Bigger than Feminism, Better with Feminism

29 October 2013

By Susan Silverman, October 2013

When I became a Woman of the Wall, I became more fully Jewish.

I had been a rabbi for almost 20 years the day I was rounded up, with nine other women – including my seventeen-year-old daughter – by police for wearing a tallis and praying out loud at the kotel. That day was followed by a lot of forced introspection – the media requests for interviews came flooding in.

I knew in my heart why I was there. My Jewish practice called me to it, the desire to join the historic flow of Jews at that place called me to it, feminism called me to it.

But over the weeks of forced introspection, I realized something much deeper and more existential. Judaism was at stake for women and men. For all our children. For the Jewish future. I had always felt that the centuries of missing women’s voices had created a skewed Judaism – like a tree that had been deprived the right balance of sustenance. Now a narrow, idolatrous view of God and covenant was being codified in civil law! Mitzvot were more and more the jurisdiction of Hareidi Jews, becoming ends in themselves, not building blocks for a society in which the prophets could rejoice.

With WoW, I realized that my feminist, progressive fight was for the deepest purposes of our nation.

Rabbi Susan Silvermanis a writer and activist. She and her husband, Yosef Abramowitz have five children and live in Jerusalem.


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  1. I think it is absolutely clear that your point resonates with Jews here in Israel and around the world. Judaism has lost its mainstream appeal to a (western) world that has begun to move away from its patriarchal roots. Our only chance for survival is to embrace the sacred feminine and regain our delicate balance.

  2. Seriously, worshiping G-d according to the way He commanded us is idolatrous? You come after thousands of years of tradition, spit on everything that is holy and decide that “real” Judaism is something completely different. Give me a break!

  3. “…. missing women’s voices”?! Not sure of your image of observant women ~ there is no lack of women’s voices in observant schuls! Come to Dallas, Texas or any number of other vibrant, Torah-observant communities and spend some time. You will set aside your preconceptions, and your current interest in masculism will seem like a distant misfortune.

  4. How can a ‘ view of God’ be idolatrous?!?! sorry but even if u wer maybe makin some sense up until that sentence! uv now defo lost a follower /believer in your cause .thankfully Hypocrisy cant last .only truth .which the holy god given Torah is was and always will outlive any ism that is not based on full truth of both written and oral law. Stick with it and no one has to fall out..dont and cause massive chilul Hashem -desecration of Gds holyname -choice is yours n yours alone except unf in your position of somehow influence u lead others so wrongly astray n they kno no better for they follow blindly. How sad.u know in your heart of hearts that all our holy martyrs over the years of galut did not adhere steadfastly to our holy tradition just to b killed in sanctification of GodsName for their descendants to stamp on their very beliefs.

  5. Judaism has survived over many isms. It will continue to flourish among Torah observant Jews despite your plea for feminism.

  6. Just curious, did you attend the Mahol BeKramim on Tu BeAv, Tefilat Hana before Rosh HaShana, the Women’s Simchat Beit HaShoeva at Sukkot. There is so much going on for women, women’s voices and women’s active deeds in so many areas for the good of all. Yet you choose to cling to a small group of provocateurs who are hell bent on destroying one of the few places where Am Israel comes in peace and unity? If feminism is your goal try some of the women’s programs going on, if provocation is your goal then know that those of us who hold fast to tradition and embrace a unified standard have picked up the gauntlet and we will not allow you to annihilate what we hold dear. Take your fight to the Knesset where it belongs and try your luck there.

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