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Religion

Near(ly) a Woman

Every year in the Hebrew month of Shevat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. But the “Big Ten” are only part of this portion – Parshat Yitro also contains a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, a feast, and a set of instructions from G-d transferred with questionable integrity by Moses to the Israelites. Before becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 12, I spent months studying this portion and its various commentaries. One line was particularly alarming to me: “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.”

Finding the Founding Feminists

Every year in July, the story of Pinchas is told. And on July 6, 2013, I was the one telling this story. Yep. Little 13-year-old me, electric green braces and all, was up on the bimah, knees knocking, chanting the story of Pinchas. And I did a great job, if I do say so myself. But as embarrassing as it is to admit now, my understanding of my Torah portion at that time was very superficial. I had spent so much time making sure I knew the words so I didn’t make a fool out of myself when I was chanting, that I didn’t put that much effort into fully understanding what I was saying, and how it affected me.

The Importance of Self-Love

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Leviticus 19:34 provides the Jewish people with this inspirational and often-repeated Torah verse that seems to pop up in my own life endlessly. In Temple, in Jewish Studies classes, at home when my mother reminds me to be the bigger person—this verse follows me wherever I go. For a long time, I appreciated it and used it as a motivation to do good. But then I reached a point in my life when treating others as I treated myself wouldn’t have been the kindest path. 

Cafeteria Judaism and Feminine Queer Identity

Religion isn’t always easy. I often like to pretend it is—buzzwords like “interfaith” and “pluralism” pervade my discussions about faith. But every now and again, I’m reminded that the history of my faith is not easy. Judaism was, in fact, built on questions. How do I find support as a woman from a faith founded on patriarchal texts? How do I reconcile ancient laws with a modern identity of queerness?

L’Dor V’Dor: A Legacy of Love

My grandfather means something different to each and every person he’s met. To some, he’s kindness, always putting others before himself no matter the circumstances. To others, he’s community, building a network so wide that everyone he runs into is an old friend. To his parents, he was a miracle, not predicted to survive long past birth, or live to create all that he has in his lifetime. To me, he’s all of these things stitched together into one simple phrase: L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation).

Job and Josie

One of the most challenging parts of being Jewish is learning how to struggle with stories from Jewish texts that initially seem to contradict my values. When I come across these stories, I have to decide if and how they fit into my own personal relationship with Judaism. The story I have struggled with the most is the Book of Job (Iyov).

Finding My Way Back to Rachel Adler

In fact, for most of my life, I rejected the notion that I was a feminist. I was a self-decribed equalist. I did not want to be associated with anything resembling the bra-burning, Lilith-reading farbrente feminists I had learned about in school.

The First Hero

Robert Lappin, Jewish philanthropist and the man who’s foundation sent me to Israel this past summer, has said that interfaith families who choose to raise their kids Jewish are the heroes of Judaism. With Jews making up only .2% of the global population, Judaism is both the oldest and the smallest monotheistic religion, meaning that families who tackle raising their children Jewish in this Christian-normative society are much needed. 

Whose Bat Mitzvah Is It Anyway?

Becoming a bat mitzvah was the most spiritual event of my life thus far. Being surrounded by my friends, family, and community as I claimed my place as a Jewish adult was exactly as awe-inspiring and invigorating as I’d been promised it would be. The only dark spot of my day came just after services, during the celebratory brunch, when my uncle informed me that my interpretation of the Torah was wrong.

Oh Come All Ye Interfaithful

The holiday season doesn’t truly begin until the glimmering menorah ornament is carefully placed on my family’s Christmas tree. It isn’t a Hanukkah bush; it’s a Christmas tree. I’ve been raised following Jewish tradition while also acknowledging Catholic customs, and I’m lucky enough to have grown up in an environment that has encouraged my complex Jewish identity, and helped me build a versatile and sturdy religious foundation.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Religion." (Viewed on September 25, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/religion>.

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