are learnings, tips, and links to be used as resources for your Women's Programming on campus:
Eshet Chayil - A Modern Text Study on Women of "Chayil"
In honor of Women's History Month, Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning and the Jewish Women's Archive are pleased to present a post-modern Talmud page on Eshet Chayil, which is the Biblical portrayal of the ideal Jewish woman. This Talmud page examines the tensions and sparks between the Eshet Chayil text (Proverbs 31:10-31), traditional Jewish commentary and the voices of modern "Women of Valor." Join Beruriah, Bella Abzug, and several others in a dynamic conversation about the meaning and impact of a woman of "chayil."
Strategies for Successful Women's Programming
Six (of many) goals for women's programming:
1. Inspiring and Empowering Jewish Women on Campus
2. Helping Jewish women on campus make personal and professional connections with community mentors.
3. Bringing an awareness of issues and challenges facing Jewish women and offering strategies for overcoming these obstacles.
Last spring at the University of California, Santa Barbara, students inspired by hearing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand, worked with their JCSC Fellow to hold a program about women in power. This program was designed to inspire women on campus to set high goals for themselves and work toward them. Invited speakers were from the fields of Jewish Communal Service, Politics and the Entertainment industry, and all addressed the question "What Lessons for Life would you give to Young Jewish Women". Students were inspired by the presenters, and learned that while it's possible to be a strong and successful Jewish woman, the road is not always easy.
4. Developing a sense of community among women
5. Exploring spirituality and prayer as women
Students at Hebrew University planned a Women's Shabbaton to further develop their ongoing Rosh Chodesh group. Students were given the opportunity to explore the connections between their Jewishness, their identity as women, their sense of community, and their connection to Israel. Programming tracked the journey from personal to communal, thereby providing a context for exploration and understanding. The participants responded well to the programming, and continued the discussions on their own during meals. In addition, this Shabbaton was part of an ongoing Rosh Chodesh program, which was a key to providing context for the experience.
6. Empowering women as leaders
Are you partnering or cosponsoring the program with either an on-campus or off-campus organization?
At Washington University in St. Louis, the Aviva Conference engaged Jewish women identified as leaders in their sororities, or emerging as leaders on campus. The theme of the conference was the challenge of weaving Judaism into your career, community work, and family. In addition, the conference gave women leaders on campus the opportunity to meet with female Jewish leaders in the St. Louis who could serve as mentors to the students. The conference was completely organized by students.
The Women's Resource Center on campus is often a great resource and wonderful co-sponsor, as is the Women's Studies Department. Look to other campus departments and organizations as well. The Literature Department is a natural co-sponsor for a poetry reading or book group, and the Political Science Department can help you find women in local politics to be part of a program. Your local community has resources as well. Is there a Hadassah or National Council of Jewish Women group in your neighborhood? What about working with the Women's Division of your local Federation? You'll not only meet potential board members, but you'll meet future mentors for your students.Think creatively; try something new and different for your campus.
Organize an Avon Breast Cancer Walk team. Have a seminar on the "glass ceiling" with your women faculty. Take a field trip to a mikvah. Dry mount posters from the Jewish Women's Archive series and make a portable gallery.
Campus to Campus
University of South Florida: Mind, Body and Soul
The women's group at the University of South Florida is exploring mind, body and soul through different programs. A program entitled "What does it mean to me to be a Jewish Woman," addressed issues of the soul, whereas "Pottery Painting" was art therapy for the mind. Students are in the process of planning a campus-wide program entitled "Breast Fest," in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month addressing issues of the body. The group's goal is for each woman to find her own enlightenment as a Jewish woman.Hillel at Davis and Sacramento (HADAS): Community Partnerships
HADAS students have worked with the MorningStar Commission, which is a select group of professionals in the entertainment industry, whose goal is "to promote and affirm positive and diverse images of Jewish women in the media." Coming up HADAS will be sponsoring holiday programming for women, in addition to Rosh Chodesh Programming and will create programming and dialogue for lesbian women. HADAS is also planning a learning session to help dispel the Jewish American Princess stereotype. University of Iowa: Jewish Women's Voices
Jewish Women's Voices at the University of Iowa, is an umbrella under which many programs operate. The group's main activity is a biweekly coffee talk on a Jewish gender issue. Past topics include Halakhah and Body Image, Women and Prayer: Traditional and Egalitarian Views, Lilith: Myth and Mayhem, and Jewish and Lesbian. The members of the group rotate leading discussions by choosing a topic of interest and becoming the expert for the evening. Jewish Women's Voices is also planning for an evening of Israeli folk dance, and its inaugural Rosh Chodesh Minyan. Other plans include sponsoring a film for the campus Jewish film series and holding a women's seder.University of Pittsburgh: Jewish Women's Organization
This group at the University of Pittsburgh has done a self-defense night, created a Havdalah kit and done a women's Shabbat dinner with the National Council of Jewish Women. The Jewish Women's Organization is also participating in a mini-conference with Hadassah, entitled "Healthy Women, Healthy Lives." The keynote speaker is Dr. Ruth Westheimer. They are also starting a weekly woman's minyan on Friday nights. Ohio State University: Maximize the Cash: A Woman's Guide to Post-Grad Money Matters
The Jewish Women's Collective at Ohio State University had a need to fill. They brought Assistant Financial Planner Jen Bunker from Budros & Ruhlin Wealth Management Firm and Rachel Friedman, Global Account manager at Herman Miller Furniture, to learn more about how to minimize the burden of college loans and credit debt to maximize post-graduation cash flow. Audrey Tuckerman, 1st Vice President of Paine Webber, then discussed how to get the best from possible benefits like 401K, bonuses, profit sharing, and stock options during a student's first salary negotiations.Programming Resources - Women Programming Partners
This program guide contains five great program and discussion ideas, and is designed to be used alongside Lilith magazine to inspire campus programming relating to Jewish women's issues. Many of the program ideas are applicable to both women and men and we encourage you to be creative with the ideas, and the texts. For more information, contact Lilith Magazine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't have a copy of the magazine - don't worry! Many libraries carry it, as do major mega-bookstores.MyJewishLearning.com
Hillel has partnered with MyJewishLearning.com to promote Jewish literacy through this valuable project of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. MyJewishLearning.com is a new site devoted to all aspects of Jewish life, Jewish history, values, beliefs, and culture. Read the article, "Feminist Critique of God Language" by Neil Gillman.Jewish Women's Archive: Women of Valor Program
Jewish Feminist Resources
This Web page contains information relating to all aspects of women's programming, book lists, websites, and many other useful women's programming resources.The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS)
WUJS has put together a great resource on Rosh Chodesh programming. HERitage and HIStory - A Celebration of Jewish Women, provides you with materials and activities devoted to Jewish women. It is a resource book filled with ideas, concepts, and methods for Rosh Chodesh programming, with different programs for each month of the year.
Rosh Chodesh/Women's Groups on Campus
Rosh Chodesh is no longer the reason more Hillel's are seeing women's groups under their programming umbrella. Women's groups are filling an important need on campus; a time for women to discuss issues, learn from each other, engage with speakers, and celebrate Rosh Chodesh.
Use Hillel's Rosh Chodesh Groups Guide >>
Women in Israel
Company Jasmine is an Israeli documentary film, the first in-depth look at the arduous but prestigious IDF (The Israel Defense Force) officer's training course for women. This documentary follows five cadets throughout their 17-week course in Company Jasmine. Tal, Efrat, Yafit, Noa and Sivan and their commanding officer, Rotem, represent the various faces of Israel's female population - a mirror of Israeli society today. The cadets must contend with the desire to be the equals of men, and deal with significant questions: their identity, in their own eyes and in those of society; femininity and the military; battle readiness and command.
The film is in Hebrew with English subtitles (57 min). Create a whole program around this film by contacting your local Israeli consulate to find a speaker to discuss women's rights in Israel. Reminder: Be sure to cosponsor this event with the women's group on campus. To request this film please contact NCJF@brandeis.edu.
Funding for Women's Programming
Many communities have either a Jewish Women's Foundation (often housed at the local Federation), or a Community Women's Foundation. With plenty of lead time to develop a program and write a grant, both sources may be able to provide support for your program. You'll also be developing relationships with potential lay leaders, and advertising your Hillel to them (even if they choose not to fund your grant proposal). Many Student Government Associations look favorably at programs related to popular issues, but also can bring together a significant portion of the campus community for a program or series of programs. Again, this gives the students an opportunity to create relationships with partners on campus which may not have existed in the past.
Don't forget the Men!
With all the talk on programming for women, we can't forget about the men. Alpha Epsilon Pi (a Jewish fraternity) has experienced growth far beyond their expectations this year. According to Shawn Lichaa, Director of Programming, he is finding that more and more, men on campus are looking for internships, job opportunities, and career guidance. Obviously these are not just issues for men, but they are a good indication of directions that our programs can take in working with this population. Shawn adds that athletics, food, and competition remain eternal constants in programming for men as well.
Download the "Women and Judaism" reading list, suggested by Esther Abramowitz, associate director of programming Hillels in Israel and the Former Soviet Union.
"Women and Judaism" suggested reading list (PDF file 16k)
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