DAVENING IN MONSEY
By Michal Boyarsky
AS A CHILD, I ATTENDED A SHUL IN ULTRA-ORTHODOX MONSEY, NEW YORK. OURS WAS THE ODD ONE OUT INTHAT NEIGHBORHOOD: OTHER FAMILIES WALKED TO SHUL, THE MEN DRESSED IN BLACK-AND-WHITE SUITSAND BLACK HATS, THE WOMEN WEARING DARK DRESSES AND THICK STOCKINGS. OUR FAMILY DROVE FIFTEEN
minutes to get to our shul, which my parents affectionately called Conservadox. The congregation was a mix of modern Orthodoxfamilies and Conservative families. My father used to joke that everyone walked to our shul—some walked from home, and otherswalked from the parking lot.There was no mehitzah (gender division) at our shul, so I could sit next to my father and play with the fringes on his tallis even afterI had my bat mitzvah. But women “weren’t allowed on the bima”—that’s the language that was used to describe gender at our synagogue.For my bat mitzvah, I read Haftorah on a Sunday. Afterwards, during our monthly Teen Shabbatot, the teenageboys would lead services, and I was occasionally asked to give a d’var Torah—once the ark was firmly closed.Today, I can leyn (read) Torah, and I’ve played a large part in getting an independent minyan startedin Seattle, WA where I live now. The daveners at our minyan are often strong, independent women withmuch more clarity on gender and Judaism than I had as a kid davening in Monsey, New York.A few months ago, a good friend of mine gave me a gift: a tallis, my first one. When I wrap myselfinside it on Shabbat mornings, it feels wonderful—and complicated. Growing up, women never woretallitot. The tallit still feels forbidden, bewildering in a way. Like draping myself in a flag that announcesto the congregation that I am a Jewish adult, a full and important member of the community.And I am.
MEN AND WOMEN TOGETHER AT THE KOTEL 1967
By Andrew Kaplan
I’M AN AMERICAN WHO SERVED WITH THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE IN THEGOLAN HEIGHTS DURING THE SIX DAY WAR. A FEW DAYS AFTER THE WARENDED, I WAS IN EAST JERUSALEM, WHICH AT THAT TIME WAS STILL UNDER
martial law. I immediately went to the Western Wall, which of course, we Jews had not beenable to go to since 1948. At that time, there was no big plaza like today. Only a narrow street.It was jammed with soldiers and people, men and women, boys and girls together, praying,singing, so happy together. That’s right, men and women praying together at the WesternWall and you know what? It didn’t fall down. I enclose a photo I took at the time to prove it.
IT’S A NEW WORLD
By Marcia Cohn Spiegel
I GREW UP IN THE 1930S WHEN I WAS ONE OF THE RARE GIRLS ALLOWED TO STUDY HEBREW, KNOWING THATI WOULD NEVER READ FROM THE TORAH OR BE ON THE BIMA OF MY SHUL.
As a grown woman in the 1970s and beyond, I became a member of various groups of women who struggled with the languageof liturgy and the role of women in the synagogue. We were part of the changing society that redefined the role of women. We taught, organized, and created new ways for women to be. We wrote songs and wrote articles. We gave sermons. It wasexciting not only for us but for our daughters and granddaughters.When I visit Israel, I want to be able to function as I do at home. I do not want to be deprived of the status it took so many of usso long to achieve. There are a few places around Jerusalem where I am comfortable, but not yet at the Kotel. While I will not livelong enough to see a great-granddaughter’s bat mitzveh at the Kotel, I hope my granddaughter will be able to join her daughter there.
Marcia Cohn Spiegel is a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Jewish Communal Service.Her expertise is in addressing stigmatized behaviors in the Jewish community, i.e. addiction, physical, sexual and domestic violence.
The tallit still feelsforbidden, bewildering in a way.Like draping myself in a flag thatannounces to the congregationthat I am a Jewish adult, a full andimportant member of thecommunity.