Grapevine: 'I am woman, hear me roar'

A new campaign makes women seen and heard; Government ministers celebrate in gold at the 12th World Bukharan Jewish Congress; 101 year-old Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv hires a spokesman.

Shadow of women 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shadow of women 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
■ IN RESPONSE to the removal of women’s faces from billboards and newspaper advertisements in Jerusalem due to pressures exerted by certain haredi extremists, Shira Ben-Sasson, the grants officer at the New Israel Fund, has mounted a campaign to ensure that women still have a place in the public domain. She is collecting photographs of women holding up a large sign that reads “Women should be seen and heard.”
She is inviting women to have a photograph of themselves taken with the sign and to e-mail the photo to The photos should also be posted on the Facebook walls of the subjects. The campaign organizers are compiling the photos they receive into a poster that will be displayed at key junctions in Jerusalem.
The campaign is not limited to female residents of the capital. Women from all over can participate.
“When advertisers eliminate images of women, they reinforce a worldview in which women must be hidden, where women can’t have any meaningful role outside the home,” says Ben-Sasson. “That’s what happens when religious extremism overwhelms basic freedom – and that’s unacceptable.”
In addition to the photo campaign, the New Israel Fund will distribute $35,000 to a series of initiatives that address this problem.
■ SHALSHELET, WHICH aims to get Jewish singles to join the mating game, hosted a sing-along on Thursday for singles in the 26-to-39 age group. The spirited event was led by singer and pianist Michal Shauly. Ordinarily that would be par for the course, but the event was in Jerusalem. Shauly is a woman, the function was mixed gender, and the venue was the Yeshurun Synagogue, which is Orthodox.
■ AT A time when so many people throughout the country are living below the poverty line and are calling for social justice, it’s not the best idea in the world to cloak government ministers in gold. But tradition is, after all, tradition, and one of the traditions of Bukhara is to dress an honored guest in the ornately gold embroidered coats that are part of Bukhara’s ceremonial attire.
Thus government ministers who participated in the 12th World Bukharan Jewish Congress at the Jerusalem International Convention Center were honored with the same style of raiment as that worn by WBJC President Lev Leviev. The meeting took place in Jerusalem in celebration of the 120th anniversary of the capital’s Bukharan neighborhood, whose residents still include a large percentage of people of Bukharan origin.
Since many Bukharan Jews are related to each other by bloodline or marriage, Leviev thought that it was important for Bukharan Jews from around the world to come and see where their ancestors lived when they first came to the Jewish homeland.
The great-grandparents and the great-great-grandparents of the participants had given charity to educational institutions in the Holy Land in the hope that the ancestral and spiritual homeland would one day become an independent Jewish state.
Those hopes had been realized, and it was of great importance to Leviev that the current younger generation of Bukharan adults be aware of this and of the significance that Bukharans had attached to education.
Ministers participating in the congress gathering included Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein; Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Other participants included Mayor Nir Barkat and Uzbekistan Ambassador Oybek Ishanov.
Imbibing the atmosphere of the environment, Yishai said, “Whoever isn’t a Bukharan tonight wants to be one.”
Sa’ar said that his relatives on his mother’s side had come to Jerusalem 110 years ago and purchased property in the Bukharan Quarter, where social justice, love and respect for fellow human beings, mutual responsibility and moral values had been the norm.
■ ONE IS never too old to start something new. At age 101, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, widely regarded as the most authoritative interpreter of Halacha, has taken on a spokesman. From now on Shlomo Kook, a journalist and former student of Elyashiv’s, will deal with any media queries to the learned rabbi.
It has nothing to do with Elyashiv, the undisputed leader of the global Lithuanian haredi community, wanting to improve his image. It’s simply that he is so immersed in Torah study that he has no time to deal with answering the questions of the media – although given what is happening in Jerusalem right now, there are a lot of halachic questions that the media might want to ask.