Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

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.


How to Turn Tragedy into a Learning and Growing Experience

In Religion on December 1, 2008 at 7:15 pm

When I came home on Wednesday night and found out about the Mumbai terrorist attacks I was horrified. As I looked at the information my heart ached for those there experiencing such chaos and utter terror. Hearing that the Chabad rabbi and his family were missing brought the tragedy home as I looked at his kind smiling face, I suddenly realized that what was happening was actually really close to home. When you can see the face of a victim, a living tangible human being, things become that much more real. Although I knew what was going on, not seeing faces or images made it seem awful but very, very faraway. I suddenly felt a real true connection to this human being and I began to pray in my own words that God should spare his and his wife’s life. I probably should have been praying for everyone so forgive me for that, but I prayed for what seemed real.

After hearing that unfortunately both the Rabbi and his wife had been killed, along with many others I felt sick. At first I was angry and rightly so but I realized that anger needs to be channeled into good. Anger gets us nothing but fighting and hatred. I realized that we all need to rise above anger and turn tragedy into our growing experience. It saddened me that it took a tragedy to bring all types of Jews together, but also made me happy to see all the solidarity among various different Jews. It made me want to expand on that. In memory of the Holtzbergs, I am taking upon myself to stop judging, critiquing or looking at my fellow Jews with derision or scorn. We are all one family. In the world today it so important to love each other whatever our beliefs or methods for finding God. Every time I think an unkind thought I will think of the Holtzbergs and their amazing commitment to Judaism and Jewish values. I will bite my tongue and try not to think these things. I urge you all to join me and actively participate in a campaign to love one another.

Am Yisrael Chai