Gender Balance in the Jewish Spotlight

by Naomi Less

My fans and readers are familiar with inspiring pieces I share that are written by others about gender, sexuality and girl empowerment. But recently, I have been blogging with discouragement about women’s under-representation in Jewish communal endeavors and initiatives. (Click here for the original blog post). Based on four events in the last six months, and the unsatisfactory responses I have received, I am committed to working on this, even as my speaking out comes at some risk to my own musical career.

Here is a round-up of recent communal lapses of judgment on the gender front, the suggestions I offered, and the lack of follow-up from some of our communal leaders.

Episode 1: November’s Jewish Futures Conference (sponsored by The Jewish Education Project, JESNA’s Lipmann Kanfer Institute, The Covenant Foundation and Jewish Federations of North America) featured spotlight presentations by the Jewish Futures video competition winners – all of whom were men. I challenged professionals involved in the competition to explain this under-representation. Their responses:

  • Few women submitted videos;
  • The few women who made it into the finals were not up to par with the men’s ideas.

Note: some professionals involved expressed a desire to explore whether the competition medium – video creation – was gender-tilted, skewing the participation towards men. Organizers did discuss gender imbalance before and after the conference with Advancing Women Professionals, an organization devoted to advancing women into leadership positions in Jewish life. But it was too little too late. Upon learning of the gender-imbalanced applicant pool, they reached out to two women to apply but there wasn’t enough time for them to submit.

Episode 2: The National Ramah Commission, in honor of its 60th anniversary, published a compendium of essays about Ramah in which women were grossly underrepresented. Out of 34 essays, four are authored by women, and an additional three are co-written by women. When I challenged the leadership to explain the under-representation, this was the response:

  • The gender differential will work itself out by anniversary #70.
  • There just weren’t a lot of women involved back in Ramah’s history who could write about the past.
  • There aren’t a lot of women in current Ramah leadership positions from whom to draw essays.

This response is unsatisfactory and untrue. There are many young talented women in leadership positions during the SUMMER. There are few, though who ascend to top year-round leadership positions. As an alumnus and former staff member, I offered to connect National Ramah with Advancing Women Professionals in order to help the Ramah leadership work on retention and advancement of women. They thanked me for my suggestions – I have heard no follow up.

Episode 3: This year’s Jewlicious Festival has NO women in headliner spots at the festival’s concert night. Jewlicious co-founder David Abitbol wrote a detailed response, listing a number of women who have performed at the festival over the years. A committee (of primarily college students) selects and invites the musical line-up; festival director Rabbi Yonah Bookstein has ’very little say‘. I’m unconvinced. As head of the festival, if Rabbi Yonah felt strongly about gender balance he could set that as a priority.

Issue #4: The Jewish Heroes Competition, run by the JFNA, is a popularity contest. Finalists are chosen according to the number of votes they receive from the public. Both years of the competition, “we” selected males as our “Jewish Community Heroes”. This year, out of 10 finalists, 7 were men. The 17-person judging panel selecting the final 5 finalists comprised 11 men and 6 women. With some women involved in the final choice of hero and many female nominees in the nominee pool, one wonders why so few women made it to the finalist pool. It invokes questions around popularity contests, the requisite of self-promotion and how the Jewish community values the work that women are doing.

Planning a Jewish conference, festival, publication or panel event?
Ask your organizational team to review the following questions:

  1. An institution’s leader is responsible for developing, nurturing and conveying the organization’s values to their committees – volunteer or paid. Do those values include balanced gender representation? Has your leader imparted these values in the people who are representing you – like a selection committee?
  2. Look at your lineup. What’s the ratio of men to women in HEADLINER/mainstage slots? Are women relegated to a side-stage or less popular time? If your group doesn’t KNOW any of the many talented, capable women performers (or speakers, or presenters, etc.) out there, ask people in your network, crowdsource and correct the imbalance.
  3. Review your selection committee members. Demographers estimate that the Jewish community is 51% female. Is that gender balance represented in your selection committees? What is your committee’s nomination practice – in suggesting presenters? Is each committee member granted a full and equal voice?
  4. How are women performers treated, before, during and after the event? Watch out for mistreatment, misogyny, relegation to the sidelines, and condescension.

And Now, an Offer You Can’t Refuse:
If you have difficulty in finding women to feature at your event, I am happy to connect you with many organizations, artists, musicians, or other presenters for whom gender balance is a core value. Trust me, there’s a woman out there who is competent, talented, dynamic and ready to present for your group.

In the spirit of Purim, Mordechai’s words to Esther – calling her to advocacy and action, ring true for me right now. As we consider the subject of gender equality, the sentiment of the Megillah – that it was for precisely this time and reason that I arrived to this place – echo. We may fear the outcomes of outspokenness, but this is a time when we must speak out, sound an alarm and demand a change.

I add my voice to those of the many women AND men who have done much heavy lifting in breaking down gender disparity in the Jewish public sphere. Adding your own voices, opinions and direct actions will lead to change in our community. Let the conversations and actions begin.

Naomi Less is a Jewish rock singer and spiritual-ritual musician, experiential educator and educational trainer. Her project, Jewish Chicks Rock empowers and ignites young Jewish women and girls to pick up instruments and express themselves through music. Naomi tours year-round with her band, providing concerts and educational workshops to all ages and stages.

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Comments

  1. Love it Love it Love it and am thrilled to report that at yesterday’s Future of Nonprofit Summit Israel- ejewishphilanthropy’s own Dan Brown thanked the organizers for having the most gender balanced conference he’s been to in a long time!

    Sign me up to your intiatives!

  2. @naomi, I agree that there is still much improvement to be had regarding the place and representation of women in many areas of the Jewish world, both professionally and on main stages of major events and I was also at #fonsi yesterday with Shoshanna and pleased to see such a balance of the sexes.

    However, in defense to one of your episodes/issues, while I was not able to attend this year’s Jewlicious festival b/c I was at #fonsi, and while there might not have been a female headliner at Jewlicious this year – I attended and spoke on multiple panels at Jewlicious 6.0 including a panel on LGBT and Gender issues.

    As such, as a woman, musician (I’m a clarinetist) and personally speaking on gender issues and bias in relation to JConnect and Jewlicious – I cannot speak highly enough of the sensitivity, lack of bias, and genuine work of the entire team from Rabbi Yonah, to his wife Rachel (who is HIGHLY involved), David Abitbol, all the way down to the staff & volunteers.

  3. Sorry…but when I go to a conference , a concert or symposium I want the best person available and do not judge by the placement of their genitalia.Enough already. If you don’t like the choices these groups make, don’t belong start our own.

  4. It’s great to hear your voice raised in challenge, Naomi, especially followed by your offer to help our community make tshuva and right the wrong. We at Moving Traditions work to empower Jewish girls — and now boys — to see a place for themselves in Judaism and Jewish life. Yet even with the gains of the last 30 years there is so much progress to be made. As neuroscientist Lise Eliot writes in her book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, there is not a great deal of difference in the brains of girls and boys. And girls indeed are leading boys in many indicators of academic success. How we nurture our children makes a great deal of difference. When girls graduate college we see the power imbalance shift and young men fall behind young men in earning power and status. There is much to be done in the Jewish world and communal leaders should be leading — thinking about how to include men and women in every aspect of Jewish life.

  5. Correction! I meant to say, “When girls graduate college we see the power imbalance shift and young WOMEN fall behind young men in earning power and status. There is much to be done in the Jewish world and communal leaders should be leading — thinking about how to include men and women in every aspect of Jewish life.”

  6. Elise- there ae enough capable, bright and worthy women that if they aren’t there its an issue- women bring unique and fabulous perspectives.

  7. Naomi,
    You surfaced really good points! Definitely worthy of further discussions and research…LOVEed the timing i.e.,Esther/Purim theme!
    Oh and just as a reminder to us all: GENDER was NOT part of the original Affirmative Action legistlation(gender was added years later)and clearly didnt happen on its own…
    Thank You Naomi for a great article!!

  8. OK, all I can do is repeat what I have already said, at least with respect to the Jewlicious Festival. So here goes, and with a little more meat added in. Naomi’s original post came down heavy on Jewlicious, and on Rabbi Yonah Bookstein in particular. I am answering because the Jewlicious Festival is more than just Rabbi Yonah. It’s a collective of individuals, students, young professionals, generous donors, eager participants – Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, unaffiliated, independent, right wing, left wing and everything in between. I spent the day with the Rabbi packing boxes, hauling trash and cleaning up. We know where we stand in our grass roots organizational hierarchy.

    Naomi decided to address the issue of gender balance by attacking Rabbi Yonah and the Jewlicious Festival in a way that was both unfair and grossly unsubstantiated. She implied that our hard fought message of unity and inclusiveness was a lie, and also implied that we were a crypto-Orthodox kiruv organization who didn’t feature enough women because it violated strict Orthodox guidelines. Oddly enough, while Naomi also criticized the perceived gender imbalance of TribeFest’s entertainment lineup, she didn’t accuse them of pandering to ultra-Orthodox sensibilities. Why? Because they don’t have an easily identifiable Orthodox Rabbi involved. We do, so we’re automatically viewed as the Taliban or something. So much for open mindedness…

    Why is Naomi totally off? Because if we were in fact mindful of strict prohibitions against a woman’s voice, we wouldn’t have ANY women performing. At all. And yet? We’ve had plenty of women performing. This year we had Leerone – and she was sublime. Please click on her link and find out more! Mickey Pauker and the Tribe were really fantastic thanks in no small measure to the sublime vocal stylings of band member Liz.

    Also as the Taliban, we wouldn’t let Mikey lead Reform services, with yet another woman. Singing!!!

    In the 7 years that we have run the Festival, we have had many female performers, both on the main and acoustic stages. We’ve had the following female artists and bands with female singers perform::

    The Hoodios, The Makkabbees, Jewdysee, Rinat Gutman, Electro Morocco, Basya Schechter, Yael Mayer, Chana Rothman, Sarah Nadav, Golem, Leerone, Inbar Bakal, Yael Meyer – even SoCalled came with a female Gospel singer.

    I’m sorry that despite my very frank explanations, Naomi remains “unconvinced.” But that’s just the way grass roots things work. Hierarchically, we’re a reverse pyramid. The “leaders” are on the bottom (often cleaning trash) while our constituents remain on top. Our volunteers, staff, recruiters and campus coordinators are totally gender balanced and if anything are more female than male. Those are the people we take our orders from, it’s really that simple. Afterward we do what we can with the budget we have. There’s nothing nefarious at play.

    The worst part of this balagan is that we generally support Naomi’s overall goals. We are totally in favor of gender equality. It’s unfortunate that in pushing her agenda Naomi felt the need to denigrate and disparage the hard work of a totally independent, diverse, enlightened, caring and underfunded group of Jewish students and young adults. In unfairly attacking us Naomi only diminishes the impact of her otherwise very valid and important message. I mean I’d love to see more Jewish women on stage. I live in Israel and would love to have the funds to bring back Rinat Guttman. I’d love to see Onili, Carusella, the Carsitters, Terry Poison, MC Karolina etc. etc. in the US and at our Festival.

    But now that task is going to be rendered more difficult in part due to Naomi’s mischaracterization of us as a friggin’ Kiruv group who won’t headline women for fear of sexually over stimulating our easily led astray male audience members. Thanks Naomi. Thanks a lot. That having been said, we have a very clearly outlined process for those wishing to participate in the Festival. If there are any great artists or bands you know that would want to participate, please have them submit an application through SonicBids – I’ll even send you an email and remind you. We will do everything within our power to have the best speaker and artistic lineup possible.

    Regards,

    Rabbi Dovid Mendel Abitbolbergstein
    Jewlicious.com

  9. I would like to stress that while I agree with the premise of gender equality- I do not necessarily agree with the negative assessment of any group in particular- esp Jewlicious who I luvs.

  10. wow, an amazing flurry of responses. And I’m thrilled to hear so many of the folks who spoke out loud here agree with the agenda item.

    Points of clarification:
    My intention was not to denigrate the work that Jewlicious does well, and I really appreciated highlighting the points David Abitol made on his response to my original blog post. I can go into each of the female headliners that were listed here and where they were situated within the actual festival, in terms of being main stage-main concert or not. if we want to go down that road we can. The bigger issue is examining how even within generally inclusive environments, there is room for improvement. And to not be self-conscious or defensive about it, but to look with openness at how we may have certain biases that we may not even be aware of! My hope and the hope of the many contributors to the article not possible to be disclosed at this time is not to indemnify any Jewish organization doing TERRIFIC work around culture and identity-building, but rather, to make sure that the voices we are lifting up in the Jewish community are truly representative of the jewish community.

    To Elise’s the comment of: when I go to a conference , a concert or symposium I want the best person available and do not judge by the placement of their genitalia.Enough already.

    Well, I want to echo the sentiment of Shoshana’s response: “there are enough capable, bright and worthy women that if they aren’t there its an issue- women bring unique and fabulous perspectives.” And to reiterate that if you don’t know them because they’re not in your circles of connections or networks, I and THOUSANDS of others are ready, willing and equipped to connect you with them. that’s a challenge I’d love to be invited to tackle!

    Back to David: I asked the question about orthodoxy in the following way: If the issue is Kol Isha (not wanting to hear women’s voices for fear that men’s thoughts will turn to sexual content and not be focused on prayer) – then label it that and call the festival an ORTHODOX gathering. Don’t hide the agenda behind a seemingly pluralistic event.
    Again, here is the “if” – I was asking Rabbi Yonah (who has, btw, been silent throughout this whole interchange – would love love love to hear his thoughts) IF that is the lens that is being used. And I don’t admire or honor shifting blame to other organizations like the call out to JFNA David made in his response.

    If we can move beyond the defensiveness and blame-oriented tone these comments are starting to develop and really do some introspection within all of our organizations, as both lay supporters and professionals, I know that we can make SEISMIC shifts and obliterate the issue totally.

    that’s it for now. I’m sure there will be more…but I’m energized, excited and optimistic about the attention to the issue, the ensuing conversation and most of all, the possibilities for change!

    Let’s hear more from more of you!

    And thank you to ejewishphilanthropy for creating a forum in which to discuss this!

  11. Scott Aaron says:

    It is worth noting that while Naomi is bringing up the under-representation of women at key public programs in the Jewish community, it goes hand in glove with other recent postings I’ve read here about salary inequality and disproportionate under-representation of women in senior communal leadership roles. If we don’t see/hear/read Jewish women where our communal culture is influenced, then we only reinforce a perception that they are less valued for what they do/say/write as part of our communal culture. It isn’t rocket science; if you can’t look at a list of artists and contributers and see roughly the same proportion of gender to those interested in the program itself then someone needs to ask why not before the program is printed. There may be good reasons in any given situation to justify the imbalance, but the injustice is not noticing the imbalance at all.

  12. I am ashamed for Naomi Less. I’ve attended a number of the Jewlicious events and to suggest that women are under-represented in “headlining” roles is to misunderstand and to misrepresent the event and how it publicizes itself. There are plenty of female participants at every level and in numbers equal to, and sometimes greater than men. I realize that being on a panel is not the same as “headlining,” but maybe, Naomi, a headliner such as you doesn’t carry the same marketing and promotional value of Matisyahu? Have you considered that? Maybe Moshav Band have a reputation in the LA and Orange County areas that you don’t possess, even if to their everlasting shame they are merely an all-male band?

    I’m sure you’re going to retort that this isn’t about you but about women in general, but in my participation at Jewlicious events, the issue of gender equality has not been a factor, except of course for the many panels on gender and sexuality that have tackled such issues head-on. It’s simply offensive to see you continue to attack the festival after you received one and now two lengthy explanations of what goes on there from somebody who, unlike you, is actually there. I also have to say that your implications that somehow this is a religious issue are proven false by many activities at Jewlicious. It’s just so upsetting to read your attacks and to think they might actually somehow detrimentally affect this festival. It’s shameful and it’s a shame.

  13. Jake Goodman says:

    I find it hard to argue against the fact that there is a heavy underrepresentation of women in Jewish initiatives and endeavors, as Naomi states there is. My personal experience makes it impossible for me to believe that the reason for this underrepresentation has anything to do with the quality of women who are willing, wanting and able to partake in such initiatives and endeavors. If these two assertions are true–and I believe they are–we have a problem: with our values, with our long-standing practices and traditions, with our assumptions, with our prejudices.

    So, after reading the comments already posted, I have some questions:

    What does it mean to agree with the premise of gender equality, as I’m assuming everybody who has responded to this article does, but to simultaneously be unwilling to call out organizations/leaders that do not practice it? Does that mean that you disagree with Naomi’s assessments (which could be fair, but then I’d ask you to elucidate as Rabbi Dovid Mendel Abitbolbergstein did, and then I’d ask you to name other places where the problem does exist)? Or does it mean that you are unwilling to take a stand and risk offending someone – especially in a field as collegial as this one, where to do so is often equivalent to biting the hand that feeds you?

    For the decision makers of these Jewish initiatives and endeavors, what does it mean to understand that there is a huge gap of opportunities for people of different genders in your field, to regret that gap, but to take no responsibility for it whatsoever? Once questioned, to immediately go on the defensive and blame structural problems and/or claim that YOU really are the victim here? There’s no question that being on the other end of Naomi’s allegations must sting on a deeply personal level, but is that an excuse not to listen with
    open ears and minds? How can change happen without deep self-reflection from within the field?

  14. Beth Cousens says:

    Naomi, kol hakavod for refusing to sugarcoat things.

    The concept of “shared leadership” – i.e. diversity in leadership, gender or racial or any kind of diversity – suggests that when people of different backgrounds come together to solve a problem, the problem gets solved that much more creatively and robustly. Having different voices and ideas at the table is better for the product. Empirical research backs this up.

    Creating spaces that allow for shared leadership and maximize the voices of women (and all those who are underrepresented) means that we deliberately look for those voices. We refuse to acknowledge that “best” women singers or speakers or teachers aren’t out there. Sometimes, we use less traditional (i.e. non-male) kinds of metrics to understand who the best is, and we work a little harder to find the women.

    Each of us needs to change our behavior and stop ourselves when we stop looking for women. As Naomi said, enough already. There are great women Ramah alumnae, there are great women lay and professional leaders in Jewish agencies, and there are great women artists. It is on us to find them and create a rich array of talent, ideas, and voices in our world. We can’t back down.

  15. It is wonderful to see such a diverse group of perspectives. Everyone has the right to their opinion and the bottom line is that gender equality is important inside and out of the Jewish community. I find it difficult not to support any organization that supports the Jewish community in any way regardless of if I am personally going to support the specifics of their events. It is just great to see people coming together and not being afraid to stand proud and tall for what they believe in.

  16. Beth, I appreciate the comments you present here – expanding and educating the minds of both those involved as well as the audiences they’re serving when you have a “shared leadership” model resonates deeply with me.

    And I feel truly heard by your last statement – that it is ON US to find the EXISTING talent – and to not just go into our known networks but make sure we’re really scouting for a multiplicity of voices.

    Thank you for re-inspiring me!

  17. Naomi, kol ha-kavod for your terrific and powerful piece.I wanted to add two things:
    The first is that AWP has convened more than 30 men who have refused to appear on or organize any all-male panels. This is an important way for men to act on their own values of gender equity and shared leadership.
    The second is, for me, something personal. I care very deeply about the Jewish community, and have devoted my professional life to it. Unless we find a way — and a mandate — to showcase vibrant diversity in all of our communal events and institutions, we very greatly risk appearing — and BEING — irrelevant to our very constituencies. There is always a way to justify a particular event lacking diversity. I fear that our copious and passionate justifications for this lack of diversity will all add up to our fellow Jewish men and woman opting out of our community.

  18. Wow, a lot of interesting comments, as well as a lot of defensiveness.

    I am glad that Naomi surfaces particular instances of gender inequality despite the potential ramifications for her personally. I think that we should all acknowledge her courage.

    I have never attended Jewlicious, but I am concerned that the issues that Naomi raises about institutionalized sexism in the field are becoming overshadowed in this conversation by the back-and-forth over one organization. When we look at the aggregate data about the percentage of women in leadership positions and the income disparity between men and women, then it seems to me that EVERY organization has to take a hard look at a range of issues. Few organizations, if any, can claim immunity.

    The sexism that exists in organizations, as Naomi so clearly points out, is often deeply embedded and institutionalized. If professionals don’t even notice that there are no women headliners, or that the majority of their senior professionals are men, or that only a handful of authors in a compendium are women, then the answer should not be, “well, there were few women to choose from.”

    Rather, the questions that should be ASKED by those organizations should include (but are not limited to):

    1. From what sources does our HR team recruit candidates?
    2. Where do we advertise positions?
    3. Who sits on our hiring committees?
    4. For whom are our HR policies written?
    5. Who sits on our board?
    6. What internal mechanisms do we have in place to mentor women professionals?
    7. What expectations do we have for gender balance when we develop and run programs, or publish papers?
    8. What training do we offer to staff and board members on issues such as sexism and gender equity?

    Organizations need to make an institutional commitment, matched by concrete training, to utilize gender as a lens to analyze their work, operations, and policies. Without this kind of critical consciousness, organizations will continue with business as usual.

    Recently it was announced that the Human Rights Campaign is doing a Jewish communal field-wide audit of workplace policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Hopefully, having a secular organization audit the Jewish communal field will provide enough visibility to embarrass our organizations out of their stupor. Maybe we need a similar approach here.

  19. Renanit Levy says:

    At Hazon, where I work, we have a pro-active policy of considering gender when thinking about speakers, presenters and all forms of public leadership at our programs. We also actively consider gender, as well as many other measures of diversity, including background, age, observance level, etc. in our Board makeup. Naomi’s strong piece was forwarded to the whole staff and Board when it came out to confirm and clarify the value and importance of what we are already doing.

  20. So many amazing proactive ideas have been presented in these last few comments.

    Renanit, thank you and kol hacavod for forwarding it to your board. Getting all of the stakeholders’ buy in, and sharing a values system that permeates all levels of leadership is super important!

    Adam, your focused, concrete suggestions are sure to be extremely helpful to any organization that tries to employ them. The goal will be getting to a place of openness to ask ourselves those questions!

    and Joanna, WOW – that initiative around men refusing to to appear on male-only panels – good for them, and let’s double or triple that number in the next few months! Who’s in???

    Naomi

  21. Amy Skopp Cooper says:

    While we may disagree with some of the specifics that Naomi Less wrote, we nevertheless take her comments seriously and agree that we need to encourage more women to take top leadership roles in our camp professional and lay leadership structures. We are heartened that there is indeed gender balance among our up and coming young leadership, as many women who are young adults are now providing leadership for the next generation of camps and young staff members. As anyone who has attended Camp Ramah knows, gender equality is a core value in all of our programs and activities.

    Amy Skopp Cooper
    National Ramah Assistant Director

  22. This whole discussion has been very interesting, and not in an academic way. I really feel like we are developing an active dialogue on gender and other types of Jewish diversity that will bring this issue into the consciousness of Jewish organizations and individuals as they program for all generations of audience.

    Thanks to Naomi for being the “songleader” for this important refrain, and to Dan and eJPhil for being the host venue. The process of learning the lyrics and arrangements is challenging, but the good news is that the afterparty will be everywhere, and everyone’s invited.

  23. Naomi wrote: “I can go into each of the female headliners that were listed here and where they were situated within the actual festival, in terms of being main stage-main concert or not. if we want to go down that road we can…. Back to David: I asked the question about orthodoxy in the following way: If the issue is Kol Isha (not wanting to hear women’s voices for fear that men’s thoughts will turn to sexual content and not be focused on prayer) – then label it that and call the festival an ORTHODOX gathering. Don’t hide the agenda behind a seemingly pluralistic event.
    Again, here is the “if” – I was asking Rabbi Yonah (who has, btw, been silent throughout this whole interchange – would love love love to hear his thoughts) IF that is the lens that is being used. And I don’t admire or honor shifting blame to other organizations like the call out to JFNA David made in his response.”

    Naomi, If the issue is Orthodoxy then no women would ever have appeared on any stage ever in a performance in front of a mixed audience at Jewlicious. Now maybe something else is at play? But anyone that knows anything about Orthodoxy knows that in this case, kol isha is not at all the issue. That’s why Rabbi Yonah weighing in on this non-issue is irrelevant. I founded Jewlicious and co-founded the Festival with Rachel Bookstein and her husband Yonah. My response is as authoritative as anyone’s. If there are Jewish female acts that you know of that are affordable and appropriate by all means let us know about them.

    You also implied that there is a prestige difference between the main and the acoustic stages. Grammy nominated Matisyahu performs on the acoustic stage and many of our female acts do a singer songwriter thing with an acoustic guitar for which the acoustic stage is, obviously, far more appropriate. Stage placement is not a reflection of status. Matisyahu is a headliner and he has never done a full performance on the main stage. So yeah, again, we are open to any and all suggestions and our committee will carefully review any artist that wishes to perform and is affordable. The Orthodox implication is a red herring that distracts from your main point and unfairly sullies the work of dozens of (mostly female) staff, volunteers and presenters who make up the Festival.

    And I think you were off about TribeFest as well. I just got back and enjoyed performances by the band Yemenite Blues (made up of 4 men and three women) and headliner Miri Ben Ari. The division may not have been 50/50 given that Soulico, Y Love and Diwon performed too but the women totally rocked out none the less.

  24. I appreciate this post, especially in light of how much effort people seem to be putting into writing about how men are UNDERrepresented in modern American Jewish life! This is a helpful reality check.

  25. I just want to point out that the all male entertainment in the 2nd video on the “JSU Summer” does signal something at play, something that many of us would pick up on, but unaffiliated Jews would not. The “TTJ” trip that the supposedly ecumenical JSU has “teamed up” with NCSY to offer as their Israel summer trip. http://www.jsusummer.com/

    Most unaffiliated Jews don’t know what the video that has only male musicians means, but we do. Most unaffiliated public school teens don’t know what NCSY is, but of course, we do. And most parents and teens don’t know what NCSY wants for these teens. But of course, we do.

    NCSY is pushing their halachic understanding of Judaism upon a young, underage population, through recruitment under a supposedly ecumenical JSU tent, and this is deceptive.

    The JSU insists that the FACT that the Orthodox Union dominates their board (look: http://www.jsu.org/our-board-of-directors/ ) and that many NCSY advisors concurrently serve both NCSY and the JSU is irrelevant to their mission. But that is simply not the case.

    None of this even tackles the very real problem that NCSY is not just Orthodox, but actively recruits public school students for even for hardline haredi (right-wing ultra-Orthodox) institutions such as Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalyaim, and others.

    One need only look at the all-male musicians to see that the JSU’s “team” includes a dominant partner that harbors an agenda.

  26. Also, I enjoyed female singers and performers at the Jewlicious Festival.

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