This Week in History


Aviel Barclay becomes first female Torah scribe

October 6, 2003

On October 6, 2003, Aviel Barclay became the first certified Soferet, or female Torah scribe. Her training and that of soferet Shoshana Guggenheim (who finished her training in 2005) was underwritten by Seattle's Kadima Reconstructionist Jewish Community.

Kadima's Women's Torah Project has challenged the Jewish tradition of training only male Torah scribes as it has sought to define a contemporary ethic of training and observance for those engaged in creating a Torah scroll. As the project's website explains, "It began to dawn on us that this project could become a catalyst for astonishing and consequential change. The Women's Torah could be far more than a feminist statement and religious object. It could be a symbol of opportunity for women to move into all areas of Jewish life. It could bring together progressive Jews from around the world. It could be a link between art and politics, spirit and culture, artifact and symbol."

The women's Torah commissioned by Kadima was completed in the fall of 2010 and read for the first time on October 16, 2010.

Learn more about Kadima's Women's Torah Project in This Week in History, October 16, 2010.

See also: Who Scribed Your Torah?, Torah Scribe Julie Seltzer Started Work on a Sefer Torah, and A Year Later on Jewessses with Attitude.

Sources:; Aviel Barclay, email correspondence with JWA (2004).

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Aviel Barclay becomes first female Torah scribe." (Viewed on April 21, 2014) <>.