Kaddish24 October 2013
By Emma, October 2013
I grew up as a Reform Jew in London. Until I went to university, I would go to synagogue every week because my father insisted that my sister and I should. My father himself rarely attended synagogue except at festivals. To get to synagogue we had to travel by bus quite far. I got used to the service and, of course, was accustomed to women and men sitting together.
Some years later I went to Israel where I met my husband who came from a much more Orthodox background. I rarely attended synagogue in Israel because it felt alien. However I learned Hebrew from being there and therefore found the Reform services, once I was back in London, less satisfying than I had done previously.
I did not have a bat mitzvah and never learned to read from the Torah. In fact while I speak and understand Hebrew, I find reading more difficult. I was relatively unconcerned about women's role in Judaism - apart from not appreciating being separated from the men. If women wanted to be rabbis, they should, I thought, but it was not a path I sought for myself.
Much later, one aspect of the service became important for me - the reciting of Kaddish, something that some Orthodox rabbis will not allow women to perform. I had occasionally tried to recite Kaddish at the yartzeit of my father - and later my mother - if my elder brother was unable to do so. But it became essential for me following his very untimely death. For eleven months I attended a Masorti (Conservative) synagogue virtually every Shabbat and recited Kaddish for him. Reciting Kaddish has now become something I find very important.
Keep Calm and Pray On14 March 2013
14 March 2013
"Keep Calm and Pray On." That was the motto this week as NIF-grantee Women of the Wall ushered in the Hebrew month of Nissan at the Western Wall with hundreds of supporters. Tamar Zandberg, Michal Rozin and Stav Shaffir, three newly elected members of Knesset, were right in front, leading the way for the entire group. Their presence helped keep the police at bay and, unlike in past months, no arrests occurred. The leadership displayed by these MKs was a true embodiment of the spirit of International Women's Day, celebrated just last week.
And while that was happening in Jerusalem, 400 people gathered (“in the rain!” one of our staffers told me) at a solidarity event in New York, which was co-sponsored by NIF. 200 more gathered an event outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. This is a model of the spirit of the new Israeli-American partnership NIF and our allies are forging, one that recognizes that our struggles and our causes are connected. Activists in Israel know that their sisters and brothers in America have their back.
The momentum displayed at these events is part of what I hope is a new trend in progress for the rights of women in Israel. The 19th Knesset has an unprecedented number of women, and many of them are courageous champions of our values. As is the custom in Israel, new members of the Knesset give speeches. Some of the speeches were terrific (check out Ruth Calderon's Talmud lesson, now something of an internet sensation), but one in particular blew me away. New Labor MK Merav Michaeli talked about her vision for Israel, and how vital it is for those who have power to stand up for those who don't. After the past three-plus years we've spent fighting scores of antidemocratic bills coming out of that very chamber, it was a beautiful thing to hear those words from the rostrum of the Knesset:
Although our work is far from over, there has been significant progress in fighting for women’s rights. Our grantees are doing critical work, and not just on International Women’s Day. The new members of Knesset, coupled with the events of the past week, leave me feeling that maybe – just maybe - the tide on women’s rights in Israel is beginning to turn.
Leonard "Leibel" Fein, z"l15 August 2014
It is with deep sadness that I write to tell you that Leibel Fein – former NIF Board member, IC member, and champion of the Israel we believe in – died early this morning. A great light has gone out.
Letter from Yeruham Mayor11 July 2014
Today NIF received the following letter from Yeruham Mayor Michael Bitton. While his city is living under threat of rocket attack, he has found that the citizens are coming together to pitch in and help each other get through this crisis. He credits the Volunteer Center that NIF helped establish in his city for this spirit of solidarity.
Looking behind the curtain of ultra-nationalist zealotry15 July 2013
The bill seeking to defund NGOs that dare criticize Israeli policies has undergone a cunning transformation designed to mask its radically ultra-nationalist agenda; but don't be fooled, it is still a betrayal of Israel's founding principles.
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.
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
My Most Memorable Service24 October 2013
By Robert Levy, October 2013
It was on a trip to Australia in December with a group of friends. We were exactly 10 people, 5 men and 5 women. I had Yahrzeit for my father and I wanted to say Kaddish, so we needed a minyan of 10 worshipers. Jewish tradition asks for 10 men to create this special atmosphere which is deemed proper to recite the Kaddish. In the town where we were at the time there was no synagogue.
We were all used to attending Orthodox services where women do not count for the minyan. We decided to disregard this restriction and count the women.
Believe me, we all experienced this special, spiritual atmosphere created by 10 committed persons and this service turned out to be the most memorable one I ever attended.
Robert Levy, age 69, resident of Zurich, Switzerland. Father of 2, grandfather of 8.