Where there's a Will there's a Wall10 October 2013
By Roberta Harris, October 2013
I was a (very small) part of that initial movement to bring women and Torah together at the Western Wall all those years ago. Without being an active feminist, I have always believed it is a woman's right to be the equal, legally and socially, of anyone in the world. Not to be part of the Women of the Wall would be an anachronism.
I have spent my work life teaching the Bible in one form or another - mostly the archaeology and history that can bring so much more out of the narrative; but also its Hebrew and its link to rabbinic Judaism.
Today, well beyond retirement age - I shall be 68 next birthday - I have just begun rabbinic training, with the idea of becoming a chaplain to and advocate for the Jewish elderly in the UK. I hope that I will be able to attract others to join me in this ambition, and that together we will be able to make a difference for people coming towards the end of their lives.
The determination of the Women of the Wall has always been and will always be an inspiration in my life.
Role Model for a Gay Jewish Man10 October 2013
By Seth Morrison, October 2013
After many years of repressing my sexuality, I met a wonderful Rabbi, Leila Gal Berner, who is both female and a proud Lesbian. She helped me accept myself and guided me in finding a therapist to begin the coming out process. Having Rabbi Leila as a role model was a key element in overcoming my fears.
Since that time I have attended services and worked on Jewish Community projects with many Rabbis, male and female, gay and straight. This diversity creates a community where each of us can feel comfortable being ourselves.
Seth Morrison is a long time Jewish peace activist volunteering for a number of organizations. He serves on the NIF Leadership Council for Washington, DC.
Women at the Torah10 October 2013
By A man from Houston, TX, October 2013
One of the great thrills of my life occurred when I was President of a rather small Conservative congregation about 30 years ago. During that period women not only were called up to the Torah but they read from it and carried it. An unheard of activity in Conservatism at that time. I think that it is the norm today.
Free to Be10 October 2013
By Dove Weissman, October 2013
Born in the early 70s, I am a product of the women's liberation movement. I was dressed in baby bell-bottom blue jeans, if anything, and I was always told that I can be and do anything. The lyrics of Harry Belafonte and Marlo Thomas on "Free to be You and Me" informed my perspective of what it is to be a woman, (mother or not).
"Some mommies are ranchers, or poetry makers
Or doctors or teachers, or cleaners or bakers
Some mommies drive taxis, or sing on TV
Yeah, mommies can be almost anything they want to be."
You get the point. As a 3rd generation American Jew, the commitment to Jewish values such as tzedakah and acts of kindness were strongly encouraged, but religious practice was more a byproduct of belonging to a Reform congregation where Jewish community was strengthened.
I recently participated in a service at the Kotel with Women of the Wall. In addition to the WOW activists, religious women praying nearby, police, and onlookers, was my 13 year old daughter, my mother, her women's lib activist friends, and my soon to be in-laws, who are secular Israeli kibbutzniks. Standing there, I felt the complexity and immensity of the moment, all the struggles that made it possible for us to be there, together. Such places of power and spiritual significance usually help us transcend our human divisions. Yet in Israel, the transcendent and mundane are continually engaged in a magnetic dance of duality.
There is still much work to be done to overcome the inequities of gender, class and race, yet I feel hopeful that my daughter's generation will evolve society to be even more just. After all, they are standing on the shoulders of some mighty strong giants.
Dove is a citizen of the earth, mother, friend, sister, daughter, lover, artist, health and wellness enthusiast, and occasional writer.
The Birth of a Nation10 October 2013
By Rabbi Joel Schwab, October 2013
I finally understood the Exodus from Egypt the day I heard a woman rabbi explain the entire process as the act of childbirth. The increasing pains of labor ("You must go and get the straw yourselves...."), the breaking of the water ("The waters were split...."), the narrow passage (the root of "Mitzraim" as "tzar"="narrow"), the emergence on the other side and the joy that engendered ("Miriam...took a timbrel...and all the women went out after her in dance...") gave birth to a new nation. The metaphor had such great power because it came from a teacher who had herself given birth. It was then that I knew how important the perspective of women would be for us to truly understand our Torah.
Ordained from JTS in 1976. Rabbi for 31 years at Temple Sinai, Middletown, NY.