Monday, June 20, 2005

Intolerance Among The Tribe-Where Are The Women

Folks, I'd like to say that I am an easygoing, laidback kind of fellow who follows a "goes along, get's along" kind of philosophy, but it would be a baldfaced lie. And if you have read some of my more recent posts on this old blog you can see that I am not always the quiet, shy type of boy.

Ok, in person and especially in crowds of 1000 or more, I am most certainly a shrinking violet.

But in all seriousness I am quite concerned about the lack of tolerance for Jews who have different levels of observance. It is not something that is limited to one branch. I have heard Reform Jews talk about those fanatics and Charedim talk about apikorsim.

It bothers me for many, many reasons not the least of which is that the sad truth is that there are people in this world who murder any one of us just for being Jewish. It doesn't matter if you wear a Shtreimel, kittel or jeans and t-shirt. In their eyes you are just another Yid and that is good enough.

But I am not really interested in running down that path. Today I am thinking about a silly argument that I have been involved in with some people some other blogs about a woman's role in Judaism.

What I wonder about is why some men are so threatened by the idea of women's prayer groups, in women engaging in various acts that are traditionally male dominated. I am not an advocate of women laying tefillin just because men do or doing anything that men do just because they want to prove that they can.

For that matter I have never been real comfortable with seeing a woman in what I consider male garb, but I do believe that there is a place for women who want to reach out, expand and explore.

That is, they shouldn't do any of these things because they want to prove their equal, they already are, but they should have the opportunity and the place to continue their own education and growth. And what I do not understand is why some people fight this.

Also along those lines, I am confused by people who think that it is ok to look at someone else and declare them not to be Jewish. Whose place is that. Who has the right to make that declaration.

I am a thickskinned old buzzard and likely to give as good as I get, but I have no problem saying that this kind of talk just saddens me. I like to think that we are better than this.


Anshel's Wife said...

Okay, here we go, I apologize ahead of time if I offend anyone.

Tradition dictates who is Jewish and who is not. Yes, I know Hitler didn't care whether the mother or father were Jewish. My parents say that to me all the time. I'm just saying that tradition and I think also halacha says that if a person's mother is Jewish, then he/she is Jewish. And I'm not getting into all the converstion issues. And I'm not going to say that someone who is a Jew by choice is not a Jew. I'm just going to say that halacha is halacha and some interpret it literally and some interpret it differently.

As for a women's role in Judaism, well, I once wanted to be a rabbi, but that was because I wanted the advanced learning. I was never interested in having a pulpit. I know many ultra-orthodox women who are consulted by their husbands because the wives know so much more about certain topics. And I'm not talking about "women's topics". I mean everything (Jewish).

As for women who put on tefillin because they want to feel equal to men, I agree with you, Jack. We are equal, period. I don't have to wear a tallis to feel that I'm participating more fully in a service. But then, if I really want to wear one, I could. There is no law that says I can't. But something I learned is that I fulfull the mitzvah of tefillin through my husband. Because we are two halves of a whole, he fulfills some mitzvahs and I fulfill others. So, yes, I do daven every morning, through my husband. Not to say that I shouldn't daven every morning. I'm talking about tefillin. There are other traditionally male rituals that I don't take part in because my husband is doing it for me. It doesn't mean I can't do them, just that I have other mitzvahs that I perform and that my husband doesn't have to do because I do them. Kind of like splitting up the housework.

I truly hope this didn't offend anyone. I'm just coming at this from where I'm sitting. And from what I have learned.

Jack Steiner said...

We are equal, period. I don't have to wear a tallis to feel that I'm participating more fully in a service. But then, if I really want to wear one, I could. There is no law that says I can't.

So what is the harm in letting people do it.

Anshel's Wife said...

No harm at all.

As a matter of fact, I was the first girl at our conservative shul to wear a tallis. Although, I don't anymore...........

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I thought as Jews, we were all to be responsible for one another, i.e., kol israel, period. Divisions among us, as Jews, is difficult, as we are such a small group. (only 13 million in the world) When further divisions are placed on people because of gender, then the road becomes even narrower in the end.

Anonymous said...

Well, I probably stirred up the pot quite a bit today. You can see my remarks at my blog (if you care to). I'm not particularly interested in being controversial. The truth is, I'm very happy with my "post-denominational" congregation, so I have nothing to complain about. :) It's OK with me for women to be Orthodox. It's also OK with me for me to NOT be Orthodox and to enjoy the immense awesome experience of seeing a Torah scroll up close (something I never got to do when I was frum). It's all good. (And I just came from a party, so it may seem "gooder" now than it really is.)

Jack Steiner said...


It is time that some of our fellow MOTs used their brains and stopped accepting spoonfed material.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to keep the dialogue going. I got pretty turned off by some of what I read at DB's blog. And I may have unintentionally turned off others, as well.

One thing that is important to remember is that when a person speaks, it is just that one person, not an entire group, not "all Orthodox" or "all liberal Jews." No one person speaks for us all. Sometimes it is hard to hear the softer and more reasonable voices beneath the bombast.

Anshel's Wife said...

You are right. I don't speak for the orthodox world. I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I am one, relatively new, BT by Chabad. I might sound differently in 10 years, too.

And Jack, what do you mean by spoonfed? That some Jews believe what we are taught? Or do you assume that we follow blindly? Everyone has heard that with 2 Jews, you have 3 opinions. And even Moshe Rabeinu questioned Hashem. But we also said, oh, how do you say it???? When we received the Torah. Basically, we will follow the Torah and then we'll figure it out later. There has to be some acceptance. Is it wrong to want to believe and follow halacha? Sure, I still have tons of questions and things I'm not crazy about in my new lifestyle and if you have read me, you would know that I still often do my own thing. But the believing in the basics is what keeps us together as a group.

Anonymous said...

But we also said, oh, how do you say it????
Na'aseh vi'nishma, is, I think, the phrase you were searching for.. :)

Anshel's Wife said...

Thank you, Mirty! That's exactly it.

Jack Steiner said...

And Jack, what do you mean by spoonfed? That some Jews believe what we are taught? Or do you assume that we follow blindly?

Yetta I mean exactly what I said. Some people never question anything. It doesn't matter whether you use examples of Moshe Rabeinu or Avraham Avinu questioning G-d because for some people those are stories, not role models to emulate.

Some people don't want to question anything because they are afraid that their own beliefs might be challenged.

I didn't direct this at you or anyone in particular. I am very good about using names when I want a particular persons attention.

Anshel's Wife said...

Yes, Jack, you are direct! That's too bad if people don't question. One gains a deeper understanding when one questions. It's a Jewish tradition and we are encouraged to do so. So, I do agree with you on this one.

Shira Salamone said...

I posted a few weeks ago on disagreeing without disrespecting (see my Monday, June 06, 2005 post, "The responsibilities of being a Jewish blogger: Chaverim Kol Yisrael," at

Given that we do have some strong differences of opinion, it can be a challenge, as Mirty said, to keep the dialogue going. It's my hope that people will make an effort to ease the process.

Jack Steiner said...


I'll have to take a look at what you wrote.