Jewfem Blog

Where are women allowed to think and feel for ourselves? That is my question

Around this time last year, I had an exchange here on FB about head covering which eventually contributed to my feeling that Orthodoxy is a bad place for me as a woman. When I suggested to a woman who had written, "I have been covering my hair for 17 years and hate every minute of it", that perhaps if she hates something that much, she should find a way not to do it, the pushback was fast and furious. From Orthodox women! It wasn't about halakha per se. It was about the idea that I thought we should be able to follow our hearts. "If we all just did what we wanted, who would ever keep Shabbat? Or fast on Yom Kippur?" one woman wrote. "This is not a place for angry outsiders", the original poster wrote. I left the thread, and absorbed the clarity of the message. It's not that going with hair uncovered sends you to the role of "outsider" in Orthodoxy. It's the very notion of allowing yourself to think or feel for yourself. I told this story to a reporter last week from JTA who called me to ask if she could write about my decision to become a Reform rabbi. You can read some of the rest here.  

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Responses to the responses on becoming a Reform rabbi

  In the day (!!)since I announced that I am studying to become a Reform rabbi, responses have been overwhelming. I’ve been chatting with people around the world, each with their own story about connection, community, spirituality, and Judaism. The vast majority of those responses have been resoundingly supportive. And this is not only from Reform friends. Many of my Orthodox friends have been incredibly understanding and even sharing in the excitement. Despite all the predictable naysaying Orthodox gatekeepers who have been doing their thing (some you can see in the comments on my previous post, or on my FB page; I left them in because it is important to know what kind of discourse is out there, what we’re all up against), despite all that, I have been receiving an incredible amount of support, even from places where I thought the reaction would be harsher. I am so relieved about that. My biggest worry was that Orthodox feminist activists would see me as the one who jumped ship, and leave it at that. But for the most part, I’ve been getting a lot of love, and that makes me really happy. I see us all as fighting the same fights but from different corners. On the other hand, some Conservative, (Masorti) and Reconstructionist friends are a bit upset that I passed over their denominations. Especially stinging was the fact that I wrote that I felt Reform is the “only place” where women can be truly free. If there is one word that I regret in my original post, it is that word “only”. I would like to change that to say the “best”, or “one of the best”, instead of the “only”. I will not change the post now because that would be intellectually dishonest. But I do think that I was wrong to write it that way. I have some wonderful mentors and friends around the Jewish world. Professor Alice Shalvi, for example, who became Conservative after decades of work as an Orthodox feminist, is someone I consider an incredible role model. I think I came off too dismissive of the work of feminists in other denominations, and I’m very sorry about that. I would like to emphasize how much I consider feminist activists across denominations to be allies.  This is where the work is. I’m not here to trounce on hard-working women trying to change the world. I want to work together. That is the vision. I’m sorry that I didn’t do a better job of emphasizing that in my original post.

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