If you engage in any sort of media these days you will be confronted with the discourse on the roles of women and their autonomy, value, rights and access. The discussions vary from reproductive rights, parental leave, access to STEM education to religious roles. It is often the case that the fault line of what defines a movement today, whether it be political, academic or religious, is how it treats its female members. It seems as a society, we still don’t know how to properly accommodate or value an intellectual, talented and autonomous woman.
The modern woman struggles to navigate how to straddle many worlds and fully express her many passions, interests and skills while simultaneously meeting the needs of her manifold commitments. Women react to their circumstances in different ways—there are those who demonstrate ways to crash glass ceilings, others who want to put the female experience out there to the world to mitigate stigma and extinguish any associated shame. Then there are women who choose to lean in to the system and find creative ways to seek fulfillment within its parameters. All these women struggle with their personal perceptions of possibilities and qualifications against the backdrop of external expectations and values.
Women often give of themselves to satisfy the needs and expectations of others. They will redirect their energies to meet the needs of a partner, to care for a family, and/or to reach goals in a career. Sometimes the negation of herself to meet the needs of another can be seen as detrimental to her identity. Other times, that chance at redirection can be a creative opportunity of self-discovery. Moments of struggle and turmoil can create opportunities for growth and mastery. Time and again women have proven how conflict and even antagonism can bear the fruit of ingenuity and brilliance.
The Jewish Study Network’s Annual Women’s Seminar creates a space for women to confront and discuss with other women some of these struggles and challenges through various mediums and myriad Jewish perspectives. This year the JSN has chosen to highlight the journey of an aspiring starlet who veiled her talents to follow a seemingly more meaningful life only to discover how her suppressed craft could make this divergent path more meaningful for herself and those around her. Julia Blum first thought that taking on a religious identity meant she needed to negate a part of her identity that seemed at odds with the religion. She came to realize that she could embrace her whole self by using her talents to augment her religious identity.
From a young age, Julia followed the script of what could have been a very successful career in the performing arts. She began to study music at 3, ballet at 7, and had an agent by 12, taking the lead roles in productions at Beverly Hills High School where casting directors frequently attended. There were voiceovers, commercials and small parts in movies. That all would culminate in attending Yale University, majoring in film and music. But in a gap year where she went to travel the world, Julia veered from that well-curated ingress down an entirely different route. It began with a well-meaning invitation to a Shabbat meal while visiting Jerusalem’s Western Wall. She became intrigued by the religion of her heritage and enrolled in a three-month program for women at Jerusalem’s Neve Yerushalayim Seminary. Blum chose to take on the identity of a Jewish Orthodox woman, and that meant walking away from the now-prohibited lifestyle of public performance among men. She soon also assumed the role of wife and mother. But her talent could not be contained and she found a way to overcome her disquietude with her personal identity. Julia found her outlet by performing for women-only venues and taking her audience on her unique journey through a musical narrative. Her original music and lyrics tell of her intriguing life and fresh perspective and are a medium to share the meaningful inspiration she found in learning about and observing Judaism.
On Sunday February 7th, a community of women, including the talented Julia Blum, interested in teaching mindful and inspirational ways to replenish that well, reconnect to oneself and unlock those eclipsed talents. We will tap into the insight of these women who continuously work to find that balance between fully expressing their essence while navigating the framework of daily life. Diverse community members and experts in their field will be giving classes on various topics including holistic nutrition, cooking demos, art therapy, best parenting practices and reflective courses guided by biblical texts. This will all be followed by a delicious gourmet lunch. The event will take place on the beautiful campus of the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, CA. This year’s seminar will be organized by digital event planner, Evenium. This innovative approach will allow attendees to be active participants, be informed in real time and easily connect with other attendees. Please sign up and register for the workshops at JSN.info. On-site childcare will also be provided. Connect and celebrate with other Jewish women to nourish your mind, body and soul at this upcoming Super Soul Sunday.