Welcome to JOFA’s New Blog – The Torch!

Torah CeremonyJewish feminists have a lot to say. We have been grappling with issues of gender inclusion in Jewish life for a long time, wrestling with our sometimes competing pulls and ideals for years. Centuries, I think. Maybe since the beginning of Judaism. Maybe since the creation of Eve. So there’s a lot we like to talk about  — need to talk about.

Like my friend Tammy. Tammy loves Jewish life, the sounds, colors, and connections that she experiences in her synagogue community and in her Jewish traditions.  But going to shul has become a struggle. Climbing the stairs to the women’s section of her Orthodox shul, where women’s presence is an afterthought or a mystery – Tammy has to drag each foot to climb each stair. She’s searching for another way. Whether that means a different synagogue, a new community, or transformations from within, she knows that she needs a change. And talking to other women who are on the same journey – perhaps different locations on journey, perhaps further along or further back – has become critical.  We talk, we listen, we laugh and we cry, and we support one another as we figure it all out. That sharing of experiences, stories, reflections and dreams has become a crucial component of the grass-roots drive towards communal transformation.

That’s why we have this blog. For all the women like Tammy out there who are seeking connection on their journeys. This is a place for a free and open sharing of experiences around gender in Judaism. It’s the space for women and men of all ages and backgrounds to write about how they grapple with their lives as seekers of fairness, justice and compassion within the Jewish tradition.  The written exchange is a vehicle for personal and communal empowerment. It’s writing as a tool for social change. It’s also a tool for love and support for those who are willing to share their vulnerabilities – and their strengths.  This is a place where we welcome the struggle, and learn to love each other for it.

I just want to acknowledge that we’re not the only space on the internet for Jewish feminist blogging. In fact, we love the Jewish feminist blogs out there – the Lilith blog, the JWA blog, the Sisterhood blog, and the many individual women and men who courageously put forth their Jewish feminist voices every day. I’m a huge fan of the writers out there, and I’m so excited that JOFA is joining this fabulous club.

I would add that The Torch is perhaps slightly different in that JOFA focuses primarily on religious experiences, and on the particular struggles of Orthodox feminists. However, it’s really important to note that even though that’s our primary focus, it is not an exclusive focus.  In fact, one of my own core beliefs is that Orthodox feminists have an enormous amount in common with other Jewish feminists, and also with religious feminists of other faiths. This is, in my opinion, an under-explored aspect of Orthodox feminism, and I would love to use this blog as a space to build those connections in different ways. Life and blogging is about finding and creating links and bonds. I’m very excited to do that here.

What unites us here is a feminist consciousness. We love unapologetic, daring commitment to gender equity. It’s what brings us together and motivates us.

Hence the name the Torch. It’s our fire, our passion, our refusal to have our voices squelched. Here, our fires are free to burn. Like those of the amazing women before us, from Deborah to Beruria to Glückel of Hamelin to Blu Greenberg  to Rabba Sara Hurwitz. We are proud to be part of a millennia-long journey, and proud of all the women before us who have passed the feminist torch to us.

We welcome your submissions. The more voices, the better! We especially enjoy reading on topics related to gender in: religious life, family life, Jewish education, Jewish thought, halakha, Jewish history,  bible or Talmud,  Jewish professional or organizational settings, politics, business, spirituality, sexuality, body issues, art, and pretty much any area of your life. If you think you have something to say, please send it in! If you don’t consider yourself a feminist but think you have a contribution to make to the discussion, send it in! We welcome that exchange as well.

Please email your pitch to: thetorch@jofa.org. And don’t forget to comment and share.

Looking forward to the conversation!

Targum ShlishiThe Torch blog was was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin foundation.

Posted on October 25, 2013

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