The Secret of Rachel Azaria and Bnai Jeshurun

June 20, 2013 by

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First appeared in Haaretz blog in Hebrew, 17/6/13

Here’s a story for you: With the help of Makom, the leaders of the Bnei Jeshurun community in Manhattan arrange a meeting with Rachel Azaria, Jerusalem council member of the Jerusalemites party.

They hear of her battles for a pluralistic Jerusalem, the fight for afternoon schooling, the struggle against the exclusion of women, and more. And they look to understand from her what New Politics is all about.

azaria point

Azaria has three children and a baby. It’s the evening, and she has to be on Skype with New York. Her husband is on reserve duty, and her father arrives at her apartment in Katamonim to help out with dinner and showers.

She arrives breathless from another interview on TV and sits down in front of the computer screen to speak with the Americans. Time difference of seven hours you know, it’s midday for them.

The conversation begins. Suddenly, the little baby starts to cry. Oops. Azaria realises that he needs feeding but the Skype call has already begun. They’re already talking about a developing vision, about the spirit of Jerusalem.

A slight shift of the web camera. She picks up the baby and begins breast-feeding, unseen by the camera. She is split, her head in New York with words like social change, local politics, Jewish renewal, and her body is giving milk.

This is the woman’s condition. Technology allows one to be both at home and at work, but at the cost of a serious split personality. To my mind this situation is the beginning of an answer, but also a challenge to things we have not yet faced.

But perhaps this story should have remained secret. After all Rachel Azaria is in the midst of an election campaign for the Council of the Eternal City Jerusalem, and it’s not clear if her motherhood is an asset since, certainly in Jerusalem, a man is a good father because he works, and a woman is a good mother even though she works.

Hence in a youtube we find Naftali Bennet (Economy Minister, Jewish Home Party) on a family hike with baby Menashe on his back, while women like Rachel Azaria must be very careful not to lose points when their motherhood shows up in newspaper photographs.


Thoughts arise straight away: How would she get to the council meeting when the baby is ill? Or alternatively, if she is a politician, what kind of mother can she be, and so, why vote for her?

It’s been said before: The concept “working mother” suggests conflict, while “family man” projects harmony.

azaria baby

And I, nevertheless, thought the folks in New York should know, as should the voters in Jerusalem. Because whoever lives like that, whoever holds on to the complexity of this city while also holding on to the complexities of private and public, knows something about a better society. And perhaps since Bennet calls us all brothers, we should call women like Azaria, sister.

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