In his recent article, “How CNN’s ‘Believer’ Smears Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox As Intolerant ‘Black Peril’” published in the Forward, Rabbi Avi Shafran takes issue with CNN religion reporter Reza Aslan’s portrayal of Haredi Jews in Israel as “bent on creating an oppressive theocracy.” Shafran, who believes Aslan’s piece maligned the Haredi, used his op-ed to depict the ultra-Orthodox of Israel as simply wanting their “space and their traditions.”

I disagree with Aslan’s conclusions that Haredi “demographic changes pose a severe threat to Israel’s status as a modern, secular democracy.” I have faith that Israel will continue to remain a free country. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with Rabbi Shafran either. The fact of the matter is that there is growing extremism in Israel, yet Rabbi Shafran presents an alternate reality and whitewashes this truth. That this is done by a rabbi who serves as a spokesperson for much of the Orthodox world is part of this very problem.

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Originally published in In Jerusalem, April 28, 2017

Planning a meaningful, enjoyable and affordable event to celebrate a bar/bat mitzva, wedding or anniversary can be daunting. Doing so from across the world can be exponentially harder. Yet, every year, that is exactly what thousands of Jews from around the world do in order to celebrate their smahot in Israel.

The calm before the guests arrive

Celebrating in Israel connects the celebrants with their nation, land and history. It also provides an opportunity to add meaningful elements to the occasion that go beyond a party, by partaking in one of the many hessed (charitable kindness) opportunities available specifically for people marking their occasions here.

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Originally published in In Jerusalem, March 10, 2017

 

Noam and Noa wanted to marry according to Jewish law and tradition, but wanted nothing to do with the Chief Rabbinate. Both felt that, with its stranglehold on marriage and more importantly, divorce, where the rabbinate must approve a couple’s desire to divorce before it can be implemented, the institution does more harm than good.

They searched high and low for a way that would enable them to marry according to Halacha, without having to encounter the rabbinate at all.

Why would a young couple on the verge of starting a new life together be thinking of the end of their marriage?

Jewish law mandates that when a couple seeks divorce, it is the husband who must give the bill of divorce (get) to his wife, and she must accept it. Aguna is the term used to describe a woman trapped in marriage, while she awaits the delivery of a get from her husband. According to traditional Jewish sources, the classic case of an aguna was a woman whose husband
could not be found. One whose husband was lost at sea, did not return from a journey, or was missing in action; those are the traditional agunot. Continue reading

Originally published in the In Jerusalem, January 13, 2017

I would not have admitted to ANYONE what I was going through. I wore my “great mother” face publicly. I admitted to being tired, a bit overwhelmed, but nothing I did not perceive as “normal with a small baby.” The only times I used the phrase postpartum depression was to my therapists and to Google….if you admit to wanting to harm your baby or yourself, people judge you. When you say you’re overwhelmed, people understand that… They don’t get that you feel like you are drowning and can’t see the way out. They don’t get that you literally feel suffocated and are grasping to hang on.

–Naomi 40, on her experience with PPD

It often takes a tragedy to raise public awareness of many people suffering in silence. The shocking murder suicide of a mother and her children in Jerusalem brought the words postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression to the headlines across the country.

Approximately one in eight women experience PPD, but the public knows little about it. Like other mental illnesses, few want to discuss it.

To break the taboos and open the conversation, I turned to some experts to understand what to look out for and what to do if someone seems to need help.

Ahava Winston, the  director of NITZA, dedicated solely to helping women suffering prenatal and postpartum reactions, explains, “Postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression are only two of the numerous potential reactions related to pregnancy and birth. The most common is Postpartum Blues, which affects 80-90% of women… and usually resolves on its own within the first two weeks….it can however, become PP Adjustment Disorder, which affects one in five women, where a woman functions outwardly, but feels anxiety and self-doubt. With support, PPAD can resolve without professional intervention. However, without emotional and instrumental support, it may deteriorate into the more serious clinical reaction, Postpartum Depression. Continue reading