Bibi's competition

At the home of a well-known Jerusalem personality last Friday night, the hosts and the guests all admitted that they hadn’t been watching Bibi because they’d been glued to the channels broadcasting the Blasey Ford – Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, September 27, 2018 (photo credit: JIM BOURG/ REUTERS)
US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, September 27, 2018
(photo credit: JIM BOURG/ REUTERS)
It's a well-known fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu times his most important appearances to coincide with evening news broadcasts on Israeli television channels. Even when he addresses the UN General Assembly, as he did last week, he’s essentially talking to his electorate – to the folks back home in Israel, and if the message is sufficiently riveting, all other news is suspended while the Israeli channels focus on the PM.
But this time he had competition.
At the home of a well-known Jerusalem personality last Friday night, the hosts and the guests all admitted that they hadn’t been watching Bibi because they’d been glued to the channels broadcasting the Blasey Ford – Brett Kavanaugh hearings. They already knew that Netanyahu would deliver more of the same vis-à-vis Iran and they figured correctly that they could catch up with his broadcast later. The host of the Friday night dinner in Jerusalem is a retired businessman, who once controlled an empire. The allegations against Kavanaugh shocked him – not because they might be true, but because no matter what the outcome, Kavanaugh’s reputation will be permanently stained and the allegations will in one way or another affect the rest of his life.
The host, a well-known international personality, pondered what could have happened if any of his own female staff had taken it into her head to accuse him of something that he had not done. In the #MeToo world of today men can be falsely accused. That’s not to say that any woman who has suffered sexual harassment or aggression is not telling the truth, but there are also women who want to punish a man for some reason. It’s just too easy these days to ruin a man’s reputation, his career and his marriage.
Where there is a genuine need to report to law enforcement authorities, this should be done, but public allegations and accusations should be illegal until there is actual proof of sexual impropriety.
Listening to the dissertations of women scholars of biblical texts during Simhat Torah provided food for thought about how much intellectual wisdom had been denied to the world for centuries because women were kept out of universities and religious seminaries.
Three years ago, a Simhat Torah Sium (conclusion) of a Bible study for and by women was initiated by Rivka Moshel at the Hazvi Yisrael congregation, the bulk of whose members are native English speakers, mostly from the US. The women met for an hour on Monday morning, missing out on part of the synagogue service, but each of those who spoke gave a fascinating address. Of the 90 women who prepared material during the year, there was time to hear only five:
Tzilia Sacharow, who spoke of Ezra, told her audience that up until the time of Ezra, religious identity was patrilineal, but prior to the return to Zion from Babylon, Ezra made all the men divorce their Babylonian wives, after which religious identity stemmed from the mother and not the father. Devorah Hirsch chose to speak on the Torah portion of Lech Lecha in its wider context. Tirtza Mann gave a short but comprehensive address on the prophet Amos. Ida Fry who loves reading Psalms, focused on the 91st Psalm, which teaches people to keep faith in the face of adversity. Hadassah Jacob gave a fascinating synopsis of a longer address on Joseph and his reunion with his brothers and the question that he put to them: “Is my father still living?” rather than “Is our father still living?”
Each woman had her own style, as did Moshel, who gave an introductory address based on the importance of circles and cycles, pointing out that whereas in a square,not all parts of the frame are equidistant to the center, in a circle all parts of the circumference are the same distance to the center.
This was just one example of Jewish scholarship on the distaff side. Today, happily there are numerous outlets for females to study sacred Jewish texts and to share their knowledge via social media and at live events in public auditoriums and from school and university platforms.
However, in certain sectors of society, they are still being held back, which means that the wisdom they could potentially impart to their children and to other people is being stifled.
Tel Aviv is where Yiddishpiel, Yung Yidish, Sholem Aleichem House, and Leyvik House are all headquartered and Tel Aviv University runs an annual summer program in Yiddish. The Hebrew University has had a Yiddish Department since 1962, but it is not as well known. Now Yiddishists and people who want to study Yiddish in Jerusalem have an additional option and can enroll for an eight-session course at the Shazar Center in Betar Street, where they can study Yiddish culture, literature, language and folklore under the direction of Prof. Hava Turnianski, HU emerita professor of Yiddish.