I can still picture myself, a little girl, sitting among my aunts, my bubbie, and my mother in the balcony of the small Detroit schul where from time to time we looked down to pick out our family’s men as they prayed. I have earlier impressions of a time when I was still so small I could sneak onto the bench where my father sat and snuggle into the V of his knees. Later I was told my feminine presence near the bema, young as I was, caused consternation among the men.
It took me a while to understand that my gender “sat in the back of the bus” in Orthodox Judaism, and I rebelled. I joined the Labor Zionist Movement in my teens and reveled in their philosophy of a single standard. In the movement it was possible to be a Jewish woman and not feel part of an underclass.
Much later my daughter and I trained for our b’nai mitzvot under Rabbi Avis Miller, a rite my Orthodox background would have deemed unacceptable. Think of it! A woman rabbi and a bat mitzvah for me, the little girl in the balcony.
Of course I have supported Women of the Wall. Perhaps one day all Jewish women regardless of affiliation will be granted first class citizenship.
Faye Moskowitz, a professor of English and Creative Writing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is author of the memoirs, A Leak in the Heart (1985), And the Bridge is Love (1991), and Peace in the House (2002), as well as the short story collection Whoever Finds This: I Love You (1988). She was twice recipient of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and is presently she is poetry editor of Moment Magazine.