Bigger than Feminism, Better with Feminism29 October 2013
By Susan Silverman, October 2013
When I became a Woman of the Wall, I became more fully Jewish.
I had been a rabbi for almost 20 years the day I was rounded up, with nine other women – including my seventeen-year-old daughter – by police for wearing a tallis and praying out loud at the kotel. That day was followed by a lot of forced introspection – the media requests for interviews came flooding in.
I knew in my heart why I was there. My Jewish practice called me to it, the desire to join the historic flow of Jews at that place called me to it, feminism called me to it.
But over the weeks of forced introspection, I realized something much deeper and more existential. Judaism was at stake for women and men. For all our children. For the Jewish future. I had always felt that the centuries of missing women’s voices had created a skewed Judaism – like a tree that had been deprived the right balance of sustenance. Now a narrow, idolatrous view of God and covenant was being codified in civil law! Mitzvot were more and more the jurisdiction of Hareidi Jews, becoming ends in themselves, not building blocks for a society in which the prophets could rejoice.
With WoW, I realized that my feminist, progressive fight was for the deepest purposes of our nation.
Rabbi Susan Silvermanis a writer and activist. She and her husband, Yosef Abramowitz have five children and live in Jerusalem.
"He's not a rabbi. He's a boy!"28 October 2013
By Allison Sherwat Cooper, October 2013
I was given a gift by the Jewish female pioneers (and their equally important male supporters) before me. As a child raised in the 1980s in an egalitarian, progressive, reform temple in Washington, DC, it was a given that I would become a bat mitzvah, stand on the bimah during the high holidays and chant the Jonah portion, and have numerous female presidents lead our temple. My mom was the matriarch of our Jewish education and life in our home. Therefore to me, being Jewish is synonymous with reaching your potential as a woman.
Of course, it wasn't a given. It was earned the very, very hard way.
The temple I now belong to in Norfolk, VA has a wonderful female rabbi who married me and my husband and performed the baby naming ceremonies for my sons. As important as it was for me as a young girl to know no bounds, as a mom, I now proudly own the responsibility of teaching my sons about the important, equally valuable role women play in all aspects of their lives, especially their Jewish lives.
I thank the Women of the Wall for making the following possible: In the past year, I took my three year old son to a Bar Mitzvah at a different synagogue and pointed to their rabbi on the bimah. My son wrinkled his forehead and skeptically challenged, “He’s not a rabbi. He’s a boy!” Times have changed, Women of the Wall, because of you.
Taking Our Place: Elaine Reuben25 October 2013
By Elaine Reuben, October 2013
Bat Mitzvah, present, absent or partial, seems to be significant in many of the stories here. Unusual as it still was then.
I did have a Bat Mitzvah, "just like the Bar Mitzvah boys," in 1954: my then rabbi, in a Conservative congregation in the Midwest, thought himself a Reconstructionist, the movement in which this modern recognition of daughters began.
The congregation didn't mind (as far as I know), that I read and lead and spoke on the bima, wearing a tallis -- but they didn't let it affect them positively either. No adult women there wore a tallis, none were offered (perhaps few sought) any ritual roles except lighting candles and opening the ark: there was no egalitarian community to enter and participate in after my Bat Mitzvah. And would not be for many years.
In those years, there was more than slowly and not-so-simply bringing girls and women to the bima. There were Rosh Hodesh groups and developments of non-sexist language and liturgy, art and literature reflecting women's voices, scholarly work on both the past and present of Jewish women and efforts toward their future with the ordination of women and the establishment of women's study and t'fillah groups.
Many of us had grown up proud to be Jewish women, but -- Bible stories aside -- more of that pride came from the work of women's organizations like Hadassah and National Council of Jewish Women (or tales of women in the IDF and on the kibbutzim and in social justice movements around the world) than from the spiritual center of our religion.
Finally, however, the pieces of our stories and the possibilities of our Jewish lives have come together here: we wish that for our sisters and brothers in Israel.
Out of the Depths28 October 2013
By Rabbi Neil Blumofe, October 2013
As one who came of age while walking the warrens of Jerusalem's Old City, I could easily disappear into the miracle of a vibrant and exciting Jewish life that has been fought for and established in this place of miracle. And yet -- our sages of old are still calling. Calling for us to not live complacently or with complicity, or to use our received wisdom as a bludgeon. Rather, we are invited to continue to turn and reimagine a flourishing Judaism that beckons us into a deeper relationship with each other -- finding kindness and generosity as we ingather and make room to live with each other.
Women's rights is not an American import -- authentic exploration that is steeped in tradition is a timeless Torah value that inspires and strengthens each of us as we quest for meaning and community before God. I stand with those who support gender equality to further Jewish life that is based in curiosity, purpose, and love of regular ritual. May we all write our Torah that is in conversation with ways that we can bring forward inspired kedushah, without fear of reprisal or accusations of speciousness. May we honor the precious legacy and the holy places that we inhabit and be worthy of God's name as we call out from our labyrinthine narrow places.
Neil Blumofe is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas. A Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, he is also a Fellow at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
Judaism belongs to every Jew25 October 2013
By Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman, October 2013
My connection to God was strengthened at a Women of the Wall support service in NY last March. There were over 300 people. Some didn't even personally understand women who chose to wear tallitot, but believed in religious freedom for all - not just those who agreed with them. Seeing all these people who didn't even know us personally, and some who have never been to the Kotel, care so much for this issue was incredible. I had an aliya that day, and when I called out Barchu et Adonai hamvorach, and the congregation responded, Baruch Adonai Hamvorach Leolam va'ed, my heart expanded. It was the most honest and vulnerable prayer of my life.
I am sad that I have not had this amazing kind of connection at the Kotel yet. When I am there my awe of God is clouded by my fear of violence. Israel needs to step up and stop enabling the Ultra-Orthodox. If one is not pushed to give back to its country, work for a living and think about anyone outside of his / her community, then how can we possibly expect s/he magically knows how to compromise? The Ultra-Orthodox are not the core problem of this issue. We are, the government is, and our country that has been enabling this kind of behaviors is. Like anyone who has been enabled, there is Haredi panic and anger, and in their case violence, at the prospect of losing the safety of their bubbled life. But Judaism belongs to every Jew, and every Jew must stand up and engage, despite threats from the entitled few.
In NY on Rosh Hodesh, surrounded by people who whole-heartedly supported what I have been fighting for month after month was an incredible feeling. One that I'm not used to on Rosh Chodesh. There was not one part of me that was scared, not a bone in me that wasn't connected to God. It will be a blessing when I can call out God's blessedness as openly and freely in Jerusalem as I can in New York.
Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman can be followed on twitter @purplelettuce95.