Good morning. My name is Pam Greenwood and I will be serving as the volunteer coordinator of the Joan S Meyers Torah Lending Program.
My daughter, Liat, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah exactly four years ago at our home in West Orange. She read from the Torah on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and it was just beautiful. But that was the last time that she was able to read the Rosh Chodesh kriyah, until today -- at our own women’s reading. Since 2009, she had no access to a Torah so that she could enjoy a repeat performance, as our Shul is not supportive of women’s readings and it is difficult for us to acquire a kosher Torah from another setting.
Last year, I was approached by a number of parents in the community, asking if I would teach the ta’amei hamikra to their fifth grade daughters, in the hope that the girls would be motivated to read Torah as they celebrated their milestone occasions. By the third class on Shabbat afternoon, there was a cohort of four girls learning with Liat and me, flipping excitedly through their own parshiyot with growing curiosity and impatience to move ahead! Now this was absolutely wonderful to see, but the challenges of getting a Torah for a string of Bnot Mitzvah, all within a year, began to seem daunting. The Torah that Liat had used for her Bat Mitzvah belonged to a sympathetic member of our congregation, but it was very old and brittle, had just been declared pasul, and would be too costly to fix. Where could we possibly find a Torah for all of these smachot?
The problem became more acute as I began to look ahead. While I knew there would be a gap looming, during which no Bnot Mitzvah would express interest in reading Torah, I also knew that there would be a new group of girls in my class (as many as 7 or 8) about three years’ from now. How could we gain access to a Torah as needed? And so, the idea of the Torah Lending Program was born and was nurtured, thanks mostly to the support of JOFA board member Pam Scheininger, whom I would like to acknowledge for all of her work and due to the generosity of the Meyers and Lindenbaum families. I am also grateful for the contributions of Judy Heicklen, Chavie Kahn, Jed Bergman and the professional staff of the JOFA office, without whom this program would not have been realized.
In today’s kriah from Parshat Pinchas, we learn about the musaf korbanot that were offered by the Cohanim on Rosh Chodesh, Shabbat and Pesach. These were not individual sacrifices, but were offered on behalf of the community to mark the special day. I used this parsha as a jumping-off point to investigate the history of korbanot, as I wanted to understand whether or not a woman could bring a personal sacrifice to the Temple.
In brief, I learned that a woman could bring a korban to the Beit Hamikdash and could enter the courtyard to deliver it. While men were required to perform semicha, that is, to lay their hands upon the offering as it was being slaughtered, women were exempt from doing so. In Masechet Chagiga, however, we learn that women who wanted to engage in this practice were permitted, in order to give them spiritual satisfaction. In allowing women to take on a ritual for which there was no chiyuv, the Talmudic sages recognized that there were women who wanted to engage in more demonstrative and active tasks in order to enhance their relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
And in that spirit, I would like to inaugurate the Joan S Meyers Torah Lending Program. I hope that communities will dance with this Torah, that Bnot Mitzvah will leyn from this Torah, that women will take aliyot to this Torah, and that young girls will learn to feel connected with this Torah. As I step down from the bima, allow me to introduce Sarah Meyers Sadinoff, the daughter of Joan S. Meyers, zichrona livracha, to say a few words about her mother and the family’s connection to this program.