Whether or not, you love it or hate it, The Jerusalem Post claims Judaism is getting in touch with its feminine side. You’ve heard my spiel before in previous posts about whether or not I would call myself a feminist, much less a Jewish feminist. And here is a redux.
In short, I grew up in a sea of strong women who could never and never did depend on men. For these women, there was no women’s movement. There was just reality. And in this reality, there wasn’t anyone who was going to convince me men were in any way more capable than women. In fact, I didn’t think very much of men (good for lifting heavy things, otherwise lesser beings) and that view only changed recently when I surrounded myself with positive male role models.
I have been asked several times if I “hate women” because how can I be Orthodox and not? I don’t respond to questions that are not really questions but rather statements, judgments.
Quite obviously, I have found some way to reconcile being a woman and being Orthodox. Or perhaps, I haven’t but I’m doing it anyway. I don’t think I have anything remarkable to say that could illuminate what seems to outsiders an incredible, enormous incongruity. My friend recently said I am a paradox. Honestly, I’m not trying to be. I’m just trying to be, well, me. And just trying to be me can be really exhausting.
It goes without saying that as a Modern Orthodox Jew today, I have grown up in a Jewish world that is very different from the one I expected. The roles of women in Orthodoxy are not exactly what they once were. So I didn’t expect so many bat mitzvahs, women’s prayer groups or a school for future Maharat. But I have been the beneficiary of all these things. And my thoughts on all this might seem fairly uncomplicated to you.
I’ll never have a bat mitzvah (oh, alright, I’ll think about it). And I appreciate women’s prayer groups from a certain distance because I know I am in no danger of being found warbling in Hebrew in front of a crowded room, even when it’s only women…and thankfully, nobody’s going to make me. And despite recent jokes from friends, I will not be going to school to become a Maharat. I can’t even remember what Maharat stands for.
I am a very young Jew and my concerns are that of a very young Jew. I wonder if I’ll ever be get a handle on Biblical Hebrew, I wonder if I’ll ever get a handle on reading the weekly parsha critically, I wonder I’ll ever be able to stand AND hold a book in my hands during davening (prayer). In a word, I’ve got other problems and I’m wrapped up in them like nobody’s business. I might never be able to unwrap myself from them enough to worry about whether or not I will ever get to read from a Torah scroll at shul. At shul, I won’t even touch or stand near the Torah scroll for fear I’ll somehow trip over my two left feet and do some serious damage.
Incidentally, I should note that I grew up Catholic with priests and nuns with very clearly defined, separate roles. I never questioned the status quo. Maybe if I had it had chafed or if I had grown up Protestant with female ministers, I would have. I can still remember the day that I saw my first “altar girl.” Whoa, heady. I had never seen a girl up there in front of church helping out in the ceremony. I was curious, a little taken aback, awed. But that still didn’t make me want to go up there.
And you couldn’t convince me to judge her for wanting to up there. We were both trying to do what made us feel right, what we could live with, what was right for us.
I am very grateful, rather sheepishly so, that there is a Maharat in my community. Because there are some things, you only want to share with another woman. In fact, there are many things you only want to share with a woman. And thankfully, I haven’t had to air my dirty laundry (ahem) with paunchy old men.