Living Zionism – the next chapter (The Jerusalem Post)

With the final flight of Ethiopian olim, a chapter has closed; the question is now, how to engage Diaspora Jews without an identifiable example of Zionism in action.

Last Ethiopian aliya flight lands in Israel, August 28, 2013

After three hours of aimlessly wandering around Ben Gurion airport on a vain hunt for a blanket to stave off the icy air conditioning, having eaten the paltry sandwich offered by EasyJet as compensation for the lengthy delay, and having exhausted all of that day’s newspapers, I was reduced to gazing at the announcement screen in the hope that my flight might suddenly be ready to take off.

The list of destinations I saw – the obvious, like London and New York, and the more obscure, Yerevan, Bucharest, Antalya, Amman, Seoul – reflect to an extent the Jewish and the Israeli story. They tell of where we have come from, where we remain, and where we still wish to explore. Not least the inclusion of Addis Ababa, which recalls one of the most notorious journeys in Israeli history.

Almost 30 years have passed since Operation Moses, when thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to the Jewish state in a daring mission. Operation Solomon continued the journey of the Beta Israel, and subsequently, after much wrangling and controversy, the government authorized the emigration of the Falash Mura, on the proviso that they would convert to Judaism once in Israel.

The Jewish Agency has now declared that second mission to have concluded, greeting planes landing last week as the “end of the journey.” It is a decision many argue is premature, given that there are still those in Ethiopia who claim a right to Israeli citizenship. Whether or not the termination of the program is justified, it brings to an end a story that has captured the imagination of Jews around the world and connected them with the earliest concept of Zionism, the positing of Israel as the realization of a dream.

Growing up in the Diaspora and involved in a Jewish youth movement, we learned about Israel in terms of its politics and its wars, but also in the context of stories of its creation against the odds and of brave pioneers seeking a new start. The story of the Ethiopian Jews was one of the most resonant realities to connect us to the lofty words of Herzl and his counterparts. In the miraculous emigration of a whole community, happening in our lifetime, we saw Israel’s journey.

For those too young to have campaigned for the Refuseniks, and for whom the kibbutz seemed like a historical anachronism rather than a socialist paradigm, supporting initiatives like the Ethiopian bar mitzva fund or volunteering in absorption centers offered a tangible and powerful way to engage with the country’s past and present.

With the final flight, a chapter has closed. The Ethiopian community still faces serious and well-documented challenges, but it is nowadays as established as any other in the melting pot, achieving in every walk of life, from politics to the arts, sport and science (and latterly, Miss Israel). The most recent arrivals will, it is to be hoped, follow suit.

So what now? For though there remain tiny outposts of Jews around the world who look to Israel as the Ethiopians did, or survive in inhospitable environs, it is hard to conceive of another comparable aliyah operation occurring in the future. Indeed, as positive as those operations were, we should hardly crave further cases of communities fleeing to Israel. The question is now, how to engage Diaspora Jews without an identifiable example of Zionism in action. After all, for the next generation, the miraculous airlift of the Beta Israel and the more complex journey of the Falash Mura will be as distant as any of Israel’s early struggles.

Some make the case that Israel can no longer offer such inspirational examples, comporting itself shamefully towards African asylum seekers and its minority citizens, or with the aggression shown by some haredim towards women. And indeed from a Diaspora vantage point, the intolerant rhetoric that characterizes too much debate in Israel is almost impossible to comprehend – yet Israelis are hardly homogenous in their views and there are countless individuals fighting to make a difference and live up to what the architects of independence promised.

Certainly, there is no call for a crass PR exercise that glosses over any unsavory realities to inspire Diaspora Jews; that Israel has acted heroically in one area should never be used to overlook the occasions when it falls short. Yet that should not negate the fact that there are still breakthroughs, still moments when you realize how young the country is and how far it has come. The UEFA U21 tournament in Israel; a small event in international sporting perhaps, but it would once have been unthinkable. On gay rights Israel remains a beacon in the Middle East; likewise in academia, science, technology, there are many heroes (as the Nobel Prize balance sheet proves repeatedly), even if they are not airlifting a population. Israel’s speed at offering aid after humanitarian crisis should not be forgotten; neither should the resilience of its people. And there are still miracles to hope for; most importantly the carving of a peace with the Palestinians that too often seems as improbable as the early visions of a Jewish homeland.

Diaspora Jews may have no dearth of issues to engage with, such is the strength of the BDS campaign, and they can and do engage with countless standalone campaigns, from publicizing Gilad Schalit’s plight to petitioning the IOC on a commemorative silence for the Munich victims. But for Jews outside Israel to care about the country – not as knee-jerk advocates who reject all criticism as antisemitism, but as supporters with an investment in a future that makes good on its lofty origins – there needs to be a connection with Israel’s wider story, a way to understand Zionism as more than a political slur.

As we move to a new year – Israel’s 65th Rosh Hashana – the challenge is for Israel to continue producing inspiring stories and for those of us in the Diaspora to continue telling them.

This piece originally appeared on The Jerusalem Post. Read the original here.

Brought to book: How my relative captured Auschwitz commandant (The JC)

When Thomas Harding phoned up the Imperial War Museum and asked whether, as he had recently been told, his German Jewish great-uncle might have brought one of the highest-ranking Nazi officers to justice, the woman on the other end of the line burst out laughing, doubtless imagining him to be a fantasist. secretive hero Hanns Alexander

“She thought it was the most ridiculous thing, so that wasn’t very encouraging,” he recalls. “But my journalist nose had a sense that maybe there was something there. I don’t know about most people but I hadn’t grown up with any Jewish avenging war heroes in my family, so I was intrigued.”

As things transpired, his nose was on to something. Harding’s relative Hanns Alexander was indeed a Nazi hunter — among the first. And the story of his mission to track down and arrest Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz — recounted at his 2006 funeral — was no exaggeration.

As Harding explains in a new biography, Hanns and Rudolf, Alexander fled his homeland for Britain after the Nazis came to power. He joined the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps and was dispatched to Belsen just a few weeks after it was liberated. With no experience, and, at that point, no knowledge of the fate of loved ones who had not escaped Germany, he was assigned as an interpreter for the fledgling war crimes investigation teams, quickly winning a reputation for his interrogative skills. After working to trace another architect of the Third Reich, Gustav Simon, Alexander and his colleagues began hunting for Höss.

Even by the standards of Nazi brutality, Höss stands out. Charged with turning Auschwitz into an efficient mass killing site — which he did with the installation of the gas chambers — his testimony at Nuremberg cited “improvements” to the system of extermination. By 1946, he was hiding in broad daylight as a farmer in rural Germany. Thanks to the perseverance and fortitude of Alexander and his peers, Höss was captured, tried, and subsequently executed at the camp where he had sent some 1,300,000 innocents to their deaths.

Yet Alexander kept largely silent about his exploits, so much so that family such as Harding, and his cousin James, the BBC news director, were in the dark about the war hero in their midst.

“He was definitely traumatised after Belsen,” Harding explains. “He talked about clearing up mass graves and seeing people in terrible shapes. And then he was asked to interrogate the guards, most of whom had come from Auschwitz. There had been rumours in the newspapers but he may have been the first person to actually hear, directly from the perpetrators, about how the selections took place, what happened as people were taken off transports. It would have been horrific.”

There was also the issue of the methods used to capture Höss. “They took axe handles with them. There’s a reason they did that. I think some things happened which may well have scared him about himself. We don’t know if he killed anyone but when Höss was arrested he was beaten up. Some people would say, well that was justified, he deserved it. But I think maybe Hanns got scared by that violence, that there were things that happened that he was not necessarily proud of.”

By and large, we have tended to shy away from discussing the darker sides of the fight for Holocaust retribution. Harding — whose book tells the stories of both Alexander and Höss — argues that this needs to change. It’s more comforting to treat Höss as a monster and Hanns as a victim, but that’s not the real world. It’s much more troubling to see them as the result of their actions and millions of decisions and crossroads. If we forget that, we will forget that other people can do the same thing and will not be able to stop this.

“There’s no relativism here. Höss was one of the worst criminals of all time, a man who had to face justice and I’m very glad he did. However, I do believe you can keep hold of that and understand him as a human being, because to demonise him as a monster is to undermine the terribleness of the crime.”

In researching his great-uncle’s story, Harding came across a chilling example of failure to confront the truth of the past. Reading Höss’s prison letters to his wife and children, Harding was “moved by them and was very conflicted for obvious reasons”. So he tracked down Höss’s grandson — the two visited Auschwitz together in 2009 — and learnt how the family had essentially rebooted history in 1947, avoiding discussion of what had happened.

“I then found Höss’s daughter, who lives near Washington DC. I found that conversation with her deeply distressing, because she was living this all-American life. She described her father as the best father in the world. She remembered him reading to her, going on sled rides, taking boat trips out on the river behind Auschwitz. She slept under her parents’ wedding picture. And even though she was aware of the cultural experiences of the Holocaust that we are — like Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List — she was not able to integrate that with her personal experience of her father.”

After six years of research, Harding is looking forward to hearing people’s reactions. More importantly, he hopes it will encourage others to come forward. “I wouldn’t be surprised if more stories come out because that generation really was reluctant to talk,” he says. “Even when I shared my book with somebody recently, she said her father was part of the group involved with the arrest of Höss, but she knew nothing about it. And for me, it’s really important to hear these stories about fighting for justice, fighting back, because growing up I didn’t.”

It has, he says, been a fascinating journey. “We are like most north London Jewish families, in and out of each other’s lives and yet we just didn’t talk about it. The idea of some kind of avenging Jew in the family — I thought it was something to be proud of and I wanted to find out more.” Luckily for us, he did.

This post was originally published in the Jewish Chronicle. Read the original here.

London JW3 Jewish Center Aims for Bit of American ‘Exuberance’ (The Forward)

Flashy JCC-Style Spot Rises on Busy Finchley Road

New Look: An artist’s impression of the sprawling new Jewish community center rising in north London.

Finchley Road, which stretches across London’s northern suburbs, is one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Day and night, cars crawl along it, passing supermarkets, furniture stores, a popular multiplex and, lately, a vast construction site for a new project now nearing completion.

What’s about to be unveiled here is broadcast loud and clear by the sign alongside the site. This is to be the home of “a new postcode for Jewish life,” the sign announces — the United Kingdom’s first Jewish Community Centre.

Known popularly as JW3 — a play on the well-known NW3 postal code in which it sits — the JCC takes up 35,000 square feet on four stories. Its opening, set for September 29, will mark a historic moment in British Jewry’s self-definition — and not just because British Jews will have a state-of-the-art, multidimensional cultural center. Unlike New York, where Jewishness seems almost an extension of the city’s identity, Anglo-Jewish life, up to now, has tended to be quieter and more understated.

But JW3, in the words of its outgoing chief executive, Nick Viner, who was in charge of the project’s development stage, is about giving Anglo-Jewry some of the “exuberance of our cousins across the Atlantic.”

For all the waves that Jews have made in Great Britain in entertainment, science and politics, Jewish communal institutions — synagogues, student centers and meeting places — remain broadly beyond the gaze of the wider population. This is partly for security, but it goes deeper. Perhaps as a legacy of Europe’s history, British Jews, as Jews, try to keep their heads down.

“One only has to study the British Jewish press throughout most of the 20th century to appreciate that Jewish leadership put a lot of energy into reminding Jews to be as British as possible,” said Raymond Simonson, the JCC’s new CEO. “I grew up understanding how English Jews mostly regarded U.S. Jews as a bit too loudly Jewish.”

Things have changed on that front lately. Nowadays there are public Hanukkah lightings, Israel rallies and yearly Jewish cultural festivals. But the opening of the JCC as a permanent fixture offering its cultural fare to all of London will mark a boost in the community’s profile by several orders of magnitude.

“It is fairly radical,” Simonson admitted. “I want JW3 to take Jewish life out of the history books and documentaries and exhibition cases, and offer it in full 3-D, surround sound, Technicolor.”

Some still question whether Jewish Londoners need another cultural venue, with the high-brow London Jewish Cultural Centre — which has decades of experience running a successful program — a few miles in one direction, and the thriving Jewish Museum a few miles in the other. With Jewish Book Week and UK Jewish Film, fundraising events, youth movement programs and synagogue-based educational courses, London Jewry already has a crammed calendar — for a community a fraction of the size of New York.

But until now, London has never seen a sprawling Jewish space that attempts to do everything, in the American style: film, dance, food, art, education, highbrow, lowbrow, kindergarten, office space and more, pitched to the affiliated and unaffiliated alike.

The seed for this historic departure from Jewish life in the British mode was planted a little more than a decade ago, when philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield visited New York. Touring the JCC in Manhattan, on the borough’s Upper West Side, she realized that London had nothing to compare to it or to other institutions, like the 92nd Street Y.

On her return, she fought to convince British Jews that this should change, eventually bringing politicians and communal leaders round.

It wasn’t an easy sell. After the plans were unveiled, concerns about the project as it progressed were aired in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle, British Jewry’s newspaper of record.

“It’s a great idea,” enthused Andrew Gilbert, the chairman of Britain’s Reform movement as the project launched, in 2003. “But…my belief is that the Orthodox rabbinate in this country will destroy it. If it succeeds, it will have to fundamentally change the nature of cross-communal interaction in the community.”

A few years later, when the economic crisis led to a suspension of work on the project, Allan Morgenthau, then vice-president of the London Jewish Cultural Centre, commented, “A lot of donors feel that money is required for social services, which are under enormous pressure.”

But ten years and some $76 million of Duffield’s and other donors’ money later, such skepticism is, for now at least, in abeyance. Both supporters and those who have harbored doubts are waiting to see London’s response to the imminent unfolding of a strikingly rich inaugural program: 1,000 events over the first few months, bringing in art, drama, film and more.

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey will be stopping by, as will Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, acclaimed author Edmund De Waal and myriad others. To attract those for whom participation comes via the stomach, there will be a kosher restaurant, helmed by chefs who previously worked for Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born master chef. “We will offer a chance to experience the very best of living Jewish arts, culture, learning, community and life,” Simonson said.

With a tree-lined piazza, a plush 60-seat screening room, an auditorium that converts into a function room, a kindergarten, a rehearsal space and offices, the London JCC is clearly different from anything the community has had before in scale and style — a reality evident to advance visitors on preview tours, even as construction workers in hard hats put together the finishing touches.

Duffield wants JW3 to become one of London’s key cultural landmarks for Jews and non-Jews alike. That includes especially “people who are Jewish but have forgotten,” she said at an invitation-only preview event in July. She expressed the hope that the center’s offerings will entice them to dip in again.

To encourage this, board members have been drawn from all backgrounds, including the historically unaffiliated. In a bid to challenge intra-communal divides, Duffield has also engaged as much with Orthodox leaders like Lord Jonathan Sacks, Great Britain’s outgoing chief rabbi, as with leaders of the more liberal Jewish streams, like Rabbi Julia Neuberger. There will be no religious services at JW3, enabling everyone, from the traditionally observant to those who are atheist, to take part.

Limmud, the annual festival of Jewish programs and learning that originated in the U.K., and to which some 2,500 U.K. Jews flocked last year, offers a model of the approach the London JCC will take, albeit in a permanent site, and all year round. It’s thus no coincidence that Simonson was recruited after serving as Limmud’s first full-time executive director, nor that other prime movers came via the organization – from the erstwhile creative director, Juliet Simmons (a onetime Limmud conference chair), to Clive Lawton, a board member and Limmud co-founder.

“I don’t think JW3 is really about uniting all shades of Jewish life, and don’t think it’s going to have a huge take-up from the Haredi communities,” said Richard Verber, co-chair of this year’s Limmud festival. “But with a kosher restaurant and sensitive Shabbat policy, it should be able to attract religious and secular Jews from mainstream Anglo-Jewry.”

This post was originally published by The Forward. Read the original here.

Almost English (The JC)

Almost EnglishBook of the week

AS the granddaughter of Hungarian immigrants to the UK, it was perhaps inevitable that the novelist Charlotte Mendelson would one day mine her family’s experiences. Given that the resulting novel is

Almost English — a tale of adolescent insecurity, secrets and lies and the eccentricities of the émigré — it’s to our gain that she did.

 The heroine of  Almost English is Marina, a  preternaturally intelligent but emotionally  naïve teenager, growing up in west London in the late 1980s. Her life — and the lives of  those she lives with, specifically her mother,  grandmother and two exquisitely inimitable great-aunts — is turned upside down when she decamps for a boarding school. Though she expects Blytonesque jolly hockey sticks, it turns out to be a hotbed of teen vindictiveness, sexually entitled teenage boys and Sloaney Kate Middleton types.

A vague romance offers Marina a ticket to a very different life from her own, as she gets to know the upper-class Viney family, with the predictably frosty blonde wife and arrogant but charming patriarch, in whom Marina identifies the perfect role model.

The novel, set over a term at Combe Abbey School, follows Marina as she attempts to reconcile who she thinks she wants to become, with her eccentric, Hungarian-immigrant family, who are introduced to us via absurdly large amounts of food, wafts of perfume and accented English. To Rozsi, Marina’s grandmother, life is “von-darefool”; to Marina, the family is a much-loved burden to shoulder.

Meanwhile, as her daughter struggles with the peculiarities of a very English life, her mother Laura — an English rose somehow swallowed up by the Hungarians — considers how her life has reached this point, and wonders whether she will ever move past the disappearance of Marina’s father.

The two stories are delightfully interwoven to reach a climax in which various secrets come to light. Mother and daughter misunderstand each other and fail appallingly to communicate, while the clucking chorus of Hungarians look on, boasting big earrings and a well-developed ability to do exactly what they want.

Marina, neurotic, innocent, is a delightful heroine; not necessarily likeable as a young woman, but someone you know would be fantastic company in a few years. Laura is rather more listless, constantly thinking rather than acting, and is perhaps less easy to root for. For much of the novel, I wanted to shake her into taking control.

Almost English is a colourful, clever novel with more than enough intrigue to keep you turning the pages. And although Mendelson’s Hungarians are not designated as Jewish, their unapologetic outsider status, and their refusal to adjust their curious behaviours to British expectations, will surely be familiar to many whose family arrived as immigrants. An enjoyable, convincing book.


A royal arrival (Lawfully Chic)

On the afternoon that I visited the Museum of London, there were signs up reminding that it was 99 years since the First World War was declared. In 1913, of course, Britain’s monarch was one King George V, the current Queen’s grandmother, who ruled until 1936.Nearly a century later and everyone is talking about the next monarch who will bear that name. No matter that he’s just a few weeks old, we want to know everything about young George Alexander Louis: what he’s wearing, who is visiting him, what nicknames he’ll be known by. And to mark the historic birth of our future king (Republican aspirations of overthrow aside), the Museum of London has put on a tiny slip of a display looking back at the young prince’s predecessors.The exhibit includes a pleasantly coherent family tree that traces the royals as far back as King James I, the royal who succeeded the first Queen Elizabeth (although it’s not all encompassing; interestingly, although the Queen Mother appears next to King George VI as his consort, Wallis Simpson – whose love inspired Edward to abdicate and changed the path of British history – is conspicuously absent). In a stroke of fun, they have also listed how these long-dead monarchs are related to baby George, so we learn, say, that Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, who died in 1772 and was married to Frederick, Prince of Wales, would have been his eight times great grandmother.

Among the few (as I said, this is only a baby-sized exhibition, barely a wall’s worth of memorabilia) items on display are shoes from the mid-19th century, worn by Queen Victoria’s offspring. Prince Albert Edward’s tiny black boots are there, in an impeccable condition that suggests the young royal was not permitted to engage in much outdoor play. Meanwhile only one of Prince Leopold’s shoes is on show, leading you to speculate what the punishment might have been for a royal who misplaced his possessions.

There’s also a dress and cap worn by the future King Edward as a baby in the early 1840s, when his mother had been on the throne just four years. The dress is embroidered with three sets of ostrich feathers, which apparently signify that the wearer is one day to inherit the throne. And there’s an uncomfortable looking cap worn in infancy by the future King Charles I. Although slightly stained, it’s in fairly good shape considering it dates back to 1600.

If nothing else, this is a touching reminder that even our great statesmen and women were babes in arms once, dressed in fussy outfits by their adoring parents. Kate and Wills, being the trendy sort, might choose to dress their son in more modern garb, but it’s curious to think that in a few centuries little George’s Boden jackets or baby Hunter wellies could be displayed in a glass case at a museum.

Given the brevity of the display, I wouldn’t recommend making the trip just for this, but it’s certainly worth stopping off at en route to one of the museum’s other summer shows (among them the fascinating London Cycles, which looks at the capital on two-wheels, and another exhibition that celebrates 90 years of the Radio Times by showcasing its most memorable covers). And if you got a spare 15 minutes in the area, it’s well worth taking a peek. Young eyes will be fascinated by the royal timeline and may even be driven to find out more about these doughty kings and queens; the rest of us will recall that for all the talk of an unprecedented media circus around George’s arrival, curiosity about the royals has been part of our country’s heritage for a long time.

A Royal Arrival, free display, 28 June – October 2013, The Museum of London

Royal Baby, Royal Motherhood? (The Forward)

He’s not yet two days old, only weighs 3.8 kg and doesn’t even have a name. Yet Baby Cambridge, third in line to the throne and pronounced beautiful by his doctor, is currently occupying the world’s attention. Kate, it seems, has done her job.

Throughout British royal history, the existence of the heir and the spare has been of the utmost importance. Queen Victoria may have presided over the industrial revolution, but she was also celebrated for being a mother of nine. Henry VIII divorced and beheaded two wives and divided the church all because he wanted a wife to give birth to a son. As the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I’s failure to marry and procreate plunged the political classes into crisis mode.

But whereas once the lack of an obvious heir put the country’s future stability at risk, that’s hardly the case today. The Queen is head of state, but her duties are ceremonial; uncertainty about the next monarch would not send the markets into a spasm. Theoretically, had William chosen to stay celibate, it wouldn’t have mattered (except to legions of wannabe-princesses): The royal line would have gone in another direction, but the U.K. would have been just fine. But that’s only in theory. We all know that had Kate not done what every pundit and gossip magazine had demanded since the first slice of wedding cake was snaffled — had a child, stat — she would have been seized on as a failure, not quite guilty of treason, but not far short.

Regardless of her being an educated, not noticeably imbecilic graduate in a time of female leaders and businesswomen, and despite the overriding view that women can achieve the same as men (possibly provided that they “lean in”), all along it has been about Kate becoming a mother.

To the public, her entire purpose up until now has been to produce the heir (and then the spare). Going forwards, her only concern is to raise him in a fitting manner. If he is an inquisitive child, she will be praised; if he follows in his uncle Harry’s footsteps and is one day photographed in Nazi uniform or in the buff, you can be sure it’ll be her fault.

It’d be ridiculous to criticize Kate for conforming to expectation — she may have been required to have a baby, but I can’t imagine she sees it as a negative. Nevertheless, the nature of the coverage — the focus almost singularly on Kate rather than William in the past nine months; the media surrounding the hospital for days; the number of live Royal Baby blogs — signifies the continued centrality of motherhood in public life.

And it’s true of Jewish life, too, a matrilineal religion where motherhood is often held up as the holy grail of Jewish womanhood. In the strictly Orthodox community, it’s pretty much the only expectation, but even in less devout Jewish circles where we emphasize academic and professional success, we rarely do so at the expense of motherhood.

For all that, it takes two to tango. As newlywed Jewish women will testify, they, not their new husbands, bear the brunt of questioning about when they will start a family. If not wanting children is seen as unusual for a woman in the wider world, in the community it is generally viewed as an aberration. How many jokes have the Jewish mother as a punchline? Can you think of any that riff on the Jewish father?

And yes, communal life is arranged around the domestic, which historically was the preserve of the Jewish woman. But it goes deeper: Biblically, women may have been strong role models, but they were often depicted through the prism of motherhood, not least Sarah, who allowed Abraham to take another partner because she herself has failed to reproduce. The megillah Ruth ends with us learning she has given birth to the line of the future King David. As for Hannah, mother to Samuel, I remember learning about her in Hebrew classes, my teachers clearly implying that childlessness was the worst fate that could befall a Jewish woman.

Obviously, much like hereditary royalty, Judaism will survive only by its members producing the next generation of “the firm” — and women are kind of crucial to that. The madness surrounding Kate’s pregnancy is — maybe for ardent royalists — survivalist; in Judaism we obsess about motherhood because we care about the fate of our people.

Still, is this elevation of motherhood — because it is motherhood specifically, not parenthood — a necessary part of that? Is it healthy, in 2013, when women can achieve in any area, to place quite so much emphasis on whether they will fulfill their duty to give birth? And, at least in the Jewish community, will we ever view producing the next generation as quite the joint responsibility it is?

Even as we strive to declare Judaism’s modern, forward-looking credentials, when it comes to maternity we are really no different than the overexcited crowds around Buckingham Palace, waiting for our women to do her duty. Perhaps we haven’t changed since biblical times as much as we’d like to think.

This post was originally published by The Forward. Read the original here