Torah Study

Inclusive Voices

September 15, 2016
by Rabbi Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus On Tuesday, July 26th, as Hillary Clinton officially became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party, I tried to explain to my five year-old daughter the import of the moment. This was not the first time I have shared with her the legacy and history she carries as a girl, and one day a woman, in this world. “Women couldn’t always wear pants,” “Women couldn’t always vote,” and “Women couldn’t always be rabbis”—just a few of the things my daughter, and I, have the opportunity to do through the pioneering of the women who came before. When I was younger, I did not fully appreciate this legacy. After all, I took for granted that as a woman I would have opportunities equal to any man. I was then exposed to the realization, little by little, that I have a woman’s voice in a world that is not always ready to listen. As a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife and now a mother, my worldview is shaped by these roles and my identity as a female. It is only in recent years that I have embraced my role as “woman rabbi” and the opportunities to raise the feminine voice—my voice—with pride and strength.

Leading Torah Study: Framing the Message

July 27, 2016

By Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt

What does it mean to lead a Torah study?  When we sit with congregants, friends, are guests in different communities, what is it we are doing when we are given the honor to lead a Torah study?  There is something quite amazing that we are doing – we are framing the message for this group. For that short moment in time that we are asked to lead, we are transmitting a concept, idea, ideal or moral teaching that we believe the group needs to hear.  It is a truly powerful moment and the texts, commentaries, works that we bring to the table also convey the message of what our values are or what sources contribute to our very own understanding of the week’s parashah.  For the Torah studies that I lead, I am indebted to a rabbi and teacher who taught me the important lens of gender to bring forth powerful lessons, messages and teachings.

How I Became an Accidental Chai Mitzvah

August 26, 2015
by Debra Bennett On the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, Rabbi Satz announced that our post-Shacharit bagel-and-coffee conversation would have to move from the boardroom in 15 minutes, unless we wanted to stay to join the new Chai Mitzvah class. My mother and I, being curious women, stayed to join the class of eight. The topic of that first class was "Adult Rites of Passage," a fitting way to begin since what falls between ages 13 and 113 is part of what Chai Mitzvah addresses, and Chai Mitzvah itself is a new adult rite. That morning, words from the Mishnah resonated with the class, holding up well as a life cycle prescriptive and descriptive in the 21st century: at 15, one should begin study of the Talmud; at 18, the chuppah; at 20, pursuit; at 30, strength; at 40, understanding; at 50, counsel; at 60, old age; at 70, fullness of years; at 80, strength—that one gave us pause until my mother, in her 80th year herself, offered that age means loss, and that dealing with that takes strength.

A Blessing for My Niece on Her Bat Mitzvah

April 22, 2015
by Sharon Mann To my dear niece, Although I am unable to be with you in person on this special day, I will be with you in spirit, thinking of you as you are called to the Torah for the first time. As I sit at my home in Israel, far from you, I am reviewing your Torah portion and want to share with you my blessing for you on this day. Over the course of this year, as you prepared for your bat mitzvah, I also studied in a class that meets to discuss the weekly Torah portion. During my classes, I am continually reminded that the Torah, which has guided and united Jews throughout our history, is still relevant to us today. Though at first glance, a Torah portion such as yours may appear extremely challenging, it is possible to find meanings and lessons that relate to our lives.

Who's Afraid of Reverend Virginia Wolf? Feminism, Clergy, and the Role of Women in Reform Judaism and Catholicism

December 3, 2014
by Gregory Eran Gronbacher With topics such as same sex marriage and the recent Catholic Synod on the Family in the news, many of my Catholic friends have been blogging, posting, and engaging (often heatedly) in animated online conversations about gender and the role of women in religious life. As a Reform Jew, some of these conversations feel odd in the sense that our community has reached a degree of resolution and consensus concerning such subjects. That’s not to say that differences of opinion do not exist, or that matters are completely settled within the Reform and Liberal Jewish worlds, but for the most part, the subjects are not as controversial and heated as for our Roman Catholic friends.