I received a mail from a member recently. She wrote about some of the Synagogue’s recent decisions on the role of women (which she supported) and shared the following;
"Whilst I acknowledge religious texts are historically overwhelmingly written by men, there are numerous brilliant contemporary texts and commentaries written by women. I would like to see women's books and teachings held up as a source of inspiration, be it in sermons or at Cheder, as much as men's works. I believe acknowledging women and their work (other than as wives and mothers) as equal sources of inspiration is one of the most important actions we can do at this time and one of the best gifts we can offer to children of any gender."
Well, amen to that - at least in theory. In practice, the process of accessing these ‘numerous brilliant contemporary texts’ isn’t so easy - for me. I’ve been trained - and spent my entire Rabbinic existence - surrounded almost exclusively by male voices. And even when contemporary scholars are women, they are so often writing about a male pre-existing canon of authority. I remember, as a second year Rabbinical School student, encountering feminist Jewish theology for the first time (Judith Plaskow’s terrific ‘Standing Again at Sinai’) and realising how much of Judaism required radical rethinking. Many of the works that have most shaped and moved my sense of Judaism since have been written by women. Perhaps that’s inevitable; welcoming a new voice will bring newer insights than turning continually to the similar.
Those in shul a couple of weeks ago will have noticed a terrific poem by Merle Feld included in the handout (do read it if you weren’t around). I’ve also turned to my many colleagues around the world for suggestions as a book list - ah the joy of social media - now available on-line here. This Shabbat w are introduced to what becomes the central organising structure of Jewish life throughout the wanderings in the dessert - the Mikdash or Sanctuary. Inspired by an analysis of Judith Antonelli, I’ll be discussing the implications of the way a surprisingly high number of Rabbinic texts considered the Mikdash as a woman. All, of course, most welcome.
Let me also wave the flag for this Sunday’s Masorti Women’s Forum which we, at New London, are hosting for the entire movement - from 2-6pm. There are some terrific scholars, including Susie Orbach and our own Dr Anne Summers (whose book we will be launching at New London later in the month, see below). More information about the Forum here. Open to women only.