Who, Who?

By Ami Eden

Published December 26, 2003, issue of December 26, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Armed with press releases and draped in full-body owl costumes, a handful of feathered feminists staged a demonstration last week in front of the headquarters of the United Jewish Communities.

The walking birds were members of Jewish Women Watching, a women’s rights group whose members famously refuse to identify themselves while launching campaigns aimed at embarrassing the Jewish organizational establishment. Originally dedicated to puncturing the glass ceiling of Jewish communal life with a mixture of spunk and chutzpah, the watchers have expanded their list of policy concerns and organizational targets.

This multi-issue agenda was on display December 19, during the protest in front of the offices of UJC, the national roof body of local Jewish charitable federations. The owl ladies announced what they dubbed as the underground organization’s first annual Greasy Latke Awards, a vehicle for skewering a host of prominent institutions for allegedly engaging in various discriminatory practices.

In addition to slamming organizations (and one prominent philanthropist whose main sin appears to be his yen for formal and informal Jewish educational programs), Jewish Women Watching is also taking aim at the Forward and The New York Jewish Week. The watchers sent out a mass e-mail message last week claiming that the newspapers were “afraid” to publish the group’s ads.

The truth, as we had informed the watchers in an e-mail of our own, is that this newspaper has a general policy of not publishing ads from people who refuse to identify themselves. The Forward itself has repeatedly addressed the controversial issues that the women’s ad raised, often in stronger terms than they did, and we will continue to do so. Unlike Jewish Women Watching, however, the Forward doesn’t hide behind anonymous campaigns or owl masks. And, as a matter of ethics, we don’t allow our pages to be used for anonymous attacks by advocates — of whatever stripe — who won’t take responsibility for their words.

On their Web site, the watchers insist they keep their identities secret in order to “focus attention on the issues — not ourselves.” It’s a strange claim from activists who walk around Manhattan in full-body bird suits.

Whatever their intentions, the watchers’ cult of secrecy has become a distraction that trivializes the significant progress being made by like-minded activists on many fronts. A corresponding risk is that the group’s secret tactics and mud-slinging style will eventually resurrect the unfortunate impression that many of the issues in question are fringe concerns, rather than matters of justice embraced by a growing majority.

Take off the masks, ladies, so we can get back to the issues.






Find us on Facebook!
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.