Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Egalitarian Judaism?" Need it Like A Hole in The Head

It really bothers me when I read these articles claiming that all modern Jewish Orthodox  women are waiting for mainstream Orthodoxy to accept egalitarian dovening.
The motivation behind partnership minyanim is to narrow the wide gap between the relative gender equality that Orthodox women experience in their professional and civic lives and the gender stratification they experience in their religious lives. As Josephine Felix pointed out in an opinion piece in Brooklyn’s The Jewish Press, Orthodox women pursue every career imaginable, and in some circles they do it in greater numbers than their non-income producing, Talmud-studying husbands. “They may become CEO of a company, but when it comes to being president of a shul board, they are forbidden by many Orthodox legal scholars. They may be doctors whose decisions impact the life or death of a patient, but when it comes to deciding halacha, they cannot contribute,” Felix writes.
Women are said to be unable to handle the intellectual rigor of Talmud. When Orthodox women are professors or computer scientists, it makes that argument hard to swallow. Women who live in a civic society where male and female lawyers, witness and judges are treated as equally reliable by the courts may question the validity of the ban on female witnesses in Jewish law. Essentially, despite efforts to prevent it, the positive values of human rights and equality that are the fabric of Western culture are absorbed viscerally by women through their lived experiences, and when compared with the values of traditional Halacha, eventually the cognitive dissonance starts to cause a strain.
Orthodox feminists (both male and female) have been campaigning to make changes to prayer and ritual that empower women within the traditional framework. They do not want to leave Orthodoxy for Conservative Judaism. They like the closeness of the community, the way Orthodoxy permeates and informs all aspects of their lives. As Elana Sztokman put it in these pages, they “love everything about Orthodoxy except for the gender thing.”

Read more:
I don't agree. I'm not interested. I don't see being able to lead prayers, aliyot to the Torah etc as the same as being on the board of the shul/synagogue or studying Talmud.

In Aurora Mendelsohn's Jewish Forward article, she extensively quotes Josephine Felix, but in Felix's Jewish Press article nothing is mentioned at all about egalitarian minyanim. Felix's complaints are more about custom than halacha.  Yes, the make up of a minyan and Torah reading etc are halachik questions, while Women's Talmud Study is a matter of custom.

I know many strictly Orthodox Jewish women who study Talmud and teach it.  I davka study Tanach, Bible at Matan, but Talmud is on the curriculum there and at many other schools and institutes for Orthodox Jewish women.  Some of the women who study Talmud may be members of egalitarian minyanim, but for most Talmud for the love of studying Talmud is the focus on and the reason for their studies. It's not to make a modern feminist point.

As I've written before, I don't go for dabbling, and I don't want new requirements. I doven everyday more than once and have no interest in adding Tefillin to my dovening experience/routine. Years ago when I was on the local synagogue committee I did insist on being included in all sorts of decisions and complained about the custom of having "unofficial meetings between mincha and ma'ariv. They did that out of custom, not Law/halacha.

It's human nature to consider oneself in the majority, but I see a danger in the insistence that most Orthodox women in today's world are in favor of these "partnership," aka egalitarian minyanim. I honestly don't see it as the case. I really don't think that most women want more responsibility in their lives.

Most of us are struggling with what we have. Instead of demanding a role in the dovening, let's ask for something much more necessary, the opening of Ezrat Nashim, Women's Sections in synagogues for all the daily prayers. It's very hard for us women when not home to find a suitable location for dovening Mincha, Arvit (Ma'ariv) and saying T'hillim. All over Jerusalem you'll hear calls to gather for Mincha in small synagogues, but those synagogues don't have places for women, or they are full of men. One exception is Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, Egged.


Mr. Cohen said...

Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a popular Chareidi Rabbi, born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free public lecture in the last year of his life, in which he taught that Jews should pray for the Israeli Army.
I personally witnessed this; I was there.

When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei, he is permitted to add his own personal prayer requests in the middle of the final paragraph, which begins with Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa.

I recently began adding the prayer for the Israeli Army in that part. I know this is not the way it is normally recited, but it is permitted, and I can say it that way in any synagogue.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck NJ told me that I can recite it even on Shabbat and Yom Tov, because it is a communal tefillah, not a private bakashah.


Batya said...

Thanks for the comment. I remember Rabbi Miller, a wise man.

Anonymous said...

This mishegas with egalitarianism is just part of the feminist agenda (political) and the newage movement of making a mish mosh religion of all the major religions into one. They believe they can outsmart the Creator (laughing while I'm writing this) or really don't believe in anything at all. That's why the big push to destroy as much Yiddishkeit in Israel and elsewhere, as we see going on now. The followers of these women leaders are just the useful idiots, who probably have inferiority complexes and want to be both women and men. Not one iota can be changed in Torah/Halacha/Mesorah. All Divine.

Batya said...

a, an interestign thing has happened in Reform and Conservative Jewry n their rabbinate since women have been allowed equally. It is considered more a female profession.