Every few years, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) convenes a conference where feminists get together and discuss gender issues within the Jewish community. The next conference will take place on December 7-8 at John Jay College in New York. I’ll be there, and so should you!
I’ll be going because I will be a speaker at the conference, and I mean, it would be difficult to give my presentation without actually attending the thing. Shameless self-promotion: you should come to the JOFA conference to hear me speak on a panel about blogging for change along with Sarah Seltzer and Sonia Isard, moderated by Gabi Birkner!
Even if I hadn’t been invited to speak at the conference, I would definitely be attending. I went to the conference in 2010 and had a really amazing, eye-opening experience. I was only in ninth grade at the time, but I learned so much about what Jewish feminism and activism means. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started blogging about Orthodox feminism less than six months later. Going to the 2010 conference gave me the tools to understand Jewish feminism and begin a journey to learn what it means to me personally. Knowing my previous experience with the JOFA conference, I can only imagine how much this upcoming conference will impact my sense of self and activism.
Part of why I’m extremely excited to attend the conference is because I really want to hear so many of the people who will be speaking. Everyone slated to speak is an expert in his or his field, and all of them are serious Jewish feminist rock stars. It’s an honor to be in the same room as these people, let alone to be a fellow speaker. Although I have no idea which sessions I’ll be attending yet – they’re all so good! – I’m particularly interested in a few, like Mirror Image: Eating Disorders in the Orthodox Community and Kaddish, Women’s Voices: Emotional and Personal Perspectives.
Unlike most conferences I attend, I’m not going to bring down the average age of attendance by 30 years. There will be other college students speaking at the JOFA conference, like my fellow 36 Under 36er Amram Altzman, as well as feminists still in high school. I really look forward to hearing what other feminists of my peer group have to say. I’m also glad that older feminists will get the opportunity to hear the voices of my generation, since it’s a perspective that is usually missed out on.
Another reason why I really can’t wait to go to the JOFA conference is because I can’t wait to meet more Orthodox feminists. I come from such a right-wing background, so it’s still a novelty for me to meet other people who think the same way as I do. Although I currently live in an environment where Orthodox feminism is accepted as legitimate, it’ll never get old to meet other people who are really active in feminist thought and activism. Ignoring the networking opportunities, it’ll just be so great to be among my kind.
Talia Weisberg is a student at Harvard University.