From exclusion to inclusion

9 October 2013

By Helen Stein, October 2013

In 1995, I traveled to Israel with my (male) research assistant. Our first stop, after we got off the plane and through customs, was the Kotel. We approached the Wall naively, without noticing that my kind was not welcome everywhere. Suddenly I was surrounded by 5 or 6 screaming young Orthodox vigilantes, who made my transgression clear. This was a very bitter moment for me. In my homeland, about which I already had some ambivalence, I was being scolded and castigated for being a woman.

In June 2013, six years after joining a Reconstructionist synagogue, I made my Bat Mitzvah with a group of other women. We all composed creative liturgy for our service — poetry, art work, music, guided meditations. All of us were called up to the Bima and all of us chanted Torah. I was wearing a tallit that I had made out of fabric my mother gave me 40 years ago. I felt so proud of my congregation and denomination for its equal treatment of women and for my right to be a full participant in the Jewish religion. I was doing what my mother, raised in Reform Judaism a hundred years ago, never would have dreamed of.

Helen Stein is a 67-year-old New Yorker and clinical psychologist, who is a proud member of a Reconstructionist synagogue.


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  1. By coincidence, I just finished reading Diane and Gary Tobin’s
    well-researched book “In Every Tongue. The Racial and Ethnic Diversity of
    the Jewish People.” The authors state that “the community that came
    out of Egypt into Canaan was a creolized Egyptian/African one” (p.14). Okay, we knew that. But New York Rabbi Sholomo ben Levy even sees the origins of black US Judaism “in
    traditions and practices carried on from the African Jewish Diaspora and
    brought to the New World along with slavery (p.104). At any rate, 19th century
    racism was developed mainly as a justification for slavery, victimizing first
    the Africans and second the Jews who in 1922 were defined as
    “oriental-anatolian-nordic-hamitic-negroide race mix” by Munich chairholder for
    scientific racism Hans F.K. Günther (nicknamed Rassengünther). Who, if not we Jews, should be at the forefront against all kinds of racism? Shalom from Brazil, Konrad Yona Riggenmann

  2. Not that this idea will solve the problem of prejudice generally, but it is past time to apply this lesson to public knowledge what scientists have known for many years: There is no biological basis for “race.” It is a socially/culturally constructed arbitrary concept that serves no advantageous purpose except to put some groups in a higher socioeconomic level than others. (See the American Anthropological Assoc. statement on “race.”)

  3. How ironic that that you would support the biggest anti-Semite ever to be president. No U.S. president has ever told Israel to go back to it’s 1967 borders. Obama spent 20 years attending a racist anti-white, anti-Semetic, anti-American church. Any Jew who voted for Obama is a self hating Jew.

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