Juliet made the astute comment in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Using that same logic, a new ezine with engaging content should not be reliant on a hip name. But that doesn’t mean the name shouldn’t be insightful—and that we didn’t struggle to get it just right.
First we came up with the premise. We wanted to create an online magazine that would offer an opportunity to explore what Jewish experts, authors, and scholars are discussing around the world. This could be anything from which books every Jewish woman should read to whether feminism is different in Israel than in the United States to what the future holds for Jewish women in various countries. Rather than providing lengthy tomes, we wanted to provide short intriguing essays from various perspectives, and offer ways to learn more when possible. In short, we aspired to create a non-intimidating world of learning that would get Jewish women talking.
In Judaism there are 613 mitzvot—commandments we Jews are all intended to follow. Some Jews feel these commandments, compiled by Maimonides, must be followed because they come directly from God; others suggest they are simply reasonable acts of justice and compassion intended to help us reach our best, most ethical selves. Either way, it’s an extremely comprehensive list, including everything from eating matzah on Passover and lighting Sabbath candles to giving money to charity and not bearing a grudge.
The idea of 614 is not that there is one commandment missing. Rather, it is about the idea there is always room for innovation and exploration. At a complicated time when women are donating eggs, animals are being cloned, and Hollywood equates beauty with emaciation, we must continue to probe, explore our values, and talk to one another. Hey, we Jews have an incredibly long history of doing this. So why not continue to look at the ideas that impact all of us in one central place?
Our idea is not entirely original. Jewish philosopher and Holocaust survivor Emil Fackenheim (1916-2003) had the idea of adding a specific 614th mitzvah: the preservation of the Jewish people. This ezine strives to add to the health (and preservation) of our people by making modern Jewish women feel more energized, knowledgeable and excited about our Jewish identity.
Michelle is the author of I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms (Seal Press, 2012), and Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind, which is based on her award-winning documentary, Seeking Happily Ever After (Lionsgate, 2010). She is also the co-author of the national bestseller I’m Not Mad, I just Hate You! A New understanding of mother-daughter conflict, and is currently in production on her documentary One and Only about only children. Michelle writes about her life and various projects for her blog The Cove, and lectures regularly on modern-day issues for women. She lives in Boston with her husband, eight-year-old daughter, and three cats (which is too many cats). Visit www.michellecove.com for more information.