JOFA UK celebrated International Women’s Day 2016 with a series of discussions on women’s participation and leadership in Orthodox Judaism. The program featured scholar Leah Sarna who delivered ten sessions in High Schools and Campus J-Socs including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.
Click here to listen to a recording of the talk, Confronting the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations, delivered on Thursday 10th March at the launch of JOFA LIVE, a discussion forum for students and young professionals.
Confronting the soft bigotry of low expectations
Where overt bigotry and sexism is still a problem, it can at least be confronted head on. Far more challenging is the "soft" bigotry that simply expects less from women and girls. This is particularly marked in terms of our standards for women in Jewish study, ritual and leadership. What it is the loss to our community and what can we do to rectify this? Click here to view the sourcesheet.
Leah Sarna is a Wexner Graduate Fellow studying for Orthodox rabbinic ordination at Yeshivat Maharat in New York. She is a graduate of the Maimonides School in Boston and spent a year immersed in Torah study in Israel at Migdal Oz before undertaking a BA in Philosophy & Psychology at Yale University, graduating in 2014. Leah has continued her Jewish education at the Drisha Institute in NY and at the Center for Modern Torah Leadership in Massachusetts. She teaches and lectures in synagogues and communities across the United States. Recent engagement have included addressing an audience of close to 1000 at the JOFA 2013 Conference plenary in NY and teaching at Drisha’s Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program. Leah is currently serving as clergy intern at Harvard Hillel and at Ohev Sholom, The National Synagogue in Washington, DC.
'To Sanctify and be Sanctified’ – mark ShabbatUK by connecting with Kiddush, through a JOFA UK Kiddush workshop near you
To mark this year’s ShabbatUK (23rd/24th October 2015); the Chief Rabbi’s initiative for Jews across the UK to celebrate a unique Shabbat, regardless of their level of religious observance, JOFA UK invites women (and men) everywhere to connect with the mitzvah of Kiddush through ‘To Sanctify and to be Sanctified’ an opportunity to learn more about the key ritual of Kiddush. View the flyer here.
The workshops are an interactive learning session, exploring the origins for Kiddush, women’s obligation for this mitzvah and its halakhic requirements, while also giving participants the opportunity to learn how to recite Kiddush.
JOFA UK is making available copies of the Kiddush Kit (pictured here), which includes a beautifully illustrated quick guide to Kiddush and sources to study.
In addition the Ta Shma study guide with English and Hebrew sources for women’s obligation in the mitzvah of Kiddush is available to download.
While several groups are holding workshops in the lead up to Shabbat UK and the project has been adopted by groups as far as Cape Town, South Africa, JOFA UK will continue to promote this throughout the year with the aim to enhance Shabbat observance.
To hold a workshop in your community, simply identify a host, pick a weeknight, (perhaps combining it with a wine tasting), Friday night or Shabbat morning and provide kosher wine and some nibbles, such as crackers and cheese. Contact JOFA UK for copies of the Kiddush Kit and for help in finding a facilitator.
Contact JOFA UK:
About JOFA UK
Founded in 1997 in the United States, JOFA’s international membership of 5,500 counts scholars, leaders, activists, and philanthropic grantors in the Jewish and feminist worlds.
JOFA is now extending its work to the UK. This follows the comprehensive Jewish Leadership Council’s report (July 2012) entitled Inspiring Women Leaders:Advancing Gender Equality in Jewish Communal Life.
While only one element of the report focused on ritual participation for women, this issue received disproportionate attention from the women who attended the consultation meeting held on 22 March 2012. Numerous women raised the issue of their lack of participation in Orthodox ritual life and expressed a strong desire to engage in this area.
One of the factors for this marginalisation identified by the JLC ‘s report is lack of in-depth knowledge of Jewish law in relation to women’s roles within the Jewish community. It appears that despite the growing opportunities for women to engage in general Torah study there is not enough focus on halachic issues relating to the role of women in leadership positions and ritual involvement.
JOFA will seek to address this problem by supporting and facilitating educational programmes for women and men focusing on Women and Jewish Law, encouraging greater participation of women in leadership positions and ritual life and creating a community of like-minded individuals committed to the values of Orthodox Judaism and Feminism.
The mission of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance is to expand the spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for women within the framework of halacha. We advocate meaningful participation and equality for women in family life, synagogues, houses of learning and Jewish communal organizations to the full extent possible within halacha. Our commitment is rooted in the belief that fulfilling this mission will enrich and uplift individual and communal life for all Jews.
A MESSAGE FROM DINA BRAWER, JOFA’S UK AMBASSADOR
The second decade of the 21st century finds women highly educated and occupying a wide range of influential leadership positions in the secular world. Yet when it comes to involvement in Jewish ritual and Jewish communal leadership their opportunities are considerably limited. This gap between a woman's secular and religious worlds creates frustration sometimes leading to disengagement from the latter. My goal in representing JOFA in the UK is to try and narrow this gap by shaping public discourse around this important issue and developing effective tools to positively change this reality.
JOFA in the UK aims to be a horizontal organisation achieving change through empowering individuals at grass-root level. So if you are passionate about these issues I invite you to get in touch and get involved. Our organisation is only as strong as the people who get involved in it.
I look forward to meeting you, sharing ideas and together with other like-minded individuals, to gradually increase opportunities for women's engagement in Jewish ritual and communal life.
Much of women’s engagement in Jewish Ritual is due to varying interpretations of Halacha.
JOFA’s Ta Shma study guides present an in-depth look at halachic topics that affect a woman’s obligation and involvement in Jewish ritual life. Ta Shma presents original Halachic sources in English and Hebrew and guides through the Halachic issues in an accessible way.
JOFA study groups aim to increase awareness of relevant halakhic issues among women and men so that women can make deliberate choices rather than passive ones about their observance. By cultivating an understanding of the different views that exist within the halachic system, we want to enable Jews who are committed to halacha to become more intellectually involved in their practice of mitzvot. We hope that studying the Ta Shma guides will invigorate individuals, as well as the larger community, to a more thoughtful and committed observance.
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