I am two thirds a woman.
My roommate came home yesterday with a story I’ve experienced myself too many times in too many different ways.
I’m one of those hard-to-categorize Jews, caught somewhere between the Conservative and Orthodox denominations. My practice leans Orthodox, my passion for women’s spiritual leadership is decidedly feminist.
Meesh: Back then, in biblical times, the ceiling was not glass, and I don’t think Esther or Ruth made any attempt to break it. Esther and Ruth symbolize the most disempowered of our society. In addition to being women, Esther is an orphan, Ruth is not only a widow and foreigner but also a Moabite, the most alienated of the gentile nations. Significantly, even these disenfranchised women are able to bring redemption to the Jewish people: “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22) This reflects the great egalitarian power and responsibility that each of us, no matter our “station,” has to contribute to our nation.
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, who serves as the Executive Director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) recently penned a powerful piece entitled, “Why I Rescinded My Shul Membership.” His piece has gone viral as it provides a tangible action step that we can take in order to insure that all Orthodox marriages are conducted with a halakhic prenuptial agreement. What would it look like to implement his call to action?
My daughter Ktoret Ashira was born on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem in 2001. Two and a half years ago we celebrated her bat mitzvah at Shira Hadasha in Melbourne, Australia. The bat mitzvah was a true rite of passage and transformation that comprised many aspects and layers, several of which I detail below. Each child/adult is different and each rite of passage will have its own dimensions that are affected by the individual child, the family situation, educational context, the broader community and more.
I am learning the laws of niddah, laws that relate to menstruation and sexuality, with a group of women. It has been important for me from the beginning that we approach the material with our own lived, embodied experience at the center. As we learn the texts we ask: How does what we read sit in our body? How does it reflect our experience? What does it evoke for us? We are not silent in the face of the text that has authority and may contain opinions that do not reflect the nuance of our experiences, texts that may even contradict the integrity of our lived experience.
It’s Friday afternoon in a quiet Maryland suburb. Cars pull into driveways and kids get off school buses, ready to relax. But the second I get home the Shabbat prep begins. I sweep and mop the kitchen floor, clean my room, change my sheets and take a shower. As I step out of the shower, I realize with a shock that it’s five minutes till Shabbat. I toss on some nice clothes, pull a brush through my tangled curls and run downstairs just as my mom yells “candle lighting!”
Last week, I hung up a sign in my synagogue, inviting the community to join us in honoring the memory of my sister Pesha Leah who passed away six years ago, on 21 Tevet, January 2nd, in a terrible car accident.
Ten years ago I got that call. My dear friend called to tell me she was pregnant. I wish my reaction would have been to do a happy dance, to jump up and down with inspired tears streaming down my face. I love her. She is an extraordinary, caring, wonderful human being. Any child of hers I will naturally adore.