No, Studying Jewish Continuity Doesn’t Encourage Sexual Harassment

When the “Me-Too” movement eventually caught up with Jewish studies and Jewish communal institutions, some academics and journalists put forth a novel argument: that discussions of Jewish continuity—which necessarily involve the topics of intermarriage and marriage and fertility rates—endorse “surveillance over women’s bodies,” viewing them as “objects to be controlled and policed” based on the belief that “women’s primary role in Jewish continuity” is to produce babies. These attitudes, the argument goes, are somehow connected to sexual harassment. As one writer claimed, “it becomes very hard to disentangle the sexism of the alleged abuse from the patriarchal agenda” endorsed by a particular abuser.

Mijal Bitton rejects this line of reasoning:

Critics of American Jewish continuity who see it aligned with “patriarchy” argue or imply that a mostly male communal authority attempts to coerce women to procreate. Yet lost in this critique is the fact that communal pro-natalism aligns with and reflects the desire of most American Jewish women to have children. [Moreover], a concern for Jewish fertility rates is relevant for the thriving of the Jewish people. For the critique of Jewish continuity to be taken seriously, it would have to put forth a robust alternative vision for a Jewish future independent of biological continuity.

Finally, many critics make a broader and particularly erroneous set of assumptions: that there is some sort of coherent linkage between the bad actions of specific men and their advocacy for Jewish continuity; that the continuity agenda reflects an obsession with “other people having sex, with other people having babies,” . . . and that this obsession is “sexist and homophobic.”

Yet . . . the “Me Too” movement has shown that there are actors who abuse their power in nearly every arena, even in fields deemed “liberal” or “feminist.” . . . [T]he unfortunate pervasiveness of sexist behaviors does mean that such actors are either a reflection of all fields or no field in particular. There simply is no intrinsic link between male actors in the field who behave badly and the validity of the arguments put forth in defense of the field of Jewish continuity. On the contrary, many female scholars have both advocated Jewish continuity and adopted a pro-natalist discourse.

Bitton then turns to more personal reflections, as a mother, scholar, and Jew, concluding: “I have 21st-century values ensconced in a body like the ones women have inhabited for millennia. We can talk about gender equity all we want, but our bodies are out of sync with our beliefs.”

Read more at Sources Journal

More about: Fertility, Jewish continuity, Jewish studies, Sexual ethics

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy