By Fran Gordon, October 2013
As a ten year old girl in my Conservative synagogue in Akron, Ohio, I was introduced to singing liturgical text in a children’s choir and I haven’t stopped singing since. The prayers and stories of Our People form the core of my repertoire. I delight in sharing the pure joy of Jewish singing with many others who form the Jewish choral movement. Of course, I chant Haftarah often in my kehillah in Beachwood, OH, will also read Torah on occasion and will lead Tefillah on a moment’s notice. In other words, singing is a core component not just of my Jewish identity, but of my soul.
In 1975, I was the second woman to serve as President of CRUSY (Conservative movement youth group’s central region). Although I was the “leader,” under our Jewish law at the time, women were not allowed to read from our text or lead tefillah. Since my graduation from high school, the Masorti/Middle movement embraced feminism, opening the doors to full female participation in public ritual life. Fortunately, I live in a community that allowed me to develop all of the skills denied me as a youth.
Armed with my adult Jewish literacy and the seeds of my early feminism from the “secular ’70s,” I blossomed into full-blown activism on Rosh Chodesh Av 5770, the beginning of the “sacred ’70’s.” On that historic day, an Israeli policeman told me to sing softer at the Kotel; that same policeman arrested Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah away from the Kotel. As I witnessed this blatant violation of religious rights I found my voice and reclaimed my role as a Jewish leader. As in my youth AND just as the Levites during the Days of Old, I rely on music to help express myself as I advocate for religious freedom and gender equality in the State of Israel. I thank Women of the Wall for claiming that certain time and that certain place, allowing us to raise our voice in prayer as we simultaneously support the modern Jewish democracy movement.
Fran Gordon is an artist/activist with homes in Beachwood, OH and Jerusalem. In collaboration with a group of noted composers, Fran has written “Sacred Rights, Sacred Song” and through the non-profit SRSS Project, works with Jewish communities to produce Concerts of Concern. Fran is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she majored in political science and has a law degree from Boston University. Fran’s Israel activism is rooted in her UJA Cabinet experiences, her Wexner Heritage Foundation experiences and most especially her Partnership 2000 experiences. Fran thanks her friends and family in Israel for teaching her so much about Israel’s civil society.