The women wore a variety of costumes, from Disney princesses to Queen Esther herself. Listening to them read the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) with melodic, skillful voices that Purim holiday in a small shul in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood, I felt the distinct sensation of finding something that I’d always been searching for but never thought truly existed. I had been on the rotation of chazaniyot (prayer service leaders) for my Bais Yaakov high school’s prayer services, but my job had been minimal. This was different.
There I was. Twenty years old, newly engaged, and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world! I had a whole notebook dedicated to planning the perfect wedding. It had lists of photographers, caterers, and musicians. It also had a list of important people we needed to have at the wedding; family, close friends, and the Rabbi.
One of the most empowering things I have done since living on my own as an Orthodox Jewish “single” is hosting Shabbat meals for my friends and people in my community.
I come from a rather Modern Orthodox, Ashkenazi family that is composed mostly of women. The only male in my immediate family is my father. So obviously women’s halakhic obligation in mitzvot is important to me. But it became even more important to me in the past few years.
With the deplorable situation in Santa Clara (the Stanford rape case), there has recently been a media focus on rape. Those who look to the Bible for advice or consolation will not find it. What they will find is Deuteronomy 22:28-29:
The most recent episode of “The Joy of Text” podcast featured a discussion on the time period when couples are not supposed to touch. This time period, called niddah, is frequently described as menstrual impurity, family purity (although not unproblematically), or simply left undescribed or untranslated. Thus, the title for this month’s episode is “Navigating Niddah,” in which the co-hosts, Rabbi Dov Linzer and Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, discuss how people deal with this time period.
A couple of nights ago, my family and I went to see “Finding Dory.” In this charming sequel to “Finding Nemo,” the character of Dory, a blue tang fish plagued with short term memory issues, begins a quest to find her family. Despite her disability, Dory displays incredible grit. In both films, when Dory is faced with adversity, she repeats the mantra, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I have found myself quietly saying this phrase when dealing with particular challenges. It resonates with my personal philosophy of “just keep doing what you’re doing” — especially when you know that very thing that you are doing, albeit groundbreaking or controversial, is important, valuable and necessary for yourself and the community.
Proponents and opponents of Partnership Minyans have jointly fostered a single narrative. In that narrative, the only relevant technical halakhic (Jewish legal) question is a pure binary: Can women’s aliyot (being called to the Torah) be justified technically, or can’t they? If the answer is negative, no further conversation is possible; if the answer is positive, the conversation devolves into questions of policy, and no further technical conversation is necessary.
Last summer, when I joined Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel (ASBI), the local Modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, I discovered a multi-denominational congregation that, if not unique, was most certainly remarkable. Indeed, I’ve often wondered why, with equally vibrant Reform and Conservative congregations nearby, someone who’s not strictly Orthodox would choose to join a synagogue that is. But that’s another question for another essay. To my mind, the greatest merit of ASBI, which was thrown into sharp relief this week by the horrific massacre in Orlando, is that ours is a congregation whose membership renders denomination, race, and sexual orientation meaningless – a community in which no one is an outsider.