bargainjewess

Orthodox Jewish Feminism

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 at 3:55 am

When I was growing up I yearned with a desire to be just like the boys in shul and be called up to read from the Torah. I yearned to feel that intense connection to God, that I so clearly did not feel sitting behind curtain number 1. I always felt a profound sense of loss that I could never participate fully in the minyan or make an actual contribution to Judaism other than raising Jewish children or baking challah.

In my bais yaakov upbringing I felt stifled by the de rigueur chumash, navi, and mishlei, things that were appropriate for girls to learn but never quite stimulating enough for me. I wished to learn gemara; to be treated as an equal. I would watch the men dance with the Torah on Simchas Torah and feel a profound sense of loss that it was not me. That I was merely relegated to sit and watch.

After I got married I suddenly discovered a whole network of Orthodox Jewish Feminists. Women who yearned for more. For the first time in my life I danced with a sefer torah, and I found out that there were people who would teach me gemara, or how to lane megilla, and suddenly the Judaism of my childhood seemed to have shifted to a Judaism that could with time be inclusive.

In my shul recently there has been a search for a new Rabbi. The biggest questions on many people’s minds are what role will women play? Will they be able to dance in the main sanctuary with a sefer torah? Will we have a yoetzet? Will there ever be a female shul president? Suddenly before my eyes the patriarchal Judaism is taking stock and realizing that women feel excluded and if they sit on their haunches and do nothing, the already small orthodox movement will grow smaller.

I attended the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Dinner recently and at the panel discussion the question was raised “Is there a moral imperative to have orthodox female rabbis?” It’s a question that will shock many and while there are many more pressing issues on the table it is something to think about as the dynamics of our community change.

I was so excited the other night meeting the famous blogger Jewess, otherwise known as Rebecca Honig Friedman, who brought to light the whole Mt. Sinai Shul announcer controversy. I am inspired by women like my friend Orly Lieberman who is changing the way we view Taharat Hamishpacha and doing an amazing job educating kallot. I am inspired by female scholars like Sharon Weiss Greenberg, Miriam Segura Harrison, and Ruth Balinsky. These women sit and learn gemara in a beit Midrash just like men, something I never thought growing up could be a possibility.

I feel blessed to live in a community that takes women’s issues seriously and I hope in my lifetime that there might just be an orthodox female rabbi.

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  1. I think that the education of women has drastically improved since the 1980s. What has changed in the past couple of years, is the acceptance of advanced Jewish education in the mainstream orthodox community. Most communities are ready for female leaders…it seems as if the title is going to need to wait.

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