By Jaclyn Turner
College-aged women have plenty of questions about sex, alcohol, healthy eating and body image, and Not Yo Momma’s Judaism has created a forum for women to discuss these issues in a Jewish way.
Former Hillel engagement associate Merav Fine established the forum in 2010 because she saw Judaism as an important framework for processing life’s many questions, and she wanted to provide a space where college-aged women could come together to discuss topics affecting women from a Jewish perspective.
Although Fine is no longer associated with the university, Corinne Bernstein, the current Hillel engagement associate, has worked to advance the program on the campus. She holds programs one to two times a month. So far, the program has been mostly limited to fraternity and sorority houses and Birthright participants, but she hopes to expand the program to smaller groups of friends and sports teams.
The program has spread due to word of mouth and from one-on-one conversations between Bernstein and students. She encouraged anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism from a modern perspective to contact her to create a session.
Nothing is an off-limit topic in Not Yo Momma’s Judaism.
“I really enjoy the body image conversations,” Bernstein said. “As a young woman, I feel constantly bombarded by stereotypes and assumptions of what a Jewish woman ‘should’ be, and in college, stereotypes and expectations run rampant. NYMJ is a way to express those frustrations as well as talk about ways that we can overcome them.”
Moriah Gendelman, a junior chemistry major, also enjoyed the discussion of body image, which is addressed in the Torah. She said women should be confident about their bodies.
Junior math and education major Elana Horowitz has attended several sessions with her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, and has also led a session for Limud last year in Baltimore.
“It empowers women,” Horowitz said. “We’re taking Torah and relating it today.
Horowitz’s favorite discussion related to sexuality and the story of Tamar, as well as how women use their sexuality based off of what they wear while studying. In the story, from the book of Genesis, Tamar wants a child, but her husband Er dies before she has one. Her second husband, Er’s brother, Onan, dies as well. Eventually, she hides her true identity from Judah, her father-in-law, and seduces him.
“It was pretty racy, which was why it was a fun session, “Horowitz said. “You shouldn’t judge people based on what they wear, even though [Tamar] used her sexuality to get what she wanted.”
However, discussions can suffer, Horowitz said, when participants are afraid to contribute. But these group sessions are often done with people who know each other, fostering a comfortable and open area for conversation.
“I love having the conversations,” Bernstein said. “I like that I can provide these opportunities to people. I like the surprise of what people have to say.”
Anyone with an interest in Jewish learning can schedule a session with Bernstein. Groups should have about 8 people in them – Bernstein said she likes to keep the groups small.
Groups are built on whatever topic the group wants to hear. Bernstein works with the group to tailor the topics to individual groups. For example, one group focused on being a Jewish girl in a sorority brings up ideas of several stereotypes.
Wings of Wisdom is the brother program to Not Yo Momma’s Judaism. So far, sessions have been done at Alpha Epsilon Pi.