Suppression of Jewish Women – a Matter of Perspective

Does traditional Judaism prevent women from being free human beings? Do the laws and customs suppress women, thus rendering them as inferior in status to men, thereby making them unable to enhance their Jewish identity, spirituality, and connection to Hashem? Is traditional halachic theology dogmatic and sexist?

The answer to all these questions is that it depends on one’s perspective. While traditional Judaism seemingly discriminates against women by excluding them from the Rabbinate, from making aliyahs, dancing with the sefer Torah, and from serving as judges in Batei Din, men are no more spiritually powerful than women by virtue of engaging in these public activities.

In fact, while the women’s role is much more private, one could argue that it is also much more important and powerful than that of men. The traditional female mitzvoth of bringing in the holiness of Shabbos, maintaining kashrus, the laws of marriage, and other laws and customs from the feminine realm are essentially those areas that have sustained the Jewish people over the centuries. Since these mitzvot are done privately, Jewish men, and even G-d Himself, need to depend on the knowledge and commitment of the Jewish women to carry them out properly. Judaism thus trusts the Jewish woman to be answerable only to herself and directly to G-d with the very mitzvoth that define the Jewish people, giving her an awesome amount of responsibility and power. Moreover, it is from the Jewish mother that the Jewishness of the child is determined, arguably the most essential aspect needed for Jewish continuity throughout the ages.

The cohesiveness and success of traditional Jewish family life has always been envied and admired. Pivotal to this success are the laws of modesty which apply to both genders. The Jewish ideal of modesty is not for the purpose of suppressing human sexuality, but rather to enhance and temper it. One of the effects of the laws and customs of modesty is the tempering of the male tendency to sexually objectify women. The mechitzah is one such example. Often misunderstood as a wall of inequality and a symbol of suppression of women, the mechitzah is, in fact, the opposite. Behind the mechitzah women are protected from being seen as sexual objects by men during prayer. Here a woman can pray without distractions, among her own gender, in her uniquely feminine way. Thia allows her to directly connect with her G-d without the self consciousness that naturally arises in mixed settings. Furthermore, according to Chassidic teaching, women are not required to pray with a quorum in a time-bound manner like men are, because of their higher spiritual sensitivity and closer connection to G-d.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, a great champion of Jewish women’s rights, put forth a feminist theology that never compromised on traditional Jewish laws and custom. His theological perspective of women was based on the concepts of holiness and an understanding of a woman’s special and unique role in the bringing of the Redemption or the Messianic era.

The Rebbe saw the feminist movement in a positive light since it was one of the indicators of the imminence of the coming of the Messianic era. Chassiuds explains that all events here on earth are directed from Heaven. When the Messianic era is upon us the feminine mystical attribute known as Malchut will become more dominant, thereby making the world’s energy more ‘feminine’ so-to-speak. The Rebbe therefore encouraged women to increase their Torah learning, as this would have a direct impact on the raising of the spiritual level of the generation towards Redemption.

Nevertheless, the Rebbe did not ask women to pursue a feminist agenda that would compromise halacha. According to Chassidus the purpose of the commandments is to make the world holy by elevation of the ‘sparks of holiness’ that G-d put into the world at the time of Creation. This elevation is the essence of that which is needed to transform the world from exile to Redemption. A woman could theoretically choose to break away from her feminine role (and perhaps go against Halachas as well) by becoming a Rabbi, making halachic decisions, having aliyahs in shule, dancing with the sefer Torah, praying without a mechitzah, and so on and so forth. None of these activities however, will accomplish what is necessary, since they are not the commandments prescribed by the Torah that women need to perform in order to make the world holier or more Messianic-like. In fact, these activities, however inspiring they may be, render women powerless by taking away their mystical ability to deeply influence the very nature of the world through elevation of the holy sparks. By breaking away from their traditional feminine role, women will lose use of the female soul’s mystical ability to make the world holier and more Messianic-like.

The Rebbe’s guidance of women encouraged them to remember their halachic obligations while being active participants in communal affairs. The Rebbe inspired women to be pivotal catalysts in Chabad outreach programs and he respected a woman’s role and understood that it ie as vital as a man’s. The Rebbe’s viewpoint constitutes a fusion of modern feminism with traditional Jewish laws and customs without compromise.

34 comments on “Suppression of Jewish Women – a Matter of Perspective

  1. I love reading this blog, since it addresses everything I think about on a daily basis.

    As a female BT, (who is older than 26 :), I often feel very alienated and disconnected from the orthodox world. I have a male friend from childhood who also beccame frum, and the experience has been totally different.

    Since he davens three times daily, he has a pretty close knit relationship with the regulars in the minyan, and is connected to many more folks in the neighborhood. This results in many, many more Shabbos invites, those who know him and are looking for a shidduch for him, etc. (Which is very important fact, I may add)

    Obviously, learning daily with a large group of men also connects him to others, as does participating in davening on Shabbos, learning on Shabbos, etc.

    As a single BT girl, my connection to others is more limited to a Shabbos dinner or lunch, where many of the wives are very busy with their children (which is a great thing of course), but doesn’t really foster any time for relationships. Shiurum and classes are much more limited (maybe Ohr Naava or the JRC).

    Since this blog is about BT and BT issues, its important to recognize that although the system works much differently for men and women, and there is no reason why women can’t connect in other ways than the occational shiur or taharas hamishpacha class (which seems to be the only shiur out there for women, other than loshan hora)

    It seems to me that many of the women in the Tanach, Devorah, Sarah, Esther, etc., would not fit in to OJ 2007 either.

    Just my thoughts

  2. A candle to share the light,

    I’m novice at blogging and I’m just discovering the blogging world that’s out there. I wanted to be part of this world, not really so much to express myself but more to read about other’s experiences. I am a French Jewish woman and I am constantly in quest for inner peace and sprituality. I was happy to realize that many other Jewish women too are concerned with their identity and like to share their views and feelings.

    Also, I’m always looking for new resources to help me feel connected to my community and I wanted to share with you this amazing website http://www.fridaylight.org. It equally addresses all Jewish women and provides with great background about women and Judaism. After visiting this website, I lit my first Shabbat candle and found myself overwhelmed with serenity and harmony. Then I read other women experiences with Shabbat candle lighting and I realized how much this weekly mitzvah brings light not only into my home, but into the world at large.

    I encourage you all to check out this website. It even offers many more services.

    Thank you for sharing your stories, it’s good to feel connected.

    Shavouah tov!

  3. “I can easily see a woman wishing to study gemara in addition to the traditional feminine ways of being a Jewish woman. Men have been known to adopt “extra” practices, why shouldn’t women?”

    That’s the key word- “extra”. Extra can only come after doing the requisites. Extra dessert means another peice of cake after the first one. If after a woman has mastered and is meticulously fulfilling all of the requisites for a Jewish woman- her own special mitzvos as well as all of the “gender-neutral” ones, it would be understandable for there to be a passion to do more. But interest in doing “men’s mitzvos” before meticulously fulfilling all the others doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a spiritual place…

    I think the key ingredient is to really examine *why* we long for “men’s mitzvos”. It’s hard to be brutally honest with ourselves regarding this- we all struggle, and it takes pretty difficult soul searching for us (or at least for me!) to really try to discover our inner motives.

    I also think that the feeling that “why can’t I do it too- are the men more spiritual than me?” a normal feeling, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it. But to say we want to fulfill very specific mitzvos (versus ALL of the mitzvos, including the special women’s ones)out of passion for Judaism or for serving H-Shm may not be completely accurate.

  4. “Men have been known to adopt “extra” practices, why shouldn’t women?”

    It depends what the “extra” is. Gedolim have ruled against women’s putting on tefillin, so that’s one “extra” we’re forbidden to take on.

  5. DK wrote,

    “Because the action and goal of women donning tefillin has nothing to do with encouraging Orthodox Judaism, but rather, incorporating Feminism in Jewish ritual and garb. It is the antithesis of Orthodoxy.”

    Women taking on extra non-traditional rituals is not necessary, absolutely, and maybe at times even a little silly, but saying that taking on a ritual that has not been forbidden “is the antithesis of Orthodoxy” is a very strong (and somewhat bewildering) statement. That also starts a slippery slope of its own. I don’t have the same obligation to go to shul since I can’t be counted in a minyan. Does that mean that I should never go? I wonder how many women would never have become baalei teshuva if they hadn’t been introduced to the community by beginning to daven at the synagogue.

    I agree with Dina that it is counter-productive to define “good” as “what men do.” But that doesn’t mean that anything non-traditional is “bad.” There was a time when women didn’t receive formal education either. Within the laws, there is plenty of room for women to decide for themselves how best to serve and connect with Hashem. I can easily see a woman wishing to study gemara in addition to the traditional feminine ways of being a Jewish woman. Men have been known to adopt “extra” practices, why shouldn’t women?

  6. I agree, Anon. But, I guess, if it were all easy, there’d be no growth involved. I grew up singing in choirs and studying voice–even soloing in college choirs. My husband is tone deaf and has never really gotten the melodies to even the basics (you should hear him slaughter Aishes Chayis!). I sing right along unless we have company. Many, many times I’ve wondered about the strictness of some of the gender lines.

    I also feel the disconnect between this totally different name and the one I grew up with.

    I think it’s important to struggle with these necessities of our chosen way of life and figure out how to keep our essence while conforming with frumkeit.

  7. Everyone mentioned simchas torah, but what about smaller things like singing. I used to just hum when i was in a good mood or sing along badly to most songs and i used to dance all silly to them too. Now I have to be consious that i just don’t belt out a tune and i’m scared when i have children, it might just happen. I always wanted to sing to them or with them or be silly with them.

    My question has always been, in this case, doesn’t halacha take away a bit of my personality? Shoshanna touched on this a little with her “free human being” comment. I personally, don’t feel inferior to men. I just sometimes feel trapped. An earlier post on this site also mentioned the hair covering, the name change and i’m bringing in the personality transformation. This is all in regard to women especially after marriage and becoming frum have to change so much more than men. It’s not inferiority just a bigger burden.

    Anyone else (the women, please) feel this way? I really would not want to daven three times a day or learn all the time, but i miss my little quirks that i hide now in the name of tzuis.

    My husband assures me that these were never part of my REAL personality anyway and of course if they were i should save them for him, but sometimes i feel like they also emcompassed me somehow and i’m more drone like than ever. Is this strange? maybe a bit off topic, but wanted to throw it out there.

  8. StepIma,

    I agree with your approach but would go further with it. When you say “Either the Torah comes from G-d or it doesn’t,” we agree that it does. But I would then say “Is G-d a loving G-d or not?” If He isn’t, then if the Torah is sexist then there is no meaning to it, because G-d could be spiteful (G-d forbid). But if G-d is loving, then He wants the best for all his creatures. Therefore, the areas where we find glaring differences regarding men’s and women’s roles, or even what some would call sexism, including women not learning gemora and the bracha she lo asani eesha — there has to be real meaning in it or else G-d is just trying to spite us or deny us some level of fulfillment, which contradicts the definition of a truly loving G-d.

    It’s true that Rashi’s daughters learned gemora and donned tefillin, but only after reaching “tzadekes level” doing all the women’s mitzvot. In my opinion the women these days who advocate for doing men’s mitzvot have not yet mastered the women’s mitvot-including thorough knowlege of Tanach, halacha, and all other realms of Torah learning besides gemora.

    If we continue with my loving G-d thread, it seems to me, a loving G-d would give women those mitzvot which lead to her fulfillment and spiritual development best (and visa versa for men). Since Hashem understands that not ALL women fit the mold, there is some wiggle room for women who could do more to proceed to certain men’s mitzvot (like Rashi’s daughters); however, the vast majority of women should feel fulfilled with the many mitvot she is given and would not really benefit spiritually from putting on tefillin, davening with a minyan, etc.

    What we witness today with the egalitarian impulse is just some women knee-jerk saying that if men do it (or must do it) then I’m going to do it. What it does is define “good” by what men do. That’s where feminism and I part ways. It’s actually more “feminist” to find the women’s mitzvot superior and not chalish after what men are doing. (Interesting question is why there is no feminist type demand that *men* cover their hair upon marriage, light candles,etc.)

    (By the way, that doesn’t excuse blatently rude and sexist behavior by some frum men – that is a social problem I agree with you exists).

  9. Steplma,

    To me, grappling with these questions internally is kind of what it’s all about, even as we concede we may not know everything. From where I’m standing, I would just tell you that we all have our pain when Judaism seems to contradict our own preference for how life or the world should be, and believe me, feminists are not the only ones with this problem. Anyway, it seems to me you are attempting to approach your issues without letting anger overtake you, and without rewriting Judaism, and without pretending that it’s simple. To me, that equals personal growth. Best of luck to you.

  10. DK –

    I hear your point, and I can understand that there are elements of Orthodox Judaism that can be perceived as blatantly sexist, which, if you are an Orthodox Jewish woman you have to find meaning within, if you don’t want to fall into the all-too-easy traps of rationalization or blind acceptance. Often it’s a hard road, especially if you’ve been raised a feminist and don’t see that as an ugly word. But my point was to keep the words and actions of sexist Jews separate from those halachic observances that differ between women and men. I agree with your point that “these different roles need not be enforced through contempt for women.”

    But while I agree that “Judaism… inherently devoid of “sexism” may be a hard sell” to the egalitarian non-Orthodox Jewish community, I’m not sure that selling it to them was ever the point. Either the Torah comes from G-d or it doesn’t. And if you believe that it does, either G-d wants it to be sexist or he doesn’t. The egalitarian, non-Orthodox response to that dichotomy was to throw out the rules they didn’t want and rewrite them. The Orthodox approach doesn’t allow for throwing out the rules… and I personally don’t agree with that either.

    So — if you believe the Torah comes from G-d, and you believe he doesn’t want it to be sexist, then you have to find a way to make those problematic halachas make sense – it’s our responsibility as Jews. Otherwise we’re letting Hashem down. And I don’t believe “women are more spiritual” is the answer to that, or any of the other answers that I do think are sexist in nature – that have been handed down (no surprise) from the less-sensitive half of the Jewish community as a way to keep us quiet.

    That was my point… that sexism exists in the community, and it doesn’t mean women should sit down behind the mechitza and shut up and take it. That it doesn’t mean Hashem wants it that way. I do believe that you can integrate full halachic practice as a woman and still be a feminist, and damn the torpedoes… and if some of the pieces don’t fit right, it’s our job to keep learning and studying and find out why so we can someday make them make sense (or even – dare I say it – find the wiggle room that chazal say exists and allow)… and never get told “women aren’t allowed to learn gemara.” To me, that’s where the true sexism begins, and not sooner.

  11. Martin,

    Maybe I should have mentionned that we put the mechitsa up in either the kiddush room or the auditorium because those are the only places where we had room. There’s usually one woman who gets the rest of those who want to dance up and doing. In any case, why not set an example for the young girls and show them that it’s okay to dance on our side of the mechitsa? Aren’t we supposed to be role models for our children? After all, we can be good examples for our children even in small things. Little ones learn even from observing us doing small things as well as large things. Why not show them that we also rejoice with the Torah on Simchas Torah. After all, we show them the beauty of the rest of our observance of Judaism.

  12. I am so used to being the Left-winger on this site, but I guess when it comes to “spirituality,” the Litvak comes out.

    Shoshanna, you said,

    “One of the effects of the laws and customs of modesty is the tempering of the male tendency to sexually objectify women. The mechitzah is one such example.”

    With the mchitza? Not really. Rather, it declares that not everything need be a coed activity in every way, because it can be distracting. Davening is one of those times. I think it is to protect men more than women, as men are obligated to go daven.

    You said,

    “The Rebbe saw the feminist movement in a positive light since it was one of the indicators of the imminence of the coming of the Messianic era.”

    Your argument demonstrates that the Jewish Feminist Movement is tinged with a false utopian urgency, a secular Messianism, if you will, and should not replace normative Judaism in ritual in any way, shape, or form, as false Messianism is all too common and tolerated in too common in certain sects and segments of the Jewish population. If Messianism is the root justifation for tolerating Jewish Deminism, it is as good reason to weed it out as any.

    Ahuva you asked,

    “There are women who don tefillin. (No, I’m not one of them.) Why should anything that helps a Jew identify with Orthodox Judaism be discouraged if it’s not forbidden?”

    Because the action and goal of women donning tefillin has nothing to do with encouraging Orthodox Judaism, but rather, incorporating Feminism in Jewish ritual and garb. It is the antithesis of Orthodoxy.

    Steplma, you wrote,

    “I think the reason that essays like this become necessary is that there is sexism within the Jewish community – which is not an inherent part of Torah Judaism.”

    That seems like a broad, selective and inaccurate generalization. Jewish men and women have distinctive roles in many ways, which many secular egalitarian people will understandably consider “sexist,” though there is obviously a range in disparity of roles according to each community, and we can all do better in treating each other with respect. But to argue that Judaism is inherantly devoid of “sexism” may be a hard sell. Please note, I am not judging a separation of roles as negative, but insisting there is one, and to insist that this isn’t sexist is not helpful. What I think you meant is that these different roles need not be enforced through contempt for women. If so, I would agree with you on that.

  13. Sharon,

    Exactly! But, as I’ve noticed @ my shul, sure they’re behind Mechitzas anyway, but it seems to me that the women are content to just watch…just because they’ve always done it that way, I guess.

    I mean, as Shayna said, she’d feel uncomfortable doing that on her own…I can just imagine a woman saying out loud, “come on, it’s simchas torah, let’s PARTY!!!”

    On a serious note, @ our local Assisted Living facility, they DID have an organized event on Simchas Torah for the women…they took their cue from us and our songs, and they just started dancing on their own. What’s needed is someone to coordinate something like this beforehand, since, as you said, Shayna, you don’t want to be the first to suggest it at the time it’s supposed to happen.

  14. Shayna,

    Why not have your shul put up a mechitsa on Simchas Torah, so that you can dance or not as you choose.That’s what the shuls I’ve belonged to over the years have done.

  15. Shayna,

    That’s why there should be organized simcha dancing by women on Simchas Torah…we have our fun dancing around & carrying on…there is no reason why the women can’t join in & have their own dances!

  16. Most of the time, I feel fulfilled by the lifestyle and am happy not to have the requirements of the time-bound mitzvohs (beyond getting dinner on the table at the exact moment someone’s hungry). But between you and me, Simchas Torah gets me down. Watching the men and kids go around and around and around and around makes me feel really out of it. That’s when I feel a time-warp back to my outraged feminist days. Of course, I’d never admit it to the non-frum contingent.

  17. There are women who don tefillin. (No, I’m not one of them.) Why should anything that helps a Jew identify with Orthodox Judaism be discouraged if it’s not forbidden? If dancing with a torah among other women helps a girl feel closer to Hashem, let her dance! Why not?

  18. I was talking about my daughter, who is a teen. It’s just that the men are having fun, and she just wishes that there would be some organized dancing behind a Mechitza, evne if it’s not with the Torah..that’s all I meant to say on that part.

  19. I am so exhausted by Simchat Torah, after an entire Tishrei of having guests, (which I enjoy) that I am most content to watch the men dancing while I relax. In fact, I see that relaxation time as a sort of a reward for all my hard work. I never could understand those women who feel so deprived because they could not dance with the Sefer Torah. If they really have so much energy they can organize their own dance in another room.

    Besides, this is only one mitzvah. Do these women also really want to get up every morning and put on tefillin? Or do they also want to have to daven three times a day at the right zman? Why do they pick and choose which mitzvot they feel would liberate them? Dancing on Simchat Torah is an easy mitzvah relatively speaking, so it is easy to choose that one to pick on and scream discrimination over. I don’t see an equal campaign for women to don tefilin every morning that engenders as much enthusiasm.

  20. Everyone,

    I am proud to say that I had one daughter (Sharon) get Bas Mitzvah @ a Women’s Tefillah group (aka Nishmat Nashim, now no longer in existence as far as I know) in 2000, and my youngest (Laura) got Bas Mitzvah @ a Women’s Study Group. At the former, they used to have services for women, and the men had to sit behind a made-up “Mechitza”! It was a service for the women, similar to the men’s, including taking out the Torah, reading from it, and it also had Dvar Torah given (including one from my daughter that day on Purim), as well as having the young girls lead the end of the service. I know that it is frowned on by many Poskim, and I understand that. But, if it gets my girls involved in getting to see what a Torah life is all about, and makes them feel proud to be Frum Jews, I don’t see that it’s really wrong. I think the goal is to make you spiritually strong, and the above did that.

    As far as dancing w/the Torah on Simchat Torah, my oldest daughter told me that at shuls where we’ve been, only the men dance with it, and the ladies are left just to watch, and she wants to get in the spirit of the celebration, at least by dancing (even if it’s not with the Torah). I can’t say I blame her at all!

  21. Phil-

    Women don’t get aliyot in front of men. We do have a women’s simchat torah reading, a women’s megillah reading, and the occasional women’s kabbalat shabbat, but that’s it. My community is Orthodox. That was the point I was trying to make. Being an Orthodox community does not preclude women from dancing with the torah.

  22. Thank you, Shoshana, for a brilliantly written article. I am glad to read the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s perspective on feminism. And now I’ll quote another gadol, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l: “in every place the Torah mentions the holiness of the People of Israel, women are also included on an equal basis. (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:49)

  23. Practicing Judaism is the ultimate expression of womanhood. Our lifestyle is the most natural and fulfilling expression of our true essence. Even when we don’t like or understand everything involved. It is right and it is real. Understanding evolves over time. If there is something we “cannot or should not” do, then we do not need it. We have to admit that we just don’t know everything and don’t know as much as the one who created us. It requires alot of trust, but life is that way. Not any comparison, but when we trust doctors or specialists, we follow their instructions. There is really nothing missing when we live a full Jewish life. If we let ourselves live it deeply and feel it. And of course, take notice of what a favorite teacher of my daughter’s referred to as “the perks”. The signs from H” that he is with us and part of our daily lives.

  24. I agree with Rachel and especially Anon – dancing with the Torah should not be on the list, and immediately associating it with non-Orthodox practices was unnecessarily snarky. I think the reason that essays like this become necessary is that there is sexism within the Jewish community – which is not an inherent part of Torah Judaism. That there are men (and some women, shamefully) who sneer at women who ask for or expect those things which are halachically permissable but which may not be the norm in the congregation in which they were raised. Or men (and some women) who simply don’t respect women in general. Who don’t value women’s opinions when it comes to talk at the dinner table, or who won’t talk to the women at the table at all. Or who don’t help with childraising, or housework, so that their wives are less able to daven or learn – after all, they’re not obligated to, so why shouldn’t they drudge? (Note: I didn’t say do the work for them. I said help with. Especially in homes where both spouses work day jobs, but also where the wife has already spent the entire day doing housework and cooking and caring for the children without a break). There are men who do not make room in their minyanim for women to daven at all except on shabbos morning, and look askance at women who try. Where there is no mechitza at all. Those are just a few examples where it’s not halacha, or Orthodoxy, which is at fault or problematic. But there is still a problem which women face. Women are often made to feel feel shut out.

    I also would like to address the point in the essay which mentions women “making halachic decisions” – while I don’t want to swim against the tide here, I would like to make an exception when it comes to the yoetzet movement. Taharas HaMishpacha issues are very personal for women, and I think having to turn to men with potentially embarrassing sha’ilas (questions about halacha) has possibly turned many women away from observance. I think the women who are now being trained to make those decisions are uniquely suited to bring Torah observance to a new level for a great number of women, and I hope that it will spread to the US as well. It’s truly a mitzvah.

  25. Anon: I will next time, thanks, and you too. Your ‘stone throwing’ analogy was over the top.
    I asked my question not because I’m against women dancing with the Torah (and on which I wouldn’t place a stigma), but because I was wondering why Rachel singled out her community’s openness to dancing with the Torah, but not their openness to women getting aliyas, assuming they indeed permit it. If they don’t permit it, then my entire question goes away, my hunch being proven wrong. (If they permit it only in the context of women’s groups, that’s something I wasn’t even thinking about, and I appreciate Anon for getting me to think about that.)

    Despite the impression that I would like to get involved in this issue, I’d like to express that I share Mark’s hesitancy, being a man. If anyone has read “In Search of the Jewish Woman” by Rabbi Yisroel Miller, I’m sure you’d find it a great book. But I always wondered how many women reading the book would just say, “aw, he’s a man; he just doesn’t get it.”

  26. Hey, Phil — are you trying to offend? In case you’re not, I’ll explain why your question is offensive.

    There are dozens of minyanim around the USA where women dance with a Sefer Torah on Simchas Torah. In none of them (okay, maybe two) do women ever read the Torah in front of the congregation of men and women. There _are_ a few that have women’s prayer groups where women read the Torah for women. That’s a controversial practice in the Orthodox world. But in the vast majority of the minyanim where women dance with a Sefer Torah, that dancing is the one and only “radical” thing they do. I know of Young Israels where this dancing goes on, with the full approval of the mara d’asra (local Orthodox rabbi).

    By your associating this dancing with women’s “go to the bima and read the Torah in front of the congregation,” which is not done in any Orthodox-affiliated shul anywhere, you are imlying that the stigma against the latter should apply to the former.

    Your question is like this: “Hey, do the men in your shul wear black hats? Yes? Do they also throw stones at cars driving on Shabbos? Just curious.” Adding that last sentence doeesn’t remove the offensiveness of associating a permitted practice with a forbidden one.

    Please think twice before offending.

  27. Rachel,
    In your community, do women go to the bima and read the Torah in front of the congregation, too? Just curious.

  28. I think you know my perspectives on this issue, so I don’t feel the need to comment and start something, but I would like to point out one thing.

    “While traditional Judaism seemingly discriminates against women by excluding them from the Rabbinate, from making aliyahs, dancing with the sefer Torah

    Not all traditional Judaisms exclude women from dancing with the Torah. In my community the women get one of the torahs on simchat torah. Both men and women dance.

    Not all exclusion is halachically necessary.

  29. Look, while wanting to maintain the up-beat tolerant tone that Mark and Dave strive for, I have to express a very different view. My rebbeim also see the femenist movement as a sign of Mashiach coming. As in “b’ikvisa d’mishicha chutzpah yasgei”. Meaning not as a positive thing overall. Yes, I agree that there are some positive results of Feminism.

    Bli neder, I will be submitting a piece dealing with Feminism and the adjustment of male baalei t’shuvah.

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