A recent article in Lilith Magazine entitled “How Do Women Define the Sacred?” speaks to the ways in which handmade tallitot (prayer shawls) have become central aspects of Jewish women’s spirituality. Though women have become increasingly enfranchised over the past several decades in many areas of Jewish life, the bulk of religious liturgy is reflective of Judaism’s patriarchal origins. And so, handmade women’s tallitot challenge a prayer legacy primarily composed and transmitted by and for men.
With Simchat Torah this weekend, I am reminded of endings and beginnings. During this holiday, we will finish reading the final portion of the Torah and start reading the Torah once again from the beginning.
All week I’ve been fascinated by the reports of Catholic women being ordained as priests – 12 women were ordained on a boat outside of Pittsburgh on Monday (these “irregular” ordinations take place on rivers, which are beyond archdiocese jurisdiction), and last week another secretly ordained woman priest “came out” about her ordination and resigned from her position in the Archdiocese of Boston.
As Israel resumes air strikes against Lebanon, after a brief pause of bombing, most of us are left wondering if peace in the Middle East is as possible as catching a unicorn ride to Narnia. And yet, as Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua recently put it, “I can be a pessimist for myself, but I have to be optimistic for [my grandchildren]. I have to keep the spirit.”
I picked up the book Joy Comes in the Morning , written by Jonathan Rosen, for a couple reasons. One, I knew the book had won the 2005 Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction award. Two, I am always intrigued by the notion of a man writing from the perspective of a female (Wally Lamb’s She Comes Undone is still the best I’ve seen). In this case, Rosen writes from the perspective of Rabbi Deborah Green, an attractive, smoking, complicated Reform rabbi.
This morning I checked out an interview in What is Enlightenment?, which featured two Orthodox women discussing “the Jewish view of femininity.” One was Esther Kosovsky, the Director of the Jewish Educational Resource Center in western Massachusetts, who is also the wife of a rabbi, mom to eight, and daughter of Rabbi David Edelman, leader of the Lubavitch Orthodox congregation in western Massachusetts.
Last night was the first event in the Heirs to a Revolution: Intergenerational Dialogues on Jewish Feminism series from JWA and Hebrew College, and it was really provocative. Blu Greenberg and Devorah Zlochower addressed the topic “Feminism and Orthodoxy: No Longer Strange Bedfellows?”.
Today I received several celebratory emails from friends, announcing the news that Haviva Ner-David, an Orthodox woman living in Jerusalem, had finally achieved her dream of being ordained a rabbi. Her quest began more than ten years ago, when she applied to the rabbinical program at the modern Orthodox Yeshiva University – an application that the administration assumed was a joke and ignored. She went on to pursue rabbinic studies privately with Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, an Orthodox rabbi, while also earning a PhD in Talmud – and raising five small children.
Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will sit down for a Passover seder. Some of us will listen to our grandfathers mumble through the hagaddah, and others will incorporate new rituals, like Miriam’s Cup and putting an orange on the seder plate – signs of how feminism has transformed Jewish ritual life.