Jewish Women’s Salon tackles tough topics shown in film

by | May 4, 2012 | Other News

A primary goal of the newly launched Jewish Women’s Salon is to form a community of women—both live and virtual—where diverse demographic, geographic and Jewish backgrounds are welcome. Another is to initiate and encourage discussions on topics that impact 21st century Jewish women.

These goals—and more—were met during the screening of Part I of the award-winning documentary film Miss Representation on April 22 at the Sandler Family Campus. The 45 women who participated in the event saw filmmaker Jennifer Sieble Newsom’s interpretation of how the mainstream media portrays women—and the negative impact those portrayals have on self-actualization, self-esteem and society’s perceptions and support.

The film features profiles and interviews with famous women in business, politics and the media. It also interviews a number of young girls and teens. A common theme runs through each of their remarks. They have all struggled, for a variety of reasons, to be happy with themselves. The professionals spoke to their experiences of being taken seriously and treated as equals by male counterparts in the workplace.

Several mental health professionals weigh in throughout the film on the negative impact of these experiences and the harm that comes from constant reinforcement of the idea that women are unequal to men. This devaluation has, and continues to have, long-term ramifications on leadership development, world politics, and messaging to our next generations.
In examining the way that women are portrayed in television, the movies, music videos, print and video advertisements, and even video games, a picture emerges of the falsely perfect and completely unrealistic ideal, to which most women will never live up. This further erodes the confidence of women and young girls. It also sets an expectation among men and young boys which is bound to disappoint.

“This movie really showed me a lot, and it made me realize that it’s important for not only women to realize what’s going on in the media, but men need to realize it too,” says Caitlin Abrams, 15. “Then maybe things will change.”

Caitlin and her sister Stephanie, 18, saw a flyer for the film and asked their mother, Melissa Taylor, if they could come. Taylor agreed and was glad she did.

“More women need to see this movie; more mothers need to bring their daughters; and more mothers need to teach their sons that all individuals should be treated as intelligent people who can make a difference,” Taylor says.

Following the film, event co-chairs Danielle Leibovici, Janet Mercadante and Janet Peck led a discussion about issues raised in the film, and how some of those issues change when viewed through a uniquely Jewish lens. The Jewish Women’s Salon program, originally called 614 eZine in Tidewater, was the vision of Annie Sandler, who was deeply involved in the development of the on-line magazine 614 eZine at Hadassah Brandeis Institute. Sandler had a vision to turn the pixels on the screen into a meaningful program for women here in Tidewater.

Sharon Debb, a young mother of three, was motivated by the film and the discussion.

“I have two girls that I’m raising to grow up to be Jewish women,” says Debb. “I wanted to see and hear what these girls can do and be. I want things to be different than when I grew up, and maybe we can all be part of making that happen.”

Part II of Miss Representation screens on Sunday, May 20 at 10 am at the Sandler Family Campus. Organizers expect more people to attend after the success of the first part.
The discussion has continued past the airing of Part I. The Jewish Women’s Salon has an online forum and a Facebook page. Comments and information are available at those sites; all of the information—including events, discussions, links to the Jewish Women’s Salon online forum, and the latest issue of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute eZine 614 (which includes great articles for Jewish women)—can be found at

To RSVP for Part II of Miss Representation, or for more information about the Jewish Women’s Salon, call 965-6139.

by Laine M. Rutherford