Some say women belong only in the kitchen. Others say women should pursue careers and leave the housekeeping to someone else. Somewhere in between these two extremes lies the advice shared by Bronya Shaffer to a crowd of more than 25 Penn students and community members at the Lubavitch House on Friday night. Shaffer, speaking on the role of the Jewish woman in the modern world, explained the middle ground in the conflict between the woman's place in the workplace and in the domestic realm. "It is never a conflict of ideals, it is just a conflict of time and energy," Shaffer said. Her suggestion to Jewish women and girls of all ages was to perform "simple acts -- like lighting the Sabbath candles." She also reminded college students that following traditions can enable a young woman to make wherever she lives into a home. Although Shaffer is herself an observant Hasidic Jew from the ultra-observant neighborhood of Crown Heights, N.Y., she stressed that her message is not meant only for religious Jews. Lighting the candles, Shaffer said, is "about creating an awareness and influencing the people around you. It's for all women." Shaffer also pointed out that even though women may have been limited to certain fields 50 years ago, they have since been more liberated. "Today there is no area that women aren't involved in. Society is changing, and that means traditions are changing," she said. Audience members were largely receptive to Shaffer's message. "Realizing that wherever I am is my home, and that I can light the candles even in my room here at Penn, is really comforting," College sophomore Ilene Kalter said. College sophomore Lisa Pitlor also felt that Shaffer's advice was relevant to her life. "I want to be able to raise my kids and have a career," Pitlor said. "I'm not that religious, but I plan to raise my kids in a Jewish home. These kinds of ideas make sense to me." Shaffer chose to concentrate on the idea of lighting the Sabbath candles in honor of the third birthday of Sterna Levin, the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim and Flora Levin, who run the Lubavitch House at Penn. In Lubavitch tradition, the third birthday is the first time a girl lights the Sabbath candles on Friday night. "At this age, a child starts to understand what they're doing," Levin explained. "They have ownership over their own actions." Levin had invited Shaffer and her family to join his family for the weekend in order to help celebrate this occasion. Shaffer, who travels occasionally to lecture around the country, focuses much of her studies on communication and relationships. Communication, she said, is important to the discussion of the modern Jewish woman. "There are serious misconceptions about traditional Judaism's view of women," Shaffer said. "There must be recognition that what I'm saying doesn't exclude anyone."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.