JOFA's blog

Beyond the Internal Partition

Tue, 03/05/2013 - 12:00am -- JOFA

By Vered Noam

From Mussaf Shabbat, Mekor Rishon, Jan 11, 2013

The segregation of women from synagogue activities does not only hurt women but also hurts the place itself, which loses its authenticity and lives in a gone reality. A call for integrity and softness. 

Our spiritual lives are divided by a partition, just like a synagogue. We push to the other side of that internal partition all the vital foundations of healthy critical thinking, compassion, and common sense. Spiritual experience demands openness and listening, both inward and outward. How can we sing Lord’s song with a clenched fist?&

During a visit to the United States, we spent one Friday night in the synagogue of Rabbi Avi Weiss in Riverdale, New York. After Kabbalat Shabbat, the rabbi suddenly asked the congregation to stand. He turned his attention to a woman walking in, a member of the synagogue who was in the middle of her seven days of mourning. He announced her name and the name of her deceased father, and the entire congregation – men and women alike – turned to her and recited, as is the custom, the lovely words of comfort that the halacha has given us: “May God comfort you, etc.”

Women plus Minyan equals Winyan

Mon, 03/04/2013 - 8:00pm -- JOFA

Helyn SteppaBy Helyn Steppa 

So, I started this thing called a Winyan. You know, Women plus Minyan equals Winyan? (Just to clarify, Winyan isn’t a davening group, a lot of people think that. Winyan is actually a place where we share personal stories, debate issues and inspire one another). I know I was asked to discuss how I came to start this group, but I’m not sure how to articulate all that it means to me, and besides, we’ve only had two meetings. I remember when I was around eight years old and my dad asked me if I could read a map. Fancying myself sassy and clever I said “No… but I look good standing next to one.” My dad’s eyes flashed uncharacteristically and he said “I hate when people say that. Never say that you’re just good at standing next to something.” (Love you dad!) They say that a girl’s self-esteem has to do with her relationship with her father, well, I’m a feminist now and my life mission is to empower women. Not to say that my mom had nothing to do with it. She was the one who defined feminism for me (third wave, anyone?) and insisted on calling private parts by their scientific names. What a woman (that’s not sarcastic, seriously she’s awesome.) 

Maharat: A new model of leadership by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Mon, 03/04/2013 - 12:00am -- JOFA

Orthodox Jews believe that men and women are fundamentally different.  They have different characteristics, different strengths, different obligations and different ways of seeing the world and approaching life.  Thus, it follows that especially for us, (as opposed perhaps to more liberal Jewish movements in which the boundaries between the genders might be more blurred), it is vital that we have both genders leading our people.  If men and women see the world differently and have different voices then to have only male leaders is to limit the Jewish vision by fifty percent.

I would like to caution us against seeing women spiritual leaders in the way that  liberal Jewish movements have in the past, that of expecting women to be rabbis just like their male counterparts.  That a Rabbi is a Rabbi, a role blind to gender.  In fact men and women are very different and we would be losing out on hearing women’s unique voices of leadership and Torah if we expect them to be just like male rabbis.

Potluck Minyan in Brooklyn Hosts its 6th Megillah Reading

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 8:00pm -- JOFA

By Rori Picker Neiss  

Potluck MinyanI took a deep breath and looked around the room. There were more faces looking back at me than I had ever seen in my living room previously. Bodies overflowed into the dining room, kitchen, and hallway. Many of the people were familiar, but many were new; friends and family who heard about our megillahreading.

Purim in Hollywood, Fl with Almost 150 Women

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 12:00am -- JOFA

By Hannah Hostyk

Hollywood group shotFor the women of Hollywood Florida, the Women’s Megillah reading is a highlight in our spiritual lives. This year almost 150 women collectively attended our evening and morning readings. As in years past, some of the women who attended had never heard the megillah read before. This year, some of our supporters generously donated new copies of the megillahfor the group, so that we now have our own dedicated copies of the megillah for future use. The first time we read megillah, six years ago, we consulted with Beth Hindin and Robyn Shoulson of the Women’s Megillah Reading in West Orange, NJ who gave us much needed advice and guidance. This year, our readers included four of our original readers who have read for the past six years (Diana Levy, Julia Steiner, Maxine Gill, and me!), two readers who have been reading for the past two years (Abby Schochet and Nessa Reich), one new reader (Sheryl Dennis), and our newest reader (Rina Reich) who, at thirteen, is our youngest reader ever (and the daughter of one of our readers).

White lies and family manipulation in the Talmud

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 12:00am -- JOFA

by Mona Berdugo   

One of the things I really enjoy about doing the daf is getting a glimpse into the everyday lives of the rabbis living at the time. They had real lives and real families with real problems etc. In the past few weeks we read two short stories about the family lives of the amoraim that I found fascinating. For anyone who ever felt that no one ever listens to them, you are in good company.

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