Out Loud

  • "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.


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  • Out of the Depths

    28 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.


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  • Judaism belongs to every Jew

    25 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.


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  • Taking Our Place: Elaine Reuben

    25 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.


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  • The fight for equality is far from over

    24 October 2013

    By Susi Brieger OAM, October 2013

    Australian Jewish women face challenges common to all women in society. Their responsibility as primary caregivers for children, the elderly and the sick hampers their development as spiritual, political and cultural leaders. Nevertheless since 1988 increasing gains have been made in the fight for gender equality.

    In my own field of education, the equal contribution of women has been recognised in Jewish Day Schools with the appointment of female principals. More women could rise to positions of educational leadership if employers and communal organisations recognised the need for affordable care for children and if cultural changes within the communities occurred so that care work could be shared between men and women. In the area of decision making not a lot of progress has been made since 1988.

    While more women lead committees within communal organisations, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the elected representative of the Jewish community has not had a female president; the Jewish Communal Appeal which is concerned with planning and fund raising is predominantly male orientated; currently, only one woman heads a communal organisation in NSW. Without equal representation in communal power structures, the fight for equality is far from over. To facilitate the rise of women as leaders a communal register could be established along the lines of “appoint women” an initiative of the Australian government designed to give women opportunities to be considered for appointment to a variety of decision making bodies.


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Israel's dilemma: Who can be an Israeli?

By Daniel Sokatch and David N. Myers

13 January 2014