The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
In honor of our 18th anniversary tribute dinner, we launched the photography campaign #HumansofJOFA. Modeled on the famous (and oft-replicated) Humans of New York, our goal was to showcase the wide variety of people who are “living JOFA” and who embody JOFA’s mission in their everyday lives.
When we started the project, our goal was to find a visually diverse representation — women, men, people of different ages — as well as a wide range of geographic and hashkafic (outlook/viewpoint) representation. Since photography is a visual medium, we assumed that the power would be in seeing this varied tapestry of people. We thought that this range, this big tent of JOFA supporters would be the most compelling.
Every three years, at our conferences with 1,000 people, it is easy to see that wide visual representation, most apparent through wardrobe choices — hats, sheitels (wigs), skirts, pants, long-sleeves, short-sleeves, velvet, and knitted kippot. If you’re a reader of this blog, you also hear the variety of voices, in terms of hashkafa, age and experience, as you read about the personal journeys of our bloggers. However, in the years and the moments in between, it can be difficult to feel and see this community. If you don’t live in a few central hubs, it can feel like Orthodox feminists are few and far between and scattered across the globe.
As the exhibit came together, I was struck by something different — the heartfelt words that people shared, and the depth of feelings that they had for JOFA and the impact of our work. For many of them, JOFA had filled such a substantial gap, when they were shaken to the core, when they were looking for spirituality, when they were trying to sort out how best to live their lives, or when they were looking to educate themselves and their children. JOFA filled that void.
“Female religious leaders, who were able to become Maharats and Yoatzot because of the work of JOFA and Orthodox feminists, have kept me observant of halakha (Jewish law).” –Bethany Mandel
“When I look at the world of Orthodoxy through the eyes of my children, and I see the opportunities and choices available to them, and the impact of those opportunities and choices on their self image, I know that we have made change. And I know that JOFA was the impetus and the catalyst for that change.” –Pam Scheininger
“I don’t believe that there’s any modern Orthodox community that hasn’t been affected by JOFA. JOFA has, in a wonderful way, forced the issue, and required our community to confront, in one way or another, questions of gender and Judaism.” –Rabbi Barry Dolinger
“The moment that I held my first child, a girl, in my arms, I considered all of the challenges that my daughter would face in her own encounter with our faith. I knew that it was my duty as her parent to do everything in my power to help make that encounter as positive, meaningful, and spiritually fulfilling as possible, while still respecting the sanctity of our traditions and beliefs.” –Chaim K.
“Simply put, I could have never been who I am without JOFA. It is thanks to JOFA that I grew up with privileges like leyning megillah [publicly reading from The Scroll of Esther] for my Bat Mitzvah and learning Gemara at the same level as my male counterparts.” –Maharat Ramie Smith
We are so grateful for all of our supporters who continue to partner with us every day in building communities that are more inclusive of women and men. Thank you for joining us and for sharing your stories with us!
Explore the full #HumansofJOFA exhibit here!
Pronounced: muh-GILL-uh, Origin: Hebrew, meaning “scroll,” it is usually used to refer to the scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther, also known as the Book of Esther), a book of the Bible traditionally read twice during the holiday of Purim. Slang: a long and tedious story or explanation.