Mixed Messages09 October 2013
By Rachel Mann, October 2013
I grew up with mixed messages. My parents encouraged me to succeed academically, and I always felt my prospects were limitless; when I grew up, I could be anything my brothers could be. With one exception. In our Conservative non-egalitarian synagogue, my brothers, once of age, could read Torah and lead tefilot and count in the minyan, and I could not. It was a jarring inconsistency in what was otherwise a thoroughly modern household.
As a young adult, I had to find a way to reconcile my Jewish identity and my progressive feminist identity. Forsaking either one was never an option. For a time, I infrequently visited a synagogue. When my first child was born, it felt natural and necessary to join a spiritual community. It was finally my chance to choose the community that I wanted to be a part of; how lucky for me to live in New York City, where we joined a thriving intellectual, egalitarian, and socially progressive synagogue. Every time I listened to our talented woman cantor beautifully lead the tefilot, my Jewish identity and feminist identities were affirmed.
I have three young daughters, and already their education has been different from mine. They expect equal opportunities for men and women, in both the religious and secular spheres. I look forward to celebrating my oldest’s bat mitzvah and watching her proudly read the Torah and don a talit. And I dream of a day when she will be able to practice Judaism as she sees fit, no matter where she is in the world; even at the Kotel.
Rachel Mann is a blogger at No Turning Back: http://becomingajewishparent.blogspot.com
The Day the Bat Mitzvah Marched with the Torah09 October 2013
By Rabbi Ralph P. Kingsley, October 2013
One of the memorable moments of my thirty-one year rabbinate at Temple Sinai of North Dade was the day that a Bat Mitzvah carried the Torah during the Hakafah on Shabbat morning for the first time. Not only was her face aglow, but so were the faces of the other young women who were at services that day. They understood that a new custom had been established and that they too would be permitted to carry the Torah from that day on. And so it has been. Today no one thinks twice about it. One wonders why anyone ever did. It is so natural and so wonderful.
Coming of Age, Again09 October 2013
By Cathy Swerdlow, October 2013
I became a Bat Mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue in New York State in 1965, but it took me years to realize that my ceremony and that of the boys in my class were not equal. You see, I conducted the Friday evening service only. And, after reciting the Kiddush, I chanted the Haftorah portion for the week. But it was chanted "for real" the following day by the boy who had his Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat morning. I was not called to Torah, he was. At the time, I accepted that this was the way it was done.
As Judaism in America responded to the societal changes of feminism, the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements became egalitarian. Rabbis and cantors, religious school principals and teachers could be male or female. Women are now counted in the minyan. And I have found myself more involved in Judaism as a full participant, more than I could have imagined as a young girl.
I wear a tallilt and kippah, don tefillin on weekdays at our community minyan and read Torah on a regular basis in my Conservative synagogue.
Reading Torah09 October 2013
By Judy Roitman, October 2013
I am the daughter and granddaughter of cantors (my grandfather was the great David Roitman). I was raised in a Conservative-leading-towards-Orthodox home, with many Orthodox relatives. When, as an adult living in Lawrence, KS, I first witnessed a woman reading the Torah during services, I began to cry. Something integral to my life that I had not even known was missing was suddenly restored. Suddenly I understood what it was to be fully a Jew, and realized that I was indeed fully Jewish. Something wonderful happens when women fully participate, and it is the community at large which receives the benefits.
Men and women together at the Kotel 196709 October 2013
By Andrew Kaplan, October 2013
I'm an American who served with the Israel Defense Force in the Golan Heights during the Six Day War. A few days after the war ended, I was in East Jerusalem, which at that time was still under martial law. I immediately went to the Western Wall, which of course, we Jews had not been able to go to since 1948. At that time, there was no big plaza like today. Only a narrow street. It was jammed with soldiers and people, men and women, boys and girls together, praying, singing, so happy together. That's right, men and women praying together at the Western Wall and you know what? It didn't fall down. I enclose a photo I took at the time to prove it.