Why I Wear a Tallit

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Josie Glausiusz

Sivan at the KotelShortly after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, 2013, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a picture of the now-Pope Emeritus placing a note in a slot between the stones of the Western Wall.1 When I looked at the image it occurred to me that a Catholic Pope not renowned for his love of the Jews could pray in his priestly garb at the Western Wall, but a Jewish woman could then be arrested at the same site for wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl.

I posted that comment with a picture of the Pope at the Wall on Facebook, and shortly afterwards I received a response: “A gentile who cares let him go in pajamas but a Jew distorting our religion should get lost.”

The Dividing Wall

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Ricki Heicklen 

Ricki Heicklen picThe Jewish people have been encountering walls for nearly as long as we have existed. These walls have ranged from physical barriers–the ghettoization of Jews throughout Europe comes to mind–to a broader feeling of separation and isolation from the outside world. And despite being walled in, fenced out, or generally forced onto the “other side” of any non-Jewish community, Jews have endured and prospered.

Most recently, the Jewish people re-acquired a wall of our own. The Western Wall, the last remaining fortification of the Second Temple, has been the source of much public controversy and political contention since it passed into Israeli hands in 1967. But over the past few years, a much more fragile barrier has spurred controversy from inside the Jewish community, dividing religious Jews on the topic of public prayer.

Partnership Minyanim: A Follow Up Response to Rabbi Freundel

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

by Dr. Chaim Trachtman

Rabbi Freundel’s detailed analysis of the halakhic basis for Partnership Minyanim demonstrates an impressive mastery of the relevant texts. But, in assessing this new practice, it is important to examine not only the halakhic responsa but also some of the underlying assumptions about women, men, and the formulation of law within the Orthodox community that are implied in his analysis. 

One recurrent theme among those who contend that Partnership Minyanim is not supported by the halakha is that people like me who attend Partnership Minyanim and find them meaningful are ends-driven. That is to say, Partnership Minyanim supporters are thought to act solely on an emotional basis and to use halakha in service of their personal needs and desires, to satisfy ulterior motives. On a very simple level, I would invite anyone who questions the validity of Partnership Minyanim to attend one. After observing the delicate maneuvering around the mechitzah and careful attention to roles during the tefila, I would ask if they cannot recognize the effort to remain firmly connected to Orthodox practice. What kind of ulterior motive would someone have for the spending the same amount of time on Shabbat morning, saying the same tefillot, listening to a Dvar Torah with women doing select portions unless they felt themselves to be Orthodox?

Kol Ishah - Don’t Drown Out a Woman’s Voice

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Vayishlach, 5773 

As Yaakov is preparing to meet his brother Esav and he is afraid of what his wicked brother might do, the Torah tells us that Yaakov brings his eleven children across the river to meet Esav (Genesis 32:23).

Rashi citing the Midrash immediately notices that Yaakov has not eleven children, but twelve. Rashi asks: “Vedinah heichan haytah? Where was Dinah?” Rashi answers:

He put her into a box and locked her in, so that Esav would not set eyes on her. Therefore, Jacob was punished for withholding her from his brother- because perhaps she would cause him to improve his ways-and she fell into the hands of Shechem. [Rashi 32:23, from Gen. Rabbah 75:9]

Creating The Leyning Partnership

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

Leah SlatenBy Leah Slaten

Leyning (chanting Torah) permanently shifted my relationship with Judaism.  When I learned to leyn last year, I felt more connected to Tanakh (Bible), and to my Jewish heritage, than I ever had previously, knowing that for the first time I was participating fully in a ritual that had been passed down for millennia.  I never considered myself especially feminist, so before my friend Ricki offered to teach me how to leyn, I never would have thought about leyning as a possibility for me.  I was never particularly bothered by or attuned to my status in the Jewish community as a woman, and as such leyning was pretty much grouped under the sizeable umbrella of "feminist things that make me uncomfortable/do not interest me."  When I began to leyn though, I saw it was something completely different than anything I expected.  It was not me trying to make a statement ("Hey everyone, I'm leyning because I can, even though I'm a woman"), it was me searching for connections in the words of Tanakh and tradition.  As such, leyning became something for which I was willing to advocate.  Almost immediately, I decided that I would do anything to spread leyning to more people like myself.

Beyond the Internal Partition

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05pm -- rootuser

By Vered Noam

From Mussaf Shabbat, Mekor Rishon, Jan 11, 2013

The segregation of women from synagogue activities does not only hurt women but also hurts the place itself, which loses its authenticity and lives in a gone reality. A call for integrity and softness. 

Our spiritual lives are divided by a partition, just like a synagogue. We push to the other side of that internal partition all the vital foundations of healthy critical thinking, compassion, and common sense. Spiritual experience demands openness and listening, both inward and outward. How can we sing Lord’s song with a clenched fist?&

During a visit to the United States, we spent one Friday night in the synagogue of Rabbi Avi Weiss in Riverdale, New York. After Kabbalat Shabbat, the rabbi suddenly asked the congregation to stand. He turned his attention to a woman walking in, a member of the synagogue who was in the middle of her seven days of mourning. He announced her name and the name of her deceased father, and the entire congregation – men and women alike – turned to her and recited, as is the custom, the lovely words of comfort that the halacha has given us: “May God comfort you, etc.”

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