Jonathan Rosenblum has a great column this week called the The Feminist Story the Media Missed at the Kotel. He chronicles the planned peaceful prayer gathering of women and girls across the national religious-haredi spectrum that occurred on Rosh Chodesh Sivan.
Neither Peskin nor Aharoni are mainstream haredi. Peskin, 25, home schools her three young children, teaches women how to forage for edible food growing wild, and runs a website called Penniless Parenting, on how to keep down the family food budget, which receives 60-70,000 hits worldwide a month.
In response to the boast of WoW founder Susan Aranoff that WoW seeks to liberate haredi women so that they can “function religiously . . . without the ‘help’ of men,” Peskin describes her religious journey from her modern Orthodox upbringing in Cleveland to “quasi-chareidi” — i.e., strict in halachic observance, a cross between “Litvak” and Chassidic,” accepting of people from different backgrounds, and open to the outside world — including a rebellious teenage period of no observance in between. Her religious search forced her to become financially independent at 17.
Of her current life, she writes, “It was a path I chose, and fought lots of obstacles to get there. I don’t live this way because I haven’t witnessed alternatives. I’ve witnessed them and rejected them, and made the choice to live as I do because I find it the most meaningful type of life for me. Implying that I’m doing what I do merely because I’m subjugated by men is insulting to me, insulting my intelligence, insulting to the men I love, and insulting to the entire population of Chareidi women. . . . I don’t need you to rescue me. . . .”
Aharoni is firmly in the national religious camp, and makes her living as a business consultant helping “female business owners create more income doing work they love.” She too traveled a long religious path from her native Soviet Union – a path that started in a Reform Temple and included a period of time in the congregation of Rabbi Avi Weiss, a leading figure in Orthodox feminism.
She finds “the epitome of misogyny,” in WoW’s “rejection of the feminine Jewish experience.” “There is nothing more demeaning to women than positioning the male experience as the only one worth living and setting up women for an ongoing game of catch-up. . . . I have liberated myself from the need to predicate my identity on becoming ‘one of the boys.”
Read R’ Rosemblum’s whole article to get more inspiration and a deeper appreciation of these two amazing women.