“The Sacred Calling” is a fascinating collection of essays tracing the history of women in the rabbinate, focusing on both their personal and professional lives. The book is divided into seven (7) broad sections including “Those Who Came Before Us”, “Reform Ordination of Women”, “Ripple Effects: The Impact of Ordaining Women”, “Women Rabbis and Feminism”, “Jewish Life”, “Congregational Culture and Community Life” and finally “image”. Each section contains numerous essays dealing with different aspects of each topic.

History of women in the rabbinate is fascinating, not unlike the history of any other field where women pioneers have paved the way for the future generation. I enjoyed learning about the very first women who were ordained, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

One of my favorite quotes from the book states:

"Women’s stories are particularly vulnerable since, until recently, we were not the keepers of these stories. What will happen to our stories, the stories of women breaking through the barriers at the admissions office of HUC-JIR, coping with an institution built for only male students, professors who were not used to women students, and the barriers of congregations who didn’t want women rabbis as their leaders, once we, who experienced these things, pass from the world?" (Who Controls the Narrative? P. 7)

What makes this book really special is not the fact that it tells the story of these women, but that the story is told by some of the very same women who lived through the challenges of becoming rabbi’s in a male oriented religious structure. We hear firsthand from these women the challenges they faced and how they persevered.

I particularly enjoyed the essay “Women Rabbis in Israel” which dealt with professional experiences unique to female clergy, and the way these women confronted such experiences including overt sexism with humor, confidence and zeal.

This book is a must read not only for those in the Jewish faith, but for anyone interested in learning about how historically marginalized groups, challenges they faced and how they managed to overcome the barriers and succeed.

Iran Star Toronto has published a paid add for "Sighe" temporary marriage also known as islamic prostitution in their paper. The Regime in Iran has used "sighe" or temporary marriages which can be as short as an hour to legalize prostituion and further marginalize women who have no other way of making an income. Now the Islamic Regime is attempting to bring the practice of "sighe" to Canada. This is totally unacceptable and goes against all of our Canadian Values.

Toko Loshe’s novel Shades of Africa is a riveting page turner about growing up in South Africa during the Apartheid. The story is told through the lenses of a young girl growing up in a family with a violent father and a passive mother, in the background of the violence and horror of the South African apartheid.

What I loved about this novel was the seamless parallel story lines between the personal and political. While Shades of Africa sets out an accurate and heartbreaking account of the Apartheid, that is not the only focus of the book. The novel discusses in a very frank manner domestic violence and abuse of women and children during that time.

The story focuses on a young girl Shirley who grows up in a family with an alcoholic and abusive father who takes no issue with violently beating his wife and children on a regular basis. Unfortunately Shirley’s mother is no protection against the abuse, in fact she is a passive woman who often gives up on her own needs and wants and goes along to get along. It’s quite tragic that Shirley grows up to end up in a similar situation as her mother, in a violent abusive relationship and children that she must protect.

One of the most intriguing things about this novel is the fact that a lot of the issues in the books are still very much current and relatable. While the Apartheid in South Africa has ended there is still so much violence and discrimination going on in many countries around the world, where dictatorships continue to persecute religious and ethnic minorities. As well the domestic violence of women and children are still prevalent in many countries in the world.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the South African Apartheid or general issues of oppression of ethnic or religious minorities.

Today I attended the Turkish “Anatolia” Festival at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto, expecting a wonderful experience filled with Turkish culture, art, food and music. I had been looking forward to this festival for weeks as I have a very special place in my heart for Turkey and its wonderful people, and couldn’t wait to get a taste of everything Turkey.

Unfortunately what I came across was anything BUT Turkish, but everything Islamic. One of the most noticeable things when I arrived was the fact that 90% of the women who were either selling tickets or were in the booths were covered from head to toe with the Islamic Hijab. Turkish women are some of the best dressed, beautiful and modern women in the world; however anyone attending this festival would have been left with the impression that Turkey has an Islamic dress code for women, as there were very few women who were not covered head to toe. What was more disturbing was the clothing booth selling Islamic Hijab outfits at very discounted prices, while there was not a single booth selling or advertising either Turkish modern clothes or the gorgeous and colorful traditional outfits worn by women while performing traditional dances.

In terms of music the major featured band was a NON-Turkish group called Dean-Squad who are known for their Islamic music. I have nothing against this band and had not heard of them prior to the Turkish festival; however I was left very confused about why a Turkish Festival organized by the cultural branch of the Turkish Embassy would not feature a Turkish band for their festival… While I did not have an opportunity to watch Dean Squad’s performance, I did have a chance to watch another live performance of a Turkish groups who seemed to be chanting the Arabic word “Allah,Allah” which means God, instead of singing anything in Turkish.

Other areas of concern were the displaying of the Ottoman Empire Flag beside the Turkish red moon crescent and star flag. One of the major differences between the Ottoman Flag and the Turkish Flag is the representation of the “Caliphate” the Supreme religious leaders of an Islamic State within the Ottoman Flag. The Ottoman Flag represents the Caliphate in green colors and the Sultanate in red colors. While the Ottoman Flag represents Islam as much as the Ottoman Sultans, the current Turkish Flag is secular and does not represent Islam. For the first time in my life I attended a Turkish event where the Ottoman Flag was displayed along with the Turkish Flag no doubt to represent Recep Erdogan’s strong Islamic affiliation.

I was sad to see there was not even a single picture of Mustafa Kemal ATATURK, the founder of Republic of Turkey who modernized Turkey and created a secular government. Ataturk is a well loved and respected figure in Turkey; in fact his surname Ataturk means “the Father of Turks”. The Islamic Government of Erdogan has done everything in its power to reverse everything Ataturk did to secularize and modernize Turkey, however I can’t see the people of Turkey allowing Erdogan to get away with that.

The festival was not all bad as I had a chance to meet a wonderful Turkish woman who hand makes beautiful soaps, and had a chance to speak to two beautiful and talented ladies who had come from Turkey to display their art first in the Montreal Jazz festival and then in the Turkish Festival in Toronto.

Unfortunately apart from those three wonderful ladies there was nothing Turkish about this so called Turkish festival. Turkish art, music, cinema, clothes and literature was all missing, however Islamic clothes, books and culture were plentiful.

After waiting for weeks to attend this Turkish festival I left disappointed, confused and mostly sad for Turkey and its wonderful people who are being represented by an Islamic Extremist Government who is doing everything it can to change a secular and modern country into an Islamic Dictatorship. While disappointed I also have great faith and hope in the people of Turkey, the descendants of Ataturk who will not allow Erdogan’s dictatorship to destroy their country.

Long Live a free and secular Turkey

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