A Community Building and Community Building

By Raya Kazdan, OJSL Staff

The new building is located at:
233 W Packer Ave

Lehigh is a smaller university, and as such has a resultantly modest and tight-knit Jewish community. Being from a larger university myself, it has been enlightening to learn about the dynamics of Jewish life at Lehigh, and humbling to see the great power that is the Office of Jewish Student Life, headed by Steve and Jane who effectively run a dynamic and busy office of affairs. The two of them deserve so much credit in securing the new OJSL building.

Recently, I attended an art exhibit on the significance of architecture within democracy; primarily focused on the idea that a “gathering space” is a necessary characteristic of a modern democratic group or society. The new OJSL serves its community precisely in this manner; it is a space where the Jewish community at large can meet and spend time, and its existence is imperative to the success of our community building initiatives. 

Specifically, after about 40 years at Summit Street, the new building offers a modern and spacious place for students to gather for Shabbat dinners, Israel programming, and collaborations with other multicultural organizations. It will serve as the homebase for not only Hillel, but Friends of Israel as well. There is a picnic area which will allow for cookouts in the warm weather. The grassy area will provide a space to build a sukkah for the community to eat in together on Sukkot. Furthermore, other student organizations will be able to reserve rooms or time in the building. 

What does this mean?

Research has shown that gathering spaces are correlated with lower stress levels. This is because when a group of people can meet together, they can help ease the burden of their stresses from one another. They can intentionally strengthen their bonds and connections. 

Undergraduate life can get lonely, and the past year in this pandemic has revealed the dangers that loneliness and isolation pose for mental health. The OJSL will ease that burden, and as campus transitions back to its vibrant, lively self, the OJSL building will guarantee that the Jewish community will as well. 

Tough Days in the Pandemic and Getting Through Them: Patience and Being Gentle

by Claire Kirshenbaum, Class of 2024

On tough days, it is important to be extra patient with yourself. Don’t get discouraged that you didn’t complete enough work. You should try your best to be gentle with yourself and not get frustrated by another set back or another hard day. Be gentle with yourself during those tough days, know that maybe you won’t be able to complete everything you originally planned to do and that’s ok. 

You are not the only one that is experiencing hard setbacks.

We hope you enjoyed this series focused on taking care of yourself amidst the global pandemic. Make sure to read all five posts in this series for the full experience, and check out other posts on this blog for other tips and advice!

Tough Days in the Pandemic and Getting Through Them: Planning Activities

by Claire Kirshenbaum, Class of 2024

On tough days it can be hard to get the things done that we need to do. We can very easily become overwhelmed with work. On tougher days some tasks feel like a lot more work. This stress can lead us to ignore our own needs.

An idea to combat this is to plan out and organize your day. This will help you get everything you need done. If you plan out your day you can build in time for yourself and activities. And on those really tough days planning helps you to be able to have nothing left to do and just hang out, doing whatever feels right for you. 

Planning also leaves you room to plan for yourself and for healthy activities like exercise, a walk, reading a book you like, or even just cuddling up and watching tv. Doing these things while having a plan to fulfill all your tasks for the day can help you to not feel overwhelmed with what you have to do or guilty about taking time for yourself. These activities can be very beneficial to your mental and physical well-being.

Tough Days in the Pandemic and Getting Through Them: Exercise and Nature

by Claire Kirshenbaum, Class of 2024

Staying in a small dorm room all day and week can be so draining. It is important to break up your day with new scenery and environments. This can be going to a library to do work or going to get a coffee. Through this you can be in nature and a new environment. Walking is a very good plan to break up the day. During the colder months it can be less enticing to go for a walk in the cold, but we need to get out and move our bodies.

How to Walk Off the Pounds and Actually Lose Weight

Moving is very important to our mental health. Exercising can be very hard to prioritize at school. It is important that we keep in mind our own bodily movement. Make sure you get outside for a small walk during the day. 

However, during quarantine I know this can be a bit more difficult. Try doing small activities in your dorm room. These can be activities like yoga or workouts that involve sit ups, just things you can do while in a small dorm room.

It is important to be patient with yourself. Don’t put too much pressure to go out and move if it will cause you stress. Do not feel guilty if you haven’t left your dorm all day. It is very difficult to do all of these things everyday. And some days we are a bit busier than others or a bit more sensitive.

Tough Days in the Pandemic and Getting Through Them: Building in Time for Yourself

by Claire Kirshenbaum, Class of 2024

It can be super easy to only focus on the things you need to do for school or work. It’s also easy to ignore your own needs and fall into unhealthy habits. It is beyond important to create time for yourself. 

Taking time out of your day to focus on what you need in order to stay mentally healthy is essential. Though it can seem very difficult, thinking that there is no time for this; it is important to move things around so you can fit in time for yourself.

In this time you can just relax and do things to ease your mind. You can also find times for your hobbies and activities that you enjoy. This helps break up the day and can shift your mood. Take time out of the day to do the things you love or even to treat yourself. 

Activities like this can help keep our mental states balanced and are good prevention strategies. It is a good idea to come up with your own list of prevention strategies, and incorporate them into your days and make them part of your daily routine. This is a very proactive way to help your mental health. By doing these prevention strategies on days where you are doing well and are able to do them, will help you in the long run.

Taking time to enjoy your own company is important! Curl up with a good read or your favorite Netflix show

Tough Days in the Pandemic and Getting Through Them: Support Systems

by Claire Kirshenbaum, Class of 2024

When you’re going through a hard time, it can be very beneficial to discuss it and get it out of your system. This makes it easier to process the emotions and feelings you have. It is super important to have a support system. It’s important to have someone you can talk to calmly about these feelings. It is also just reassuring. 

If talking to someone isn’t really your thing, that’s totally ok! There are other ways to process our thoughts and feelings to get them out of our systems. One way is to journal. You don’t need to be big on writing to do this, just getting your thoughts out onto paper (in whatever crazy barely english way) can be very beneficial.

It’s very important to understand and process our feelings. When we are overwhelmed and stressed during the many long hours of work during the pandemic, writing out all of your stressors can be helpful. Then make a to do list to be productive.

It is also important to make sure you are still being social despite physical distancing. A support system of people who are just there for you during the uncertainties pandemic can be very helpful.

Final Installment of Jewish Women in the USA

by Simona Shur

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is important to reflect on some of the Jewish feminists who propelled the women’s rights movement in America. 

Ernestine Rose | Jewish Women's Archive
Ernestine Rose

Ernestine Rose was a suffragist and is often credited as the first Jewish feminist. After she immigrated from Poland to the United States, she began advocating for equal rights. Rose strongly opposed the law that deprived married women of property control and protested against this oppressive legislation. Due to her efforts, New York eventually reversed the law, stating that married women were allowed to own land they had before marriage.

Rose famously critiqued traditional Jewish attitudes towards women. However, despite her disagreement with the faith, she continued to showcase her pride in the Jewish culture and frequently spoke out against anti-Semitism. 

In response to an editorial complaining about the increase of Jewish Americans, Rose retaliated stating, “In spite of the barbarous treatment and deadly persecution they [Jewish people] have suffered, they have lived and spread and outlived much of the poisonous rancor and prejudice against them and Europe has been none the worse on their account.”  

Rose fought for human rights and social justice until her passing in 1892.

Betty Friedan is typically considered the mother of the second wave of modern feminism. She was co-founder of the National Organization for Women and its first president. She also conducted research regarding women’s submissive role in society and her published work received critical acclaim, cementing itself as feminist literature. 

Feminine Mystique' At 50: If Betty Friedan Could See Us Now | Cognoscenti
Betty Friedan

Friedan surveyed female graduates from Smith College and found that many of them were unhappy with their role as housewives. Many of these women attributed their depression and anxiety to themselves, but Friedan disgareed, believing that America’s gender roles and expectations forced women into these positions. She eventually published The Feminine Mystique, which jumpstarted a sex-role revolution. This book remains a best seller today.

Friedan also helped fellow Jewish women throughout her career. She led a delegation of American Jewish women which engaged in a US/Israel dialogue, eventually leading to the creation of the Israel Women’s Network. 

Lillian Wald | Jewish Women's Archive
Lillian Wald

Lillian Wald founded Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service and Settlement, a nursing service for immigrants. She coined the term “public health nurse,” believing that local nurses also have the duty to treat social and economic problems. She made thousands of home visits, nursing sick children back to health and aiding her New York community through the difficulties of the Great Depression. 

Wald’s work with Eastern European Jewish immigrants appealed to German Jewish immigrants throughout New York, leading to generous donations to Henry Street Settlement. While she claimed that she had no particular religious connection between herself and Jewish immigrants she worked with, Wald embraced her Jewish liberal upbringing and channeled this benevolence into her work. 

Even though Women’s History Month is over, continue to educate yourself about the Jewish women who have contributed to American culture and society. Below are some links that may be helpful. 



More Jewish Women in America: A Continuation of Women’s History Month

by Simona Shur

This is the second installment of Hillel’s dive into famous Jewish American women throughout Women’s History Month. 

Aly Raisman, a two time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA, is a fierce advocate for sexual assault surviviors and victims. She spoke out against some US Olympic coaches, including Larry Nassar, for their inappropriate behavior towards athletes. Raisman has used her position to uplift women and challenge the current athletic system to be better.

Aly Raisman - Wikipedia

Raisman credits much of her career and drive to her Jewish upbringing. “I take a lot of pride in being able to not only represent the USA, but also the Jewish community everywhere,” she said. She also frequently uses Jewish music in her floor routines, famously performing to “Hava Nagila” in the 2012 Olympics. 

I Have the Energy': Dianne Feinstein Makes Case for a 6th Term - The New  York Times

Dianne Feinstein, a California Senator, has fought for women’s rights throughout her career. Some of her key positions include supporting reproductive rights, supporting the Violence Against Women Act, and advocating against wage discrimination based on gender. 

She typically attributes her childhood Jewish education as a big factor that molded her into the politician she is today.

Idina Menzel, the voice behind Frozen’s Elsa, tends to gravitate towards roles that embody powerful characteristics and build women up. Along with her impressive acting career, she runs a charity that offers young girls from urban areas the chance to experience arts programs. Menzel teaches them leadership skills and the importance of women supporting women.

Idina Menzel puts 'Frozen' aside to be fierce in 'Uncut Gems' - Los Angeles  Times

“A BroaderWay gives the girls a safe, beautiful sanctuary to escape their lives in the city and go up into this peaceful country and explore who they are as young women,” Menzel said.

Menzel is also proud of her Jewish identity, stating that her connection to the culture has made her proud of her roots. She wants to raise her kids in a similar manner so they have the opportunity to experience Judaism as well. “I am a Jewish woman and I feel strong connections to my culture, so yes, I would like to bring them up with knowledge of the stories and awareness of the history.” 

Sally Priesand studied to be a rabbi and simultaneously became a feminist icon after becoming the first female ordained rabbi in America. She worked as a rabbi for 34 years before retiring in 2006. 

According to Priesand, there are now more than 700 female rabbis in the Reform movement, with nearly 1,000 worldwide. She thinks this is a very positive and important change for Judaism.

Sally Jane Priesand | Jewish Women's Archive

“When I decided to study for the rabbinate, I never thought much about being a pioneer, nor was it my intention to champion the rights of women. I just wanted to be a rabbi,” Priesand said. Despite this, Priesand is incredibly honored that she spearheaded the movement which encouraged women to join the rabbinate. 

Keep an eye out for another article regarding famous Jewish American feminists as Women’s History Month continues!

Jewish Women in the USA

by Simona Shur

In honor of Women’s History Month, Hillel is taking a dive into influential Jewish women who have impacted American culture.

Most importantly, there is Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the late Supreme Court Justice who was a pinnacle of feminism. 

Ginsberg famously graduated from Columbia as valedictorian while being the full-time caregiver of her one-year-old daughter and then cancer-ridden husband. Throughout her career in the courts, she advocated for reproductive healthcare rights, pregnancy benefits, equal pay, and workplace empowerment for women. She persevered in the face of anti-semitism and sexism to become the most famous and successful Jewish woman in American government. 

Over the course of her career, RBG fought for minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, as well as women in American society. Her position on the Supreme Court enabled her to fight for marginalized communities as well as become an example and role model for women, especially Jewish women, everywhere.

RBG accredited her career to her personal Jewish upbringing. “The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition.” 

Natalie Portman, the actress who starred in the moviesBlack Swan and Thor, has also cemented herself as a Jewish feminist. She was one of the pioneers of the #MeToo movement, encouraging victims of assault to come forward and speak out against their abusers. 

Portman recently announced she will be playing the female version of Thor in upcoming Marvel movies. She will be the second Jewish American woman to play a Marvel superhero, following in the footsteps of Scarlett Johansson. 

The “mother” of the second wave of modern feminism also happened to be Jewish. Betty Friedan, who co-founded the National Organization for Women in America, fought for women’s equality, and analyzed women’s role in society. 

Friedan discovered that many women felt bored and trapped in their everyday suburban lives and launched a campaign criticizing female domesticity. She published many books about the phenomenon, hoping other women would break away from this type of lifestyle and enter into more competitive work fields and become more excited about their lives. 

Susan Brownmiller, famous American feminist in the 20th century, studied the pattern of violence against Jewish women throughout history. She grew up creating and fighting for  equality within organized religion, hoping Jewish women would find their voice in the fight against female directed violence. 

Over the course of her advocacy and political career, she formed a picket line protesting women’s treatment in the workplace and fervently participated in the Women’s Liberation Movement. 

At some point, Brownmiller attributed her drive to her Jewish roots. “I can argue that my chosen path – to fight against physical harm, specifically the terror of violence against women – had its origins in what I had learned in Hebrew School.” 

These are just a few of the thousands of Jewish women in the U.S. who have impacted American culture and otherwise everyday life. Many of them credit their Jewish upbringing in their fight for women’s equality. If it wasn’t for their ethnic or religious background, they would not have found the drive to fight for girls around the world.

As Women’s History Month continues, more articles will be published to celebrate Jewish American women’s impact on history. 

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